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WW1 Trench Warfare Manual (1918) | Subaltern's Handbook

WW1 Officer's Trench Warfare Manual (1918)

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Third Edition, published by

'You yourself may be perfectly willing to be killed or wounded, but it is not dead and wounded officers that are required at the front. Never expose yourself unnecessarily; save the lives of your platoon by knowing your job thoroughly.'

A rare, original WW1 British Army officer's handbook, dating from January 1918. It is full of fascinating insights into a junior officer's responsibilities in the trenches of the Western Front. With information on every aspect of trench warfare, from mess etiquette and musketry, to dealing with shrapnel and gas attacks, this book was no doubt of great use to officers just out of training. As well as practical hints about attack and defence in the trenches, the book includes plenty of advice on leadership and morale, and how the example set by the officer would be crucial to the success of all activities in the front line. At the end of the book there is a checklist of things an officer should constantly ask himself:

'I am here for two purposes—to do as much damage as possible to the enemy and to hold my part of the line at all costs. Am I doing everything possible to ensure my being able to do this?'

The book concludes with this stirring advice:

'Failure, even disaster, may ensue through your want of experience, through lack of just that masterly touch at the critical moment . . . or through sheer bad luck. This cannot be helped. But do not fail through ignorance—preventable ignorance—through lack of that knowledge which you might have acquired . . . War is a serious business, and demands not only what is best in a man, but his very all.'

The book is signed on the front cover and endpapers by Lieutenant Douglas McKie (1896-1967). Douglas McKie was born on 15 July 1896. His father was an officer in the South Wales Borderers, and after local education he was sent to the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst to train as an army officer and follow in his father’s footsteps. He was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 2nd Battalion of the South Wales Borderers in 1916, and was posted to the Western Front. After more than a year in the front line his military career came to an abrupt end in July 1917, when he was severely wounded during the Battle of Passchendaele Ridge. After more than a year in hospital, he rejoined his regiment, as an officer in charge of drafts to the front. In 1919 he served with the occupying forces in Germany. Although selected for the army Staff College, McKie realised that his wounds meant that he would never again be fit for active service.

He resigned his commission in 1920 and instead took up a new career in chemistry, studying at the University of London. He graduated with a BSc in 1923, before going on to do further post-graduate research, gaining both a PhD and DSc, and becoming an eminent scientist and a highly respected authority in his chosen field. He was on the staff of the University of London from 1924 and gained his professorship in 1957, teaching the History and Philosophy of Science. He retired in 1964 and died in London on 28 August 1967.

"To the end he retained some of the attitudes typical of a regular officer of the 1914-18 era, but he acquired a vast patience in dealing with students of many different outlooks, backgrounds and races. To their instruction, to their training in research, and to the advancement of sound learning his life was dedicated."
Annals of Science, March 1968


In good condition. The cover shows general signs of use, some wear, and a few marks. The binding and hinges are good and secure. The text is in very good condition. Signed on the front cover 'D. McKie, 2 S.W.B.' and on the front endpapers 'D. McKie, 2nd Bn. S. Wales Bords (the 24th Regt)'.

Published: 1918
Khaki cloth with black titling.
Dimensions: 100mm x 160mm
Pages: 174