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A newly discovered account of life in the trenches that challenges our perception of how British troops viewed the First World War. There is no shortage of personal accounts from the First World War. So why publish another memoir? The principal reason is the tone of enthusiasm, pride and excitement conveyed by its author, Private John Jackson. Jackson served on the Western Front from 1915 until the war's end; he was present at Loos in 1917, on the Somme in 1916, in Flanders in 1917; he was on the receiving end of the German offensive in April 1918; and he took part in the breaking of the Hindenburg Line at the end of September 1918. Conditioned by Wilfred Owen's poetry and dulled by the notions of waste and futility, British readers have become used to the idea that this was a war without purpose fought by 'lions led by donkeys'. This narrative captures another perspective, written by somebody with no obvious agenda but possessed of deep traditional loyalties - to his country, his regiment and his pals.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780752431840
ISBN-10: 0752431846
Format: Paperback
(235mm x 172mm x 9mm)
Pages: 224
Imprint: The History Press Ltd
Publisher: The History Press Ltd
Publish Date: 1-Jun-2004
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Other Editions


UK Kirkus Review » For many modern readers, the First World War seems, in many ways, more familiar than the Second. From our readings of poets such as Owen and Sasson; from the iconic, terrible images of barbed wire and mud at the Somme; from the oft-quoted comparison of common soldiers to "lions led by donkeys", it would be easy to infer that, for the average private, the war was a catastrophe into which they were led blindly by uncaring top brass and world leaders. This vivid and compelling diary, written in 1926, a full eight years after Jackson, a native of Carlisle, signed up with the 6th Cameron regiment for "three years or the duration", is raw with the horrors of the conflict - decaying bodies in shellholes full of mud, soldiers of all ranks rendered mute with shellshock - yet the overwhelming sense of this account is the optimism of the rank and file, and the pride ordinary soldiers felt in doing their duty for their country. In between training as a signaller and being decorated for his achievements in laying telephone cables alone and under fire at Passchendale, Jackson found also time to win honours on the sporting field, in a mixed-regiment football team, and as the winner of the army half-mile run. His cheery accounts of the hospitality offered by ordinary villagers in Britain, France and, later, even in conquered Germany, epitomise the resilience of the human spirit under fire. Just one caveat: the diary is reproduced as he wrote it, and some of the racial terms he uses may be jarring to today's enlightened ears. (Kirkus UK)

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