When East Lancs went to war: new book details local 66th Division's WWI heroics

Author David Martin with his new book.
Author David Martin with his new book.
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A new book detailing the epic story of the heroic sacrifices of the ordinary mill workers, colliers, railwaymen, and clerks from the East Lancashire territorial division in the First World War is now available for purchase.

Death of a Division by military historian David Martin explores the extraordinary story of the 66th (2/1st East Lancashire) Division during one of the greatest battles of WWI, charting the origin of the division from some of the poorest parts of East Lancashire to the battlefields of Ypres and Passchendaele to the Great German Offensive of March 1918 that decimated the division.

Death of a Division: Eight Days in March 1918 and the Untold Story of the 66th (2/1st East Lancashire) Division

Death of a Division: Eight Days in March 1918 and the Untold Story of the 66th (2/1st East Lancashire) Division

Brought to life through first-hand accounts from the heavily outnumbered allied forces facing the onslaught which caused more than 267,000 British casualties during the Spring Offensive alone, the book recounts the history behind the 6,989 members of the 66th Division who were killed, missing, injured or taken prisoner.

“For the first time this book tells the complete story of the 66th," said author, David Martin. "They are so far down the army order their history was never written; it’s why I chose to write the book.

"In the church at Passchendaele village there’s a memorial window to the 66th Division, but their most important contribution was this battle of March 1918 in which they were nearly wiped out and for which there is no memorial," he added. “These men - who had been mill workers, railwaymen, colliers and clerks - found themselves outnumbered in the frontline facing the onslaught of the German army.

"They were steadfast," David said. "They fought bravely. They didn’t run or surrender. They got on with the job. ‘Death of a Division’ acts as a memorial for the men of Lancashire and is a tribute to their sacrifice.”

The loss of so many men had a devastating effect on the lives and economy of the cotton-manufacturing towns of East Lancashire, which the book also examines by following the stories of individual men who had left their families and jobs back home to bolster the British frontline defences.

The book launch will be held at Lancashire Infantry Museum at Fulwood Barracks in Preston from 11am to 3pm on Saturday April 14th, offering the chance to meet and talk to the author. To book a place contact the author on davidemartin1918@gmail.com. Attendees will need photo ID to gain access to the museum.

'Death Of A Division: Eight Days In March 1918 and the Untold Story of the 66th (2/1st East Lancashire) Division’ is published by Pen & Sword, priced at £19.99.