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Mud & Bodies

Neil Weir died in 1967, but it was not until 2009 that his grandson, Mike Burns, discovered his diary among some boxes he had been left, and learnt that his grandfather had served as an officer in the 10th Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlander for much of the First World War.

A Captain and company commander at the age of nineteen, he fought at Loos, Ypres, Vimy Ridge, Ploegsteert Wood – ‘Plug Street’ – and the Somme. At Ploegsteert Wood, Weir's sector contained some of the largest mines ever dug under the German trenches and here the sister battalion he fought alongside was commanded by Winston Churchill. At Vimy Ridge he was with General Furse where a dud 18lb shell landed at their feet, and on the Somme he was recommended for a DSO and Mentioned in Dispatches for his role in the attack on Longueval in July 1916 which General Haig called ‘the best day we have had in this War’. This was where the troops took up their jumping-off positions at night, guided by white tape laid out in no man's land, and, protected by an early use of a ‘creeping’ artillery barrage, they advanced towards the German front line. Badly injured in the trenches later that year, Weir went on to train other young officers and then to work at the War Office in the section concerned with British intervention in the Russian Civil War.

In the diary, and the numerous accompanying letters, we hear the authentic voice of a First World War soldier and get an insight into his experiences on the Western Front and elsewhere. This book is one of the most fascinating and personal accounts ever published of the First World War as experienced by the men who fought it.

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