This has been an interesting second hand book.
On Remembrance Sunday I read my portion of the service which included items from individuals life experiences during the war. Richard van Emden was the man who had gathered, or actually his wife,gathered the material which we used. So when I saw this book I had t have it as I was always interested in the war experiences of these famous men and these were for the most part real war lives.
Harold MacMillan, later to be Prime Minister spent considerable time lying wounded in the field, between two lines and with conflict chasing past him. More than once he was wounded and for the rest of his life had trouble walking and little use of his right arm. He still made it politically and we could do well to have him back today, he would be appalled at his party under Boris.
Ralph Vaughan Williams joined the RAMC, possibly because of his age, as a private and served on the western front and in Salonika where he achieved a commission at the age of 45! Always 'unkempt' he failed further promotion because of his lack of consideration for such niceties as tidiness but he remained a popular and efficient officer. His music reflected his war, while climbing the slope with the ambulance wagons towards the line he noted the countryside and the colour of the sky from which he began to develop his 'Pastoral Symphony.' It was a war scarred vista that brought out the music, not a sweet countryside view as many think. The war was not something he ever forgot.
J.R.R. Tolkien like the rest never got over the war, though he wrote little about it he manifested the war in his writing, most clearly in 'Lord of the Rings' where many see reflections of the war exposed.
John Christie, more famous as the murderer from '10 Rillington Place' did indeed see time on the western front during 1918 but his service records are somewhat dubious. His claim to have been gassed and wounded are not exactly well documented though extremely likely as is the fact of his many small crimes which followed him during his life. Christie was a mixed up individual, his life complicated and while war service may have encouraged a maladjusted life style it probably made little difference but did offer him an excuse on occasion and allow him some leeway while in a courtroom. He was hanged eventually, unmissed by anyone it appears, in 1953.
Not all 'our boys' are 'heroes.'
Tom Denning was one of five brothers who enlisted, one dying in action another failing through TB while in the Royal Navy. Tom Denning, like all good barristers very good at maths, and he joined the Royal Engineers in 1918 as he thought his maths would be of benefit, indeed they were. Careful maths study enabled him to dig a tunnel from two directions and find much pleasure in them meeting exactly as planned, not easy in wartime. Denning's war was fought during the 'last hundred days' as the allies pushed the enemy out of France and Flanders. This required the erection of bridges and pontoons over canals and flooded rivers, always under fire and as he passed the sight of dead and dying men all around, from both sides.
After the war he resumed his legal profession becoming the second highest judge in the land and famous for his exclamations throughout his time. His most famous work was the Report into the 'Profumo scandal' of the early 60's. Denning died in 1999 not long after his one hundredth birthday.
C.S.Lweis, A.A.Milne and many others are mentioned in the book.
A piece on their war time experience, some background info and in my view too little critical examination, even allowing for the few pages available. Their failings are glossed over, which in such a book may be understandable but it does appear to avoid controversy somewhat.
I enjoyed the book however. Each chapter was readable and shirt enough to stimulate more study and saved time reading about the less interesting people. Clearly all found the war affected them for the rest of their lives, some more than others. If you listen to their music, read their books and read about them somewhere you can better understand how these men viewed the world.
Well worth a read.
Happy St Andrews Day