We Are All Flourishing
The Letters and Diary of Captain Walter Coats JJ MC 1914-1919
‘There have been moments during the last week or so when I had grave doubts as to whether I should see tomorrow’.
Compiled from letters home and a diary written in the immediate aftermath of the First World War, We Are All Flourishing is a remarkable and moving first-hand account of one man’s service during 1914-19. Walter Coats was an officer with the 9th Highland Light Infantry, the “Glasgow Highlanders”. Anticipation builds from mobilisation in August 1914, through training in Scotland, up to embarkation for France. Walter describes winter days and nights in the trenches equipped with kilts and ordinary-issue footwear. He takes part in the Battles of Neuve-Chapelle, Loos and Arras, the Third Battle of Ypres and the Somme – notably at High Wood in July 1916, where the Highlanders were almost wiped out, losing over 800 men killed, wounded and missing. In between the fighting, we hear tales of ordinary trench routine, training, sudden movements, billeting expeditions, billets and interactions with the local populace. Walter’s story is also one of amusing anecdotes, descriptions of wartime entertainments and humorous verse that reflects how morale was maintained in times of unrelenting terror and occasional boredom. In 1917, torn between battalion loyalty and a promise to his family to take on ‘safer’ employment, Walter is transferred to 100th Infantry Brigade Staff – his subsequent experience providing rare insights into a staff captain’s life and responsibilities. While Walter’s life was still fraught with personal danger and narrow escapes, his kindness and consideration to officers and men, love of family and dry sense of humour continue to shine through. Walter’s story is compiled and edited by his great-nephew, Jan Chojecki – and co-edited by military historian Michael LoCicero.
Second edition published by Goldcrest Books International, 2022, ISBN 9781913719593
First edition published by Helion & Co, 2016, ISBN 9781911096399 : Out of print
Over 100 illustrations and 9 maps
Foreword by Alexander McCall Smith, CBE, British author: “an astounding and ultimately very moving story.”
Cover based on original paining Across the Field by Kurt Jackson
‘I have no news except that I have been writing a sort of outline of a diary of the war since 1914. So far, I have got the general outline as far as December 1916, and I think with the help of my letters home, I should manage a fairly connected diary.’
Walter Coats, letter from France, 2 May 1919
My great Uncle, Walter Coats, served in the British Army throughout the First World War. He left a large box of letters that he had sent home to his family, plus documents, photographs, maps and other artefacts relating to his experiences at the front. From mobilisation in 1914 with his Territorial battalion, the Glasgow Highlanders, he wrote letters or postcards home almost daily, even from the thick of the action. Their frequency wrote letters or postcards home almost daily, even from the thick of the action. Their frequency suggests that, as well as letting his family know he was safe and a means of preserving his sanity, there was, perhaps, an element of superstition that writing daily would keep him lucky. Straight after the war, Walter wrote a further account that fills out the parts that he could not, because of censorship, include in his letters. He also assembled albums of over 140 photographs purchased from the Imperial War Museum in later 1919.
In 2015, with the series of World War 1 centenaries, I decided that it was time that Walter’s story was told. The first edition of We Are All Flourishing was published by Helion & Co in 2016. In 2022, the second edition is published by Goldcrest Books.
Jan Chojecki, July 2022