Why, after so many years, does the ordeal of the Great War, 1914 – 1918, still resonate so powerfully with so many readers? Trench Fever answers by seeking to retrieve an obscure infantryman’s long-lost and never-told experience of battle by re-tracing his via dolorosa as closely as possible on what remains of the Western Front. Publication onto a market awash with blockbuster military histories did not help. My family’s unostentatious, emotionally charged pilgrimage was submerged in the din of controversy. So it was a surprise, years later, to find Trench Fever cited as a source in a thoughtful exploration of British Society 1914 – 1918, written by the Cambridge historian, Adrian Gregory. At one point he expresses perplexity at why some readers persist in seeing the First World War as ‘wrong’ or ‘unjustifiable’.
‘For a corrective,’ he writes, ‘it is both shocking and refreshing to read Christopher Moore’s memoir of his First World War obsession. The book is a tribute to his grandfather who participated in the breaking of the Hindenburg Line … He recreates the life of a man who fathered six children, bought his own house, fought the Germany Army to a standstill and remembered Leicester City’s FA Cup semi-final victory in 1949 as the best day of his life. Moore states, in a way that shows more imaginative empathy with the people of 1914 than any number of histories and novels: “War is bad. Peace is good. But sometimes you have to fight.” ’