Despite being under age, George Venables volunteered for service in May 1915. His initial desire to join the Royal Army Medical Corps, on the grounds that he would not have to take life, could not be granted. As a result he ended up following his older brother into the Coldstream Guards.
The boys had grown up in a devoutly Brethren home in Staffordshire. Henry, the older brother, was killed in action. The headstone in the French cemetery where his body lies carries the words: ‘redeemed with the precious blood of Christ’. George survived the war and lived a full life of Christian service.
Throughout the war George wrote a somewhat unconventional diary, insofar as it was written in the third person. Before he died, he presented a copy of the manuscript to the Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Scripture Readers Association (SASRA). Jamie Campbell, a SASRA representative, has edited the material and, in collaboration with George’s son, presented it in the form of this book.
Like most diarists, Venables wrote down the events that stuck out in his mind as being different from his usual routine. Unsurprisingly for a soldier surviving the horrors of Passchendaele, some of those events are intensely harrowing. Others are more mundane.
Discerning the character of the author is not easy, although an everyday humility is evident in the narrative. One gets the sense that he even understates the extent of his Christian witness.
This book is for ordinary men and women in the services, where maintaining a faithful testimony is never easy. Here is one man who did.