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.

The prevention of war books?

In her 1937 autobiography, Three Ways Home, Sheila Kaye-Smith considers the commercial failure of her wartime novel Little England: The explanation [...] does not lie entirely in the book itself, but also in the time of its appearance. that must share the responsibility for the small impression that it made. It was a war book, […]

Les Amis du Roman Populaire

In Amiens last week I attended a meeting of L’ Association des Amis du Roman Populaire. This is a group of academics and others interested mostly in French popular fiction of the last century, and the two-day conference was about the popular literature of the Great War. We met in the Logis du Roy in […]

‘Sapper’ in Amiens

Tomorrow I shall be going to Amiens, to deliver a paper on “‘Sapper’ : from realism to melodrama” to a conference organised by Les Amis du Roman Populaire. This is an association devoted to all kinds of popular fiction – but especially to the French fiction of the last century, and this conference is considering […]

Singing on the march

I’ve undertaken to write an article about the  soldiers’ songs of the Great War. I’m finding plenty of interesting references to songs, and to how they lifted morale on the march, or reinforced community spirit in concert parties, or in informal gatherings. I’m tantalised, though, by the memory of an anecdote I read some years […]

Poetry and prose

In his first-rate Ivor Gurney documentary on BBC4 yesterday, Tim Kendall rightly pointed out that Gurney is exceptional among Great War poets because of his specificity (naming fellow-soldiers), his communication of soldiers’ conviviality, and his depiction of the routine of military life. It struck me that these are exactly the qualities I value in war […]

Tim Kendall on Ivor Gurney

Here’s this weekend’s required TV viewing:

Stephen Fry writes a letter

It’s an unwritten rule in twenty-first century England that every cultural project must at some stage involve Stephen Fry. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that he has now done his bit for the Great War centenary. He has contributed a project called Letter to an Unknown Soldier, which is based on Charles Sargeant […]

The ‘Bomb Shop’ crowd

In Sheila Kaye-Smith’s 1943 novel of three wars, Tambourine, Trumpet and Drum, there is a 1917 scene in which Myra, youngest of the novel’s four sisters, goes to Proudlock’s, a London café where ‘of an evening one usually met the young men who by day hung around the Bomb Shop – the bookseller’s of the […]

Prison Libraries

I by and large keep contemporary politics out of this blog, but I’m utterly fuming at the Justice Secretary’s decision to prevent prisoners being sent books as presents. They must buy them from their meagre wages, he says, or rely on the prison library. I’m sure that prison libraries have improved since 1917, but I […]

‘I was playing golf the day that the Germans landed…’

I’m currently reading Sheila Kaye-Smith’s excellent 1943 novel, Tambourine, Trumpet, Drum (Thanks, Pat, for suggesting it.) The novel is in three parts, corresponding to the three wars: Boer War, Great War, World War II. At the start of August 1914, a young woman  teases her sister, who has been playing golf while the rest of […]


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