Title: The Fifth in the Great War, A History of the 1st and 2nd Northumberland Fusiliers 1914 – 1918
Author: Brigadier H.R Sandilands, C.M.G, D.S.O
Edition: 2nd Edition
Publication Date: 2002
Cover: Soft Cover without Dust Jacket – 310 pages
Comments: Pre-war regular division which landed in France in August 1914 as part of the original BEF. Sent to Italy in November 1917, returned to France April 1918. Fought in nearly all the battles on the Western Front. Total casualties some 50,000, seventeen VCs. Chronology, Command and Staff lists.
The Northumberland Fusiliers (NF) raised more battalions during the war than any other of the regular army regiments – 51 in all – and its total of dead was the highest, 16000. This history, however, is concerned only with the two regular battalions, the 1st which was in Portsmouth in August 1914, and the 2nd which was in India.
The 1st NF was in 9th Brigade, 3rd Division and it needed 621 reservists to bring it up to war strength. It arrived in France on 14 August 1914 and was soon in action at Mons in which battle 3rd and 5th Divisions bore the brunt of the fighting, and thereafter saw action in all the major engagements of 1914 – Marne, Aisne, La Bassee, Armentieres and Ypres. The battalion remained on the Western Front, in the same brigade and division, for the rest of the war. In all it suffered 1742 dead.
The 2nd Bn arrived home from India in December 1914 and was allocated to the 84th Brigade of the newly formed 28th Division, made up of regular battalions returning from overseas. The battalion arrived in France in January 1915 and its first major action was during the German gas attack at Second Ypres and in the ensuing battles.
It was then in the trenches at Kemmel and in the fighting in the Hohenzollern Redoubt. In November 1915 the 28th Division was sent to Macedonia where malaria took a greater toll than the enemy. On one occasion a company paraded with just one officer and two lance-corporals, malaria had accounted for the rest. The battalion remained there till June 1918 when it returned to France and joined 150th Brigade in the reconstituted 50th (Northumbrian) Division, a Territorial division; it stayed with that division to the end of the war. Total dead 709 of which 392 were battle casualties.
This history unfolds in chronological order with every chapter bar one (Macedonia) concerned with the Western Front. Each chapter covers a specific period of time and deals with one or the other battalion. It is well written and full of detail with plenty of maps. There is no Roll of Honour nor list of Honours and Awards though one appendix lists all the officers by battalion, indicating those who died. There is an index of names and one of units. This is a rare history and I can recall seeing only once in a military catalogue a copy for sale.