Troubador The Great War Letters of Roland Mountfort, May 1915 - January 1918

Released: 03/10/2009

ISBN: 9781906510794

Format: Paperback

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The Great War Letters of Roland Mountfort, May 1915 - January 1918

Preface by Malcolm Brown


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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Chris Holland

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 Chairman of the Heart of England Branch of the Western Front Association. Rob Phillips is a former pupil of King Henry VIII School who, at the age of 14, began researching the part played by the School in the Great War. He has returned to work at the School as Librarian and Archivist. He too is a member of the Western Front Association and on the committee of the Heart of England Branch.

It was while co-operating on "Doing Its Part Nobly: King Henry VIII School and the Great War" (2005), that Chris and Rob became aware of the letters written by Roland Mountfort, who had attended the School in the early years of the twentieth century. Mounfort subsequently worked in London for the Prudential Insurance Company, before enlisting in the Army in August 1914. He served in the ranks with the Royal Fusiliers (10th and 25th Battalions) from 1914 to 1918, being commissioned shortly before his discharge from the Army in 1919.

Malcolm Brown, who has written the Preface to the Letters, is a well-known historian of the Great War and has worked extensively on the archives held by the Imperial War Museum. His many books include "Tommy Goes To War", "The Imperial War Museum Book of the Somme" and "The Imperial War Museum Book of the Western Front".

The surviving war letters written by Roland Mountfort are now held by the Imperial War Museum.

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