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A Hundred Years To Arras

By Jason Cobley

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From a Somerset farm to the trenches of France: one man's coming of age through land, love and blood

Publication date: August 2021
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About the book

This historical novel is based on real events. On a painful, freezing Easter Monday in 1917, over twenty thousand allied troops emerged from underneath the French town of Arras to mount a surprise attack on German positions outside Arras and up to Vimy Ridge. Private Robert Gooding Henson of the Somerset Light Infantry is stationed outside of Arras with his brigade and is launched into the battle, where he is separated from his company and ends the day defending Hervin Farm at St Laurent Blangy. Robert is twenty-three years old, a farmer’s boy from Somerset, and the novel tracks his journey from joining up against his father’s wishes in 1915 to that Easter Monday in April 1917.

Robert forms fast friendships with Stanley, who lied about his age to go to war, and Ernest, whose own slippery account of his life betrays a life on the streets. Their story together follows accounts of the real movements of the Somerset Light Infantry throughout the Great War, through gas attacks, trench warfare, freezing in trenches, hunting rats and chasing down kidnapped regimental dogs. Their life is one of mud and mayhem but also love and laughs. Whilst billeted in a battle-strewn French village, Robert meets the daughter of a local baker, Camile. The memory of their one afternoon together sustains him through the horrors that he faces on the front.

A parallel story is that of Flora Stuckey, a nurse of the Voluntary Aid Detachment, naively defying her own parents to come to France to help, and her own journey to realising how she needs to change.

A Hundred Years to Arras is a story of how a time and place reaches down through the generations to connect the past with the present through land and blood

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