Tuesday, November 10, 2015

E. H. Shepard & The Great War

by Cory Godbey

I don't have too many hobbies outside of my work but studying history is one of them.

Like many of you, I'm sure, I'm an avid podcast listener and not too long ago on Hardcore HistoryDan Carlin wrapped up a truly breathtaking six part, 23 hour series called "Blueprint for Armageddon" exploring the length, breadth, and depth of World War I.

I'll be honest, my knowledge about the "war to end war" has always been limited (and overshadowed by my fascination with the following decades). This series completely reshaped my understanding of the overwhelming, unspeakable conflict itself and it sent me on a rabbit trail of further study.

For example, famously, J. R. R. Tolkien was a solider in the Great War and fought at the Battle of the Somme. But! Did you know that E. H. Shepard, beloved illustrator of nearly fifty books (though known best for his timeless work on Winnie-the-Pooh and The Wind in the Willows) was also there?

In fact, as an officer, he served in some of the most atrocious and savage battles in all of the war. Shepard was at Passchendaele and I simply can not wrap my mind around it.

November 11th, Armistice Day, is tomorrow and it's worth sparing a thought for the indescribable hardships endured not only by Shepard but countless millions from his generation.

Not too long ago, a treasure trove of over 100 pieces of art from Shepard's time in the war, evidently untouched since 1919, was found. The works have been collected into a new book, Shepard's War, and there's an exhibition, E. H. Shepard: An Illustrator's War.

I doubt if I'll make it to London in time to see the show but if anyone does visit please let me know!

Also! One last housekeeping note: be sure to join our fast growing ranks on Twitter and Instagram!

We're @muddycolors on both.


  1. I didn't know this show was on! I'm going to London in January, so I will definitely have to go see it!

    1. That's great, David! It'll be up until the end of January according to http://www.houseofillustration.org.uk/whats-on/current-future-events/eh-shepard-an-illustrators-war

  2. Great post Cory,
    I never knew this about E.H. Shephard, it shows us how people from all professions and backgrounds answered the call.
    My Grandfather (just about to turn 95), was a farm boy studying to be a teacher when the US entered WWII.

    He completed 3 major beachhead landings with the 3rd Marines in the South Pacific, the last being Iwo Jima.
    He saw over 80 days of combat and was wounded twice.
    The scale and shear insanity of things he describes on rare occasions has really sent it home for me just how amazing it is that he made it out alive, and that he kept on fighting even through it all.
    Even now, over 70 years later, he will get a far away look when talking about the war and say the same thing every time: "I shouldn't even BE here."
    Just yesterday a man about 80 with a strong British accent stopped us in the parking lot when he saw my Grandfathers Iwo Jima hat and thanked him over and over.
    He was just a boy when the rockets were flying into England, but he remembers first hand.
    I will be spending Nov 11th. with my Grandpa.

  3. Thank you for the new podcast to listen to! I just finished reading about the Franco Prussian War and then WWI. Amazing, heartbreaking and fascinating.

    These are the two books I read:
    The Guns of August - http://amzn.to/1kN5M6o
    The Franco-Prussian War: The German Conquest of France in 1870-1871 - http://amzn.to/1LaqwdK

    I am off to listen to the Hardcore History!

  4. Thank you for the post, Cory, it's fascinating! Both of my great-grandfathers on my mother's side were forcibly conscripted into the German army and fought on the Western front. I barely remember them but some of the stories they brought back are still being told in my family.

    I went to Verdun last year - you have to see the battlefields with your own eyes to fully realize the incredible destruction this war has brought. I truly didn't expected the scope of it.

    This is an interesting place to visit as well: http://www.romagne14-18.com/index.php/en/ . A collection of several thousands of everyday objects found in the battlefields by the museum's owner.


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