One hundred years ago in 1915, Harold (H E L) Mellersh, left school and joined the East Lancashire Regiment to fight in the First World War. This started four years that were to mold the rest of his life. He fought in the Somme, was wounded and sent back to England, not once but three times. He suffered from shell shock after the man he was talking to was suddenly blown to pieces by a German shell, and finally he caught Spanish 'flu which killed almost as many soldiers as the fighting. Unlike many, he survived these horrors.
Before he joined the army, H. E. L. Mellersh and had thought little about history and the war, but the experiences in the trenches changed him. He thought deeply and was influenced by the men he led, his fellow officers and many good friends including Gordon Russel who was later to found the design centre. Harold Mellersh was determined that future generations should learn from his experiences. He believed that education was the most important thing and in his life wrote over 50 books. The three most important of these were about the first world war.
In the 1930's when war clouds were gathering, he wrote of his experiences as an autobiographical novel. He hoped that another war could be avoided but was beginning to fear for the future. In the 1970's, when the first world war was widely regarded as nothing more than an incomprehensible waste of life, he wrote the same story as an autobiography. The last book he wrote was a biography of Siegfried Sassoon the poet. He was, perhaps, uniquely qualified to write such a life as he had shared many of the same experiences as Sassoon, fighting in the trenches near Fricourt a few miles from where Sassoon fought, and sharing his experiences of returning home to “Blighty” and finding, among civilians, a complete lack of understanding the real experiences of the war.
To help future generations understand and avoid the same mistakes he wrote three books about the war. These are now published by his family as e-books. H E L Mellersh was determined that the lessons of war should be learned and remembered. In the books he talks of the horrors of the war but he acknowledges that there were other sides to the conflict.
Writing one hundred years after H E L Mellersh joined the army in 1915 it often seems to me, his son, that the horrors of the first world war have in a strange way become its attraction. It is in recognising that it was not all horrors that I feel these books are important today. War brings forth certain virtues and it is foolish, though tempting to deny it. In the words of my father “It is imperative that we find in peace the sense of unity, the vividness and purposefulness that war can bring forth."
This is the message that these books convey. I hope it is well learned.
Nick Mellersh son of H E L Mellersh