Letters Home - A National Servicemans Sketchbook

National Service
ISBN 1-84683-072-9
    Delivery time:5-7 Days
Add to cart
  • Description
  • More

By Edmund Hodges
A talented artist on National Service in Egypt and Cyprus 1955/56 illustrates his letters home with paintings and sketches.

  • 205 x 140 mm (landscape format)
  • 118 pages
  • many illustrations in b/w and full colour

In common with all young British men of the 1950s, Edmund Hodges was called up to serve an obligatory two years in the armed forces as a National Serviceman.

He joined the Army and was trained as a teleprinter operator, after which he was posted abroad, first to the Suez Canal Zone in Egypt and later to Episkopi in Cyprus.

His letters home to his parents, expressing his puzzlement and frustration at the often nonsensical activities of the armed forces and his impressions of the foreign countries in which he found himself a temporary resident, are certain in themselves to bring back many memories for any former serviceman, his experiences having been typical of those shared by thousands of other conscripts.

But Edmund also had a special talent.  As a gifted artist he was able to record his experiences in pictorial form and his many pencil sketches and watercolours make this a unique book that captures in vivid images as well as words the atmosphere of the tented encampments in which Edmund and his fellow National Servicemen spent their years in uniform.

Anyone who served either in Egypt or Cyprus during the 1950s will find this a uniquely nostalgic book.

A sample of the illustrations can be seen below.

army tent illustration

Author's tent at Fayid Camp Egypt 1955.

Episkopi Cyprus 1956

Episkopi Cyprus 1956.

Houses seen from Fayid Camp Egypt 1955

Local houses seen from Fayid Camp, Egypt 1955.

23051232 Signalman Hodges, E.J. was three years older than most of his Call-up Group, 54-14, having been deferred to complete his Art studies for N.D.D. in Sculpture and Lettercutting.

He declined the offer of Officer Training and, after Basic and Teleprinter Training, was shipped out to Egypt and Cyprus where he served in 1955/6. The British Army was about to pull out of the Suez Canal Zone, the Suez War came two years later, and EOKA, under Colonel Grivas, was making life difficult in Cyprus.

He carried his Pay Book and a pocket sketchbook at all times and with his drawings, watercolour sketches and word pictures he fought against the “creative constipation” induced by Army life. Visually excited by new surroundings, and wishing to express and share this, he wrote long letters home, illustrated by many sketches, and these letters were kept by his parents. 

Over fifty years later, these jottings evoke a picture of experiences which would be impossible today due to wars and political developments, not to mention the advances in military communication and living conditions. They are the reactions and observations of a young man adjusting to an alien way of life, resigned to the compulsory military interruption of his studies, somewhat contemptuous of military thinking, but making the best of the situation.

Accompanied by a selection of colour paintings from his sketchbooks, they provide a unique insight into the experiences shared by thousands of National Servicemen conscripted into the UK armed forces of the 1950s.