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Friday, 2 May 2014

I cried as I typed those final words....

For the best part of a year now I've been working on a non-fiction book, provisionally entitled Cardiff During the Great War which will be published by Pen and Sword Books later this year. I'm getting very close to completing the work now and only minutes ago I wrote the final words in the section detailing the 11the Welsh Battalion, The Cardiff Pals and I literally cried, I still have the moisture from those tears in my eyes as I type this.

The Wiki tells us of the famous Pals battalions - The pals battalions of World War I were specially constituted battalions of the British Army comprising men who had enlisted together in local recruiting drives, with the promise that they would be able to serve alongside their friends, neighbours and work colleagues ("pals"), rather than being arbitrarily allocated to battalions.

Herbert Paine Smith 1914

The center-piece of my section detailing the Pals are the memories of one particular soldier - Herbert Paine Smith. I am deeply in the debt of his son, the late Major Bob Smith who in 1981 sat down with his father and a tape recorder and recorded the priceless memories. Anyone interested can listen to these HERE and I do urge you all to do so. Mr Paine Smith was an intelligent and eloquent man and the recordings he made with his son sum up the experiences of an ordinary man during the Great War, or as we call it these days World War One. I'm also in touch with his granddaughter Gilly Smith who has supplied me many photographs and interesting documents. Gilly has said that both her grandfather and son would be deeply honoured by their inclusion in my book, but in truth it is I who feel honoured to write this story. These are great men who gave more for their fellow man than I could ever hope to do.

Paine Smith survived the war but only because he received serious injuries on the night before the assault which would see the 11th Welsh Battalion annihilated by fierce Bulgar machine gun fire as they attempted to attack the Grand Couronne peak in Macedonia. I started the Pals section by saying that the cream of Cardiff went to war one sunny afternoon in September 1914, and I ended the section with the words, and now four years later most of them lay dead or dying as the blood red dawn started to rise over Grand Couronne.

It was then that the tears came - throughout my period working on this book I have learned much about the Pals, heard many interesting, horrific and funny stories of some of the characters that made up this brave band of men, and I now feel their loss on a very personal level.

 Ah well I've got to get on with completing the rest of the book, my deadline runs out in just over two weeks. The cover's already been designed at the so that it  was ready for this year's  London Book Fair, and I should get a firm publication date very soon. Expect news here soon.

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