Many young volunteers had little idea what they were in for when they enlisted for early service in the First World War.
They anticipated a grand adventure, “a jolly good show” and done. The conventional wisdom was that it would all be over by Christmas 1914. Of course, it wasn’t, and as the months turned into years, the longing and suffering deepened.
The mud got deeper, the rats more populous, the cynicism sharper, the casualty lists longer. Soldiers’ lifelines were the letters and packages to and from home.
Correspondence was the next best thing to being back there: a newsfeed and an outlet (measured, mind you, due to censorship, both officially and self-imposed); reassurance that, whatever madness enveloped you, there was still that familiar place where love and normalcy a...