Last week we got an email from a chap at The Sun asking why we didn’t have a poppy on our masthead in the run-up to 11 November.
Well, from the 8th to the 11th, we did. And what we told The Sun, who didn’t run a story on us in the end, was that if you want to know what this newspaper thinks about the Great War, you might recall that we devoted 100 days of coverage to it.
A History of the Great War in 100 Moments, edited by our associate editor, Richard Askwith, and widely acclaimed as one of the outstanding newspaper series of recent years, is now available as a book. The central question Richard set himself was: how do you capture an incomprehensibly vast conflict, which touched every corner of the earth, cost 18 million lives (at least) and started a century ago? The answer is you can’t, but by distilling it into 100 moments, and trying to see it through the eyes of those who experienced it, you can get close.
Among the rich archive materials, many of your favourite writers from this newspaper are there, from Andy McSmith, Boyd Tonkin and John Lichfield to Emily Dugan, Kathy Marks, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Patrick Cockburn, Robert Fisk, John Walsh and Rupert Cornwell. There are also contributions from Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves, Margot Asquith and Vera Brittain.
Perhaps my favourite paragraph came from Robert C Hoffman, a lieutenant with the US 28th Division. Returning to his family from the front line in Chateau-Thierry, he wrote: “My people at home, hearing of what I was passing through, expected me to come back hard, brutal, callous, careless. But I didn’t even want to take a dead mouse out of a trap when I was home. Yet over there I buried 78 men one morning.”
At other times, drops of good humour and irony mixed with the ocean of suffering. Chris Green, our senior reporter, wrote about the frankly amazing contribution of canine soldiers – that is, graduates of the British War Dog School. These mighty mutts were crucial in the war effort, because they could carry messages across battlefields faster th an any man or woman. I must admit I had no idea that one of the greatest heroes of Passchendaele was an old English sheepdog called Tweed.
Remembrance matters hugely to this newspaper, and I know from my mailbag how much it matters to all of you. That is why we have produced a stunning paperback edition of the series. Just post a cheque for £8.99 made out to Independent Print Limited to: Independent Syndication, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF. Of course, you can also buy it from Amazon, whether as paperback or ebook. It’s a Christmas present you and your family would treasure.