The Ghost of the Trenches
This book comprises fourteen stories from the Great War, and what I like about them is that they are very varied. Some will be familiar, such as the Christmas Day 1914 game of football between English and German troops; or the story of the Angel of Mons which exists in a number of versions and is, perhaps, more myth than reality. There are also three poems, one of which is Wilfred Owen’s ‘Strange Meeting’.
Some of the stories are small scale and homely, like the farm boy who stayed at home to look after the farm; or the amazing episode of the Lancashire Fusiliers who were rescued from almost certain oblivion by some ghostly monks. There are stories from Germany and France as well as Britain, like the jinxed German U-boat, where the death toll from mysterious accidents kept on rising, until its end came with an unexplained explosion and the loss of her entire crew. I particularly enjoyed the Phantom Soldiers of Crécy, where Colonel Shepheard encounters the ghosts of soldiers from the battle of Crécy over 570 years earlier.
The stories are engagingly told by Helen Watts and professional story-teller, Taffy Thomas. The subject matter is serious: war, death, and the triumph of the human spirit. The tone manages to be both informal without being in the least bit prosy, yet it has a certain gravitas, and it is perfectly in tune with the subject. The authors have obviously gone to a great deal of trouble to get the tone just right and, in my view, they have succeeded splendidly. This book is aimed at boys of 9 plus who enjoy war stories with a bit of added mystery. However, in my view, girls would enjoy it as well.
I liked this book a lot, since it just wasn’t one long boring story but a lot of good interesting stories, which could either chill you to the bone or make you laugh out loud. I really loved how they mixed poems with stories so you didn’t get tired of the stories. My favourite poem was We Must Not Forget since it made you think about what people thought of during and after the war. Overall I would rate this book 8/10, it lost 2 points since I did not like how it explained all the stories before you read them because I like to get shocked and excited while reading.
Louis McNulty, age 11