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Arras, 1917
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History, Military, History & Adventure
Publication Date
01 July 2011
Paperback (also available as an eBook)
Available for Sale
Birlinn Limited
16pp b/w plates

Arras, 1917

The Journey to Railway Triangle


eBook also available at the iBookstore

'A fine work' – Prof. TC Smout, Historiographer Royal

'A splendid book' – Niall Ferguson

This is the a biography of the author’s uncle, Ernest Reid, who died in 1917, an officer in the Black Watch, of wounds sustained in the Battle of Arras.

Born and raised in Paisley, educated at Paisley Grammar School, then Glasgow University, Ernest Reid intended to become a lawyer before he volunteered for war service. The author explores the climate in which he grew up, and the influences which formed him and his generation, the generation which supplied the subalterns of the Great War. As a result, although the book remains primarily a biography of its subject, it also explored the spirit in which Britain, still essentially Victorian, went to war in 1914.

This is the true and poignant account of a young Scottish officer, pinned down and fatally wounded in No-man’s land on the first day of the Battle of Arras, on Easter Monday 1917. The gripping narrative creates a mood of sombre inevitability. It does not simply set out the events of Captain Ernest Reid’s life, but puts Ernest’s life into its moral as well as its historical context and describes the cultural influences – the code of duty, an unquestioning patriotism – that moulded him and his contemporaries for service and sacrifice in the killing fields of France and Flanders. In retrospect, he and they seem almost programmed for the role they were required to play, and in this lies the pathos at the heart of this moving book.

Walter Reid studied at Oxford University, where he read history, and Edinburgh University. He is now based in the west of Scotland but spends part of the year in France. His other books include Architect of Victory: Douglas Haig, Churchill 1940–45: Under Friendly Fire and Empire of Sand: How Britain Made the Middle East


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