Book Group June 2017

By Jane Wilson, volunteer

Despite our June book group meeting being at half its usual strength, we still managed to pass a pleasant two hours discussing the various reading recommendations brought along.
Our first suggestion was a work of fiction by the popular author, Michael Morpurgo, who while well known for his books for children, also manages to create stories based on real life that interest both adults as well as a younger audience. ‘Private Peaceful’ follows the story of two brothers, Charlie and Tommo, who live in rural England and spend most of their WW1 service together. They have a close brotherly bond, and during the war, look out for each other, especially when confronted by the strict, officious, even malicious treatment from their Sergeant. The book covers themes including family ties, disobeying orders from a superior and the harsh military consequences of this.

Moving on from the bond between siblings, our next recommendation was ‘The Love of an Unknown Soldier; Love Letters Found in a Trench’. The book was first published in 1918, and was believed to be a set of love letters written by an unknown soldier to his unknown sweetheart, an American nursing on the Western Front during the war. The letters had been found hidden away in the dugout of an abandoned gun position by a soldier, who then passed them on to John Lane, a publisher with Bodley Head. The letters highlighted the deep love felt by the soldier for the unknown woman, never posted, but declaring his deep love for her and his despair at not having told her how he felt.

Our next reading suggestion was not a book, but a series of diaries/reports/first-hand accounts of WW1 that are published on-line at www.firstworldwar.com/diaries
The available accounts range from a young British wireless operator going over the top at the Battle of Arras, to a description of reconnaissance missions in Kite Balloons, overseeing the lay of the land prior to battle. Accounts come from people of various nationalities, of battles and conflicts in theatre of war all round the world, and include reports from serving personnel as well as Prisoners of War, medical staff, landowners, and even foreign ambassadors to Britain. Each account is a personal viewpoint of a specific role carried out during the conflict, and some of the contrasting views of the same conflict provoke thoughts and the possibility of further reading around the subjects.

We ended by looking at Max Arthur’s book, ‘Lost Voices of the Royal Navy’, a volume which covers interwar and WW2 periods as well as the First World War. First-hand accounts of WW1 provide the main content of the book, including events documented by low ranking midshipmen all the way up to ships captains and high ranking naval military. Highlighting how far around the world the Royal Navy were deployed (from Scapa Flow to South America), the stories include those from men serving on naval battleships, submarines and give a rich account of the lives of men serving on both Upper and Lower Decks.

Come and join us at our next meeting on Tuesday 18th July at 2.30 to find out about more interesting WW1 reads.