SOME DESPERATE GLORY: The World War I Diary of a British Officer, 1917 by Edwin Campion Vaughan
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SOME DESPERATE GLORY: The World War I Diary of a British Officer, 1917

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KIRKUS REVIEW

First published in England in 1981, this shattering WW I memoir of a British Second Lieutenant rivals the best war literature of the century. Vaughan's diary begins January 4, 1917, in Waterloo Station, as he ships out to the Western front. A wife and four children left behind rarely enter his subsequent record of eight months at war; instead, Vaughan records with cool, lucid precision the daily terror and tedium of the Allied struggle: battling the Prussians and ""Jerries"" in a vast no man's land; watching 700 men die at Guillencourt Farm; seeing bomb shrapnel tear away a young man's eyes; shooting a cat from its meal--the face of a German corpse. Through it all, Vaughan is an inordinately sensitive witness. Quiet interludes--playing cards with comrades, shooting bottles on the Sabbath, taking tea made with ice and trench water--lend an eerie semblance of civility to his extraordinary fighting spirit. The book reaches a brutal climax in the author's horrific account of fighting in Flanders at Ypres, where the Allied Offensive of 1917 stalled. Thrust into one of the war's bloodiest fights, Vaughan leads a battalion through a muddy wasteland of death and destruction, a soldier's hell in which 75 of the 90 men in his division die. Amazingly, notes Robert Cowley's introduction, Vaughan not only survived, but was decorated upon returning to France, and reenlisted in 1922. A doctor's error, not war, killed him in 1931, and his manuscript lay hidden in a cupboard for 40 years until its discovery by his brother. A stunning survivor's tale.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1988
Publisher: Henry Holt