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John Masefield's 'The Old Front Line'


swizz
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I've recently been re-reading John Masefield's 'The Old Front Line' about the 1916 Somme battlefield, and found myself wondering when he was actually there. Martin Middlebrook's preface to the edition I have (2003) says that Masefield 'obviously visited the Somme before the battle was finished' - but when?

According to Middlebrook, the only map in the original shows positions gained by 27 July 1916, but in the section near Thiepval he implies that he was able to walk into the Schwaben redoubt - so I'm assuming he was there after September / October 1916 when that was taken by the British.

Does anyone know anything more about the timing of Masefield's visit?

Swizz

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The story of the writing is given in some detail in "Collected Works - John Masefield's Great War" edited by Philip Herrington (Pen and Sword 2007).

which brings together the full extent of his Great War writing and the background as to how he undertook his writing. In essence after writing his book on Gallipoli (which was effectively an "official" publication) Masefield was asked by Lord Esher to go out to France to write about the Somme He met Haig, went to the front and was allowed to "stay there as long as I liked to do the story of the battle". He had a car and guide. The work on the book apparently started around October 1916 and continued in February 17 in France when he walked much of the ground. The book was published in 1917. Hope this helps.

Best regards

David

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David - you are a star! I didn't know about that book and I'll look into getting hold of a copy, but in the meantime that is exactly the information I was looking for. Many thanks!

Swizz

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  • 7 years later...

The story of the writing is given in some detail in "Collected Works - John Masefield's Great War" edited by Philip Herrington (Pen and Sword 2007).

which brings together the full extent of his Great War writing and the background as to how he undertook his writing. In essence after writing his book on Gallipoli (which was effectively an "official" publication) Masefield was asked by Lord Esher to go out to France to write about the Somme He met Haig, went to the front and was allowed to "stay there as long as I liked to do the story of the battle". He had a car and guide. The work on the book apparently started around October 1916 and continued in February 17 in France when he walked much of the ground. The book was published in 1917. Hope this helps.

Best regards

David

Just discovered The Old Front Line (freely available at https://archive.org/details/oldfrontline01mase) . Thanks for this background info. I love his description of the field of Gomemcourt which is my particular interest.

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