Ghosts of War: A History of World War I in Poetry and Prose
– By Andrew Ferguson
This short but powerful book is honestly one of the best accounts of the First World War that I have ever read. Ferguson takes his readers through the entire conflict, using well-timed excerpts from poetry and prose to bring to life the many emotions and experiences of global warfare. His focus on Scottish poets and their contribution to the war effort is particularly poignant, as theirs is a role that has often been overlooked.
…in 1914, the first trenches were dug on the Western Front. As it became ever more apparent that the war would not be ‘over by Christmas’, both Allied and German forces began digging trenches. In total, if these trench systems were laid out in one long row, they would stretch for 25,000 miles. 12,000 of those miles belonged to the Allies; 13,000 to the Central Powers.
… in 1916, the Battle of the Somme began. Lasting until 18th November 1916, it was the largest battle of the First World War on the Western Front and saw more than a million men wounded or killed. It remains one of the bloodiest battles in human history.
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…in 1918, the so-called ‘Spanish influenza’ broke out in America, when 107 soldiers became sick at Fort Riley in Kansas.
Around one quarter of the US population became ill from the virus, resulting in half a million deaths. Worldwide, the death-toll had reached approximately 22 million by the end of 1920. After the pain and suffering of four long years at war, this outbreak must have been devastating.