Book Review - Rough Riders: Two Brothers and the Last Stand at Gallipoli

Posted on on 10 June 2015
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Author: Peter Doyle
Publication Date: 06 April 2015

Publisher's Description:

'Frank and Percy Talley of the 1st City of London Yeomanry (Rough Riders) were destined to leave England to take part in the last, and most costly, single-day battle of the Gallipoli Campaign, on 21 August 1915. In never-before published letters, the Talley brothers describe their training in England and their move to the East Coast to man the trenches there during the invasion scare of 1914 and the Zeppelin attack at Great Yarmouth. Their letters provide a rare insight into the activities of the yeomen in preparing for war, their transportation to Egypt and Suez and their expectation that they would be used in action at Gallipoli. After walking into a maelstrom of fire on 21 August 1915, the trooper-brothers were separated; each wrote home not knowing whether the other had survived. Both were wounded. Their letters from the Suvla trenches are brief but telling – the last, desperate battle for Gallipoli as seen through the eyes of two brothers from London.'

Centenary News Review:

Review by: Eleanor Baggley, Centenary News Books Editor

The concept of Rough Riders is intriguing - Peter Doyle discovered a pile of letters written by the Talley brothers during their time as soldiers in the 1st City of London Yeomanry (Rough Riders), which happen to detail the experience of the final push at Gallipoli on 21st August 1915. These letters are published for the first time alongside a detailed commentary written by Doyle.

The sense of Frank and Percy's personality that can be gleaned from these letters is astounding. After only a few letters each the subtle differences between the brothers become apparent. Percy, for example, seems to be the hot head of the two as we find out when he gets worryingly close to striking a senior officer.  Percy finds being in Gallipoli particularly trying and is the first to discuss the emotional impact of war with his parents. Frank, on the other hand, comes across as more level headed, apart from when he fights with his parents about his choice of bride. 

Getting to know the brothers through their letters is an important part of this book, I would say. They are surprisingly candid about their experiences and provide a true picture of the ordinary soldier's experience in the trenches at Gallipoli - the heat, the flies, the sickness, the boredom and the confusion. 

Doyle's commentary is well-written and provides interesting additional details to what is in the letters. A good balance of commentary and letters is maintained throughout, both further illuminating the other. We join the brothers as they first begin training, then as they move to the East Coast of England during the invasion scare of 1914, then finally as they prepare for war and head to Gallipoli. Whilst we get the first person view of these movements and events from the letters, Doyle dives deeper into the history and explains the wider context of their place in the war.

From a pile of letters discovered in an antique shop, Peter Doyle has brought to life the experiences of two brothers from London at Gallipoli. The letters alone make this book a compelling read, but the accompanying notes make it informative as well as emotive. This is a book for anyone interested in the highs and lows, and triumphs and struggles of ordinary soldiers as they passed their days in the heat of Suvla Bay.

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