The history of a First World War battalion belongs to the men who served in it, the networks of families, neighbours and friends who supported them, and the descendants who remember them. The 11th Battalion Durham Light Infantry was originally raised from volunteers in 1914, but came to include officers and men from all parts of Great Britain and the Empire. As a Pioneer battalion they primarily provided skilled labour for the 20th Division; however, the battalion also served as infantry during critical events. Letters from Robert Bennett, a former miner, provide an intimate insight into the everyday concerns of an ordinary soldier throughout his training and his experiences at the front. Martin Bashforth's book breaks new ground in research, using family histories and individual service records to provide details of how men died, how families coped with their loss, and how survivors made the transition to civilian life. In addition, the way in which memory of the First World War was originally shaped by official patterns of remembrance is compared with how, in the modern world, there has developed a greater sense of war in its individual, personal and human impact.
Martin Bashforth is a history graduate of the Universities of Sheffield and York, a retired archivist and a freelance historian. Pioneering the use of family history methods to shine new light on the past, he researched the story of the men of 11th DLI, including his own grandfather, for ten years. He has published articles in Great War Journal and contributed to People and Their Pasts, ed. P. Ashton and H.Kean (Palgrave 2009).