A century in the past, the four-year-long nightmare referred to as World War I lastly got here to a halt on Nov 11, 1918.
That date now goes by a number of names – Armistice Day, Remembrance Day, Veterans Day – and on it, we honour the fallen, which within the case of the supposed “War to End All Wars” quantities to about 20 million troopers and civilians.
The battle additionally took the lives of many promising younger writers, a few of whom are memorialised in two latest paperbacks: The Penguin Book Of First World War Stories, edited by Barbara Korte and Anne-Marie Einhaus; and The Penguin Book Of First World War Poetry, edited by George Walter.
The prose anthology spotlights, amongst a lot else, Arthur Conan Doyle’s account of Sherlock Holmes’ warfare service, His Last Bow, and Arthur Machen’s The Bowmen, which gave rise to the legend of the Angels of Mons.
Even now, it’s mentioned, some individuals nonetheless imagine that an English squadron, beneath intense assault, was miraculously saved by a company of spectral archers. German troopers had been even, supposedly, found dead from arrow wounds.
Walter’s complementary and equally very good poetry assortment is organised by topic – In Training, In Trenches, Rendezvous With Death – and reprints the work of unfamiliar poets in addition to well-known ones reminiscent of Wilfred Owen, Rupert Brooke, Isaac Rosenberg and Edward Thomas. None of those 4 younger Englishmen survived the warfare.
Those who did, reminiscent of Robert Graves and Siegfried Sassoon, had been modified males.
In Graves’ Good-Bye To All That and Sassoon’s autobiographical Complete Memoirs Of George Sherston (comprising Memoirs Of A Fox-Hunting Man, Memoirs Of An Infantry Officer and Sherston’s Progress – all three obtainable from Penguin), the horrors of no man’s land are vividly and harrowingly relived.
Of course, French and German combatants additionally introduced out accounts of their analogous experiences, notably Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet On The Western Front, Henri Barbusse’s anecdotal however grim Under Fire and Ernst Junger’s Homeric paean to martial valour, Storm Of Steel.
While the above writers, poets and memoirists are, for probably the most half, acquainted chroniclers of WW I, this isn’t true of W.F. Morris (1892 to 1975).
Yet, in 1929, Morris revealed a unprecedented novel that deserves rediscovery. Not that Bretherton: Khaki Or Field Grey?, or because it was titled in its American version, G.B.: A Story Of The Great War, is totally unknown. British thriller author Eric Ambler listed it amongst his prime 5 spy thrillers.
In reality, Bretherton: Khaki Or Field Grey? covers practically each facet of the 1914 to 1918 battle: the gallows humour of the English Tommies, night time manoeuvres in France, romance-filled interludes away from the entrance, the Battle of the Somme, a suspenseful escape from a jail camp.
More surprisingly, a number of key chapters sympathetically painting German troopers as patriotic and admirable.
From each viewpoint, Bretherton: Khaki Or Field Grey? is sudden, advanced and thrilling, beginning with its opening chapter. Slang-filled repartee alternates with scenes of tenderness, desperation and shock all through the novel.
It is a haunting mystery-thriller of appreciable narrative complexity and a lost masterpiece of WWI literature. Read it and weep.
•The Penguin Book Of First World War Stories and The Penguin Book Of First World War Poetry are each obtainable from Amazon at US$15.07 (S$20.80) every.