Newcastle raised more battalions of volunteer soldiers that went on to see active service than any other British provincial city during the First World War. The first full battalion of Kitchener's Army, Pioneer battalions, the Tyneside Scottish and the Tyneside Irish Brigades and pre-war Territorial Battalions of The Northumberland Fusiliers were all raised here and all of them served at some point during the Battles on the Somme between 1 July and December 1916. On the First Day of the Somme their stalwart bravery and conduct on the field were remarked upon by all who witnessed it; be they the gallant pipers that led the companies over the top or the parade-like lines of the Tyneside Irish as they strode towards the hail of machine gun fire. The losses suffered by these brave battalions were also the worst suffered by any Regiment on that fateful day. .
Neil is a social historian specialising in how the First and Second World Wars impacted on British society. He has lectured on the subject all over Britain for 20 years and has written over 30 books on a variety of social history themes including: The Tommy's Handbook (History Press 2014), Animals in the First World War (Shire 2014) and Women in the First World War (2010) and has featured in a number of TV and radio documentaries as guest expert, most recently on BBC Who Do You Think You Are? with Mary Berry.