Published: 03/10/2009
ISBN: 9781906510794
Format: Paperback

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Chris Holland is a former Head of History at King Henry VIII School in Coventry. After taking early retirement from teaching, he resumed his long-standing interest in the Great War. He is currently Ch... read more

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The Great War Letters of Roland Mountfort, May 1915 - January 1918
Preface by Malcolm Brown
by Chris Holland and Rob Phillips

In the words of Malcolm Brown: “Roland Mountfort was a serious observer of a serious war, chronicling his experiences as and when they happened … a voice well worth hearing”. Mountfort served in the ranks between 1914 and 1918 and looks at army life from that perspective. The letters are now held by the Imperial War Museum and contain valuable insights into life in the trenches in 1915-16 and a very graphic and moving account of his experiences in the Battle of the Somme in July 1916, which culminated in his wounding in an attack on Pozieres. Roderick Suddaby, The Keeper of the Department of Documents at the Imperial War Museum, describes the letters as “an outstanding personal record of the realities of trench warfare”.

Following his wounding, Mountfort’s letters chronicle his convalescence, during which time he learnt of the loss of close friends. On recovery he served in East Africa, one of the Great War’s ‘forgotten’ fronts.

Mountfort wrote remarkably lucid letters, distinguished by their sensitivity, powers of observation and description, and also by an ironic sense of humour. The published letters are accompanied by a commentary, maps and footnotes to explain their context but have otherwise been left unedited. Thus, they are a true reflection of Mountfort’s time in the Army and display his concerns for, and interest in, family, friends and literature, as well as his experiences at the front. “There is no hindsight, no polishing of memories in retrospect” (Malcolm Brown). As such, they reflect a growing trend amongst serious students of the Great War – to get back to what people actually thought and felt at the time.

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