July 1, 1914

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Absorbed in Unseen Translations and the Binomial Theorem, eagerly looking forward to seeing Roland once more at Uppingham, and mitigating the interval by a heartless retrospective flirtation with my would-be suitor of the previous summer, I entirely failed to notice in the papers of June 29th an account of the assassination, on the previous morning, of a European potentate whose name was unknown to me, in a Balkan town of which I had never heard.

… I saw Roland … wearing his colour-sergeant’s uniform at the corps review on the Middle Field the next morning…

Some of the masters, perhaps, were more prescient but I do not believe any of the gaily clad visitors who watched the corps carrying out its manoeuvers and afterwards marching so impressively into the Chapel for the Speech Day service, realised how close at hand was the fate for which it had prepared itself, or how many of those deep and strangely thrilling boys’ voices were to be silent in death before another Speech Day. Looking back upon those three radiant days of July 1914, it seems to me that an ominous stillness, an atmosphere of brooding expectation, must surely have hung about the sunlit flower gardens and the shining green fields. But actually I noticed nothing more serious than the deliberate solemnity of the headmaster’s speech at the prize-givng after the service.

Vera Brittain, Testament of Youth, pp. 85-87


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Les Modes (Paris), July 1914
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