For love and courage is, fundamentally, a “Letters from the front” book, compiled of letters written by a Major and then Lieutenant Colonel, serving with King Edward’s Horse on the Western Front.
In all honesty, I picked the book up purely due to its price; £3.99. I couldn’t really leave it behind and I’m glad I didn’t. It stands out from other books of the same ilk because of its author’s somewhat unique point of view. It is refreshing to get a Lieutenant Colonel-eye view of the war which can sometimes be hard to find. Hermon is from a very well off family and his class shows. With disappointment he talks of his brother who has just finished private school and talks about how men of his class should be leading men and should not become an embarrassment to the family name. His letters to his dear wife are sprinkled with reference to Politician’s speeches and political goings on and he remains quite optimistic about the whole thing. Cleverly edited by a relative of Hermon, footnotes provide context to bits that were made purposely vague for the purpose of avoiding base censors. Although, he was his own censor.
One of the most interesting parts of the book are the descriptions of the French civilians whom he held in great regard for their bravery. He was completely gobsmacked that women and children would be going about their business not 400 yards behind the firing line as if they had not got the message.
Other interesting parts are Hermon’s leadership of a bombing school and just how dangerous that could be with tales of several different accidents and misdoings. In fact, Hermon’s own war could have been over a lot earlier than it was, but I’ll leave you to find out why.
The book was described as “Battlefield memoir and love story rolled into one” by BBC History and I cannot contest this. Hermon, who recently became father again in 1915 while at the Front, remains unfaltering in his love and affection clearly shown in his letters to his wife and the “chugs” (children). In the book there are a selection of great photographs, perhaps most moving are those of Hermon on leave in 1915 spending time with his children who are just adorable and it fills the reader with an intense sadness that soon they will not a loving and kind father any longer.
The text is funny, moving and tragic in equal measure. Hermon remained thoughtful at the front purchasing his expectant wife a new fur coat to keep her warm in the winter. He often mentions the letters off the chugs and wrote to them too.
The book ends tragically as Hermon is killed on the first day of the Battle of Arras. I will not go into too much detail for you may wish to read it but you cannot help but be moved by his demise after travelling the Western Front with and sharing the experiences of Lieutenant Colonel Hermon D.S.O. The ending is, dare I say, one of the most moving things I have ever read, owing to the familiarity Hermon after all the time spent inside his head and his heart.
This book is highly recommended.
You can buy a copy HERE!