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.
Agent Of Peace: Emily Hobhouse and her Courageous Attempt to End the First World War – Jennifer Hobhouse Balme Verdict: A slow-paced book that reflects the political atmosphere of the time. Emily’s lengthy journal extracts, particularly her time in occupied Belgium … Continue reading →
For a Titanic-obsessed, WW1-enthusiast, you can imagine how delighted I am to find myself currently working on a World War One battleship. Not that I am doing anything nautical in my job, I should add, but the digital agency I work for happens to have its office onboard the HMS President.
This year marks the centennial of the First World War: an epic, transformative global conflict that lasted just over four years and claimed the lives of seventeen million soldiers and civilians. Today, there are no living survivors of the Great War; we must rely solely on collective memory to understand what happened amid the blood and the mud, the writing and the waiting, one hundred years ago.
There is, of course, an inherent problem with this. The British remember the war in a particular way; as, indeed, every country involved does. For us, the war was futile, horrific, catastrophic – a war of ‘lions led by donkeys’ – that stripped our country of its bravest and brightest. Interestingly, this was not the common belief in the immediate aftermath of the war; this idea only really gained traction during the economic slump of the 1920s. But despite this fact, and even in the face of a recent boom in scholarship around the First World War, there has been little impact on popular remembrance. The war is still understood in Britain as the ‘bad war’ – especially in contrast to its successor – and this over-arching narrative is emphasised and promulgated by popular culture.