The Secret Battle: Emotional Survival in the Great War [book review]
The part played by families' letters and packages in supporting what was in reality a young and amateur army is highlighted in Michael Roper's book, The Secret Battle: Emotional Survival in the Great War. It shows how soldiers adapted everyday habits (like sewing) to the trenches. It reveals, too, how battlefield trauma exposed the deepest emotional ties of childhood - and how First World War experiences scarred soldiers' lives long after their return home. Because of the increasingly mechanised and deadly weapons, violence was random and unpredictable, and troops never knew when death would come.
The Western Front Diaries by Jonathon King [book review]
The Western Front Diaries is the story of the hard-pressed and heroic Australians in the First World War. A vividly human first-hand account of savage trench warfare in a soldier's own words is lifted from letters and diaries. The story that shines through is of young idealistic volunteers killed en masse by bad leaders, but when used effectively manage to turn the tide of the war. It captures the horror, valour and humanity of the Aussie soldiers stuck in a hell of French mud and "Fritz" bombs. Icons of Australian history - Sir John Monash, and the French battlefields of Amiens, Pozieres, Ypres, Passchendaele - are brought to life and given fresh meaning.
Letter that tells the grim truth about life in the trenches in WWI
To many World War 1 soldiers, the Xmas Truce of 1914 was a morale-boosting break. But the day when the British exchanged gifts with German enemy was not remembered warmly by everyone on the Western Front. A letter by Trevor Bird tells of experiences which were a far cry from the carol singing experienced by other troops. He was shot at while lying waist deep in water for 26 hours, and crawling through mud on his hands and knees while under fire during a patrol - only to be arrested as a spy by his own side on his return. He criticises his superiors for their tactics, writing about a planned bayonet charge, called off at the last-minute, as "a criminal order".
Trenches full of heads... JB Priestley's WWI letters revealed
The public will be able to read 47 letters from the first world war trenches by the writer JB Priestley. The archive have been given to Bradford University by the writer's son Tom, who is publishing the full correspondence as a book next year. Hurriedly pencilled by candlelight or in mud-engulfed billets, they give vivid pictures of the terrible conditions. Disgust at bungled generalship and the waste of hundreds of thousands of "the best of us" silenced a man whose output was otherwise colossal. The material includes stark descriptions of a nightmare posting to the notorious Vimy Ridge in 1916, where he was seriously wounded by a mortar shell.
World War I memoirs of a trench soldier reveal 'Blackadder' humour
The humorous memoirs of Captain Alexander Stewart (the 3rd Scottish Rifles) who survived the horrors of trench warfare during WWI have been published for the first time. His diary describes the grim reality of the Somme with a wry sense of humour similar to Captain Blackadder in the BBC comedy. Among accounts of his comrades being ripped apart by shells, he jokes about nearly losing his life and describes his annoyance at having to stop smoking to shoot a German who had gained entry to the trench. He was sent home in 1917 with serious injuries caused by the bomb blast. He then wrote his war memoirs "The Experiences of a Very Unimportant Officer".
WW1 Military Cross hero's letters are a remarkable read
Tea on the Pyramids ... a dinner overlooking the Suez Canal. Sounds like a vacation. But these letters are one man's chronicle of World War 1 - and an insight into the spirit of British troops. They were written by a Military Cross hero Lieutenant Hubert Wolton (from the 1/5th Suffolk Regiment - Territorial Army) and nearly a century later they reveal how soldiers used humour and optimism to see them through war. In one letter he recalls climbing 460ft up a pyramid and taking tea at the top. From the trenches at Gallipoli: "No words can properly describe a bombardment. But from a distance it sounds as if a large empty tank was rolling down a cliff."
Man stumbles upon scrapbook with letters from WWI front lines
The battered scrapbook on eBay caught Pat Narcisi's eye. He had been buying hometown related memorabilia for years. Curiosity piqued, he bid $20 and won. The book was stuffed with newspaper clippings 1910-1948 - But it was the yellowed letters tucked into the back of the book that captivated Dilmore. Scripted by hand in pen and pencil, on stationary that read "On Active Service with the American Expeditionary Forces," the letters had 1918 postmarks. They were written by an American doughboy serving on the frontlines during WW1. The letters usually began with "At the front, France," or "Still somewhere. Dear friend Mary and mother."
War poet's last love letter from Gallipoli - Letters failed to find a buyer
Sitting on board a troop ship as it headed into battle, WWI poet Rupert Brooke picked up his pen and wrote a letter to the love of his life predicting his death. On his way to the Battle of Gallipoli, Brooke contracted blood poisoning from a mosquito bite and died on April 23, 1915 - two days before the landings. The 82 love letters written to Miss Nesbitt during their 2-year romance were auctioned at Christie's. The letters had been expected to sell for up to £180,000 but bidding stopped at £65,000. Brooke was considered a promising young poet when Britain entered the war but his reputation rests on 6 "war sonnets". He is best remembered for The Soldier.
The letters of one Digger who never came home (Article no longer available from the original source)
Donald Clarkson came late to World War One. His first day on the front line was also his last. He was killed near Beaurevoir, France, on Oct 3, 1918, 39 days before the Nov 11 Armistice brought to an end 4 years of slaughter. He volunteered but was rejected as unfit. He had surgery, then applied again and was called up in May 1917, joining the 22nd infantry reinforcements of the 28th Battalion Australian Imperial Force. Before he left, he wrote 2 letters - letters from the grave - that have survived the past 9 decades. On Oct 3, 1918 Clarkson and several others were hit by a shell 300m from their objective.
Letters from The Battle of Vimy Ridge - Part four: John Newton
John Newton served overseas with the Canadian Field Artillery. -- April 10, 1917: Cold & wet with snow in the afternoon. Went forward to the O.P. in Counts Wood to act as F.O.O. The snipers were busy and got several of the infantry who were foolishly exposing themselves. In the afternoon the Hun commenced shelling the Wood so I & the telephonists decided to take refuge in an old German dugout about 100 yds in front. We carried our wire across this exposed place – snipers bullets whizzing around. ... We were then only 100 yds from our new front line which was on the far side of the steep hill. The view was magnificient – could see into Hun territory for several miles.
Letter written on the day of the Xmas truce of 1914 for sale
A mud-splattered letter by Captain Reginald Hobbs, written from the trenches on the day of the famous Xmas truce of 1914, is being sold. "My father survived the Somme and the rest of the war with just a piece of shrapnel in his side and an injured finger. He was an Old Contemptible and never talked about the war. The only thing he ever said to me about it - and it still moves me now - was, 'There was a tremendous love for one another in the trenches.'" The 5-page letter has been afforded a modest £400-£800 estimate. But in keeping with other Western Front diaries that have surfaced, it is expected to fetch much more.
Double VC winner's letter from the trenches sold for £1,040
A First World War hero's letter from the trenches has been sold at auction for £1,040. Captain Noel Chavasse became the most decorated serviceman in British military history, winning the VC twice. The army medic was killed while serving with the 10th Battalion of the King's Regiment. The letter was not in mint condition and was sent to a friend of Chavasse's. The captain's first Victoria Cross award came after he saved 20 lives by tending to casualties in front of German trenches at Guillemot, on the Somme, in 1916. The second was bestowed after he died at Ypres in 1917.
The First World War Letters from a Nurse - Book
The 31 letters that nurse Frances "Fanny" Cluett wrote during WW1 talk of the horror of war, rationing and dying soldiers. Fanny Cluett joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment, an organization that helped military personnel during the First World War. In 1916, she sailed from New York to Liverpool through U-boat infested waters. In 1917, she was assigned to the 10th General Hospital in Rouen. "I shall never forget it as long as I live. ...You can read about war, and the wounded, but when you are brought face to face with it I tell you, it is heart rending." In the photo section a German medal is shown, an Iron Cross, which was given to her by a dying German soldier.
Letters found in attic give an insight into WWI battle in Falklands (Article no longer available from the original source)
A buckled ceiling at a Welsh house has led to the discovery of important accounts of key World War 1 battles. The long-lost cache of letters was found stuffed in a drawer in an attic room of a house in Lower Garth, near Welshpool. Written by First World War veteran Ian Macnair, they provide a salient reminder that Welsh members of the armed forces had a part to play in the Falklands. Macnair had penned his thoughts about his first-hand experiences of the Battle of the Falkland Islands in 1914 and the Battle of Jutland in 1916. They are now bound in a volume at London's Imperial War Museum for visitors to read.
1914-1918: Diaries and letters from soldiers in the trenches
Boy`s Christmas Truce letter was sold for £14,400, after Chris de Burgh trumped 14 rival bidders. Letters from the trenches are now commanding "Titanic prices", as one WW1 historian told me. The Imperial War Museum has built up its unparalleled collection of original manuscripts from the Great War, relying on donations. The expanding market in World War 1 letters means that these are likely to pass, for sums beyond the reach of museums, into private hands. The Great War forged a greater literature than any other conflict, for this was the first war in history in which the majority of combatants were men of letters.
Captain Kingwell's letters printed in The Times in 1918
Almost 90 years ago, the letters of Henry Scott Kingwell appeared in the Lake County Times describing the horror of life as a World War I doughboy. In a letter written Oct. 30, 1918, from "somewhere in France," he described how "I actually killed that day 4 of the enemy and wounded 7 others. It was simply a case of wonderful luck in sniping and running into a party of Germans that I could see who couldn't see me. Tell Uncle I got one expressly for him. I really did. ... Was I sorry I had killed my fellow man? Not a bit of it. I howled with delight and cried out 'with my last shot! I got him with my last shot!'"
Ontarian's rare WWI letters from the front sell at auction for $5,500
A collection of cartoons, letters and a journal written on the front lines by a Canadian soldier during the First World War sold to a Toronto dealer for $5,500. The rare letters with first-hand accounts of war experiences were all but forgotten for 80 years before turning up in a Kingston auction house. Donald Lake bought the collection, written by Lieut. Guy Rutter, who was an officer with the Fourth Canadian Mounted Rifles Regiment in France during the First World War. "I had to buy it. It's a defining moment in Canadian history. It's very rare and old."
Clear-out uncovers a letter from WW1 western front trenches
A slice of First World War history has been uncovered in a clear-out. A letter from the Western Front by soldier Joseph Lawrence to his father. "My Brother's battalion is camping about half an hour's walk from where I am at present, so I inquired whereabouts. The first tent I came to I asked for B Company, so the young chap I was speaking to, he says, who do you want? I says Sammie Lawrence. Well, he says, he was killed last Friday about six o'clock in the morning because I helped to bury him. Well after I heard that, I was very much upset. The platoon sergeant said he was the best working chap in the platoon."
Letters of WWI rifleman No 3448
His grandfather was one of millions who fought during WW1. But he knew nothing about letters sent by another ancestor who had fought in the trenches around Ypres. The first is a postcard dated 22 Jan 1915: "Dear Father and Mother, we embark for France at 2pm today. Further address: Queen Victoria Rifles, Expeditionary Force, France." Over the next months come a series of letters: Family politeness and trivia nestle between the wearisome violence of war, the miles of fruitless marching, the sniping at the Germans - David had been made a machine gunner - and the frostbite. The trenches are filled with freezing standing water, six inches to a foot deep.
Torn apart by war: letters that spelt heartbreak
He survived the horrors of the trenches and the deprivations of a prisoner of war camp but for Pte Harry Nelson the deadliest blow came from the home front. A letter from his wife Lil, sent to him in 1915 while he was a prisoner of war, includes a stark admission of adultery and the heart-breaking news that she is to leave him for another man. Against the backdrop of the WW1 this was a small personal tragedy. However, the devastating two page letter, found in a Government archive 90 years later, illustrates the high price that was paid even by some who did not lose their lives.