Introduction

To mark the approaching centenaries of the Great War, Climb Black Sail for Me captures the essence of pre-war England, the emotions and events of 1914 and the war’s unfolding story, through the life of one man, the poet William Noel Hodgson of the 9th Devons, and the people and places he knew. Based on his unpublished letters, notebooks, and other manuscripts; on the letters and diaries of family and friends; on material in local, institutional and national archives; on oral evidence and visits to the locations described, the story has strong areas of local interest in Cumbria, Northumberland, Gloucestershire, Oxford and Durham School. Its themes of family and growing up, school and friendship, war, grief and remembrance are as powerful and relevant today as they have ever been.