Title: War is War (1/28th London Regiment, Artists Rifles)
Author: Ex-Private X
Edition: 2nd Edition
Publication Date: 2003
Cover: Soft Cover without Dust Jacket – 288 pages
Comments: A memoir of service on the Western Front with the Artist Rifles (1/28th London Regiment) from early 1917 to April 1918 when the author was invalided suffering with trench feet. Graphic descriptions of Passchendaele and post -Cambrai fighting at Welch Ridge.
Ex-Private X is the pseudonym of Alfred McClelland Burrage , author, who served with 1/28th London Regiment (Artists Rifles), 190th Brigade, 63rd (RN) Division. Since the end of 1914 the battalion had acted as an Officers Training Corps and out of 15000 who served in the battalion 10250 were commissioned. Private X was an unsuccessful candidate. He joined his unit at Hesdin in early 1917 where it formed part of GHQ Troops, but from the summer of 1917 potential officers were trained in the UK and 1/28th became an ordinary infantry battalion.
His front line service began in July 1917 when the battalion joined the 63rd Division which was then occupying the Oppy and Gavrelle sectors; in October it moved north to the salient where Third Ypres was in full swing. There are graphic descriptions of the conditions and the fighting during the attack on Passchendaele alongside the Canadians on 30th October which cost the battalion 350 casualties.
Two months later there was more fierce fighting at Welch Ridge following the German successful counter-attack at Cambrai battle and again in the early days of the German March offensive But his gift with the pen also resulted in attacks, at times vitriolic, on troops behind the lines, especially the Military Police, the staff and the generals.
Nor did he care for the Australians. To quote one example from the book, in which he is referring to the military police, he writes: “The military police were a nice crowd, too. The only good word I have to say for the Australians is that they killed a lot of these swine; but they didn’t kill half enough.” The New Zealanders on the other hand he really liked and admired. His war ended on 7th April when he was sent back suffering with trench feet and was invalided home. While waiting in hospital he spoke to a Warrant Officer asking him if he could get him marked for England. “I can,” the WO replied, “and that will cost you two pounds.” Unfortunately Burrage didn’t have it, so he had to wait on – till 14th April when he started his journey home.