A Battle Too Far

The True Story of Rifleman Henry Taylor

Foreword by Lt-Gen Sir Christopher Wallace

Port Said September 1st 1945
“As the ship pulled into Alex, the dockside was a hive of activity. The captain had radioed ahead and so there was a battalion of the Kings’ African Rifles (KAR)waiting to disarm us as we disembarked. All these KAR’s were standing at the order as a staff officer informed us that we were to be placed under arrest and escorted to Khartoum, here we would contemplate our mutiny for 2 years. Our battalion was still under arms; the sound of the cocking of weapons greeted the officer’s threat, and a lone voice asked “And who’s going to escort the darkies?” All our officers were powerless, we had the drop on the KAR’s, all that was needed was for someone to pull the trigger.

A Battle Too Far is the true story of Rifleman Henry Taylor 6923581, late 7th Battalion The Rifle Brigade (1stBattalion London Rifle Brigade) and is based on his diaries and recollections as told to his son Lawrence. The Foreword is by Lt-Gen Sir Christopher Wallace Chairman of The Royal Green Jackets (Rifles) Museum in Winchester.

Henry’s war began in October 1942 as the 2nd Battle of El Alamein commenced and continued almost non-stop for the next three years. From El Alamein to Tunisia he fought with the 8th Army as they finally pushed Rommel back to the sea. Expecting to return to Britain in preparation for D Day at the last minute plans were changed and they were ordered to Italy instead. Here they found themselves fighting for every inch of land against determined, well dug-in defenders, in conditions often resembling the trenches of WW1. Their reward? Their campaigns forgotten as the world concentrated on the D Day invasion and to be called ‘D Day Dodgers’ despite enduring some of the heaviest fighting of the war.

As Europe celebrated VE Day Henry’s war continued as they raced to Austria to prevent Yugoslav forces annexing Carinthia in the opening shots of the Cold War. Then, as the men around him were de-mobbed, Henry and the rest of the Battalion were sent back to Egypt to protect British interests in the continuing civil unrest. Dejected and fed up it only took one incident to spark a mutiny.

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Reviews for A Battle Too Far

The book is culled from Henry’s diaries and recollections (as told to his son Lawrence), and is one of the most fascinating books on the war that I have read.
Henry’s battalion fought in some of the fiercest battles of the war, including Snipe Ridge and Halfaya in Egypt, all through Tunisia and then on to Italy, where he was involved at Monte Cassino among many other extremely hard fought battles.
Some of the campaign was akin to First World war trench warfare and the cold and wet were as effective as the enemy in causing casualties, especially among men who had been equipped with uniform for desert warfare!
There were many things that I was ignorant of about the campaign in Italy and this book has opened my eyes to that. It is a well written and very articulate account of that campaign, as well as the others.
This book is very good on detail without ever getting bogged down as so many ‘official’ books do. It covers the campaigns, the mood of the troops and the morale as a whole. The action is well described without ever becoming histrionic and I really felt as if I understood more when I had read it.
ARRSE, Reviewed by OFAH

Reviews from Amazon

I have just returned from holiday where at last I had the chance to read your dad’s book (ironically I was in Italy). I found it not only enjoyable and educational, but very humbling.  I had to constantly remind myself that these were the experiences of a man in his early 20s. The personal memories that he recounts are what history tends to forget when focusing on the bigger picture and for me it brought home the level of physical stamina, and mental resilience and strength that these men endured.  For me the book was a reminder of  the sad consequential tragedies of war, which are often forgotten.  Like the men that died overnight as they sheltered below their tank and it sank in the mud as it rained, crushing them to death, and the innocent pregnant civilian who passed slowly away in your dad’s presence after she had been struck in the abdomen by shell fragments.  These moments stood out for me and how he coped with these memories in latter years is beyond my comprehension.  And that’s without seeing your comrades blown to pieces before your eyes, missing home and being constantly exhausted but still having to be constantly on your guard.

It is an honour to be able to say I collected for the RBL alongside him, and he being an Enfield man like myself too.
A remarkable account. P. Taylor

There are plenty of historical tomes about the world wars..the grand campaigns..the generals but what of the ordinary soldier?
Henry Taylor’s experience of the war is fascinating but also the immediate post war events are highlighted. Many people  in Britain now, and especially abroad, are amazed that Churchill lost the 1945 election. It was largely the vote of the overseas servicemen which rejected him. Churchill was determined to preserve and win back ’empire’ so many battle weary soldiers who just wanted to go home .were ordered to further conflicts. Having fought and beaten the Germans or Japanese they felt they had done their bit…Henry Taylor was sent to  Egypt to put down an insurrection. , his ‘Battle too far’. Perhaps the regular army ,steeped in the history of colonial wars, could accept this…but many of the ‘civilian soldiers’ could not.  Voting out the ‘arch imperialist’ Churchill was perhaps they only way to guarantee they would get home to their loved ones and ,, after surviving the Germans and Japanese conflicts, would not die needlessly in some far flung corner of an  outdated empire. V E Wood

A good read, I learnt many things about the 7th Rifle Brigade during WW2 Mr D J Longstaff

By Gary on 25 January 2017
Enjoyed to a point and gives a graphic example of the ingratitude shown to many serving soldier by the War Department and other arms of the Government at the end of the war.
Worth reading.

5.0 out of 5 stars A very good read, it felt genuine as well as giving …
By Amazon Customeron 25 January 2017
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A very good read, it felt genuine as well as giving an insight into wartime military life. Read it for eductation rather than entertainment, although it provides both.

5.0 out of 5 stars Great Word Pictures
By kjhblue on 17 August 2016
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This was a great read the war in Italy through the eyes of a young rifleman. The description of weapons and tactics became a little tedious for me however I consider it was very necessary for a reader who has’nt had a military background. It also linked in with stories I have read about the Italian conflict from other authors.

5.0 out of 5 stars Good detailed book
By Raymond Rann on 14 January 2015
Format: Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Adds some jigsaw pieces to my family history (not the Taylors) but more important helps remind what we as a nation owe to these conscripted/volunteer multi-national families of the 1940’s.

5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
By william hogan on 2 December 2014
Format: Hardcover
Finally got around to buying your wonderful book about your father.superb

5.0 out of 5 stars A good read for everyone.
By Dr. C. Evans. on 8 September 2014
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Loved it. Well written well researched and for once the timeline is correct. As an rifleman I could understand the terminology. I believe that a non military person would be able to do the same.

5.0 out of 5 stars We will remember them.
By P.Taylor on 11 August 2014

4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
By Mr D J Longstaff on 2 August 2014
Format: Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A good read, I learnt many things about the 7th Rifle Brigade during WW2