Category Archives: memory

How to See the Battlefields

In June I shall be giving a paper at the Sheffield Hallam Culture Wars conference, about critical responses to the detective fiction of Dorothy Sayers;  recently I have been discovering (more than somewhat irrelevantly to the argument of the paper) a little about Sayers’s husband, Atherton Fleming. I already knew that he was a journalist, […]

Owen remembered, imprecisely

In Eric Partridge’s 1931 miscellany A Martial Medley, which I mentioned the other day, there is a shortish essay by Conal O’Riordan, an Irish novelist previously unknown to me. It is called ‘One More Fortunate’, and is intended as a memoir of Wifred Owen. The essay begins with a long passage about the author’s own […]

2000 events

Programme of commemoration announced: 2000 events.

Known unto God

It seems that the Australians have abandoned a plan to reword the inscription on the tomb of their Unknown Soldier. There had been a suggestion that Kipling’s ‘Known unto God’ should be replaced by some words from a speech by politician Paul Keating: ‘We do not know this Australian’s name, we never will’ and ‘He […]

Howard Spring at War

In Howard Spring’s memoir In the Meantime… (1942) he recalls his experience in an earlier war: I did not remain in Bradford long after the war had begun. All sorts of queer activities broke out. I was not passed for the army, and found myself one of a group who imagined they were somehow helping […]

War Centenary Wars

The Great War centenary may be over a year away, but the preliminary skirmishes are already providing entertainment. A few weeks ago a letter appeared in the Guardian, signed by a number of actors and celebrities, sternly arguing that the message of any celebrations should be firmly anti-war: We are disturbed […] that David Cameron […]


There has been a deal of news recently about the forthcoming centenary celebrations of the War – including slightly silly plans for a football match to commemorate the Christmas truce (After the match, will the fans try to murder each other?) Having been reading about the Battle of Waterloo recently, I wondered how the end […]

A Tree from Verdun

War memorials took many forms. Today,in Beaumont Park, Huddersfield, I spotted this plaque at the base of a tall chestnut tree: An offshoot of battlefield tourism, presumably, but also an attempt to weave the memory of the War into the fabric of everyday life. This was a reminder that families might spot when out walking […]

Paul Fussell, 1924-2012

2nd Lieut. Paul Fussell. I was saddened to hear of the death last week of Paul Fussell. He is a critic whom I have often argued against, in these blog posts and elesewhere, but he was an important writer and an invigorating one. I would argue that he got many things wrong in The Great […]

Vera Brittain, fact and fiction

Reading Vera Brittain’s Testament of Experience (1957) makes me think once again about the complicated relationship between truth and fiction when it comes to writing of the Great War. Many novels contain strongly autobiographical elements, while many memoirs are structured like fiction. Readers and critics add to the confusion. Several novels, such as Sassoon’s Sherston […]