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If You're Reading This (Hardback)

Last Letters from the Front Line

Military > Frontline Books Military > Post-WWII Warfare > Afghanistan War Military > Pre-WWI > Napoleonic WWI WWII

By Siân Price
Frontline Books
Pages: 288
ISBN: 9781848326101
Published: 12th December 2011



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' . . . tales of love and heroism from conflicts such as the Napoleonic Wars and Afghanistan today' The Mirror

'The poignant farewells encapsulate the final words of servicemen to their loved ones before they were killed in action.' The Telegraph

In this profoundly moving collection of 'farewell letters', Siân Price offers a remarkable insight into the hearts and minds of some of the soldiers, sailors and airmen of the past 300 years.

Each letter provides an enduring snapshot of an impossible moment – when an individual stares death squarely in the face. Many were written on the eve of a great charge or battle; others were written by soldiers who experienced premonitions of their death, or by kamikaze pilots and condemned prisoners. They write of the grim realities of battle, of daily hardships, of unquestioning patriotism or bitter regrets, of religious fervour or political disillusionment, of unrelenting optimism or sinking morale – but above all, they write of their love for their family and the desire to return to them one day.

Be it an epitaph dictated on a Napoleonic battlefield, a staunch, unsentimental letter written by a Victorian officer, or an email from a soldier in modern day Afghanistan, these voices speak eloquently and forcefully of the tragedy of war and answer that fundamental human need to say goodbye.

As featured in The Courier.

The Courier

Sian Price...has produced her first book which is a collection of around 60 letters written from soldiers to their loved ones. The letters are from nine different conflicts from the Napoleonic wars to modern wars including the Falkland conflict and Afghanistan. Miss Price, a TV producer, spent three years researching through archives and military diaries to produce the book. Some of the letters were written or dictated as the person lay dying while others have never been sent.

South Wales Argus

If You're Reading This... is a poignant book that brings the harsh life of being in the front line to life, and as a read it makes you think of how easily we forget to thank those men for their service. This is one of the most touching, at times heartbreaking, books I have read in a long time.

Paul Diggett, Amazon reviewer

As seen in Central Fife Times and Advertiser.

Central Fife Times and Advertiser

As seen in the Blackpool Gazette.

Blackpool Gazette

An insight into the hearts and minds of soldiers over the past 300 years.

Hereford Times

An aspect of war never fully looked at before, the farewell letter writing by troops is fascinatingly and moving explored by Sian Price.

Northern Echo

This book is a collection of some of the most moving letters that personnel have penned during times of conflict - from the Napoleonic wars to Iraq and Afghanistan - and reveal the emotional impact that warfare has on both those on the front line and those left at home. Although not all the writers of the farewell letters feature in this book made the ultimate sacrifice, each letter has a poignant tale to tell.


This a social commentary which fits in with the training of the modern officer. A broad description of each war into sections in offered. Hence the letters range "from hauntingly and desperately sad to the rip-roaring comedic or angrily polemic'. Some are very articulate. Overall, a worthy examination of a facet of military action whose emotional content I can see appealing more to women as mothers, wives and lovers.

Mars and Clio

To Siân Price, author of If You’re Reading This, the subtle changes in men’s motivation for going to war — from “hearth, home and mother” in the 18th century to “just doing a job” in the 21st — account for much of the changing style and content, over the centuries, of their last letters from the front line: those dread missives written to be opened in the event of their deaths.
But, whatever the motivation, whatever the different grim realities of the different wars, one thing that shines out from so many of the letters that Price quotes from, or reproduces in their entirety, is a striking uniformity of sentiment and eloquence across the decades — and, astonishingly, two of the most uniformly poignant of all the letters she includes were written nearly a century and a half apart, in 1861 and 2003.

The Times

With tales of love and heroism from conflics such as the Napoleonic Wars and Afghanistan today, they were collected by an historian who spent three years reading 30,000 of them.

The Mirror

The poignant farewells encapsulate the final words of servicement to their loved ones before they were killed in action.

The Telegraph



The letters are so redolent of the times in which they were written.

Yorkshire Post

Some books linger in your thoughts long after you have finished reading them. This is certainly one of the most moving and emotive books I have ever read. This is a book that deserves the widest readership. In an age when huge demands are placed on the armed forces, often with relatively little return, this book is a timely reminder of the tremendous sacrifices made by fighting men and women of all countries in all ages.

Military History Monthly

The final letter from a Second World War pilot from Chester has been published in a history book.

Chester Chronicle

Farewell letters from servicemen who never made it home have been unearthed to form part of a poignant book by historian Sian Price.
The never-before-published final notes of seventy soldiers span 300 years, from the Napoleonic Wars to present day conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Expressions of love and the need to say goodbye unite the words from these fallen heroes who hoped their messages would never need to be read.

Western Daily Press

A new book offers a moving insight into the minds of Lancashire soldiers facing fear and hardship in war zones.

Lancashire Evening Post

A tear-jerking book had just been published which includes letters to loved ones from serving members of the armed forces.

Leighton Buzzard

They are among the most moving testaments of war and provide a compelling insight to a soldier's mind-set as they head into danger.

Nottingham Evening Post

Heart-rendering accounts of war-torn history are revealed in letters penned by a teenage soldier to his mother just hours before he was killed.

Journal Live, North East

Book of the month.

Britain at War

For author Sian Price is has been an emotional journey, delving into the lives of men who wrote these very personal goodbyes.

Daily Record

A new book features poignant letters written to his family just weeks before he was killed on the frontline.

Shropshire Star

A very moving book..

Sydney Dail Telegraph

..touching collection.

Daily Mail

A poignant and sometimes heartbreaking book.

The Sun

A Gwent TV producer has published a new book looking back over 300 years of soldiers' farewell letters. Where possible, Miss Price also spoke to the families of fallen soldiers about their reaction to their final letters.

South Wales Argus

The moving final letters home of a Rainow soldier killed in combat feature in a new book.

Macclesfield Express & Tameside Advertiser

The moving final letters home of two Manchester soldiers killed in combat feature in a new book which captures the true horror of war and offers a glimpse into the mindset of soldiers.

Manchester Evening News

An emotional course through farewell letters from the Napoleonic Wars to Afghanistan.

Western Mail

About Siân Price

Siân Price is an award-winning television and radio producer whose credits include Time Team and Coal House. She has a BA in History from Warwick University and an MA in Film Archiving from the University of East Anglia. This is her first book. The Radio 4 documentary from which the book has grown won a New York World Radio Award for History.

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