The East Wind
The East Wind
Holmes’s words to Watson at the end of ‘His Last Bow’ (1917) express an idea of warfare that sits uneasily with our contemporary perception of the First World War. Today we are accustomed to associate that war with the horrors of the Western Front: the battles of the Somme (1916) and Passchendaele (1917) loom large in our cultural memory as paradigms of unnecessary bloodshed and strategic incompetence. But this was not how Conan Doyle saw it – and he saw the Western Front at first hand, while both his brother, Brigadier-General Innes ‘Duff’ Doyle, and his son Kingsley were in the thick of the action. At the invitation of the War Office, Doyle toured the British, Italian and French Fronts in 1916, and the Australian Front in 1918, using his authority as Deputy Lieutenant of Surrey to don an improvised khaki uniform ‘which was something between that of a Colonel and Brigadier, with silver roses instead of stars or crowns upon the shoulder-states’.1
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