After training at St John’s Wood in London and in Exeter, Alexander Douglas Thorburn was posted to the BEF in France, joining the 2/22nd London (Howitzer) Battery, Royal Field Artillery as a subaltern officer. After service in the Vimy Ridge sector, with his division, the 60th (2/2nd London) Division, he crossed the Mediterranean to join the British Army in Salonika. Following a further move in mid-1917, Thorburn arrived in Palestine where he saw service with the 74th (Yeomanry) Division during the advance on Jerusalem. A final move in 1918 took the now Captain Thorburn back to the Western Front to take part in the advance to Victory during the closing months of the war.
After the war,Thorburn wrote an account of his military service between 1916 and 1918, recording his experiences in France, Greece and Palestine as well as his initial training in England. He also wrote a series of observations on life as a gunner during the First World War. Both the account and observations were published as a book, Amateur Gunners, in 1933. Long out of print, the book now appears in an new edition.
In addition to the original book, this edition contains an extensive series of family letters written by Thorburn while on active service to his parents and other relatives.
Together, the book and letters offer a fascinating insight into the life of a First World War artillery officer. Lucidly written in a candid style, Thorburn shows excellent observation, descriptive and narrative skills. While Amateur Gunners itself is worthy of reprint, and when combined with Thorburn’s private letters and historical context from editor Ian Ronayne, this book offers a unique look at a gunner’s experience during the Great War.
AMATEUR GUNNERS The Adventures and Letters of a Soldier in France, Salonika and Palestine
Amateur Gunners is a rare and very full memoir of Great War artilleryman Alexander Thorburn who served at Vimy Ridge, Salonika, Palestine and in the final advance to the Armistice in France. This new edition of Thorburn’s book, first published in 1933, contains additional letters he wrote from active service to his family.