1914 – Sunday August the 30th 1914

Young men, students, far from home and loved ones, far from the comfortable life they had known, became accustomed to killing, to death, to horror and the gruesome sights of maimed bodies and dead friends and comrades.

“It’s cruel to have to die so far from home, without a loving eye to look at you. A grave at home … to which love comes and cries and prays, will be granted to but few fighting men.”

They fight to stay alive, to stay human, to remain civilised, to help civilisation, to convince themselves that despite the atrocities, they will inhabit a less cruel world after the war.

It is a difficult line to walk.

Even those who survived would never inhabit that idealised world.

The voices of the students echoing from these letters would never again be heard by parents, lovers and friends, yet their touching and often inspiring words speak of the conviction that they are fighting for a just cause; easy young prey for the propaganda of indifferent power, and atrociously abused to satisfy the egotism of kings, politicians and kaisers everywhere in Europe and, indeed, the world.


Philip Wittkopf

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Philip Wittkopf


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Michael A. O'Neill