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The Soul of the War   By: (1877-1962)

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with an Introduction by ANTHONY LANGLEY


I. The Foreboding II. Mobilization III. The Secret War IV. The Way Of Retreat V. The Turn Of The Tide VI. Invasion VII. The Last Stand Of The Belgians VIII. The Soul Of Paris IX. The Soldiers Of France X. The Men In Khaki Conclusion


A pre war best selling author and journalist, Philip Gibbs was one of the most outstanding British war time reporters and writers. Like many reporters in the opening months of the war, Philip Gibbs and his companions seemed to posses the knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, following armies across northern France in the vain hope of being on hand to witness battle. He never really succeeded during the first year, aside from joining a British volunteer ambulance service on the Ypres front in late 1914. But while other reporters unashamedly spruced up their reporting, dramatizing and glorifying small insignificant incidents and passing occurrences of no import, Gibbs knew how to talk to soldiers coming from or going to the front lines, how to convey their thoughts and fears and vividly describe their battle experiences. Gibbs was a very serious writer, and extremely proficient at his trade. He knew how to get to the essence of things, to describe the feel of the times, the general attitude, and the hopes and fears of both fighting men and civilians. Not only is this voluminous book a brilliantly written commentary on the opening months of the war, it is also infused with an inner sadness that could well be considered a precursor to the post war "lost generation" myth, which is yet another indicator at how well Gibbs could gage the feel of the times and assess its impact on future developments in society.

In this first book of his, he tells of his wanderings during the first year of the war, as he tried (in vain) to witness the fighting in France. His observations, descriptions and opinions are however well worth reading; they are accurate, insightful and to the point. He gives detailed descriptions of both British and French soldiers and includes an incredibly atmospheric portrait of Paris during the opening months of the war as well as a moving account of his time spent with the British Field Hospital in Furnes. After being arrested in 1915 on general principle by the British authorities as a nuisance and potential loose lipped journalist, he was afterwards appointed one of the few officially accredited journalists attached to the British forces on the Western front. Thereafter Gibbs continued filing dispatches till the end of hostilities. His writing is heartily sympathetic to the common soldier and war time refugees, but quite critical to those in power. After the war he was knighted for his valuable patriotic services and enjoyed a distinguished career as novelist and writer.

He served yet again as accredited reporter during the opening months of the Second World War, being billeted in the same areas in France as during the Great War. After the evacuation of the BEF in 1940 he remained in Great Britain. His son followed in his footsteps, taking up the profession of war reporter for the British press.

Anthony Langley

Chapter I The Foreboding


What man may lay bare the soul of England as it was stirred during those days of July when suddenly, without any previous warning, loud enough to reach the ears of the mass of people, there came the menace of a great, bloody war, threatening all that had seemed so safe and so certain in our daily life? England suffered in those summer days a shock which thrilled to its heart and brain with an enormous emotion such as a man who has been careless of truth and virtue experiences at a "Revivalist" meeting or at a Catholic mission when some passionate preacher breaks the hard crust of his carelessness and convinces him that death and the judgment are very near, and that all the rottenness of his being will be tested in the furnace of a spiritual agony... Continue reading book >>

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