I don’t have too many hobbies outside of my work but studying history is one of them.
Like many of you, I’m sure, I’m an avid podcast listener and not too long ago on Hardcore History, Dan Carlin wrapped up a truly breathtaking six part, 23 hour series called “Blueprint for Armageddon” exploring the length, breadth, and depth of World War I.
I’ll be honest, my knowledge about the “war to end war” has always been limited (and overshadowed by my fascination with the following decades). This series completely reshaped my understanding of the overwhelming, unspeakable conflict itself and it sent me on a rabbit trail of further study.
For example, famously, J. R. R. Tolkien was a solider in the Great War and fought at the Battle of the Somme. But! Did you know that E. H. Shepard, beloved illustrator of nearly fifty books (though known best for his timeless work on Winnie-the-Pooh and The Wind in the Willows) was also there?
In fact, as an officer, he served in some of the most atrocious and savage battles in all of the war. Shepard was at Passchendaele and I simply can not wrap my mind around it.
November 11th, Armistice Day, is tomorrow and it’s worth sparing a thought for the indescribable hardships endured not only by Shepard but countless millions from his generation.
Not too long ago, a treasure trove of over 100 pieces of art from Shepard’s time in the war, evidently untouched since 1919, was found. The works have been collected into a new book, Shepard’s War, and there’s an exhibition, E. H. Shepard: An Illustrator’s War.
I doubt if I’ll make it to London in time to see the show but if anyone does visit please let me know!