This original book shows that many memoirs of the Western Front are not only literary masterpieces but are also of great value to historians. Brian Bon examines a range of works in this neglected genre which demonstrate the remarkable variety of combat experiences and post-war reflections, ranging from poets like Robert Graves, Siegfried Sassoon and Edmund Blunden striving to overcome traumas; to warriors or ‘Fire Eaters’ like Lord Reith and Alf Pollard who enjoyed the war; and two exceptionally brave Old Etonians, Anthony Eden and Harold Macmillan whose military distinction proved to be an asset in their political careers. He goes on to explore the view from the ranks (Frederic Manning and Frank Richards); the grandeur and misery of service in the Guards; the highly irregular career of a senior office (Brigadier-General F.P. Crozier) and the sharply contrasting war in the air as recorded by two distinguishing pilots.
All these men were survivors of a kind, profoundly affected by their experience of combat; damaged physically or psychologically, and haunted by memories of destruction, suffering and lost friends. Yet the majority remained enthralled by the spirit of comradeship which could not be replicated in civil war.
Most of the writers featured were discussed in the authors MA Special Subject class in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London. His hope is that this may provide a stimulus for similar courses at other universities. This accords with his belief that 1st World War memoirs are a seriously neglected source whose contents are much more varied and interesting than the stereotype of ‘anti war’ literature suggests.
This book puts the war in the trenches and those who wrote about it into a fresh perspective and will stimulate readers to explore for themselves these eloquent and deeply moving classics of literature.
“In this collection of essays Brian Bond brings a lifetime’s study of the Western Front to the analysis of some of the best-known memoirs of the campaign. Literary and military historians alike will find the result of great value for their own studies, while for the general reader it should help destroy many long-standing myths, It is a worthy climax to a long and distinguished career”. Professor Sir Michael Howard.
SURVIVORS OF A KIND Memoirs of the Western Front
An engrossing and thought-provoking work which promises to be a cornerstone of future research, and must for all those interested in the literature and poetry of The Great War. it is fundamentally an academic work and details the full spectrum of those who wrote about their experiences ranging from disillusioned pacifists to borderline sociopaths who revelled in the carnage. It is not a light read as it is a thorough study and requires a firm interest in the subject but is very enlightening. It is also, like the writing and the writers whom Brian Bond explores, stylish, eloquent, moving and varied.