Perhaps Vera Britain Essay Checker

Much of what we know and feel about the First World War we owe to Vera Brittain's elegiac yet unsparing book, which set a standard for memoirists from Martha Gellhorn to Lillian Hellman. Abandoning her studies at Oxford in 1915 to enlist as a nurse in the armed services, Brittain served in London, in Malta, and on the Western Front. By war's end she had lost virtually everMuch of what we know and feel about the First World War we owe to Vera Brittain's elegiac yet unsparing book, which set a standard for memoirists from Martha Gellhorn to Lillian Hellman. Abandoning her studies at Oxford in 1915 to enlist as a nurse in the armed services, Brittain served in London, in Malta, and on the Western Front. By war's end she had lost virtually everyone she loved. Testament of Youth is both a record of what she lived through and an elegy for a vanished generation. Hailed by the Times Literary Supplement as a book that helped “both form and define the mood of its time,” it speaks to any generation that has been irrevocably changed by war....more

Paperback, 688 pages

Published May 31st 2005 by Penguin Classics (first published August 28th 1933)



Christmas is supposed to be a season of comfort and joy, but many people struggle through the holidays, especially those who have lost someone they love.  The empty place at the table – the voice that will never be heard again:  despair and loneliness are too often the unwelcome guests at festive gatherings of families and friends.
Vera and Roland, 1915

One hundred years ago, in December of 1915, Vera Brittain, a young VAD nurse just shy of her 22nd birthday (29 December), was excitedly awaiting a visit from her fiancé, Roland Aubrey Leighton. In the last week of November, Roland had written to Vera, “Just a short letter before I go to bed. The Battalion is back in the trenches now and I am writing in the dugout that I share with the doctor….Through the door I can see little mounds of snow that are the parapets of trenches, a short stretch of railway line, and a very brilliant full moon.  I wonder what you are doing. Asleep, I hope—or sitting in front of a fire in blue and white striped pyjamas? I should so like to see you in blue and white pyjamas.” 

On December 17th, Vera received a message from Roland suggesting he might get his wish to see her -- pyjamas aren’t mentioned: “Leave from December 24 – 31st.  Land on Christmas Day.” 

That Christmas Eve, Vera worked with other nurses filling soldiers' stockings with candy and nuts, and on the following morning, she attended Christmas communion at the hospital chapel, where she knelt to “thank whatever God there be for Roland and for all my love and joy.”

She then caught a train to Brighton, where she waited for her fiancé’s arrival.  With time on her hands, she wrote on December 26th, “I walked along the promenade, and looked at the grey sea tossing rough with white surf-crested waves, and felt a little anxiety at the kind of crossing he had had.  But at any rate he should be safely in England by this time, though he probably has not been able to send me any message to-day owing to the difficulties of telephones and telegrams on Sunday & Christmas Day combined….So I only have to wait for the morrow with such patience as I can manage.” 

On Monday December 27th she received news of Roland:    

“I had just finished dressing when a message came to say that there was a telephone message for me.  I sprang up joyfully, thinking to hear in a moment the dear dreamed-of tones of the beloved voice. But the telephone message was not from Roland...it was not to say that Roland had arrived, but that instead had come this telegram...'Regret to inform you that Lieut. R.A. Leighton 7th Worcesters died of wounds December 23rd...'"

Perhaps by Vera Brittain

(To R.A.L. died of wounds in France , December 23rd 1915)

Perhaps some day the sun will shine again,
And I shall see that still the skies are blue,
And feel once more I do not live in vain,
Although bereft of You.

Perhaps the golden meadows at my feet
Will make the sunny hours of spring seem gay,
And I shall find the white May-blossoms sweet,
Though You have passed away.

Perhaps the summer woods will shimmer bright,
And crimson roses once again be fair,
And autumn harvest fields a rich delight,
Although You are not there.

Perhaps some day I shall not shrink in pain
To see the passing of the dying year,
And listen to Christmas songs again,
Although You cannot hear.'

But though kind Time may many joys renew,
There is one greatest joy I shall not know
Again, because my heart for loss of You
Was broken, long ago.
Roland Leighton
On his last day of duty, Leighton had volunteered to proceed before his men into No Man’s Land, where they were repairing wire in front of their trench.  Almost immediately the target of German machine gunfire, he was severely wounded in the stomach and spine.  Carried by stretcher to a hospital clearing station, Roland died the next evening. 

On New Year’s Eve, Vera wrote her last diary entry for 1915: “This time last year He was seeing me off on Charing Cross Station after David Copperfield – and I had just begun to realize I loved Hjm.  To-day He is lying in the military cemetery at Louvencourt—because a week ago He was wounded in action, and had just 24 hours of consciousness more and then went ‘to sleep in France.”  And I who in impatience felt a fortnight ago that I could not wait another minute to see Him, must wait till all Eternity.  All has been given me, and all taken away again – in one year.  So I wonder where we shall be – what we shall all be doing – if we all still shall be – this time next year.” 

Vera Brittain

She writes that her friends, in an effort to help, “counselled patience and endurance; time, they told me with maddening unanimity, would heal.  I resented the suggestion bitterly; I could not believe it, and did not even want it to be true.  If time did heal I should not have kept faith with Roland, I thought, clinging assiduously to my pain, for I did not then know that if the living are to be of any use in this world, they must always break faith with the dead.” 

It would be interesting to know what John McCrae, the author of “In Flanders Fields” would have responded.   


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