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The Heroic Pageantry of War

Journalism, Women War-Correspondents, 1914–16, and the Ideology of War
  • Mildred Aldrich
  • May Sinclair
  • St Clair Stobart

Abstract

In his book Realities of War, not published until 1920, Philip Gibbs referred to the spirit of adventure in which young writing men set out to the Continent in 1914. They went to see ‘what war meant in civilised countries’, and made ‘wild, desperate efforts to break through the barrier that had been put up against them by French and British staffs in the zone of war’ (Gibbs, 1920: 3). That was not the only barrier they had to overcome. When these young men returned to Fleet Street, they were still unable to write the things they had seen. They were unable to tell them to people who had not seen and could not understand.

Because there was no code of words which would convey the picture of that wild agony of peoples, that smashing of all civilised lands, to men and women who still thought of war in terms of heroic pageantry. (4)

It was not until June 1915 that Gibbs received full credentials as a war correspondent with the British armies on the Western Front. It took a further six months for the Commander-in-Chief, recognising that civilian support was necessary ‘to hearten the troops’, to agree to relax the censorship a little. Thereafter, Gibbs ‘wrote all that was good to write of the actions day by day’ although he ‘had to leave out something of the underlying horror of them all’ (24). In 1920 he was still having difficulty with more than an appropriate ‘code of words’; continuing to write about ‘German hordes’, ‘punctilious chivalry’, and ‘the beau ideal of knighthood’, he was revealing his retention of a whole cast of thought which the War had revealed as archaic. In 1920 he himself was knighted for his war work.

Keywords

Daily Mail International Arbitration Modern Warfare British Army Western Front 
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Copyright information

© Claire M. Tylee 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mildred Aldrich
  • May Sinclair
  • St Clair Stobart

There are no affiliations available

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