Letters from the Front: Letters and Diaries from the BEF in Flanders and France, 1914-1918 by Kevin Smith
By taking a fresh look at the letters and diaries of the BEF soldiers who fought this war, Kevin Smith has uncovered first person accounts long undisturbed in the archives of the Imperial War Museum. There is humor: tales of city dwellers learning to ride horses. There is pathos: men returning from leave, freshly married, to be killed by a random shell. Above all, there is the human reaction to the stench, to the mud, to the lousy food and oh yes the lice, too. The little details carry the narrative forward, such as the incessant presence of ‘bully’ or using jam to flavor just about anything. Bread covered with mud, baths in whisky barrels, little pet dogs: they are all here. This book touches on all the great controversies—the bad leadership, the soldiers sent to be slaughtered, the first use of the tank, and so forth, but just enough ensure the reader understands the problem. The contemporary photographs strongly demonstrate daily life in the trench. This is a welcome addition to the human side of this monstrously inhuman event.