Almost all writing about the War is about the sharp end – the fighting. The only novel I’ve read that is set in a labour battalion is Robert Keable’s Simon called Peter (and the subject of that is the chaplain’s sexual awakening, rather than the essential forestry work carried out by the soldiers who are by and large indifferent to his vicarish efforts.)
Most soldiers most of the time were more likely to be involved in hard graft – digging, building, transporting – than in shooting. And the job of GHQ had much less to do with battle tactics than with organisation and logistics. (Even an attack as overwhelming as the German Spring Offensive could falter and fail if inadequate staff work failed to keep the advancing forces supplied.)
So it’s good to be reminded of the unsung heroes of the War, in a guest post on Jessica Meyer’s blog, by Christopher Phillips, a Leeds postgraduate student, who has been researching Gerald Holland, who was put in charge of coordinating canal transport to support the British Army’s huge effort in France:
By the end of June, just six months after Holland had arrived in France, inland water transport had moved: 19,142 tons of supplies; 27,421 tons of road stone; and had evacuated over 600 men from the battle zone by ambulance barge.
You can read the blog post here: https://armsandthemedicalman.wordpress.com/2015/02/25/and-now-for-something-completely-different/