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This poignant work collects correspondence written from 1913 to 1918 between Vera Brittain and four young men — her fiance Roland Leighton, her younger brother Edward and their two close friends, Victor Richardson and Geoffrey Thurlow — who were all killed in action during World War I.
The correspondence presents a remarkable and profoundly moving portrait of five idealistic youths caught up in the cataclysm of war. Spanning the duration of the war, the letters vividly convey the uncertainty, confusion, and almost unbearable suspense of the tumultuous war years. They offer important historical insights by illuminating both male and female perspectives and allow the reader to witness and understand the Great War from a variety of viewpoints, including those of the soldier in the trenches, the volunteer nurse in military hospitals, and even the civilian population on the home front. As Brittain wrote to Roland Leighton in 1915, shortly after he arrived on the Western Front: "Nothing in the papers, not the most vivid and heartbreaking descriptions, have made me realize war like your letters."
Yet this collection is, above all, a dramatic account of idealism, disillusionment, and personal tragedy as revealed by the voices of four talented schoolboys who went almost immediately from public school in Britain to the battlefields of France, Belgium, and Italy. Linking each of their compelling stories is the passionate and eloquent voice of Vera Brittain, who gave up her own studies to enlist in the armed services as a nurse.
As World War I fades from living memory, these letters are a powerful and stirring testament to a generation forever shattered and haunted by grief, loss, and promise unfulfilled.
|List of Illustrations||ix|
|A Note to the Text||xi|
|Part 1||28 September 1913 - 29 July 1914||9|
|Part 2||21 August 1914 - 1 April 1915||23|
|Part 3||3 April 1915 - 26 August 1915||69|
|Part 4||27 August 1915 - 26 December 1915||147|
|Part 5||8 January 1916 - 17 September 1916||205|
|Part 6||19 September 1916 - 19 December 1916||273|
|Part 7||26 December 1916 - 11 June 1917||305|
|Part 8||25 June 1917 - 24 June 1918||359|