Imperial War Museums to publish Wartime Classics series

Imperial War Museums to publish Wartime Classics series

Imperial War Museums (IWM) will publish a new classic fiction series this September to mark the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War.

The IWM mined its own archives to track down the novels in the Imperial War Museums Wartime Classics series.

Originally published to considerable acclaim, the four launch titles were written either during or just after the Second World War, and have a wartime setting.  

Described by Antony Beevor as “undoubtedly one of the very greatest British novels of the Second World War” From the City, From the Plough by Alexander Baron is a “vivid and moving” account of preparations for D-Day and the advance into Normandy based on the author’s first-hand experience of D-Day. Baron was a widely acclaimed author and screenwriter and his London novels are said to have a wide following. From the City, From the Plough was Baron's debut. 

Meanwhile Eight Hours from England by Anthony Quayle is a candid account of SOE operations in occupied Europe from the renowned Shakespearean actor, director and film star, based on his own experiences as a Special Operations Executive behind enemy lines in Albania.  

Trial by Battle by David Piper is a “quietly shattering and searingly authentic” depiction of the claustrophobia of jungle warfare in Malaya described by V S Naipaul as “one of the most absorbing and painful books about jungle warfare that I have read”. Piper was best known as director of the National Portrait Gallery, the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. The novel is based on his time serving with the Indian Army in Malaya where he was captured by the Japanese and spent three years as a POW.  

Murder mystery Plenty Under the Counter by Kathleen Hewitt is set against the backdrop of London during the Blitz. Hewitt was a British author and playwright who wrote more than 20 novels in her lifetime.  She was part of an artistic set in 1930’s London which included Dylan Thomas and Jacob Epstein. 

IWM said: “Each novel is written directly from the author’s own experience and takes the reader right into the heart of the conflict. They all capture the awful absurdity of war and the trauma and chaos of battle as well as some of the fierce loyalties and black humour that can emerge in extraordinary circumstances.  Living through a time of great upheaval, as we are today, each wartime story brings the reality of war alive in a vivid and profoundly moving way and is a timely reminder of what the previous generations experienced.”

Alan Jeffreys, senior curator for the Second World War at Imperial War Museums, who found the four novels in the IWM library, has written an introduction to each book that sets them in context and gives the wider historical background. 

The series will be published on Thursday 26th September 2019, with each paperback book priced at £8.99.