John Stanhope Baines, a Winchester classical scholar and young Royal Engineers officer, was on active service in France and Salonika during the First World War. Throughout this time he wrote to his ‘Dearest Mother’, who had studied classics at Cambridge before being widowed when John was three, and to Honor, his younger sister. The letters give regular updates of his activities in an affectionate, amusing and relaxed way, while disguising the true horror, dangers and realities of war. The work of the Sappers was challengingly different from that of other arms, but equally important. Constructing trenches and defenses, putting out wire and demolitions at night, assault operations into no-man’s land, and much more, were all in a day’s work in France. In the Salonika Campaign the construction of roads, in the most inhospitable conditions as the letters testify, was vital to the strategic success of the Allies. John obviously enjoyed all the challenges he faced in his four years of active service, and writes about them with a delightfully light touch. Through these well-written letters we are able to share in John’s military career, his personal and political views, his interest in things classical, his passion for the Lake District, his sense of humor, and above all in the love, care and responsibility he felt towards his mother and sister while serving his King and Country. These letters have been brought to life by the editors, who are grandchildren of John Baines, in a refreshing and unusual way. Through careful research, many additional details of topics John writes about are included – individuals, articles, places, military aspects, family and also of his mother’s life back on the Home Front. This book will therefore be of general interest to a wide readership.
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