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war prose

I wonder what the effect of it will be on us all, after the war – & on national life and the like.16

It was the kind of experience he needed to write about many times: in several of the pieces here; in a letter to Conrad; and in Parade’s End. When he was well enough, he was sent to Lady Michelham’s convalescent hospital at Menton. The opulence of the Riviera was a surreal contrast to the war, and he wrote about his time there too, in the essay ‘I Revisit the Riviera’. In February he left Menton, and took a train to the frozen, snow-covered north. At Rouen he was assigned to a Canadian casual battalion for three weeks, then put in charge of a hospital tent of German prisoners at Abbeville. On the evidence of Parade’s End he found it ‘detestable to him to be in control of the person of another human being – as detestable as it would have been to be himself a prisoner ... that thing that he dreaded most in the world’.17

He was back on leave in London in the spring of 1917. The Medical Board would not pass Ford as fit to return to France, so he was given light duty commanding a company of the 23rd King’s Liverpool Regiment, stationed at Kinmel Park. He got on well with his new Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel G.R. Powell, whose commendation in Ford’s service record must have gone a long way towards redeeming him from Cooke’s criticisms:

Has shown marked aptitude for grasping any intricate subject and possesses great powers of organization – a lecturer of the first water on several military subjects – conducted the duties of housing officer to the unit (average strength 2800) with great ability.18

He was posted to a training command at Redcar, on the Yorkshire coast, where he spent the rest of the war. Despite the frustrations of army life, and the increasingly fraught meetings with Violet Hunt, the life suited him. He never minded frugal living and hard work. In the spring of 1918 he was attached to the Staff, and told Katharine proudly that he would go ‘all over the N[orth]. of England inspecting training & lecturing’:

16 ‘I Revisit the Riviera’, Harper’s, 166 (Dec. 1932), p. 66. Ford to C. F. G. Masterman, 5

Jan. 1917: Letters, pp. 81-83. 17 A Man Could Stand Up – (London, 1926), pp. 186–7. Other accounts of German prisoners are in Letters, pp. 79–80, ‘War & the Mind’, p. 47 below, and Return to Yesterday, pp. 118–19, 329. 18 Quoted by Arthur Mizener, The Saddest Story (London, 1972), p. 296.

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