The diary extracts are articulate and engaging, describing daily life on the Western Front with his own experiences and descriptions of the officers and men he served alongside. Hanson is a good observer and provides graphic detail with incisive wit.
NAME: Plough & Scatter
CLASSIFICATION: Book reviews
AUTHOR: J Ivor Hanson, Alan Wakefield
BINDING: Soft back
SUBJECT: Great War, World War One, WWI, 1914-1918, Western Front, RFA, 18 pounder QF, trench warfare, gas attack, personal diary
DESCRIPTION: Alan Wakefield has edited the wartime diary of J Ivor Hanson. Hanson was a compulsive journal writer who started while very young and continued to his death at 94. The section of his writings that has been used for this book covers the period of the 1914-1918 Great War, including service in the Royal Field Artillery during the German Spring Offensive. Wakefield has preceded each chapter with explanatory narratives that set the diary extracts within the military context. This is helpful and adds to the story. The diary extracts are articulate and engaging, describing daily life on the Western Front with his own experiences and descriptions of the officers and men he served alongside. Hanson is a good observer and provides graphic detail with incisive wit. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the diary extracts is the volume and detail of Hanson’s writings under what were frequently difficult conditions. What is not completely clear is how much of the source material was directly written at the time. There are references to letters he sent home and an intention to write them up later in a pocket diary. The impression is that much or all of what has been reproduced in this book is from a working diary written at the front. Had Hanson rewritten his diary later to include comment posted home, it would have given the opportunity to correct the inevitable errors of writing under difficult conditions and allowed the inclusion of further insights. If the wording is from original writing at the Front, the work is even more remarkable for the intense scrutiny and polished paragraphs. The inclusion of personal photographs in a b&w plate section adds further to the personal nature of the work. The book is all the more valuable because it covers the contribution made by the Royal Field Artillery which has received far less attention than the infantry and the military aviation on the Western Front. Hanson has captured the power and mobility of field artillery in the same way as Snaffles did in the painting that hangs in the Mess at Arbourfield, depicting an 18 pounder QF and horse team charging through the mud of Flanders to set up a new battery position