The Reluctant Tommy
Ronald Skirth’s memoir of the First World War has to be one of the most profound books I have ever read. Not many know his name because he was an ordinary guy and not the stuff of history books, but this is no ordinary memoir. It is an extraordinary account of one of the very few ‘Tommies’ who not only experienced and survived this awful war, but also managed to write vividly about it.
It not only documents the experience of a soldier who became a conscientious objector, but it is also a love story of such tenderness that, while interspersed with some horrific accounts, enables one to see some bright light at the end of the tunnel. There are some graphic parts, and the memories of what Ronald Skirth, just like so many of the ‘ordinary’ soldiers, went through are really haunting. Unlike some accounts, this is the one of a man who came to hate the killing and who came to find mechanisms for frustrating it. It was a privilege to read it, and I heartily recommend it.