02 September 2017
Family Tree Editor Helen Tovey reviews the extended 2nd edition of Peter Chasseaud's World War I book, Rats Alley, which promises to give family historians greater insight into their soldier ancestors' lives in the First World War
The new extended second edition of Rats Alley: Trench Names of the Western Front 1914-1918 contains a gazetteer packed with a whopping 24,000 trench names (the first edition had 10,000), complete with references to 1:10,000 scale trench map sheets.
Make sure that, before digging into the detail and finding the whereabouts of particular trenches, you take time to read the chapters that look at the fascinating historical background into how the names came about. Serving practical purposes, names being far easier than a grid reference to remember, trench names also served a psychological need too – that of the Tommy to make sense of and identify with his surroundings. The mix of irony and fondness for home are evident in many of the names.
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With glossaries of abbreviations, explanations of the trench mapping scale and reference systems, this is an invaluable guide to the practical researcher of the battlefield, and to the armchair researcher who wishes to gain further understanding of our soldier ancestors’ world at the Front in the Great War.
• ISBN: 9780750980555. RRP £40, hardback, £13.67 on Kindle. The History Press.