Category Archives: Military

‘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 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, […]

Square jaws, trench music and a grim Christmas story

I’m still looking for, and finding,  anecdotes about British soldiers and their songs and music. Here’s a story from The Square Jaw, the English translation of La Mâchoire Carrée (1917), an account of fighting in the British part of the line, by the French journalists Henry Ruffin et André Tudesq. It compresses a lot of […]

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 […]

F. W. Harvey in the Daily Mail

I was browsing around, looking at 1915 issues of the Daily Mail, searching a bit vaguely for something else entirely, when I was delighted to find an article featuring that very likeable poet, F. W. Harvey, and the story of how he won his medal:

Logistics and Support

Almost all writing about the War is about the sharp end – the fighting. The only novel I’ve read that is set in a labour battalion is Robert Keable’s Simon called Peter (and the subject of that is the chaplain’s sexual awakening, rather than the essential forestry work carried out by the soldiers who are […]

Murderous Tommies

The Manual of Military Law published by the War Office in 1914 explicitly stated: The object of military law is to maintain discipline among the troops and other persons forming part of or following an army. Inevitably there were occasions when this objective clashed with what today we think of as the human rights of […]

Gertrude Harris

A remarkable lady died on Tuesday, at the age of 101. Gertrude Harris campaigned for many years to clear the name of her father, Harry Farr, who had been executed by firing squad in 1916. Eventually her efforts, and those of others, persuaded Des Browne, then Minister of Defence, to issue a blanket pardon for […]

War correspondents in the First Balkan War

There has been much discussion here recently about the (sometimes good, sometimes awful) paintings of C. R. W. Nevinson. By chance, the book I’m currently reading has a photograph of his father, Henry Nevinson, the distinguished war correspondent. Here he is with Horace Grant and Philip Gibbs and two unknown Serbians, getting ready to report […]


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