Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Historian publishes memoirs of Great War veteran

A HISTORIAN who teaches at Shiplake College has published the memoirs of a First World War veteran.

A HISTORIAN who teaches at Shiplake College has published the memoirs of a First World War veteran.

Jon Cooksey compiled his latest book from the diary of Harry Drinkwater, who enlisted as soon as war broke out and fought until the Armistice.

Mr Cooksey, 55, teaches part-time in the school’s learning development department and organises its annual trip to the battlefields of France.

He has written more than a dozen books about the First World War and contributed to TV documentaries on the subject.

Last year, Mr Cooksey was given the 400-page diary by a private collector who wanted to make it available to a wider audience. He edited the volume and annotated it with background information about the progress of the war as a whole.

Lt Drinkwater, from Stratford-upon-Avon, joined the army as a private in 1914 and fought on the Western Front and in Italy.

He was promoted to officer in 1917 and wounded in a trench raid in 1918 for which he was awarded the Military Cross.

He was due to return to fight in France when the war ended. He died unmarried in 1978.

Mr Cooksey, who is editor of the Western Front Association’s journal Stand To, said: “He really felt as though he had luck on his side. He saw so many people die, sometimes just yards from where he was standing, and often wondered why he had not been killed instead of them.

“His diaries are magnificent — it’s very rare nowadays to find something like this.

“Having the opportunity to work on this is every military historian’s dream.

“His writing is so eloquent and erudite that you really feel as though you are in the trenches with him. It is quite harrowing at times.”

le_STnSHarry’s War: The Great War Diary of Harry Drinkwater, is published by Ebury Press and costs £20.

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