Memoirs & Diaries - War is War - Introduction
Alfred McLelland Burrage was born in 1889 and died in 1956. His father and uncle were both successful authors, and he also proved to be adept at writing, publishing his first story at the age of 15.
For most of his life he lived in London and was a prolific author of short fiction for magazines, mainly superlative ghost stories along with more predictable romances. In early 1917 he joined the Artists Rifles (28th Battalion, London Regiment) and served until he was evacuated due to trench foot in April 1918.
He was one of the few (perhaps the only?) professional writers to have served, survived, and published his experiences as a private soldier. In 1930, War Is War (E. P. Dutton & Co. Inc., New York, 288p.) appeared under the pseudonym "Ex-Private X", the Foreword saying that "were it otherwise I could not tell the truth about myself and others".
Though he frequently described his own experiences as tame, he was involved in some intense fighting, notably at Passchendaele in late October of 1917, and in the all-out retreat after the German offensive of March 1918. It's a wonder that he survived.
Burrage cheated death on many occasions by sheer luck through being in the right place at the right time. The book is absent from most Great War reading lists. It should not be. Eighty-six years have passed since he first arrived in France. His words still resonate, and more's the pity that they haven't had wider recognition.
The following excerpts give some insight as to why War Is War is a fascinating read.
Next - Why He Wrote It
Photographs courtesy of Photos of the Great War website
An 'Old Sweat' was slang to denote an experienced soldier.
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