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A Rough Ride by Hugh Neems

A Rough Ride

by Hugh Neems

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Recently added byRowenaHoseason

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I was drawn to this book by the cover image, as vintage motorcycles, and especially ones built by Douglas, are something of a speciality. (see http://www.realclassic.co.uk )

‘A Rough Ride’ turns out to be rather more than a book about bikes or a single perspective on the First World War.

Author Hugh Neems reveals that five of his uncles were involved in the action; one of them dodging mortar fire aboard that Douglas, others in the trenches, riding into battle on horseback and even in mid-air with the Royal Flying Corps. So this is much more than a book about the role of motorcycles in warfare: it’s a series of snapshots from five different viewpoints drawing on diaries, letters and some very rare photographs.

The narrative follows each of the uncles as the war progresses. One, an Australian railwayman ended up travelling to Suez as part of the push for Gallipoli. We visit the Somme, Ypres once again, and Arras, and follow the motorcycle despatch rider into the air as he swaps his wheels for wings.

Neems doesn’t restrict himself to his family records and provides all the necessary background to major events and the significance of important engagements, giving global context to his uncles’ personal stories. There are some excellent maps and illustrations (colour where possible), as well as dozens of postcards, letters and original military documents: enlistment papers, despatch orders… and casualty forms.

This is a carefully researched, well-written and professionally presented mini-history which more than serves its purpose in presenting the soldiers’ perspective of the 1914-18 war: the one which definitely didn’t end all wars. As the author comments in his introduction: ‘the near destruction of civilised values and the tragedy visited on millions of lives reveal our human frailty and latent savagery.’
8/10 ( )
  RowenaHoseason | Jun 22, 2016 |
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