Since the late 1990s, there have been a spate of books in the market on the First World War, re-examining its effects on the present day and hearing again the voices of its dwindling number of veterans.
Now, with the passing of the last veteran 5 months ago, they are all gone and with them, that living link to a world that now seems to many of us living today as remote as the days of antiquity. This book offers the reader the opportunity to hear, in the words of soldiers and civilians alike, their reactions to the news of the war's end on November 11th, 1918, their struggles in the early postwar era to find work and readjust to "life on civvy street", and in their twilight years, their reappraisal of the sacrifices they had made, as well as their hopes for future generations. When I read this book, I felt as if these people were not dead, but speaking directly to me with a freshness and clarity of thought that I could appreciate.
In summing up this review, I wish to cite the following remarks from Sergeant W.J. Collins, who had served in the Royal Army Medical Corps: "They were a wonderful generation ... let's face it, there were we, at the beginning of the war, the regular soldier, tough hardened from India and South Africa, and then the 1st Army, Kitchener's ... grand men they were. I watched a battalion of them march into battle on the Somme in 1916, and I thought to myself, 'My God! What a wonderful lot of chaps.' Fine physically, good, well set up, good marching ... it was a fine generation. It's a great pity it was decimated."