Reflections on war and warfare: week 1 (3 – 9 March 2014)

As of March 2014, we are posting weekly extracts of writings on war and warfare drawn from our manuscript and printed collections. Ranging from items on the Maratha wars to the Second World War, the extracts will reflect opinions both from the battle front and from those at home.

March 1940    Letter about army life
The poet Martin Bell turned twenty one in 1939. He served from 1939 to 1946 initially as a medical orderly and later as an instructor in Lebanon, Syria and Italy. Much of the poetry he wrote during that time and indeed his correspondence and diary entries portrayed a longing for his home town and a resentment of military service. He openly acknowledges this in much of his correspondence.

“General psychological observation: In the army one is pressed down by a host of niggling details, petty discomforts, irritating restrictions. If one can’t stand away from them, or relax oneself towards them: if one is overwhelmed by them and one’s reaction to them: then one is in just one hell of a state.”

MS12 A767/14 page 2 Letter from Martin Bell to his University College of Southampton friends Joan Broomfield (later Russell), March 1940


3 March 1915   Letter from the Western Front

The correspondence of Frederick Dudley Samuel provides an insight into the realities of conditions on the front line with the British Expeditionary Force in France. Correspondence to his wife can be found for almost every day between 1915 and 1918, depicting how much he missed home life.

‘Today it is horrid, wet & windy but we are comfortably under cover, I know you despise the weather, but with us, it is almost as important as the Germans, in fact bad weather causes more suffering.’

MS336 A2097/4/2 Letter from Frederick Dudley Samuel to his wife, 3 March 1915


7 March 1809   Memorandum on the Defence of Portugal

At the Battle of Vimeiro, 21 August 1808, the British army under General Arthur Wellesley defeated the French near the village of Vimeiro, putting an end to the first French invasion of Portugal. On 7 March 1809 Wellesley submitted his Memorandum on the Defence of Portugal.

“I have always been of opinion that Portugal might be defended whatever might be the result of the contest in Spain and that in the meantime the measures adopted for the defence of Portugal could be highly useful to the Spaniards in their contest with the French”

MS61 WP1/248/3 Draft of a memorandum from Sir Arthur Wellesley, on the number of soldiers and arms necessary to strengthen the Portuguese military establishment and the defence of Portugal, 7 March 1809

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