New novel is based on Melton man’s secret First World War diary

The Melton grand-daughter of a man who served on ambulance trains during the First World War has written a novel based on a diary he kept about his experiences of the devastating conflict.

Friday, 8th February 2019, 2:09 pm
Updated Monday, 11th February 2019, 10:05 am
Margaret Hill with her new novel based on the secret WW1 diary of grandfather Leonard Folwell EMN-190802-135325001

Margaret Hill was so moved by the words of Leonard Folwell written just over a century ago that she decided to preserve them for future generations.

The result is Leonard’s War, which is available now on paperback or eBook and includes, at the end, the full transcript from his diary.

She discovered the journal after he died in 1981 aged 85, having never spoken much about his service in the Great War, which began when he went out to the battlefields of France in 1916 as a raw 19-year-old.

Leonard Folwell (second from left), who served in the Great War, pictured with family members EMN-190802-135336001

Leonard, who lived latterly in Abingdon Road in Melton, wrote in his diary about his harrowing work transporting badly wounded servicemen on ambulance trains during the infamous Battle of the Somme and other scenes of intense fighting on the Western Front.

Leonard and his friend, John, who grew up in Woodhouse Eaves, both served in the Royal Army Medical Corps.

Margaret’s story follows them as they trained in a busy field hospital set up on a horse racing course at Rouen.

It brings to life the horrors her grandfather faced as he recovered injured ‘Tommies’ from the trenches, battling through the mud to carry them on stretchers so they could be taken for urgent medical treatment in overcrowded field hospitals away from the front line.

The story also touches on the essential work of the forces padres, who ministered to men who were facing their own death or dealing with the loss of close comrades.

One of them was Woodbine Willie, who would give out New Testaments, as well as woodbine cigarettes, to the grateful troops.

The book costs £10 with £2 from every sale being donated to the local air ambulance charity.

Margaret, who has written the book under her maiden name of Garfoot, will be promoting her book and signing copies tomorrow (Saturday) at Melton’s St Mary’s Church from 10.30am.