Category Archives: History

Philip Gibbs and the war-book boom

The novelist hero of Philip Gibbs’s 1931 novel The Winding Lane is an ex-soldier rather ill at ease in the literary world. At the Pen and Palette, a bohemian club catering for the artistic set, he notes the taste of some of the members: Some of these middle-aged women praised with rather hysterical enthusiasms the […]

Ben Shephard (1948-2017)

I am sorry to hear of the death of Ben Shephard, author of A War of Nerves. He died in October, but for some reason his obituary only appeared in the Guardian newspaper this morning. A War of Nerves cuts through many of the pieties about shell-shock and PSTD, and looks at the conditions, and […]

General Kelly and Forester’s ‘The General’

Chief of Staff John Kelly has the reputation of being the most stable figure in President Trump’s chaotic White House. From what one can gather, he has brought a semblance of order and organisation to the place, and has engineered the removal of some of Mr Trump’s more erratic political associates. Earlier this year, he […]

Ted Hughes

I spent yesterday at the Ted Hughes conference in the smart Heritage Quay suite at Huddersfield University. I gave a paper titled ‘Ted Hughes and Gallipoli’, about his representations of his father’s war (William Hughes was on the peninsula with the 1st/5th Lancashire Fusiliers and, Hughes wrote, remained ‘undemobbed’, still troubled by his experiences for […]

The National Service Board – and A.E. Housman

In 1940 Percy Withers recalled occasions when, during the previous war, he had told A.E. Housman about his work at the National Service Board: He was greatly interested too in the technicalities of the work, the material it exploited, the revelations it brought to light, the ugliness, the momentary relief, the sordidness, the enduring pity. […]

Casualties

There’s a striking short exchange in Compton Mackenzie’s Gallipoli Memories (1929): Some time after this General Paris visited Army Corps Headquarters, and to him General Hunter- Weston spoke enthusiastically of some successful action on a portion of the front. “Many casualties?” asked General Paris in a voice that could not hide the bitterness he felt […]

Aberdeen

I’m looking forward to heading north to Aberdeen tomorrow. Mostly because of the Fictional First World War conference, but also because it is where my father’s family comes from. My grandfather (also George Simmers) was born there in 1868, at 191, Gallowgate. This picture, of another house in the street, probably gives an idea of […]

Henry Carr, and the history behind ‘Travesties’

Last week I hugely enjoyed the excellent production of Tom Stoppard’s Travesties at the Apollo Theatre in London. A note in the programme about Henry Carr (the play’s central character) was interesting enough to send me off on a minor investigation.

Kinmel riots in the Daily Mail

Readers of this blog have recently been again showing interest in the events at Kinmel Camp in 1919. I thought I’d take a look at how the disturbances were reported in the Daily Mail (March 7, 1919). Here is the initial report. I shall upload some later reports tomorrow.

Knocking down the Cenotaph

An omnibus had crashed into and half knocked down the Cenotaph. Wyndham carried his mind back through the years. It had been for this end that the heroes of the Great War had died. This is from the Earl of Halsbury’s 1944 (published in 1926), a ‘Future War’ novel written as part of his campaign […]