beetleheart books

World War 1 Diary

How it came about ...


Linda Synge is a friend of mine. One day she showed me a leatherbound book; black, tatty, torn and falling apart. It was a diary belonging to her grandfather, Bryant Lillywhite, typed up by himself, after the war, from the notes that he had written whilst in the trenches. Those notes had long disappeared - and the type in the leatherbound book was fading too.


But it could still be read - and tells the story of astonishingly brave young men who did more, suffered more and endured more than any man would think possible - and with such great good humour and humility.


We could not let such a story fade away.


We decided to create a book faithful to Bryant's prose, but in a format - font and layout - that people would find easy and clear to read So Linda typed up the copy, keeping the original spelling and grammar whilst I designed a layout and started laying out the text. I also photographed all the maps, diagrams and photographs stuck into the leatherbound book.


The text is beautifully written, the photographs mesmerising - it was a thrilling project.


We had nearly completed a draft layout when Linda went to her mother's house, Annette - Bryant's daughter - to see if she could find any more photographs.


What she actually found was something incredible.


In a small black box were two small notebooks.

They were filled with notes, written in pencil in beautiful, regular handwritting.

Both notebooks were clean, neat and untorn.

They were Bryant's original notesbooks.

They had survived the trenches intact.


We had felt we already had a wonderful book - but these notebooks would take the project to another level.

Every page of the notebooks was a gem - speaking so directly from the trenches - and not to be missed - so it was almost back to the start, I photographed every page of each notebook and re-laid out the book - trying to get the original notes as close to the same dated text as possible - along with photographs, maps and diagrams.


The book finsihed, Linda chose the title 'A Man Reprieved To Go' from Siegfied Sassoon's poem 'Aftermath', which Bryant had included at the end of his diary.


We hope the book pulls together all the elements - and above all gives a platform for Bryant's beautiully written prose. Shocking, honest, gentle, he writes on a dark subject with a light touch. An incredible account of one man's war.

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A Man Reprieved To Go : the world war one diary of Bryant Lillywhite

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