Category Archives: History

Duff Cooper at the War

Alfred Duff Cooper is best known as the politician who became Minister of Information in the Second World War – but his diaries of the First World War make excellent reading for anyone interested in stories of the upper class at war. A young man of talent and connections, until 1917 he was employed, and, […]

In No Man’s Land

From the diary of Duff Cooper: November 11th, 1916. Dined at 16 Lower Berkeley Street. After dinner, the conversation turning on sodomy, Blueie [Harold Baker] told us of a case where a man was accused of having committed it in No Man’s Land, i.e. between the trenches during an attack, taking advantage of a shell […]

Ticking off a ghost

  It’s supernatural month at the Sheffield Popular Fiction Reading Group, and I’ve been looking at  Conan Doyle’s The Land of Mist, in which Professor Challenger and the other characters from The Lost World are brought in to explore Conan Doyle’s great obsession – the world of the Beyond, as revealed to spiritualists. Thank goodness […]

The crook who published ‘Helen Zenna Smith’

In 1917 Netley Lucas was fourteen, but must have looked mature for his age. He got himself an officer’s uniform and used it to run up debts as, for a short but wild period he lived the high life. Inevitably, his luck eventually ran out, and he was sent to Borstal. After some more criminal […]

Aircraft Repair Depot

Above is a painting of an Aircraft Repair Depot towards the end of the war. Not No. 3 Western depot in Gloucestershire where my grandfather was stationed, but No.1 Southern Aircraft Repair Depot, South Farnborough. The painting is by Graham Glen, and shows  ‘Women’s Royal Air Force at Work on Aeroplane Salvage’. Click it to […]

Arnold Bennett, and the English and the French

I spent Saturday at the National Archives in Kew, taking a look at, among other things, Arnold Bennett’s activities when in charge of British propaganda to France in 1917-1918. Bennett’s notes and memos are rather impressive – crisp, sensible and decisive – as he deals with a multitude of issues.

Soldiers singing, at the end of the war

Last year I was working on a chapter about soldiers songs for the forthcoming Edinburgh Companion on the First World War and the Arts. Yesterday I came across a paragraph that I wish I’d seen before  finishing the chapter. It’s from the New Statesman, October 19, 1918:

The Oxford Vigilance Committee

I’ve recently been thinking a lot about Arnold Bennett’s novel about wartime prostitution, The Pretty Lady, so was delighted to come across a webpage referencing the November 1916 Oxford Vigilance Committee, and its report on the immorality of wartime Oxford. The committee sees prostitution as a ‘permanent social disease’, but the war is creating conditions […]

What soldiers shouldn’t read

I’ve read some good articles over the years about the reading habits of soldiers in France, and the literature supplied to them. What I hadn’t considered much before was what they were discouraged from reading. Here’s Arnold Bennett, writing in February 1919,  about the committee who ran the Camps Library, and made sure it did […]

An Officer’s Grievance

An anecdote from Arnold Bennett (New Statesman, December, 1918) The other day I met a British officer who had been wounded nine times, captured by the Germans while in a state of unconsciousness, and in England reported killed. He seemed to be perfectly well and perfectly cheerful. But one matter had aroused his resentment. It […]