John Keegan had rare gift, remembers Irish Times

Historians in the News

JOHN KEEGAN: SIR JOHN Keegan, who has died aged 78, possessed a rare ability to describe warfare from the standpoint of the frontline soldier. For this he depended in great part on imagination, since poor health prevented him from wearing a uniform.

It was only in 1984 that he acquired a close-up view of battle (in the Lebanese civil war), which he described as physically disgusting and very frightening.

His third book, The Face of Battle (1976), made his name as a fine writer and is still widely regarded as his best despite more than 20 other works.

Keegan was five when the second World War broke out. His father came from an Irish Catholic family and had served in the first World War, but when the second came, he was a schools inspector, taking responsibility for the welfare of hundreds of evacuees. So, in 1939, the family left Clapham, in London, where Keegan was born, for Somerset, southwest England....

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