Ohio University Press · Swallow Press ·

Lionel Sotheby’s Great War
Diaries and Letters from the Western Front

By Lionel Sotheby
Edited by Donald C. Richter
Introduction by Donald C. Richter
Foreword by Peter H. Liddle

The “butterfly” that emerged in World War I trench warfare in 1915 aspired to kill: “I cannot explain,” the diary continues. “It comes unseen and makes you oblivious of almost everything at times, save one intense desire to kill, kill, kill, the Germans.”

Lionel Sotheby’s diary and letters are a compelling first-person account of the harrowing experiences of the young British lieutenant at the Western Front. His writing reveals constant peril, hourly discomfort, and gruesome injuries. Brushes with death or mutilation were daily occurrences, and nearby comrades—some literally inches away from Lionel—fell to gas, machine guns, snipers and shells.

“One poor fellow next to me put up his head for a second…They got him through the jaw, gums tongue, and come out tearing half his neck away. We bandaged him up somehow. Awful wound and in agony.”

There is evidence that Lionel Sotheby struggled at times with the horror of war, yet overall he remained remarkably cheerful and resolute—and certain of his own impending death. “It is a noble selfless sentiment far more rare in today’s less ‘patriotic’ world, but a virtue that characteristically animated most products of the public schools of that generation,” writes Donald Richter.

“The Black Watch including myself charged the German trenches 400 yards away. The whole 15 officers were killed, except 4. Of these 4, 3 were wounded and 1 survived. I tell you it was a miracle and I feel quite changed as I lay out 15 yards from the German trenches for 4 hours before crawling back.”

A great many soldiers in 1915 did not survive long enough to record their experiences. It was nasty, close-range fighting, with fearsome instruments of death. Nobody yet knew how to fight the first mechanized global war.

Order a print copy

Hardcover · $31.96 ·
Add to Cart

Retail price: $39.95 · Save 20% ($31.96)

Buy from a local bookstore


US and Canada only

Cover of Lionel Sotheby’s Great War

Share    Facebook icon  Email icon


Desk Copy Examination Copy Review Copy

Permission to reprint
Permission to photocopy or include in a course pack via Copyright Clearance Center

Related Subjects

Click or tap on a subject heading to sign up to be notified when new related books come out.


Retail price: $39.95, S.
Release date: June 1997
168 pages
Rights:  World

Related Titles

Cover of 'Soliloquy of a Farmer’s Wife'

Soliloquy of a Farmer’s Wife
The Diary of Annie Elliott Perrin
Edited by Dale B. J. Randall

Diary of a Geneva, Ohio, farmer’s wife, Annie Perrin, who wrote during the final battles, climax, and close of World War I.

Literary Collections | Diaries & Journals · Literature · Ohio and Regional · Ohio

Cover of 'Art and the Reformation in Germany'

Art and the Reformation in Germany
By Carl C. Christensen

The Reformation had considerable impact upon the world of art in sixteenth-century Germany, but that impact was not everywhere a uniform one. Some early Protestant leaders reacted to what they viewed as the idolatrous misuse of visual imagery in late medieval Catholicism with a demand for total abolition of paintings and figurative sculpture from the churches.

Art History · Art · European History · History

Cover of 'The Collected Letters of George Gissing Volume 7'

The Collected Letters of George Gissing Volume 7
By George Gissing
· Edited by Paul F. Mattheisen, Arthur C. Young, and Pierre Coustillas

Gissing’s career, which spanned the period of about 1877 to his death in 1903, was characterized by prodigious output (almost a novel a year in the early days), modest recognition, and modest income. He wrote of poverty, socialism, class differences, social reform, and later on, about the problems of women and industrialization.

Letters · British Literature · Biography & Autobiography | General · Literature

Cover of 'The Whiskey Merchant’s Diary'

The Whiskey Merchant’s Diary
An Urban Life in the Emerging Midwest
By Joseph J. Mersman
· Edited by Linda A. Fisher

“Business during the Week was very dull. The great Plague of the Year Cholera is driving every Country [person] and Merchants from Surrounding Cities away. The City looks like a desert Compared to its usual animated appearance. People parting for a day or so, bid farewell to each other. My Partners family are fortunately in the Country. I and Clemens sleep in the Same bed, in Case of a Sudden attack to be within groaning distance.”—u2009Diary entry for Sunday, May 13th, 1849

American History · History · Ohio and Regional · American History, Midwest

Sign up to be notified when new Literary Collections | Diaries & Journals titles come out.

We will only use your email address to notify you of new titles in the subject area(s) you follow. We will never share your information with third parties.