The Secret Battle: Emotional survival in the great war

The Secret Battle: Emotional survival in the great war

by Michael Roper

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What did home mean to British soldiers and how did it help them to cope with the psychological strains of the Great War? Family relationships lie at the heart of this book. It explores the contribution letters and parcels from home played in maintaining the morale of this largely young, amateur army. And it shows how soldiers, in their turn, sought to adapt domestic habits to the trenches. Pursuing the unconscious clues within a rich collection of letters and memoirs with the help of psychoanalytical ideas, including those formulated by the veteran tank commander Wilfred Bion, this study asks fundamental questions about the psychological resources of this generation of young men. It reveals how the extremities of battle exposed the deepest emotional ties of childhood, and went on marking the post-war domestic lives of those who returned.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780719083860
Publisher: Manchester University Press
Publication date: 10/12/2010
Series: Cultural History of Modern War
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 368
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Michael Roper is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology at the University of Essex.

Table of Contents




1. Keeping in touch

2. Separation and support


3. Staying alive

4. Learning to care

5. Love and loss


6. Nameless dread

7. The return of the soldier




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Secret Battle: Emotional Survival in the Great War 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
seekingflight on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Based on a rich analysis of the letters and parcels exchanged by soldiers in World War One and their families, this was one of the most evocative accounts I¿ve ever read of what it was like to serve as a British soldier during the Great War, and the relationships of these soldiers with `family¿ (often mothers) and `home¿. Engagingly written, and fascinating, but often ¿ because of the subject matter ¿ quite distressing reading. Roper explores the importance of letters to both soldiers and families (and most often mothers) at home, things that soldiers said (and didn¿t say) in their letters home, the way their need for comfort and reassurance warred with their desire to protect their mothers, the resentment that sometimes resulted, and the way in which the domestic routines of home were drawn upon and adapted to the trenches. The way in which the grief of fathers was often considered secondary to the grief of mothers is also discussed, and I was intrigued by the suggestion that the Pieta image and surrounding religious symbolism contributes to the elevation of the mother¿s grief, to the exclusion of others.