What words of inspiration or comfort did soldiers take with them to the front?
The books published in late 1914 include many slim paperbound pamphlets of ‘inspirational’ thoughts. Some are cheap and basic, a kind of spiritual first aid book. ‘So fight I’ is a compilation of quotations from the Bible and Christian writers, only a few pages and only 12 cm tall. Similar is “The happy warrior”, a collection of Biblical texts for each time of day and each day of the year, based on the soldier’s daily routine. So at Reveille on Monday April 19th, the text was “Awake thou that sleepest and arise from the dead, and Christ will give thee light.”
There are also packets of postcards with suitably cheerful texts on them, like these ‘cheer cards’ (above) published for Christmas 1914. And finally there are more expensive productions printed on fine paper with silver lettering, like “The happy warrior: in memory of the gallant sons who, by land or sea, have laid down their lives for the Empire.” The happy warrior is the hero of a painting by G. F. Watts, which is reproduced as the frontispiece:
The hero is at the point of death on the battlefield, when a ‘spirit form’ appears and kisses him, while the shaft of light falling on his face seems to come from another world, beyond the clouds. Watts’ painting appeared in 1884, but during the first world war it became a “talismanic image” for some. These pocket-sized pamphlets include pictures, hymns and poetry – whether quotations from Homer’s Iliad or a printed card with the understated text “Pluck is the ability to face a difficult situation with brave calmness and undiscouraged energy.”