Ronald Skirth was born in 1897. When he left home to fight in the First World War he was nineteen years old. He served on the Western and Italian fronts, returning home in 1919 after the war had ended. He married his teenage sweetheart Ella in 1924 and their daughter Jean was born five years later. Skirth worked as a teacher until his retirement in 1958 and in 1971 set to work on what was intended to be a brief account of his early romance with Ella, their separation by war and their reunion two years later. In the intervening fifty-three years he had never spoken of his war experiences and as he wrote they soon began to get the better of him. He filled hundreds of pages with his handwritten account, plus the postcards, letters and documents which he had kept for more than half a century. The resulting memoir, on which The Reluctant Tommy, published by Macmillan in 2010, is based, was donated to the Imperial War Museum by his daughter Jean after his death in 1977.