Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Lest we Forget

War Diaries, published by Simon and Schuster and the Imperial War Museum

I've written in other places about my fascination with the diary format and I've reviewed quite a few books set during war time.  Now two of my favourite genres have collided with these new books from the Imperial War Museum:

A Chaplain at Gallipoli: The Great War Diaries of Kenneth Best
A Nurse at the Front: The First World War Stories of Sister Edith Appleton

Kenneth Best was, as the title says, an army Chaplain in WW1 and he served in Egypt and then at Gallipoli. After being invalided home from this battle front he continued as a Chaplain on the Western Front.  He is very frank in his diaries, he criticises and questions constantly and unlike a lot of his fellow priests he spent a lot of time right on the front line and got a reputation for bravery from the men he ministered to.

While I knew that the Gallipoli campaign was ill fated, badly planned and ultimately a disaster this book with the full explanation of Kenneth's comments really brought this home.  I really didn't realise how many British and Indian soldiers were involved, I did have the idea that it was almost a solely ANZAC affair.

Edith Appleton was a career nurse with the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Nursing Service and served in France throughout World War One.  I knew more about this aspect of the war, Vera Brittain's Testament of Youth was the first memoir of WW1 that I read and she was a nurse in France during some of the war. This lead me on to other nursing memoirs and novels.

What I wasn't aware of was the animosity between the various nursing services and especially towards the VADs such as Vera Brittain.  In most of the books about this era that I've read the VADs have been pretty much the equivalent of the 'brave Tommies' who could do no wrong...Edith's diary certainly gives another view!

There are already another two books planned in this series and I for one can't wait to find out more about these lesser known theatres of war. I'm personally hoping for a more personal account of the naval experience of WW1 but I know I'll read what ever is published.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Sarah

    Just spotted the item on your blog about my great aunt Edie's WW1 diaries. Glad you enjoyed them. In case you haven't seen it, I set up a website 4 years ago ( with lots of background formation. If you do have a look please leave a message in the Visitor's Book!

    On the Nurses v VADs, to be fair I reckon Edie had huge respect for most of the VADs. Have a look, for example, at Edie's entry for 29 November on this page:

    Best wishes

    Dick Robinson