Vol. 86: Sussex Shore to Flanders Fields: Heron-Allens Journal of the Great War


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Editors: Brian W. Harvey and Carol Fitzgerald
Volume: Volume 86
Published 2002
ISBN: 978 085445 053 4

EDWARD HERON-ALLEN was a polymath; one of the most remarkable of his era. By profession a solicitor, he was also a distinguished zoologist (F.R.S.), historian, Persian scholar and translator, author of a classic book on violin-making studied worldwide, cheirosopher and writer of early science-fiction novels and stories, some of these being published pseudonymously and now much sought after. He left many beautifully bound unpublished manuscript volumes (carefully preserved by a grandson) and it was amongst these that the editors came across this fascinating Journal of the Great War, previously unknown outside the family.

In this personal Journal Heron-Allen chronicles the impact of the War on the lives of himself, his family in Selsey, West Sussex and on a wide range of friends, acquaintances and organisations nationally. With the observant and penetrating eye of an experienced author, lawyer and scientist, he describes in unsurpassed detail the day-to-day experiences of life under the increasingly stringent conditions of wartime Britain. He depicts the effects of conscription, spy scares and Zeppelin raids on the population, both in Sussex and in London, where he retained a town house.

Although well over age, he was determined to contribute actively to the war effort and the Journal recounts his military training with the Sussex Volunteer Regiment – a somewhat `Dad’s Army’ process depicted with a touch of humour – then officer training in Tunbridge Wells. However, the final stages of the War find him making use of his linguistic abilities in the propaganda department of the War Office, working with colleagues who included the uncongenial H.G. Wells. As part of this work he visited the Western Front and saw for himself the terrible destruction of places he had known before the conflict. All of this is interwoven with his vivid account of the privations and near social breakdown of the local Sussex community.

In his unusually lively and controversial text, Heron-Allen does not disguise his criticism of a good many of the well-known characters he encounters – such as the novelist Ford Madox Ford, his tenant at Selsey. The importance of this previously unpublished Chronicle is, though, that it casts an exceptionally civilised and perceptive eye on the Home Front – and especially the Sussex Home Front, illuminating one of the defining moments of the 20th century and the irrevocable changes that the Great War inflicted on the structure of English life.

The editors:

Brian Harvey is Emeritus Professor of Law at the University of Birmingham where he has held office as Dean of the Law Faculty and Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University. A graduate in both History and Law at St John’s College, Cambridge (where he was also a choral scholar), he has published widely on Commercial, Consumer and Property Law. In addition he has written a monograph on The Violin Family and its Makers in the British Isles (O.U.P., 1995). It was in the research for this that he first came across the work of Edward Heron-Allen, F.R.S. which also inspired him to make a viola, completed in 1999 in accordance with Heron-Allen’s prescription.

Carol Fitzgerald graduated with First Class Honours in History of Art and Fine Art at the University of Reading. Her earlier education had been at Bexhill and at Hove, in Sussex. She has worked as a freelance editor, researcher and abstractor in the fields of History and the Arts and she was the principal researcher for, and contributor to the Handbook of Modern British Painting, 19001980 (Scolar Press, 1992). Since 1996, she has engaged in research on the unpublished writings of Edward Heron-Allen and has continued her work as an artist.

Cover illustration: Photograph of Edward Heron-Allen, 1861-1943, c.1910. From HeronAllen’s copy of Selsey Bill (1911). By courtesy of Ivor Jones.