The Scots Guards 30 Great War battle honours range from the Retreat from Mons to the Sambre – via Ypres, Loos the Somme, Cambrai, Arras and the Hindenburg Line. Randall Nichol’s two deeply researched volumes of Till the Trumpet Sounds Again record the events at all of these locations and many others. The author, a former Scots Guards officer, employs the regiments own extensive archives, its war diaries and much previously unpublished contemporary correspondence; both that of officers and those in the ranks – some semi literate. Included are the generally ignored experiences of POWs, those wounded, missing and who died in action.
The author offers readers a comprehensive day by day, trench by trench, billet by billet account of the regiments Great War service. The realities of battle are supported records of the ‘rush to wait, tedious and wearing days in the trenches, in reserve, at rest, on long marches, in billets and fatigues in foul conditions.
Figures of losses are generally recorded in regimental histories, officers inevitable gain more extensive reportage. Here they all are detailed, officers and other ranks, day by day. Whilst no work of sociology, Till the Trumpet Sounds Again places those serving with the Scots Guards in true and contemporary context, including civilian careers, places of birth, married status, even tattoos and records of military ‘crimes’ and punishment.
Nichols reveals the deskilling suffered by the entire BEF in 1914 and 15 and the loss of trained officers and men alike which affected competence at virtually every level in the until after the Somme. His account of the Scots Guards two battalions actions at Ypres in 1914 must be judged as being as comprehensive as could possibly be written. It is no easy task to reveal detail of this muddled ‘soldiers battle’. It is one which has defeated many military historians. Equally the account of the Christmas Truce is fascinating, fresh and detailed, as is that of the spluttering Christmas peace initiative of 1915 which resulted in court martial for two Scots Guards unable to prevent fraternisation.