Lasting Memories

Published by Viking in 1991. Laurie Lee’s “A Moment of War’, recounts his experiences in the bone-chilling winter of 1937 when he volunteered to join the ill prepared and ill equipped International Brigade made up of the various hotchpotch of jetsam from Europe and beyond taking on the might of the Fascist empires trying out their destructive armoury in preparation for the Second World War.

Lee records that, starving and shivering, these untrusted mostly young men were treated with suspicion which cost many of them their lives before ever going into battle with no weapons.

One wonders how the author survived. His diaries did not and he is working from memory.

Laurie Lee’s beautifully elegant descriptive prose even lifts the desperate narrative.

I finished reading the book this afternoon.

The book jacket is attributed to Keith Bowen. Is it simply an oversight that no-one is credited with the superb black and white illustrations amplifying the text?

These pictures capture the essence of the time and place; the character portraits reflecting the moods as described by the author.

P.S. The following extract from an e-mail from our friend John Jones confirms that Keith Bowen was the illustrator of the drawings and adds important information about child refugees from Guernica:” I read “A Moment of War” a few years back and while I remembered the illustrations, the cover was unfamiliar. On checking I found that my copy is the edition published in Penguin Books in 1992 and that the cover does use a different illustration, by Roger Coleman, but inside the illustrations are the same as your Viking copy and happily Penguin name Keith Bowen as the illustrator. He has produced a lot of work portraying Snowdonia, which was my father’s home, and the shepherds of that area. Another interesting association for me is that in the spring of 1937 Southampton was the port of entry to the UK for some 4,000 Basque child refugees (Los Niños) who were evacuated after the bombing of Guernica. Their arrival from Bilbao on SS Habana is commemorated by a plaque on the Civic Centre.”

This afternoon we finally joined our friends from across the Pond and started on the first two episodes of the first series of The Crown. Episode 2 took me back to my primary school and The Dragon’s Tears’.

Later my choice of the finger food was just one spring roll with chilli sauce. I went to bed early.

Published by derrickjknight

I am a septuagenarian enjoying rambling physically and photographing what I see, and rambling in my head as memories are triggered. I also ramble through a lifetime's photographs

52 thoughts on “Lasting Memories

  1. I haven’t read this particular episode from Laurie Lee’s life – I’m not sure that I want to either. I find my ability to deflect the horrors of war – or pre-war – waning as I grow older. It’s an odd thing isn’t it. It will be interesting to hear your thoughts on The Crown when you catch up. I shall hold mine in for now 🙂

  2. Oh my goodness! Those illustrations! So amazing. I can’t believe no one was credited with creating them. The book sounds very interesting. I think I will check it out. What do you think of The Crown so far? I watched the first season but got rid of Netflix for a bit because I wasn’t real impressed with some of their other programming and wanted to save a little money (we already have three other streaming services and we got rid of cable to save money so if we keep adding streaming channels that point will be moot.).

    1. Thanks very much, Lisa. My main reservation with The Crown remains that I am uncomfortable with the parading of a living family’s history when they cannot respond. However, I have come to realise that the period covers my history too – hence the link to the headmistress bringing the news of the death of King George VI.

      1. Right and I don’t like their history being dragged out either. However, I figure much of it is fictionalized anyhow. I know the current royals don’t seem too thrilled with it. I think what I feel bad about is that these people didn’t ask to be royals. They were born into it and now some act like they are evil because they are in a life they didn’t ask for.

  3. Wonderful sketches, Derrick. And an excellent review. I trust you had a quiet, reflective and joyous New Year. I retired early, as well, per my usual 10:00 pm, or so, time. I hope 2020 is a wonderful year for you and your family.

  4. I can’t remember the last time I encountered a book with such wonderful illustrations. Are illustrations falling out of favor? Is the expense of producing a book with such artwork a consideration? It’s suddenly occurred to me that the only illustrated books I have were published some years ago: even decades. It’s interesting.

  5. The account of the book brings to my mind the fate of a handful Indian soldiers in the overwhelmingly armoured 1962 aggression of China. Few lived to tell the tale. I am bookmarking this book for a certain tryst.

  6. Early to bed with very little to eat sounds familiar, I think it’s become my new routine!
    I have been meaning to watch the Crown since it was first aired, I know it’s my kind of thing and despite the family telling me I would love it, I still haven’t made the time.

    Happy New Year Derrick.

  7. Another great book with beautiful illustrations! Thank you for sharing it, Derrick!

    Oooh oooh oooh! I love The Crown! I’ve watched all 3 seasons! I’ve learned a lot, been impressed with a lot, and entertained. Claire Foy did an amazing job…and in season 3 is a fav of mine…the wonderful Olivia Colman!

    After watching all of the seasons of Outlander, it took me awhile to accept Tobias Menzies as Prince Phillip in Season 3 of The Crown…but he grew on me! Ha! 🙂 At first, I kept seeing him as the villian Black Jack Randall! 😮

    Speaking of a spring roll with chili sauce…
    I hope your new year is springy…as in bright, cheery, blooming-springy, and as in lots of good movement-springy…also a year that is zesty-spicy-fun and with more of Jackie’s amazing cooking! 😉
    HUGS!!! 🙂

  8. I’d say the illustrations are by the same artist as the cover as they show the same style. You could always contact the publisher and ask.

    I used to love Laurie Lee’s writings when I was younger, but not sure I’d cope these days with something like this. Interesting, though.

  9. Those illustrations are stunning! I started watching The Crown, but somehow never continued, as we were watching too many other shows at the same time. 🙂 The acting is wonderful, but it did always seem strange and a bit off-putting to me as you comment above that it is about the current living royal family.

  10. Exquisite illustrations; I truly wonder why the artist has not been mentioned. Many Russian military officers had been covertly sent to Spain in 1937, only to be arrested at home and executed if they survived the mission.

      1. You are very welcome, Derrick. https://youtu.be/W2cY8_BCJf4 around 4:00 shows weapons and “volunteers” from “friendly Russia.” Another little-known fact is the fate of hundreds of Spanish children transported to Russian orphanages, where they were inundated with communist ideology. Many were later trained as spies.

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