|A A Publishing|
1 August 2014
"I thought" said the Divisional General, on parade after an aforementioned attack, "you were a lot of stamp lickers, but the way you fought…, you went over like a lot of bloody savages".
In Men of Letters, the author has with considerable skill, given the men of the Post Office Rifles their own very special voice and in a series of personal stories, poignant letters and diary entries, their life at the front becomes a heart rending chronicle of war. Their social observations forcibly remind us of just what life was like at the front, the interminable boredom of long periods of time closeted in the murk and mud of the French countryside, balanced against the shock of the sniper’s bullet and the agonising terror of waiting for the call to go over the top. It is especially heart breaking to realise that over 1500 of them didn’t make it to the end of the war.
In this evocative retelling of the history of the men of the Post Office Rifles, I was forcibly reminded of just how the Great War impacted on the lives of men and women, and of how the ordinary man in the street rose to the challenge of the call to arms. With over 10,000 registered letters per month reaching the Western front, I had never visualised the effort that it took to get the morale boosting mail packets to the men, and yet, whilst the Post Office Rifles were made of up from the ranks of postal workers, they were very much part of the fighting force and acted honourably and with great courage under enemy bombardment.
The book is easy to read and well divided into understandable chapters, which cover the involvement of the Post Office Rifles, from the Battle of Festubert during the spring offensive in May 1915, through to their involvement in the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917. The sensitive use of personal documentation highlights the very human face of war and as names begin to crop up in the narrative, I found that I formed an emotional attachment to many of them, and seeing their photographs and reading their memories emphasised to me in a very poignant way, that these are real stories and not just dusty records from the annals of history.
We owe a huge debt of gratitude to, not just the men of the Post Office Rifles, but also to the many thousands of young men and women, who gave their lives unquestionably and who with pride and patriotism served their country in a war they really didn’t fully understand.
In this centenary year of the start of WW1, there will be many books published extolling both the virtues, and also the indecision of this war to end all wars. I highly recommend That Men of Letters is a very good place to start if you want to know more about the very human face of WW1.
Highly Recommended Read.
Men of Letters is available from all good bookshops and also from Amazon
My thanks to Fiona Livesey at Midas PR and to the author Duncan Barrett for the opportunity to read and review this book.