'British Voices' gives a fascinating account of the Irish War of Independence from the viewpoint of the British servicemen who served here. Having had over 80 years of pro-Irish/pro-Republican literature, it is refreshing to read reports of many famous incidents from a different, sometimes more informed, angle.
Author William Sheehan has used extracts from the many thousands of diaries and notebooks kept by the servicemen, which are now held in the British Military archives. He conveniently gives a brief biography of each soldier, detailing their general military career. Many had seen service in various locations around the globe. Indeed, as operations were continuing in Ireland, the British were involved in an occupation of Iraq and a war with Afghanistan, amongst others.
The recollections themselves are highly informative and descriptive but several contain errors of fact which would be quite obvious to an Irish reader with a basic knowledge of the conflict. This is understandable, considering many of those who served in this country would not necessarily know the full political and historical facts.
The author points out that a decision was made to include the extracts without major changes so that they read as closely as possible to the original documents.
The book is lavishly illustrated with dozens of fascinating photographs, many of which have never been published before. Particularly striking are a famous previously published photo of an IRA volunteer firing at the Black and Tans from Dublin's Custom House in 1921 and an image of a shop in Washington Street, Cork, being destroyed by explosives as part of an "official reprisal".
One of the few complaints with this otherwise superb book is that several of the photos are poorly captioned. One such caption states "a motorised column of British forces drives through an Irish town." There is certainly enough detail in the shot, including shop fronts, to pinpoint which town it is. Certainly many readers may recognise it and wonder why it wasn't captioned better.
'British Voices: From the Irish War of Independence 1918 - 1921' offers a hitherto unavailable option to readers wishing to broaden their knowledge of this major conflict and does a highly commendable job in the process.
Mark O'Neill- Cummins