Title: The Royal Hampshire Regiment 1914 – 1918
Author: Atkinson, C T
Edition: 2nd Edition
Publication Date: 2004
Cover: Soft Cover without Dust Jacket – 515 pages & 89 maps
Comments: The war record of a regiment which had battalions serving in every theatre of war; seventeen out of thirty-two battalions went overseas. and this is their story. Eighty-two battle honours and three VCs were won, 7580 died.
Seventeen out of thirty-two battalions of the Hampshires (they became ‘Royal’ in 1946) went overseas during the Great War, between them they served in France and Flanders, Gallipoli, Macedonia, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Palestine, India, Aden, Persia and Russia. Three VCs (all 2Lts) and 82 Battle Honours were awarded (the highest number awarded to any regiment in the Great War) and deaths totalled some 7,580. Atkinson, whose war histories rank among the best written, had two major problems with this one and he makes them clear in his preface.
First, the time factor. Over thirty years had passed and another world war by the time this history came out. The ranks of the survivors, to whom the regimental historian looks for personal memories and anecdotal accounts to supplement the more official record, had thinned and among those who were left memories were growing dim; and secondly the Part II Daily Orders were destroyed in a WWII blitz.
These documents, though tedious to have to plough through, contained invaluable information such as changes in the officers within a battalion, dates and numbers of casualties, the award of honours, the arrival of drafts, and the disposal of officers and men of disbanded battalions, all meat and drink to the regimental historian. The main sources for the account are the battalion war diaries supplemented to some extent by those of the brigades and divisions in which they served.
Despite the problems Atkinson has put together a good, solid history which maintains the high standard of his previous works and one in which the narrative is certainly well supported by maps and sketches. The whole history constitutes a chronological record of the war describing all those events and actions which involved one or more battalions of the regiment, beginning with Le Cateau in which the 1st Battalion (11th Brigade, 4th Division) took part.
After 2nd Ypres come chapters on Gallipoli where the 2nd, 1/4th and 10th Battalions fought. Most of the action is, of course on the Western front, but the other theatres are not neglected as chapters describing the doings of the battalions engaged in those campaigns are slotted into the overall framework at the appropriate time. There is a list of Honours and Awards including Mentioned in Despatches and Foreign Awards, and there is a nominal roll of the regular and special reserve officers with date of rank and promotions, noting those who died. Finally there are two good indexes, one of persons and places the other of formations and units.