Author Archives: George Simmers

After many years as a teacher, I retired and began researching for a Ph.D. on the fiction of the Great War – especially the books, stories and plays that were written during the War or immediately afterwards.

Researching Allan M. Laing at Bradford

Yesterday I spent a very productive afternoon in the Special Collections Room of the J.B. Priestley Library at the University of Bradford. One of my interests is the career of Allan M. Laing, the conscientious objector who wrote Carols of a Convict while banged up in Wormwood Scrubs, and later became a prolific writer of […]

‘Poetic expression alone…’

‘The poetic mood, whether in writer or reader, demands a high, a heightened state of tension and sensibility; by the emotions of the War, that high, that heightened state was created, not only in the soldier, but in every citizen, anxious, exalted, fearful both for the fate of his country and his fellow-men. The soldier […]

Kamila Shamsie’s ‘A God in Every Stone’

With very few exceptions, the best novels of the Great War are the ones that not only give an idea of the battlefield, but also locate the conflict within a historical frame, and give a sense of the War as a turning point in the lives of individuals and societies. Kamila Shamsie’s A God in […]

‘Whether of pure European descent’

I did some researching at the National Archive in Kew yesterday, finding out a little more about the military career of P. G. Wodehouse’s brother, Armine, an officer in the Scots Guards. One of the documents I saw was his ‘Application for Appointment to the Special Reserve of Officers’. (Click the picture if you’d like […]

W. H. R. Rivers and Arnold Bennett

The Times Litt. Sup. has been discussing the psychologist W. H. R. Rivers recently (based on Ben Shephard’s interesting-looking book, Headhunters) so I sent them this letter, which appears in the current issue: Sir, – Ashok Bery (Letters, August 1) notes how the writings of W. H. R. Rivers influenced the imagination of W. H. […]

Shell shock, newspapers, poetry

The other day I blogged my disagreement with Roy Greenslade’s  sweeping claim in the Guardian : Only later did the public learn of the high casualty toll and the horrific nature of trench warfare, such as the use of poison gas and the effects of shell shock. About shell shock I cited an article from […]

Roy Greenslade versus Great War journalism

In the Guardian today, Roy Greenslade marks the centenary by considering the 1914-18 press’s reporting of the First World War, which he considers deplorable: The catalogue of journalistic misdeeds is a matter of record: the willingness to publish propaganda as fact, the apparently tame acceptance of censorship and the failure to hold power to account. […]

Singing secretly

I’ll be giving a talk in a couple of weeks about myths of the War – the strange rumours that people whispered to each other at the time, and the equally strange things that some people believe about the War today. That’s why I’ve been looking again at a book I’m very fond of, Echoes […]

Another view of soldiers’ songs

I’m still looking for material about soldier’s songs, and recently came across this article in the excellent Spectator archive. It’s a November 1917 review of F.T. Nettleingham’s collection, Tommy’s Tunes, and reminds us that the subject was not always seen through the socialist-populist filter of ‘Oh What a lovely War’. The Spectator site’s text is […]

The Folio Fussell

There are not many works of literary criticism in the Folio Society’s backlist. Most of the books that are given the sumptuous Folio treatment are classics of fiction, biography and travel writing – the sort of thing that a bookish person of means might want to decorate his or her shelves iwith in preference to […]

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