Culture Magazine

Book Review – The War of the Guns: Western Front 1917 and 1918 by Aubrey Wade

By Manofyesterday

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The War of the Guns has a personal connection for me because it features my great-grandfather, who won a medal for his services as a signalman. This book was written by Aubrey Wade, who served with my great-grandfather and according to the book they were as close as twins. I only found out this book existed a couple of weeks ago when my grandmother said that she had lost her copy and asked me to see if I could find one on Amazon, so before I pass it onto her I thought I’d read it and give my opinion. One thing that I ought to note is that, for reasons unknown, my great-grandfather didn’t want his name used in the book, so he’s called ‘Ross’. I wish I knew why he made that decision because for me being remembered is what life is all about. It’s one of the reasons I’m a writer. I want to make a mark on the world and have my name etched into the stones upon which we build the future, so for my ancestor to decline that opportunity is curious.

At the start the publisher mentions that they included some images in the book at the expense of the prose, which I think is a shame. Although the photographs offer a wider scope to the war (as far as I could tell there are not any pictures of Aubrey Wade or the people he served with) I would have preferred more of the actual narrative.

It’s not a huge book but it is a good one. There are a lot of anecdotes both humorous and grim and the stark reality of war comes through. His writing style is excellent and at the time he was only eighteen, and I think of how I would have fared had I been in these situations. There are many amusing stories about his run ins with various Majors, and he doesn’t shy away from anything else, including the opinion that his superiors were more concerned with the state of the guns than they were with the well-being of the men. Although it’s brief you do get a good sense of the terrors they faced, and yet it’s told in such a matter-of-fact and casual tone that you have to stop and remind yourself of the magnitude of these words and experiences.

I have never been exposed to a great wealth of information about WWI because at school the area of war is dominated by WWII, so it was interesting to learn of how people perceived the war. It actually ends on an optimistic note as there’s an Armistice, and you get the sense that Aubrey thought once the war was over that would be it. Little did any of them know that another one would come along to devastate the world.

Although much of it is harrowing, Wade shows his wry sense of humor so the tone of the book never falls into a completely bleak and depressing affair. From a personal viewpoint I was hoping to learn more about my great-grandfather, but to my dismay Aubrey didn’t really talk about him too much so from his brief appearances I didn’t get much of a sense of what he was like. However, I know that he served closely with Aubrey Wade so I know that he experienced much of what Wade it, and from that I can get a sense of the kind of man he was. I don’t usually think about my lineage but it actually makes me swell with a pride a little to know that I come from such stock.

I never met my great-grandfather but I’m thankful to Aubrey Wade for writing this book, because although it was through a different name, my great-grandfather’s exploits will live on in the pages of this book, just as I hope my legacy will live on through the pages of my own books.

 


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