join us on facebook likeyoulove
Search our site
Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner Read the opening extract of the brand new Susie Steiner book before its publication on 05/04/2018

Blood and Iron Letters from the Western Front by Hugh Montagu Butterworth

Blood and Iron Letters from the Western Front


Blood and Iron Letters from the Western Front by Hugh Montagu Butterworth

Until now Hugh Butterworth was just one of the millions of lost soldiers of the Great War, and the extraordinary letters he sent home from the Western Front have been largely forgotten. But, after more than ninety years of obscurity, these letters, which describe his experience of war in poignant detail, have been rediscovered, and they are published here in full. They are a moving, intensely personal and beautifully written record by an articulate and observant man who witnessed at first hand one of the darkest episodes in European history.Butterworth, a first cousin of the composer George Butterworth who lost his life on the Somme in 1916, was in civilianlife a dedicated and much-loved schoolmaster and a gifted cricketer, who served with distinction as an officer in the Rifle Brigade from the spring of 1915. His letters give us a telling insight into the thoughts and reactions of a highly educated, sensitive and perceptive individual confronted by the horrors of modern warfare.Butterworth was killed on the Bellewaarde Ridge near Ypres on 25 September 1915 during one of the disastrous diversionary attacks launched to distract German attention from the Battle of Loos, and his last letter was written on the eve of the action in which he died. For this full edition of his letters Jon Cooksey has edited and illustrated the text and provided an introduction, describing Butterworth's family background, his pre-war career, the battles on the Western Front in which he took part, and the final engagement in which he lost his life.


This book is built around a series of letters written by Hugh Montagu Butterworth during his short time in France, which lasted from late May 1915 until his death in the Ypres salient on 25 September 1915. Butterworth was the cousin of the famous composer George Butterworth and his earlier life had been typical of many young men of his generation - a sports mad school career followed by an equally sports dominated period at Oxford. Things changed just before he would have graduated - his father lost his money and decided to emigrate to New Zealand. Hugh abandoned his studies and followed his father around the world, becoming a teacher at Wanganui School. After the outbreak of the First World War he decided to volunteer for the British Army and returned to the United Kingdom. The letters themselves are the true purpose of the book, and they don't disappoint. Butterworth is a thoughtful companion, and we can clearly see the impact of the fighting on his attitudes and on the general tone of his writing. We start with his first letter after reaching the vicinity of the front, at a famous town he can't name (Ypres). We end with a short letter that he wrote just before his final attack, only to be delivered in the event of his death. This was one of a series of late letters written with this battle in mind, all of which suggest that Butterworth didn't think he had a very high chance of surviving intact. Given the obvious difficulties of his task that isn't entirely surprising and the matter-of-fact tone of this final letter is thus particularly impressive. The entire collection of letters is fascinating and gives a good idea of how the brutality of trench warfare impacted on Butterworth.

About the Author

Loading other formats...

Book Info

Publication date

15th September 2011


Hugh Montagu Butterworth

More books by Hugh Montagu Butterworth
Author 'Like for Like'


Pen & Sword Military an imprint of Pen & Sword Books Ltd


256 pages


First World War
European history
20th century history: c 1900 to c 2000



Lovereading is pitched at just the right level for all the various types of people who enjoy reading in its many forms.

Pam Woodburn

Lovereading has all the new books and also suggestions for 'similar' authors whilst waiting for your favourites new books.

Carol Peace

I 'Lovereading' because it lets me see what new books are around with a detailed synopsis and readers' reviews.

Judith Sharp

It has enriched my leisure time by introducing me to a world of books which I would not have previously considered.

Val Rowe

As for why I'd recommend Lovereading, it's simple - it's a great place to get information and reviews about new books!

Margaret Freeman

It has opened my eyes to different authors and genres. Just log on and try, you will be surprised and not want for reading material again.

Jocelyn Garvey

What can I say, the clue is in the title Lovereading - and awesome books.

Sarah Davis

I love the 'like for like' author recommendations, it's like an old friend whispering in your ear.

Emma Caddick