War Letters To A Wife; France And Flanders, 1915 – 1919 remains one of the top ten British Great War memoirs by virtue of its manly style and its unwavering sharp focus on the actuality of battle on the Western Front. The author left for France in April 1915 as a Captain in the Coldstream Guards and returned home in May 1919 in command of a battalion of the London Regiment. On re-reading this classic recently the following review came to light in the form of a yellowed newspaper clipping.
‘Very few war books have had a success comparable to this. Three impressions within three months of its publication last autumn (1929), and now this popular edition, prove that there is still a great demand for accounts of the war, written on the spot by one who was in the thick of it, and who had no temperamental reaction against his job. It looks as if Colonel Feilding’s book would survive as a standard presentment of what was experienced, felt and believed by the normal type of Englishman who became an officer in the war and for the war. The presentment is none the less representative because it shows the type at its most intelligent and most courageous.’
If the above appreciation of ‘the type’ was not written by Cyril Falls it certainly echoes his assessment of Colonel Feilding’s book when he came to include it in his bibliography, War Books, in 1930. He considered phlegmatic restraint to be the essential guarantee of authenticity in any combat memoir. In awarding Feilding two stars Falls praises his plain style and the ‘remarkable power’ of his narrative.
‘Very few men can have such a story to tell, for very few had the fortune like him to survive battle after battle and come out not only unwounded but unscathed in nerve and spirit.’
At the time of writing there are numerous editions of War Letters To A Wife available on ABE, including several in the original cloth binding of the book’s first publisher, the Medici Society of London. More than 40 copies are for sale under the author’s real name, Feilding; a further 8 sellers have mis-catalogued him as Fielding.