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'Trenches full of heads ...' JB Priestley's letters from the

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BerichtGeplaatst: 18 Nov 2007 13:54    Onderwerp: 'Trenches full of heads ...' JB Priestley's letters from the Reageer met quote

'Trenches full of heads ...' JB Priestley's letters from the first world war revealed

The public will be able to read almost 50 unpublished letters from the first world war trenches by the writer JB Priestley, one of the last great literary voices of the conflict, from next month.
The archive of 47 letters and postcards to his father, sister and stepmother have been given to Bradford University by the writer's son Tom, an author and film-maker who is publishing the full correspondence as a book next year

Hurriedly pencilled by candlelight or in mud-engulfed billets, they give brief but vivid pictures of the terrible conditions which the young man from Bradford survived but was never able to incorporate into his novels and plays. Disgust at bungled generalship and the waste of hundreds of thousands of "the best of us" silenced a man whose output was otherwise prodigious. He told friends after the slaughter, in which he was wounded three times after volunteering in 1914, that he just wanted to live again after four years simply trying to stop himself and others being pointlessly killed.
The material includes stark descriptions of a nightmare posting to the notorious Vimy Ridge in 1916, where Priestley was seriously wounded by a mortar shell.

"You must have heard of the famous Labyrinth - well this is it," he told his family in March 1916. "Great hills half blown away; old trenches full of heads, legs and arms; bloodstained clothing & old equipment." Priestley reluctantly took an officer's commission in 1917, returning to France, where he was severely gassed. He wrote: "I am disgusted with my company officers and the way in which our men are badgered and hampered by silly little rules ... In fact I am so fed up ... I have been thinking of reverting to the ranks."

The letters are being archived by Bradford's special collections librarian, Alison Cullingford, who has just published an account of Priestley's war service in a book, Bradford in the Great War. She said: "The influence of the war can be seen in his peace campaigning in the 1930s and in references such as the account in his English Journey of his regiment's reunion in 1933, when he was furious that some veterans did not come because they could not afford decent clothes. But he could not reconcile his brilliant ability to make fun of stupidities such as the army's pomposity with the scale of the horror."

Priestley wrote in 1962, when he finally addressed the subject at 68 in his reminiscences Margins Released: "The army ought to have turned on [the commander-in-chief] Haig and his friends and sent them home." All his life, when he thought the playing fields of his schooldays, he saw instead "a crowd of ghosts".,,2211967,00.html
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