Richard Blaker essay online

blaker
Richard Blaker

I’ve added a lengthy essay about the war novelist Richard Blaker to the resources on this site.
I wrote it several years ago, and it is in fact a draft of what was to have been a chapter in my Ph.D. thesis, a case study of the changing attitudes towards the war of a minor and now mostly forgotten twenties novelist. In the end this chapter was not included. Some paragraphs from it, adapted, found their place in various parts of the final thesis.

Blaker interested me for a few reasons. The main one is that he is a writer whose attitudes changed in a direction opposite to that assumed in many accounts of war writing. Read More »

Kinmel in the ‘Mail’, continued

On March 10, 1919, three days after the initial report, this appeared in the Mail:
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On March 14th, this first report from the inquest appeared: Read More »

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. Read More »

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 warning of the possibly apocalyptic effects of the gas bombing of civilians.
I’ve reviewed the book elsewhere,  but thought I’d draw attention here to the episode quoted above. In 1944 a surprise Russian attack has caused chaos, and drivers suddenly afflicted by gas are creating chaos as their vehicles swerve out of control. Read More »

Chaplains

On the University of Birmingham’s website there is an interesting essay by Michael Snape on the role and reputation of Army chaplains in the First World War. It attempts to defend them from the accusation of being distant and ineffectual figures who kept away from the front line. It is well worth reading and partly, but not, I’d say, completely convincing.
Much of Professor Snape’s evidence comes from fiction and memoirs. Read More »

The Love of an Unknown Soldier

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I have recently been given the chance to look at a fascinating book, The Love of an Unknown Soldier: Found in a Dugout, first published in London in September 1918, by John Lane, The Bodley Head. (The book’s Canadian edition can be viewed online at the Internet Archive .)
In an introductory explanation, Lane explains: Read More »

‘The spate of war books and plays which all are dreading…’

Thanks to Mary Grover for sending me this clipping from the Sheffield Telegraph, September 1939.
Their sardonic regular columnist P. G. Bond is foretelling that among the horrors of war will be a spate of war literature. Interestingly, he assumes that this will be just like the books and plays that came out of the previous war: Read More »

Causes of the First World War (by Dennis Wheatley)

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I’m always interested in novelists’ versions of the beginning of the war, and none is more challenging to conventional historians’  ideas than that of Dennis Wheatley in The Devil Rides Out (1934).  The wise and experienced Duc de Richleau is explaining to his companions in adventure the power of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse:

“War, Plague, Famine and Death. We all know what happened last time those four terrible entities were unleashed to cloud the brains of statesmen and rulers.”
“You’re referring to the Great War I take it,” Rex said soberly.
“Of course, and every adept knows that it started because one of the most terrible Satanists who ever lived found one of the secret gateways through which to release the four horsemen.”
“I thought the Germans got a bit above themselves,” Rex hazarded, “although it seems that lots of other folks were pretty well as much to blame.”
“You fool!” De Richleau suddenly swung upon him. “Germany did not make the War. It came out of Russia. It was Russia who instigated the murder at Sarajevo, Russia who backed Serbia to resist Austria’s demands, Russia who mobilised first and Russia who invaded Germany. The monk Rasputin was the Evil genius behind it all. He was the greatest Black Magician that the world has known for centuries. It was he who found one of the gateways through which to let forth the four horsemen that they might wallow in blood and destruction – and I know the Talisman of Set to be another. Europe is ripe now for any trouble and if they are loosened again, it will be final Armageddon. […] We’ve got to kill Mocata before he can secure the Talisman and prevent his plunging the world into another war.”

Read More »

‘Never beaten in the field’?

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In A.G. Macdonell’s dark but lively  satire, Lords and Masters (1936), forceful young Veronica Hanson has just returned from Nuremberg, a convinced and enthusiastic Nazi. She explains recent history to her father:

‘Anyway, my point is that in the last war the whole world combined couldn’t beat the German armies in the field -’
‘Is that what they say nowadays in Deutschland?’ interrupted her father.
Veronica opened her dark-green eyes very wide.
‘That’s what they say everywhere. I mean, everyone knows that. It’s simply a matter of record.’
‘That the German armies were never beaten in the field?’ Read More »

Duff Cooper at the War

duff-cooper

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, it would seem, needed, at the Foreign Office, but it became obvious that the F.O. was likely to be ‘combed out’, and that he, as the youngest of the permanent unmarried staff, would be allowed to go. The thought fills him, he says, with exhilaration:

I always wished to go to the war though less now than I did at first. I envy the experience and adventure that everyone else has had. I am not afraid of death though I love life and should hate to lose it. I don’t think I should make a good officer.

Read More »