Valhalla

Identifier: 2014026 VALHALLA

In Norse mythology, Valhalla (from Old Norse Valhöll “hall of the slain”) is a majestic, enormous hall located in Asgard, ruled over by the god Odin. Chosen by Odin, half of those who die in combat travel to Valhalla upon death, led by valkyries, while the other half go to the goddess Freyja’s field Fólkvangr. In Valhalla, the dead join the masses of those who have died in combat known as Einherjar, as well as various legendary Germanic heroes and kings, as they prepare to aid Odin during the events of Ragnarök. Before the hall stands the golden tree Glasir, and the hall’s ceiling is thatched with golden shields. [Wikipedia]

For what seemed like every day of his life, my maternal grandfather Harry sang, whistled, or hummed ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’, with an occasional ‘Pack Up Your Troubles’ by way of a change. For seventeen of his retirement years I lived in the same house, and he sometimes told stories of his time in the trenches during the First World War, rolling up his trouser leg to show the bullet scar that got him sent back to Blighty. His brother Eddie wasn’t so lucky, and never came home. Harry had to tell Eddie’s fiancée Lil the bad news. Eventually he married her – but of course, could never be as fine a husband as Eddie would have been. Such are the effects of war, effects that echo down through generations.

Having watched the BBC’s The Great War: The People’s Story this weekend, I picked up the next book on my pile of items to write about for this website, and it was an original copy of:

The Road to Valhalla, by Walter Ibbotson Hulme

Privately published. Manchester: Jesse Broad & Company, 1918. Size: 135mm x 215mm. 64 pages.

Original edition, this example offered for sale

A new edition was published in 2012, with the title Valhalla : ‘D’ Company 2/6th Manchesters, 1914-1918, Edited by Robert A Bonner of the Museum of the Manchester Regiment.

The publisher’s blurb tells us:

“In retirement Walter Hulme lived in Groby Road, Altrincham and published this poignant little book describing his life in the 2/6th – for private circulation amongst friends and comrades from the war. He wrote it during his five months on active service from August 1917 until his evacuation to England on 1 January 1918. It covers the period of battle from his arrival in the Fricourt/Montauban area and reflects a soldier’s view of the battles around Trones Wood and Mametz. He was wounded at Beaumont Hamel in October 1917.”

‘It is useless to describe the feelings as one lies gazing through the open curtain of a motor ambulance and watches the country slipping past. The mist that has hung about since early morning is growing still more dense, the wheels tear their way through the everlasting mud, and the dismal zone of battle falls gradually behind. The booming of guns and the bursting of shells grow less and less violent, the din of traffic, the many pictures of war, become somewhat subdued, and, presently, coming to a standstill, we are carried, tired yet thankful, to a peace that we have not known for many, many months.’

There is only one copy of the original in WorldCat, which is in the British Library. At the time of writing, there is one copy on Abe Books.

The example offered here is in generally good condition. The card covers are stained and discoloured with edgewear and small tears. Internally, the uncut pages are yellowed and sporadically foxed, and the edges toned. Stains to two or three pages.

[click to read]

Includes 2 unsigned, duplicated typewritten letters (and a second copy of one of the letters) on tracing paper. These comprise explanatory notes regarding the publication, and help in further distribution, as shown.

The book and letters are now protected in a pouch in a hardback cover, in black bookcloth.

Price: £65.00 plus postage. Contact: s-herbert@easynet.co.uk

One day soon I’ll research Harry and Eddie and find out more about their stories, and pass on what I find to my own grandson, before the long commemoration of what must have seemed like an endless War is over.

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