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Haverhill author's new book, Sniper on the Ypres Salient, gives an insight into life on the front line in WWI





The author of a book about her grandfather’s time spent fighting in World War One has expressed how important she felt it was to ‘get his writings out there’.

Sue Boase, who has lived in Hazel Stub, Haverhill, for the past 36 years, has had her book, Sniper on the Ypres Salient, An Infantryman’s War in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, published in hardback by Pen & Sword Books.

Sue Boase with a copy of her book, Sniper on the Ypres Salient, based on the diaries of her late grandfather, William McCrae. Picture: Mecha Morton
Sue Boase with a copy of her book, Sniper on the Ypres Salient, based on the diaries of her late grandfather, William McCrae. Picture: Mecha Morton
Sue Boase's grandfather, William McCrae, in his Army uniform. Picture: Mecha Morton
Sue Boase's grandfather, William McCrae, in his Army uniform. Picture: Mecha Morton

Based on the diaries of her late grandfather, William McRae – discovered in the 1990s in her mum’s house near Dartmoor – it tells of his experiences during World War One, a time in which he fought at the Somme, was at the Battle of Mametz Wood with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and volunteered and trained to become a sniper while fighting along the Ypres Salient.

William, who enlisted in the Army in London, in December, 1914, as a teenager, died in 1965, aged 69, when Sue was just 12.

But one of the foundation stones for the book’s creation and one of the sparks for further research into her grandad’s life, was probably, said Sue, when he gave her a compass, most likely the one he used in the war, with no explanation as to its provenance.

This sketch by William McCrae of the trenches is included in Sue Boase's book, Sniper on the Ypres Salient. Picture: Mecha Morton
This sketch by William McCrae of the trenches is included in Sue Boase's book, Sniper on the Ypres Salient. Picture: Mecha Morton
Sue Boase's research for her book, Sniper on the Ypres Salient, included the use of maps that showed the layout of the trenches where her late grandfather, William McCrae, served in WWI. Picture: Mecha Morton
Sue Boase's research for her book, Sniper on the Ypres Salient, included the use of maps that showed the layout of the trenches where her late grandfather, William McCrae, served in WWI. Picture: Mecha Morton

Much research later, including visits to France and the National Archive, and the book has been completed. It includes sketches by William and photos of the war not seen before.

Sue said: “I asked him once when I was little, I knew he was in the war, if he had killed anyone or shot anyone and he said ‘no, I always tried to miss’ and then I found out he was a sniper.

“It’s been a very good experience. People have been very helpful and the Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum and the trustees have been very encouraging and (trustee) Colonel Nick Lock did the foreword for me, which is amazing.

One of the pages in the diary of William McCrae, in which he recalled his experiences as a soldier in the First World War. Picture: Mecha Morton
One of the pages in the diary of William McCrae, in which he recalled his experiences as a soldier in the First World War. Picture: Mecha Morton
Sniper on the Ypres Salient is out now. Picture: Mecha Morton
Sniper on the Ypres Salient is out now. Picture: Mecha Morton

“I thoroughly enjoyed doing it. It made me feel privileged but I think its important to get my grandfather’s writings out there.

“It (his diaries) are very matter of fact but it’s not matter of fact at all. It’s not gratuitously gory.

"He talks about everyday things like a two minute shower they were able to have and what they had to eat and how they felt about being stuck out in the trenches.”

The book is available from Pen & Sword, online sellers such as Waterstones and Amazon and Hart’s Books in Saffron Walden and Harris & Harris Books in Clare.