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Brand: Mark Pottle & John Ledingham

We Hope To Get Word Tomorrow : Garvin Family Letters 1914-16

by Mark Pottle & John Ledingham

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We Hope To Get Word Tomorrow : Garvin Family Letters 1914-16

This fascinating collection of letters traces the exchanges between a young subaltern on the front, Gerard 'Ged' Garvin, and his mother and father at home. Correspondence was eagerly awaited by all. Ged savoured letters home like 'Jim Hawkins trickling the doubloons through his fingers'. Equally, his mother and father at home were always fearful that each letter they received would be the last. In a letter J. L. Garvin sent to his son 21 July 1916 he wrote: 'Of course there's no fresh letter from you and we didn't expect it. But we hope, all the same, to get word tomorrow . . .' Ged was killed the very next day. He was just twenty years old.

Few editions of First World War letters include those from home as well as from the front. That Ged's father was J. L. Garvin (1868-1947) - editor of The Observer and an important figure in pre-war politics and society - adds a further dimension to this fascinating collection. During the war J. L. Garvin was in almost daily contact with those at the head of political and military affairs, and his letters gave Ged the view of the nerve centre. They are remarkable for their reflections on the war and its management - or in Garvin's view its mismanagement - and for the character sketches of major figures of the day, such as Churchill, Lloyd George, and Admiral 'Jacky' Fisher. His mother, Christine, meanwhile wrote of family and domestic affairs showing the impact of war on every day life.

The three-cornered correspondence therefore combines three distinct narratives: the view of the subaltern at the front; the view from the editor's office at The Observer; and the view from the head of a substantial household. Taken together they vividly capture the experience of a family during the First World War.

Staff Reviews

We Hope To Get Word Tomorrow The Garvin Family Letters 1914-1916 This collection of First World War letters is unusual in that you have both, well in this case all three, sides to the correspondence. So often the family kept letters home from sons serving at the Front but conditions abroad meant that the Home Front side of the correspondence was lost. In this case this is further enriched by the fact that the Garvin's were no ordinary family. The father, J.L Garvin was editor of the Observer newspaper, an important figure in pre-war politics and with influential friends in Government. He is all too aware of the danger faced by his son and the shortcomings of the Command office. Ged Garvin is twenty a young man at the beginning of his life brave, keen, sensitive and with already an uncanny ability to write beautifully. His mother Christina is a woman from her age and class, a loving wife and mother frivolous, flighty and sometimes afraid to see the truth. In all this adds up to a totally absorbing picture of a family at a fascinating period in history. You can read this like a novel. The interchange of letters, often only days apart reflect the closeness of the family who exchange news of both the great people and events of the day and the minutiae of life at home and on the Western Front. There are petty gripes and philosophical musings, politics, war news, travelogues and tales of family and shopping. You will fall in love with this family which will make it all the harder when you read "Of course there's no fresh letter from you today and we didn't expect it. But we hope, all the same, to get word tomorrow….." Sally Hughes Assistant Retail Manager, The National Archives