Patrick Scrivenor

Voice from the Western Front

From Eton to Ypres: The Letters and Diaries of Lt Col Wilfrid Abel Smith, Grenadier Guards, 1914–15

By Charles Abel Smith (ed)

The History Press 256pp £20 order from our bookshop

Charles Abel Smith has ably edited his great-grandfather Wilfrid Abel Smith’s diaries and letters from the Western Front, which begin in September 1914, when he took command of the 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards, and end in May 1915, when he died of wounds he suffered at the Battle of Festubert. Like all memoirs of the trenches, it leaves one with a sense of baffled wonder. How did men endure it for so long?

Colonel Abel Smith’s command coincided with what Churchill described as ‘The First Shock’ – the months from August to December 1914, when the Allied and German armies collided, groped unsuccessfully for a flank to turn and reached stalemate in a line of trenches stretching from the Belgian coast to the Swiss frontier.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Andrew Irwin examines the language and structure of Reservoir 13, a 'portrait of a whole village' by Jon McGregor ,
    • David Jacques's Garden of Court and Country: English Design 1630-1730, reviewed by Tim Richardson ,
    • Lucy Popescu () appeals on the behalf of Rashad Ramazanov, a writer and blogger imprisoned in Azerbaijan ,
    • ''the icon of restlessness for a world that never seems able to settle.'' How Hamlet went on tour ,
    • . is upon us. Look out for free copies of Literary Review for festival attendees.,
    • 'If there is a god, nature is the breath of it and art ... is its messenger.' Jan Morris contemplates Wordsworth ,
    • Weekend read 2: Take inspiration from Jonathan Meades's 'anti'-recipes and 'serve up a treat' this Sunday ,