Pro Patria Mori - Revised Edition


To buy 'Pro Patria Mori'
signed by Alan MacDonald
please go here

Read some early comments
about 'Pro Patria Mori' here


1. Planning the 'Big Push' (read excerpt)
2. "A Small Modern Fortress"
3. "The Very Devil"
4. May 1916
5. June 1st to June 23rd *
6. The Artillery Programme (read excerpt)
7. The Bombardment: U Day to Y2 Day (read excerpt)
8. Z Day: 0500 - 0730
9. Z Day: 0730 - 0830
10. Z Day: 0830 - 1200 (read excerpt) *
11. Z Day: 1200 - 1430
12. Z Day: 1430 - 1630
13. Z Day: 1630 - 1930
14. Z Day: The Evening and Beyond *
15. Prisoners of War *
16. Casualties (read excerpt) *
17. The Aftermath (read excerpt)
18. Postscript
19. Fallen at Gommecourt *
Appendix 1: British Order of Battle
Appendix 2: German Order of Battle
Appendix 3: 56th Division casualties
Appendix 4: The Battlefield now
Appendix 5: Contemporary Newspaper Reports of the Attack
Appendix 6: Roll of Honour of the 56th (1st London) Division
Appendix 7: Prisoners of War *
Appendix 8: Roll of Honour of the 2nd Guard Reserve Division 
Appendix 9: Details of Cemeteries & Memorials mentioned

Chapters and Appendices marked * are new to the revised edition of 'Pro Patria Mori' or have been greatly expanded.

About 'Pro Patria Mori'

A significantly revised and expanded edition of 'Pro Patria Mori' was published in August 2008.

The main changes to the book are:

    1. An entirely new chapter on the appalling treatment and experiences of British Prisoners of War and an additional appendix listing all known PoWs
    2. A Roll of Honour of the German defenders of the 2nd Guard Reserve Division
    3. A vastly expanded 'Fallen at Gommecourt' section which now contains nearly 200 photographs of men who died at Gommecourt
    4. A significant number of additional stories drawn from personal memoires of the battle
    5. In all, the book is now 180 pages longer (at 716 pages) and now has over 300 photographs, maps and plans

      I have been actively interested in the Great War since we discovered the diary my grandfather kept during 1915 and 1916 when he was in the 1/20th London Regt (Blackheath and Woolwich). During this time he fought at Loos, was promoted Sergeant and was eventually commissioned into the 1/4th London Regiment to replace casualties suffered during the attack on Gommecourt on 1st July 1916. This was my first link with this action.

      Missing at Gommecourt

      Later, I discovered a second and more personal link - an uncle of my mother had been killed at Gommecourt. 4540 Rfm Charles Robert Tompson from Watford joined the 1/9th London Regt (Queen Victoria's Rifles) on the outbreak of war. At 7.30 a.m. on Saturday, 1st July 1916 he climbed out of the British trenches opposite the village of Gommecourt and trudged forward with the rest of the battalion towards the German barbed wire. Charles Tompson was never seen again. He is one of the 'Missing of the Somme' whose name is recorded on the massive Thiepval Memorial that sits glowering over the battlefield from the heights above the River Ancre.

      The First Day on the Somme

      Inspired by Martin Middlebrook's seminal work 'The First Day on the Somme' I had been a regular visitor to the Somme battlefields but Gommecourt was one village I had always passed by, thinking it a 'sideshow' to the big battles further south. But, determined to find out more about Charles Tompson and his mates, I started to research the battle. As a result, I became increasingly obsessed with the tragic sacrifice of so many men in what was a mere diversionary attack designed to deflect attention away from the main Somme offensive.

      Six year's work

      'Pro Patria Mori' is the result of over six year's research into the 56th Division's attack on Gommecourt. It is based on nearly 90 War Diaries and other official documents held at the National Archives; over 60 personal recollections, collections of letters and other material held variously at the Imperial War Museum, Liddle Collection (Leeds University) and the National Army Museum; and over 50 published books including several German unit histories.

      Fully indexed and with more than twenty maps and photographs the book covers in detail everything that happened in the Spring and early Summer of 1916. From the initial planning by Haig and Rawlinson, through the preparation of the artillery programme, to the attack itself, everything is comprehensively covered. In addition, the treatment of the thousands of wounded is described in detail along with the fall-out from the battle as senior officers attempted to justify the sacrifice of nearly 7,000 men in action which was designed, but failed, to serve no other purpose than to divert guns and men away from the main Somme offensive.

      Privately printed

      'Pro Patria Mori' is privately printed. You can believe this or not, but two publishers were interested in publishing the book but only if it were cut by nearly 50%. I am not interested in editing on this scale and have decided that I would rather risk the cost of printing myself than see the book effectively neutered. You can see some short excerpts by clicking on the chapter links in the Contents box.

      The revised edition of the book is now over 700 pages long with over 300 maps, plans and photographs.   You can buy 'Pro Patria Mori' by following this link .

      Alan MacDonald

      © Alan MacDonald 2006/7/8. All rights reserved. No publication without permission.