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Book club questions for Blood and Bandages – fighting for life in the RAMC Field Ambulance 1940-1946

Hello and welcome to this post.

I was delighted to learn that book clubs are reading Blood and Bandages, so I thought I’d suggest some questions.

Book club questions

  1. What do you think happened to Mary and why?

2. With which character did you most identify and why?

3. Would you have understood William’s story without, or with less, historical context?

4. Williams says (p.118), ‘We were fit young men and we could be killed at any moment so conventional morals were forgotten and we enjoyed what happiness we could whilst we were still alive.’  How far do you think war can excuse immoral, questionable or illegal behaviour?

5.  Which part of the book did you find most dramatic or emotional and why?

6.  What was the most surprising thing you learnt from Blood and Bandages?

7.  William says (p.51) that conscientious objectors tended to be given the dirty jobs like cleaning the latrines. What roles would you have given conscientious objectors if you had been in command of the 214th field ambulance?

8.  William and Mary were parted for three years and their only form of contact was via letters and airgraphs. If you had been in Mary’s shoes, do you think you would have been able to keep your marriage alive all that time

9.  William says (p.146),It was very difficult to adjust to civilian life.’ With what sort of difficulties do you think he had to contend?

 

William loved classical music, so I’ve thrown in a playlist so you can hear what he may have heard whilst serving overseas.

Playlist

After the first deadly battle of Monte Camino, William was offered tickets to see the Force of Destiny at the San Carlo Opera House in Naples. He took Frank and whilst Frank wasn’t too impressed, William was swept up in the music.

Here’s a recording from Force of Destiny in March 1943. At that time, William was heading for the front line at Enfidaville in North Africa.

After Frank’s capture, William teamed up with George Catchpole and the two of them went to see Tosca in the Rome Opera House. That nugget didn’t make it into the book but William recalled seeing Maria Caniglia, Tito Gobbi and Ferruccio Tagliavini.

Tito Gobbi plays Scarpia in Tosca

Maria Caniglia in Tosca (1938)

Ferruccio Tagliavini in Tosca

Besides opera, William loved Beethoven so here’s a sample of some of his most beautiful pieces.

Symphony no. 6 in F major op.68 (‘Pastoral’) Herbert von Karajan conducting the Berlin Philharmoniker

Symphony no. 7 in A major Op. 92 2nd movement Herbert von Karajan conducting the Berlin Philharmoniker

Piano concerto no. 5 in Eb major Op. 73 (‘Emperor’) played by Lang Lang with NDR Sinfonieorchestra conducted by Christoph Eschenbach

Piano sonata no. 14  in C# minor Op. 27 no.2 (‘Moonlight’) played by Daniel Barenboim.

If you think of this music as the soundtrack to Blood and Bandages, it feels like you have opened the door to William’s soul.

104-year-old William still loves classical music and he’s promised to send me his favourite pieces. I’ll add them in when they arrive. In the meantime, let me know how you get on with the questions.

Thanks for dropping bye and see you again soon.

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