Category Archives: History

‘The Silent Morning’ in paperback

The excellent news is that The Silent Morning, the essay collection about the aftermath of the Armistice, edited by Trudi Tate and Kate Kennedy, is now in a paperback edition at a much less scary price. I’ve mentioned this before (click here for a blog post including a full list of the book’s contents) and […]

The ‘New Yorker’ gets Kipling wrong

A hundred years ago today, John Kipling died at Loos. The New Yorker has marked the anniversary with an article by Nina Martyris which is not bad till it gets near the end, when she gives us a paragraph that repeats some standard myths, and therefore gets a great deal wrong:

The Battle of Loos

On September 25th, 1915, the Battle of Loos began. Last year I contributed a short account of the battle as a programme note for Doctor Scroggy’s War at Shakespeare’s Globe, in London. Here it is: The Battle of Loos ‘Loos was no picnic.’ – Richard Hannay, in John Buchan’s Greenmantle, 1916. On Saturday 25th September, […]

The Kipling Journal

Officers of the Irish Guards, Warley. John Kipling third from left. The September Kipling Journal arrived here yesterday. It is a special edition devoted to the theme of Kipling and the Great War, marking the centenary of the death of  John Kipling, at Loos. It contains a very useful piece by Tonie and Valmai Holt […]

Kipling invents the soldier

From A Soldier’s Mamories by Major-General Sir George Younghusband K.C.M.G., K.C.I.E., F.R.G.S., etc. (1917) And now for a curious thing. I myself had served for many years with soldiers, but had never once heard the words or expressions that Rudyard Kipling’s soldiers used. Many a time did I ask my brother Officers whether they had […]

C. S. Forester, Hornblower and ‘The General’

It is C.S. Forester month at the Sheffield Hallam Popular Fiction Reading Group, and I have been reading (with considerable pleasure) the first Hornblower novel, The Happy Return (1937), but also re-reading The General (1936), Forester’s brilliant fictionalisation of the Liddell Hart view of the Great War and its military leadership. Reading the two novels […]

The Somme, 99 years on…

The Battle of the Somme was titanic on the ground ravaging the Picardy countryside, but the concussion waves rippling out from the sickening crash of each artillery shell reached every corner of Britain and its Empire. In other words, the military history is actually the key to a myriad of other histories unfolding hundreds of […]


Over the past few Saturday nights I’ve been watching 1864, the latest BBC4 serial imported from Denmark. And the  more I have seen of it, the greater my sense of déjà vu. The sadistic schoolmaster preaching mindless patriotism; the unpleasant and corrupt members of the upper classes; the utterly decent lower classes; the admirable gipsies; […]

Letchworth (a footnote to John Buchan)

In John Buchan’s  Mr Standfast (1919), Richard Hannay is sent on an undercover mission to ‘the Garden City of Biggleswick’, to live among the   high-minded pacifists who set the place’s tone. One of the residents describes the city: ‘It is one great laboratory of thought,’ said Mrs Jimson. ‘It is glorious to feel that […]

‘The Tribunal’

Councillor Hopwood (to a conscientious objector at Shaw Tribunal, asking for exemption): I think you are exploiting God to save your own skin. It is nothing but deliberate and rank blasphemy. A man who would not help to defend his country and womankind is a coward and a cad. You are nothing but a shivering […]


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