Civilisations. His propaganda was of an unusually cultural and humane kind. He had a horror of the rhetoric denouncing the enemy as ‘mad dog’, ‘mercenary’, ‘brute’, ‘tyrant’. He claimed that his poem ‘On Heaven’ was circulated by the Ministry of Information to cheer up the troops. Some of the pieces here should perhaps be read in a similar spirit. Yet he soon found himself affected by the tide of popular patriotic aggression. In a fascinating exploration of the origins of hatred (which he characteristically relates to aesthetics and to sexual conflict), he turns his formidable psychological acumen on himself, revealing himself as disturbed to find that after only a few months of war he too had begun to wish Germans dead.
There is thus a large body of work written between August 1914 and Ford’s joining the army. Most of it has been excluded here, partly for reasons of space, but also to give a more coherent concentration on the effects and after-effects of first-hand experience of military life and military conflict. But I have included the passage from Between St Denis and St George about his state of mind as war was declared; two propagandistic stories that give a sense of the rumours and sentiments that were circulating; and excerpts from his ‘Literary Portraits’ that were too personal to be incorporated into the propaganda books.
Ford enlisted in the summer of 1915, and got his commission as a second lieutenant in the Welch Regiment (Special Reserve). He probably took an introductory course at the Chelsea Barracks, before joining his battalion for training first at Tenby, then Cardiff Castle. He had to wait until 13 July 1916 before he left Cardiff for France. The journey is described here in the propaganda article, ‘Pon... ti... pri... ith’.
At Rouen Ford was attached to the 9th Battalion, and sent to the Somme, where the fiercest battle in British military history had been raging since 1 July. He wanted experience of the front line, but his CO thought he was too old, and stationed him with the battalion transport, just behind the front line near Albert. He described the battle in a letter to Lucy Masterman on 28 July:
We are right up in the middle of the strafe, but only with the 1st line transport. We get shelled two or three times a day, otherwise it is fairly dull – indeed, being shelled is fairly dull, after the first once or twice. Otherwise it is all very interesting – filling in patches of one’s knowledge [...] The noise of the bombardment
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