HELL'S FOUNDATIONS: A Social History of the Town of Bury in the Aftermath of the Gallipoli Campaign by Geoffrey Moorhouse
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HELL'S FOUNDATIONS: A Social History of the Town of Bury in the Aftermath of the Gallipoli Campaign

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Another splendid historical study by Moorhouse (On the Other Side, 1991; Imperial City, 1988, etc.), who here details the effects of the disastrous 1915 Gallipoli campaign on Bury, Lancashire, an English mill town that was the headquarters of a regiment heavily involved in the fighting. The author, grandson of one of the participants, was born and raised in Bury--a fact that adds emotional resonance and verisimilitude to his narrative. Writing with his usual sensitivity and smoothness, Moorhouse, in a series of heartbreaking and frequently infuriating vignettes, reports on the events of the botched and bloody Anatolian landing and the subsequent carnage. As impressive as his WW I passages are, though, it is when Moorhouse focuses on postwar developments that he reveals the unique vision that has distinguished his earlier books. In recounting the tragic legacy of the war, he assembles a vast array of dramatis personae--pensioners, priests, and profiteers; unfaithful wives, workers, and wastrels; suicides and swindlers--and tells their stories in powerful images and vibrant detail. And Moorhouse handles the larger issues with equal perceptiveness. He discusses, for example, the admiration English enlisted men felt for the vitality and openness of the Anzac (Australian and New Zealand) troops during the campaign, and counters this by noting the acorn with which the colonials viewed the ""Tommies,"" whom they considered weak both in physique and spirit. A short but strong chapter describes the life and times of Edward George Villiers Stanley, 17th Earl of Derby, a holdover from the Edwardian era who virtually owned the town. This Colonel Blimp-like figure's platitudes and pretensions are captured with a fine straight-faced irony. An unusual and engrossing take on a fairly familiar bit of British history, rendered with freshness and literary polish.

Pub Date: April 17th, 1992
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Henry Holt