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Notes of a Camp-Follower on the Western Front

E. W. Hornung

Book Overview: 

In 1915 Oscar Hornung, son of the famous author E W Hornung, was killed at Ypres after less than a year as a soldier in Flanders. He was only 20. Two years later E W Hornung volunteered to help run one of the YMCA canteens close behind the front line.

This book is Hornung’s own account of the time he spent in Northern France: first helping in a canteen, then running a library for the enlisted men. He wanted to be near the place where his son died, to meet the young soldiers who were fighting the war, and to make their lives a little better. More than anything, Hornung wanted to believe there was a greater purpose to he war: in his descriptions soldiers are always heroes, the struggles just, and leaders wise and kind.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .The whole thing put me more in mind of primitive ship-building—the great ribs leaning outwards—flat timbers in between—and over all sand-bags and sometimes wire-work with the precise effect of bulwarks and hammock-netting. Even the mouths of dug-outs were not unlike port-holes flush with the deck; and many a piquant glimpse we caught in passing, bits of faces lit by cigarette-[Pg 44]ends and half-sentences or snatches of sardonic song; then the trench would twist round a corner into solitude, as a country road shakes off a hamlet, and on we trudged through the thickening dusk. Once, where the sand-bags were lower than I had noticed, I thought some very small bird had chirped behind my head, until the other man turned his and smiled.

'Hear that?' he said. 'That was a bullet! It's just about where they sniped at me this morning.'

I shortened my stick, and crept the rest of the way like the oldest inhabitant of those trenches, as perhaps . . . Read More