Your book has turned out splendidly and you are to be congratulated. It is excellent and is a most valuable insight into the life of a young officer in WW1. The footnotes on each page are invaluable and I have learnt a huge amount. I will now be in a position to ‘test’ various gunner officers in my village.
by Brigadier DS
David Hutchison's The Young Gunner is not a novel, yet as the story of young Colin Hutchison (MCS 1905-1911) the author's Grandfather, unfolds, one is as much caught up in his story as in any of Sebastian Faulks' or Pat Barker's fictional WW1 characters. The author's meticulous research aided by extensive letters and journals from his Grandfather makes this a book for anyone from the military historian, to those who want to ponder what really went through the minds of the young men of that' lost generation' of the First World War. The author allows young 2nd Lieutenant C.R.M. Hutchison to speak for himself through his letters and journals, in a way that we get a vivid picture of who he was...and are able to trace the development from a young innocent talented Artillery officer, quite quickly to battle hardened veteran and onward to war weary and possibly slightly lost acting colonel at the end of the War. For Colin Hutchison emerged at the age of 25 from four full years of war as a highly decorated (DSO and bar, MC and Bar plus mentioned in dispatches x4) officer, into a land not really fit for heroes, with little understanding of what those heroes had been through. In the pages of this book we gain at least some of this understanding. One very poignant passage tells of his simply walking into a barrage and sitting down waiting for a shell to fall on his head...desperately needing rest or a ' blighty'.
Because Colin served through the whole War, the journey his letters take us on, reads like a list of all the major battles of WW1, from Mons to Festubert, from Loos to the Somme, from Passchendaele to the Spring Offensive of 1918 and finally to the Armistice. And herein lies the skill of the author, for he manages to weave his grandfather’s personal story around a very well-constructed insight into the job of the Royal Artillery in WW1 as well as explaining the military strategies and plans of each battle. If you read it as a military historian there is much of great insight and interest, but if you read it as someone interested in people, via the extra-ordinary story of this remarkable young man you will learn lots of military history too almost without realising. The style is clear, the footnotes and diagrams are informative and interesting, the content absorbing.
Colin Hutchison went on to serve in the Second World War dying at the age of 50 in 1943 in North Africa, a Brigadier in the Royal Artillery. The author understandably says he regrets never knowing his Grandfather; I suspect after writing this labour of love he knows him better than he could have imagined, and in doing so has given us the privilege of knowing him too. There are some stories so important that they really cry out and need to be told, I thank David Hutchison for telling one of them.
by N. B.
A unique record from the censored letters and uncensored journal of a critically alert, front line artillery officer in the First World War who remarkably survived until the end. A fascinating social and military commentary with an eminently reasonable analysis by the author of the year to year successes and failings of artillery strategy and how it contrasted with French and German strategy. Each general is fairly assessed with regard to artillery tactics and general strategy. It should, with existing analyses of different aspects of the war, contribute to a more well rounded picture of the conflict.
I congratulate you on the book. I think it is probably not a book for most general readers, but for those who are interested in the subject and there are a lot of those, it is wonderfully informative.
The production is impressive too. Nice readable type, excellent maps, a good variety of pictures. A lot of books from smart mainstream publishers don’t manage to achieve that. I do hope the book gets a wide readership. It deserves to.
by BB, retired publisher
A first-hand account has a relevance few history books can deliver, no matter how learned the author. This book brings the Great War to life, seen through the eyes of a young Regular officer, commissioned from the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich early in 1913.
Colin Hutchinson’s letters and journals provide a wonderful degree of immediacy to the daily life of an artillery officer in Flanders right through from the arrival of the BEF to the Armistice. He had to cope with confusing orders, being shelled and the whole question of looking after horses. The latter obviously need more attention than mechanical transport and it is too easy for the modern reader to take them for granted, forgetting that they were a considerable part of the daily life of a Gunner in those days.
The book also describes the gradual change that took place in the balance between the infantry and the artillery in planning operations. This is a particularly interesting part of the book and subjects like wire-cutting operations and the varieties of barrages will enthral the technical Gunners amongst us.
The book is very well compiled by Colin’s grandson. There are useful explanatory footnotes on almost every page, excellent maps and photographs, and a valuable summation of the lessons learned by the artillery in a year-by-year overview, which to a historian are worth the price of the book on its own. I found the book deeply interesting and strongly recommend it.
by KT (Brigadier)