Poppies and cornflowers

May 25th 1918. Letter from Alfred Johnson to his wife Essie: "This country is an absolutely bare waste but in the last month quite a lot of wild flowers have come up, so that it is not so bad as it was in winter. There are lots of poppies and cornflowers & many small things I don't recognise. We had some lilac in the mess."

[The academic and artillery officer often read a book a day on duty, because visibility was so hazy at the OP - Observation Point. Today he was reading Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens, (1850)]


Reading through the war

When visibility was poor, artillery officer Alfred Johnson read when he was at the OP [observation post] Wife Essie sent books ranging from suffrage writer May Sinclair to Tolstoy, Dickens and John Buchan. Here's what he got through in the first half of 1918:

Tom Cringles Log, Michael Scott, (1915); The Life of Wilkes, Horace Bleackley, (1917); Life of Johnson, James Boswell, (1865); Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy, (1877); May Sinclair [a member of the Woman Writers Suffrage League]; 39 Steps, John Buchan, (1915) ; Gibbon; The Loot of Cities, Arnold Bennett, (1903); The Stucco House, Gilbert Cannan, (1917); Land & Water, magazine; E. V. Lucas, [Collection of letters]; Martin Chuzzlewit, Charles Dickens, (1842); Leonora, Five towns Tales, Arnold Bennett (1903/ 1905); Edmond de Goncourt; Elizabeth and Her German Garden, Elizabeth von Arnim, (1898); Barnaby Rudge, Charles Dickens, (1850); The Egoist, George Meredith (1879); The Amateur Gentleman, John Jeffery Farnol, (1916).


Another push

Tuesday Oct 1 1918 Letter from Alfred Forbes Johnson to wife Essie

The news continues to be splendid from all fronts. We have been doing another push and are now hoping it will last for a bit, so keen are we on the war. Reading: Mansfield Park, Jane Austen (from 1816)


In Ruins

2/10/1918: Ltr from Alfred Forbes Johnson to Essie Today I have been out with Simpson to a town where I was when I first came out. It is all in ruins now.

I am writing this is a crowded mess with the table covered with the latest papers and everyone discussing the news.

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Voices from 1918 has been developed by artists Sharon Hayden and Alastair Nisbet in partnership with Wimborne Community Theatre, Dorset History Centre and the Priest’s House Museum, Wimborne with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Thanks to all who have helped us with this project: Maria Gayton and staff at Dorset History Centre where we found Lady Mary Monkswell’s diaries; Joan Cocozza, ward of nursing auxiliary Olive Harcourt; Portland Museum where we found James Sansom’s diaries; the British Library and Wellcome Libraries; Priest’s House Museum in Wimborne and Gill Horitz from Wimborne Community Theatre.

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