I had never felt the impact of the First World War so keenly as when I first read Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth. Learning of the devastating impact of the war from the perspective of this young woman brought it home to me in a way more relevant and real than the intensely horrific descriptions of the soldier poets. I discovered Vera Brittain as a young woman myself, at a time when I was trying to find my own way in the world. Reading her experience enabled me to place myself in her shoes and to fully comprehend how grateful my generation should be that we do not have to endure suffering on the same scale.
Aged 18 when the war was declared, Vera became a VAD nurse and in the subsequent four years not only worked under terrifying conditions, but lost her brother, her best friend and the man she loved. She came back to a world changed forever and found the strength to continue her life. Whilst suffering from shell shock, she fought for women’s rights and her right to an education, agitated against war, found love again, and wrote her testimony so that people like me could try to understand. I remember Vera at times when I don’t feel strong, and it is her perseverance to live and love that inspires me.