Image courtesy of the Huff family used with permission, personal collection.

My time in the UMW History department has been well spent. The skills I acquired have made me a better reader, writer, and researcher. The faculty is exceptionally professional and the curriculum challenging.

The Great War has been my special area of interest and the projects I have accomplished allowed me to gain a rich knowledge of the conflict. It would be remiss if I did not thank Dr.’s Blakemore, Fernsebner, and McClurken for all the support and encouragement when I would dive “head first” into a particular topic.

I would like to especially give a shout out to the late Professor Susan Llewellyn. Susan was my teacher then later a friend who’s passion for all things history was infectious and it rubbed off on many students who truly loved her. She was so supportive when a shy 50+ year old slipped into the very corner seat of her classroom. Susan gave me the confidence to pursue a degree, she told me it was never too late.

My one wish has been to honor the incredibly brave souls that were subjected to such a horrible conflict. I could never have imagined that another terrible war would occur on the heels of a pandemic and yet, here we are. The phase that “history repeats itself” has come to pass as the Ukraine suffers under tyranny.

My heart breaks for the innocent victims of yet another senseless war. The most important thing I learned in all of my research was the futility, waste, and loss of life that dominates armed conflict. As I close out my major in History, my most fervent prayer is that the senseless killing will come to an end.

Whittlesey’s Lost Battalion

The story of Major Charles Whittlesey and his “Lost Battalion” is one of unlikely heroes. The link below is for the American Heritage magazine’s synopsis. It is one of the most concise explanations of the events that occurred in the Charlevaux Pocket of the Argonne Forest in October of 1918.

Author and historian Robert J. Laplander, one of the leading authorities on the Lost Battalion and Charles Whittlesey has also written an excellent synopsis for the United States World War I Centennial Commission.

World War I VAD (Volunteer Aid Detachment) Nurses

The first time I read Not So Quiet it was quite a shock. While the work is fiction, Smith, who’s real name was Evadne Price, does not shy away from drawing on the emotional whirlwind that wartime nurses experienced. Price, an Australian who served in the Air Ministry from 1917-1918 expresses visceral and tragic feelings about the war in her prose.

Price’s use of nicknames for the various nurses is an excellent way of making her characters accessible as well as somewhat likable, with the exception of Mrs. B—-, of course! One of the best aspects of this work is its candor. The work opens with references to the food shortages, biting cold, and chronic sleep depravation. The portions about lice and the filth the nurses must deal with are shocking but rigorously authentic.

One of the most engaging things about Not So Quiet is how Price writes with such raw emotion. She is not afraid to tap into the hatred the protagonist feels for her parents and those at home in England who have no idea about the extent of human suffering happening just across the Channel. Helen’s resentment and anger over the harsh conditions is also something the author is very comfortable divulging to the reader.

While this work is fiction, it provided so much information about the real and true conditions that VAD nurses had to cope with during their active service. Many of the secondary source accounts do not include the very unpleasant side of this volunteer position.

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The trauma of World War I impacted people from all walks of life and left lifelong scars on many. How people handle the trauma of a global conflict is a highly personal experience with varied responses and long term implications. For many survivors the process of writing down their individual experiences proved to be quite cathartic while others chose to depict the horrors of this conflict in fiction. Whether in fiction or factual account, the literature of The Great War provided future generations with a wealth of information. These works enable us to form a greater understanding of what the world would come to call “The War to End All Wars.” 

The treasure trove of written information left to us about this fundamental moment in history is memorabilia we can all cherish. It serves as a reminder that:

“Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it.” -George Santayana, The Life of Reason

Here is a link to Goodreads comprehensive list of “must read” WWI texts: