Lionel Sotheby's diary and letters are a compelling first-person account of the harrowing experiences of the young British lieutenant at the Western Front. His writing reveals constant peril, hourly discomfort, and gruesome injuries. Brushes with death or mutilation were daily occurrences, and nearby comrades - some literally inches away from Lionel - fell to gas, machine guns, snipers, and shells. There is evidence that Lionel Sotheby struggled at times with the horror of war, yet overall he remained remarkably cheerful and resolute - and certain of his own impending death. A great many soldiers in 1915 did not survive long enough to record their experiences. It was nasty, close-range fighting, with fearsome instruments of death. Nobody yet knew how to fight the first mechanized global war. Lionel Sotheby, sensitive and enthusiastic, tried hard in his letters to give his family the look and feel of the war. In so doing, this young man who was forged by the chivalrous ethos of Eton, by his social class, and by his time, bore witness powerfully and poignantly. On the eve of the Battle of Loos, Lionel, barely twenty-one years old, posted two letters saying he was going over the top in the first wave in the morning, "cheerful and full of hope." He was killed in the battle. Richter ends the book with an attempt to reconstruct exactly what happened to Lionel on September 25, 1915.
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- ID: 9780821411780
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