There are lots of brilliant Great War blogs out there. These just happen to be the three I follow most faithfully.
Erudite, witty, and beautifully written, this blog never fails to fascinate and move in equal measure.
The premise is ambitious: “every day a piece of writing produced a century ago, or a description of events befalling one of the writers on that day”. Reading letters, diaries and poems produced by over 80 participants in the Great War (from Raymond Asquith through my man Thomas Hulme to Wyndham Lewis) as they were written – complete with prejudices, inaccuracies, larks and laughter, love affairs and rather a lot of lust – certainly helps combat the pervading modern belief that the Great War was four years of unmitigated misery for all concerned.
Today (July 28) Duff Cooper is writing to Diana Manners:
This morning I have been undergoing instruction in patrolling, which means learning how to crawl, which most of us can do before we walk and I found I hadn’t forgotten. But it was bad crawling weather this morning and I didn’t enjoy it…
We have a new doctor whose name is Coffin. Would you believe it? I couldn’t at first but it’s true and it delights me. It’s so Dickens.
Goodbye, when are you going to marry me?
(This blogger does seem to have a Thing about Siegfried Sassoon – but that’s alright with me.)
I came to this blog fairly late in the War and it’s consistently wonderful. The author has a self-confessed bias towards “lost voices and faded poems” and so most of the Great War poems shared are by unknown poets, women, or French or German writers. Each poem is accompanied by a detailed commentary on meaning and historical context. Entire mornings have been lost following Connie Ruzich’s links to other works and background stories – but then of such stuff are novels written.
Yesterday’s poem (July 27) is The Conscientious Objector by Edward Lewis Davison:
His was the mastery of life
Who locked the doors on wrath,
And would not join the common strife
At the cold beck of death.
But singing in the shattered street
When it ran dim with blood,
Flung down his soul at England’s feet,
And was not understood.
The enthusiasm of this blogger is infectious! The author’s grandfather was one of five brothers serving in the Great War. Letters from three of the brothers (serving with the Indian Army, the Royal Navy, and as a military doctor) are faithfully reproduced 100 years on from the day each was written. The correspondence demonstrates the reality of war; bouts of abject terror interspersed with long periods spent fretting about socks and cigarettes and what people are getting up to back home.
Today (July 28) Ted Berryman is in Mesopotamia, where they are having a “wonderfully mild summer”. He has not been home two-and-a-half years and is worried about his fiancé Nell (“I feel I’m treating her very badly by being away so long”). He asks his mother to send him a book of the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition pictures, although he notes that the newspapers (the mess has copies of the Mirror, Sketch and Spectator) “don’t think much of it on the whole”. He approves of the new UK Luxury Tax and he hopes his sister Dreda will “stick to her hospital job” and not become a paid companion (“old ladies must wait for their companions till after the war”).
Pure gold for writers!