We Are All Flourishing

The Letters And Diary Of Captain Walter J J Coats MC 1914-1919

Date Published :
December 2016
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Editor :
Michael LoCicero, Dr . Jan Chojecki
Contributor(s) :
Alexander McCall Smith
Illustration :
50 photos
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781911096399
Pages : 360
Dimensions : 9.25 X 6 inches
Stock Status : In stock


There have been moments during the last week or so when I had grave doubts as to whether I should see tomorrow'. Compiled from the almost daily letters home and a diary written in the immediate aftermath of the First World War, We are all Flourishing is a remarkable firsthand account of one man’s service during 1914-19. Walter Coats was an officer with the 9th Highland Light Infantry (Glasgow Highlanders) - one of the first territorial battalions dispatched to the Western Front. Anticipation builds from mobilization in August 1914, through intensive training in and around Dunfermline, up to eventual embarkation for France the following November. Sent into action, Walter describes winter days and nights in open trenches equipped with kilts and ordinary-issue footwear. As battalion machine gun officer, he participated in the Battles of Neuve-Chapelle, Loos and Arras; the Third Battle of Ypres and the Somme - notably at High Wood in July 1916, where the Highlanders were almost wiped out, losing over 800 men killed, wounded and missing. In between the big battles and line-holding in less active sectors, we hear tales of ordinary trench routine, training, sudden movements, billeting expeditions, billets and interactions with the local populace. Walter’s story is also one of amusing anecdotes, descriptions of wartime entertainment and humorous verse that reflects how morale was maintained in times of unrelenting terror and occasional boredom. In 1917, torn between battalion loyalty and a promise to his family to take on 'safer' employment, Walter is transferred to 100th Infantry Brigade Staff - his subsequent experience providing rare insights into a staff captain’s life and responsibilities. This part of his account also sheds new light on the midlevel command administration of the British Expeditionary Force and the consequent daily challenges that, more often than not, affected the life-or-death situations encountered on the battlefield. While Walter’s life was still fraught with personal danger and narrow escapes, his kindness and consideration to officers and men, love of family and dry sense of humor continue to shine through. Walter’s story is illustrated with an impressive array of images and maps. Compiled and edited by his great-nephew, Jan Chojecki - and co-edited by military historian Michael LoCicero - We are all Flourishing is a comprehensive and moving work offering new and unique insights into life at the sharp end of conflict and on the Home front.

'Foreword by Alexander McCall Smith and dust jacket cover based on the painting "Across the Field" by Kurt Jackson

About The Author

Michael Stephen LoCicero is an independent scholar who earned his PhD at the University of Birmingham in 2011. Previously employed as a contracted researcher by the National Archives and the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Trust, he is currently engaged in a wide-ranging number of academic and editorial activities including MA advisement for the University of Birmingham's respected MA programme, a visiting lectureship at the University of Wolverhampton and a commissioning editorship on behalf of Helion. His chapter on Brigadier-General Edward Bulfin appeared in Spencer Jones (ed) "Stemming the Tide: Officers and Leadership in the British Expeditionary Force 1914" in 2013.

Jan Chojecki is the great-nephew of Walter Coats - his maternal grandmother being Walter’s sister, Helen 'Ellie' Rowett. He transcribed the collection of letters posted home from the Western Front by Walter, collated these with the diary account written in 1919 and has researched much of the related information on people and events described in We are all Flourishing. Jan has a Degree in Natural Sciences and a PhD in Genetics - both from the University of Cambridge (Christ’s College).

Alexander McCall Smith is the author of the highly successful No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, which has sold over twenty-five million copies. Since then he has devoted his time to the writing of fiction and has seen his various series of books translated into over forty-six languages and become bestsellers throughout the world. These include the 44 Scotland Street novels, first published as a serial novel in the Scotsman, the Isabel Dalhousie novels, the Von Igelfeld series and the Corduroy Mansions novels.


"Walter Coats emerges from this narrative as one of the key chroniclers of the First World War: his letters home read as freshly as they would have done when his family received them all those years ago. Shorn of hysterics or heroics Coats simply recorded what his battalion was experiencing and in so doing he reveals how he and his fellow Glasgow Highlanders responded to the peculiar miseries and excitements of life on the Western Front. A more genuine and even-handed account would be difficult to find."

- Trevor Royle, member of the Scottish Government's advisory panel for commemorating the First World War and author of Flowers of the Forest: Scotland and the First World War

“Though not a novel, We Are All Flourishing reads just as well, indeed, the diary format makes it easier to follow the chronology of events, especially as we have some a good sense of what was going on throughout 1914-1918 … This is an enlightening, easy and insightful read that is worth having for the pleasure of reading, but also as a valuable reference for the insights it gives to the daily activities of a Battalion from the first weeks of the war, and many months later through the demob process too.”

- Western Front Association Digital Newsletter

“ … The centenary of the Great War seems to have teased many private papers, memoirs and diaries out of the drawers and cupboards and out into the public domain. “We are all flourishing” is among the best of them. Edited by Walter Coats’ great nephew and Helion’s commissioning editor, it stands the test as a valuable reference as well as a good and absorbing read …”

- The Long, Long Trail

“ … Anyone reading this very well-edited book, with its excellent footnotes, will gain a very clear idea of what fighting in a major battle was like, the day to day duties and life of a soldier and staff officer - and would also admire the postal service, which could get a loaf of bread sent from Scotland and still arrive fresh in France in a couple of days.”

- Stand To! The Journal of the Western Front Association

“The centenary of the war brought a veritable flood of personal memoiirs, so another would have to be distinctive…..This account is distinctive, readable and above all useful”

- SOFNAM Autumn 2018

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