The author and historian Lyn MacDonald was one of a handful of writers in the 1970s and 80s that in many respect helped to revive interest in the Great War. At times I think we forget what a debt we owe these authors from that period who often worked in isolation, with virtually no public engagement or interest in what they did. Their work is a lasting legacy, and while many criticise Lyn MacDonald’s work as ‘just’ oral history, the voices of the men and women she interviewed would have been lost without her. In my own mind works like this Somme book have become WW1 ‘classics’.
This interview dates from 1983 when her book on the Somme came out. I was only sixteen at the time and I recorded this from the radio, in eager anticipation of the book appearing. I have the copy next to me now; given as a birthday present by my grandmother who had herself witnessed chalk covered soldiers returning wounded from the Somme in her home town of Colchester. She told me she couldn’t read the book as it brought back too many painful memories.
Lyn MacDonald is retired now and perhaps will never write another WW1 book again, and part of me feels sorry that she existed and worked in a time before social media and the current public fascination with the Great War, because I know she would have embraced it somehow. But her books continue to capture the interest of new generations who come to the subject and the Somme is still in print, and no author could ask for more.