The experiences of a young officer with a famous Scottish regiment, the Black Watch, in France in 1915. Historian Richter (Ohio State Univ.) was allowed access to the Sotheby papers by Peter H. Liddle, historian and archivist of the Liddle Collection (University of Leeds, England), which contains thousands of documents relating to Britain's wars. Richter found the aristocratic Sotheby to be a keen observer, imbued with the British public school spirit; at the front, his life was often put at risk as he cheerfully fulfilled his orders, leading men under the most trying and shocking of conditions. A devoted son of distinguished military forebears, proud of his country and of his beloved Eton, he started his detailed diary in December 1914. Sotheby maintained an unconquerable spirit despite extreme hardships, and despite having witnessed the deaths and maiming of hundreds of his comrades during artillery duels and assaults over muddy, rain-soaked terrain on the northern flank of the Western Front. His writings reflect the rather narrow and prejudiced viewpoint of his class and time. He had a servant who was held to strict standards and could be sent back to the ranks if he didn't perform. A brief romantic encounter with a young French girl is only noted in passing. Sotheby had a strong premonition of death after several particularly narrow escapes, but he expressed until the end his deep sense of patriotism and his feeling that he was privileged to risk his life for his beloved king and country. He died in September 1915, at the age of 21, during the battle of Loos. A poignant reflection of the sacrificial idealism of another time, and of the tragedy and destruction of modern total war.
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