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Sniping in France (1920) | Major H. Hesketh Prichard

WW1 Sniping in France | Hesketh-Prichard

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Major H. Hesketh-Prichard D.S.O., M.C.

E. P. DUTTON & Co., New York, 1920
(First US Edition)

The very rare first US Edition of Major H. Hesketh-Prichard's classic WW1 sniping handbook. This edition was printed in Great Britain, at the Chapel River Press, Surrey, and the text and illustrations are identical to the UK first edition. The book is undated, but was published in 1920. The book covers all aspects of WW1 sniping theory and practice. It was largely based on Hesketh-Prichard's experiences in the trenches, and includes details of snipers operating in trench warfare, along with descriptions of hides, loopholes, and all the other equipment and techniques in use at the time. It is well illustrated with line drawings, photographs and diagrams. The book also includes detailed accounts of operations carried out against German snipers, the work of the Army School of Scouting, Observation and Sniping, and the origins of modern sniping. An invaluable reference work for anyone interested in the work of the sniper in the First World War.

Major Hesketh Hesketh-Prichard DSO, MC (1876–1922) was an explorer, adventurer, big game hunter and marksman who made a significant contribution to British Army sniping during WW1. The measures he introduced to counter the threat of German snipers were credited with saving the lives of over 3,500 Allied soldiers. He was also an explorer, first class cricketer, novelist and newspaper correspondent. At the outbreak of WW1, Hesketh-Prichard applied for a commission, but was turned down because at 37 he was considered too old. He was eventually successful in obtaining a post as Assistant Press Officer at the War Office, and was sent out to the front lines in France in February 1915 as an "eyewitness officer" in charge of War Correspondents.

At the front Hesketh-Prichard was shocked to learn of the high attrition rate due to well-trained German snipers. At this time it was common for British regiments to lose five men a day to snipers. The German snipers could not be located, leaving them free to continue shooting from their place of concealment. Hesketh-Prichard was also dismayed by the poor quality of marksmanship amongst the British troops.

He set about improving the quality of marksmanship, calibrating and correcting the few telescopic sights that the army possessed. He then borrowed more sights and hunting rifles from friends and hunters back home, and funded the acquisition of others from his own pocket, or donations he solicited. To investigate the quality of German armour plate, he retrieved a sample from a German trench. He discovered that their armour could only be penetrated by a very heavy cartridge, while British plate could be easily defeated by rounds from the Mauser service rifle. Hesketh-Prichard then set about improving British parapets, camouflage, and concealment techniques. He also devised an innovative metal-armoured double loophole that would protect British snipers from return fire. Another innovation was the use of a dummy head to find the location of an enemy sniper. Once the German sniper had shot and hit the dummy head, his line of fire could be calculated and the sniper could be dealt with.  

Hesketh-Prichard's work was soon officially recognised, he was promoted to Captain, and In August 1916 he founded the First Army School of Sniping. Starting with an initial class of only six, he was soon lecturing to large numbers of soldiers from different Allied nations, proudly proclaiming in a letter that his school was turning out snipers at three times the rate of any such other school in the world. In October of that year he was awarded the Military Cross, the citation of which read:

"For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He has instructed snipers in the trenches on many occasions, and in most dangerous circumstances, with great skill and determination. He has, directly and indirectly, inflicted enormous casualties on the enemy."

It was estimated that Hesketh-Prichard's work had reduced sniping casualties from five a week per battalion to forty-four in three months in sixty battalions; saving over 3,500 lives.

Hesketh-Prichard was taken ill with an undetermined infection in late 1917 and was granted leave. His health remained poor for the rest of his life, and by the time of his death in 1922 he was suffering from multiple ailments, probably resulting from having contracted malaria.


In good condition, ex-library. The boards are in fair to good condition, with some marks, some wear to the edges, and an index number to the spine. The binding and hinges are good and secure. There are library bookplates and other markings to the endpapers and title page. The text, illustrations and photographs are in good condition, with some marks and some small library ink stamps to the margins of the plates. One plate (which should be facing p.46) is missing.

Published: 1920
Illustrated with drawings, diagrams and photographic plates
Brown boards with gilt titling
Dimensions: 145mm x 215mm
Pages: 269