Glum Heroes

Hardship, fear and death - Resilience and Coping in the British Army on the Western Front 1914-1918

Peter Hodgkinson

Date Published :
October 2016
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Series :
Wolverhampton Military Studies
Format Available    QuantityPrice
ISBN : 9781912174744
Pages : 296
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
In stock


Our vision of the soldier of the Great War is often clouded by sentimentality. ‘Glum Heroes’ is a portrayal of how the soldiers of 1914-1918 coped with their experiences. Using their own words, the book considers coping from both the standpoint of psychological theory that has stood the test of time, but more importantly, in the context of the cultural norms of those born into the Victorian era. The external coping resources available to soldiers encompassed family and friends. The first was a resource limited by distance, and the central role of correspondence in sustaining contact is explored. The second is often misunderstood. The nature of the comradeship enjoyed on active service mirrored that of the workplace of the early 20th century. The use of modern notions of friendship distorts our understanding of how within its limitations such comradeship was supportive. The two kingpins of the internal resources that facilitated coping on active service include the code of manliness and the stoic emphasis on endurance and management of emotion. The role of these is greatly diminished in the modern world. Similarly, spirituality wove its way into soldiers’ coping in ways unfamiliar in the present day. Fear and courage are examined in the light of these coping mechanisms, as is the experience of loss and death on the battlefield. Stripped of sentimentality and viewed without the distorting prism of 21st century preoccupations, the coping mechanisms of Great War soldiers, although very different from our own, were robust and largely effective.

About The Author

Peter Hodgkinson has a BA in Psychology from Durham University and an MPhil in Clinical Psychology from the University of London. His career as a clinical psychologist in both the NHS and private spheres has largely been involved with trauma and sudden, violent death. He is the author of many psychology articles and Coping with Catastrophe A Handbook of Post-Disaster Psychological Aftercare (Routledge, 1998). His MA in British First World War Studies and PhD were obtained in the Department of War Studies at the University of Birmingham. He contributed a chapter on battalion commanders to Stemming the Tide Officers and Leadership in the British Expeditionary Force 1914 (Helion, 2013), and his book British Battalion Commanders in the First World War was published in 2015 by Ashgate. He has also written articles on the varied topics of the battlefield clearances of human remains, soldiers letters, Senior Officer School, and homeless WW1 veterans. He has two daughters and lives in Sussex.


" … Glum Heroes confirms our admiration for the Western Front soldiers. It is neither ‘feel-good' nor a quick and easy read, but is recommended to all serious students of the Western Front.”

- Soldiers of the Queen

"Anyone who has ever been in uniform will recognise many of the traits and coping methods described. Most highly recommended, and far beyond just students of the First World War.”

- Society of Friends of the National Army Museum

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