High Explosive: Felix Brunner’s Letters From The Western Front
Hugo Brunner and Anne Dyer
Felix Brunner was a very young man when he went to war in April 1917. On leaving school and after a term at Trinity College, Oxford, he underwent a period of officer training with the Royal Artillery, after which he was posted to the Ypres Salient. Between September 1916 and December 1918 he wrote over 300 letters to his mother, father and sister always in terms of great affection, some wryly humorous and gently mocking in tone and others more sombre. They reveal his growing maturity as he experienced leadership and combat, as well as the contrast between living conditions on the front line and in the officers’ mess, and the relationships between men of differing backgrounds and class.
The letters also describe what he ate, what he wore and what he read, as well as his concern for the men under his command. Felix’s descriptions of the battlefields of northern France are vivid and disturbing but his acconts of the laughter and lively discussion among his fellow officers when relaxing in the mess show the essential humanity of those with whom he shared his experience of war.
This book tells the story of Felix’s war, quoting extensively from the letters, It also gives an account of the huge contribution of his family;s business, Brunner, Mond and Co., to the war effort. When war ended, the Government expressed its thanks to the company as follows:
“We are indebted to your company for the manufacture of the bulk of the largest component of high explosives used by this country in the war”
High Explosive ends witha short summary of Felix’ life after he returned from Flanders in January 1919.