top of page

The Empty Greatcoat


When Francis House enlists in the British Army in 1907, at the tender age of fifteen years and three months, he is not thinking about war.

He imagines he simply wants to earn his stripes - to ease his traumatised father's Boer War memories, or perhaps to please his favourite sister, Lily, with whom he has always dreamt of adventure. But he soon discovers that simply becoming a soldier is not enought and, against the advice of his sergeant, he detemines to seek out a real fight.

Wading ashore at Gallipoli seven years later, Francis thinks he might just have found the site of his greatest opportunity. He is frightened. But he is also brimming with anticipation. Here, he thinks, he might finally prove himself a man.

First, though, he must find his missing friend Berto. He needs to say sorry. He cannot yet imagine the ghosts that might stand in his way.

Based on the journal of Francis Albert House, the author's great great uncle.




'Phenomenal. An utterly extraordinary, visceral and powerful book. Effortlessly weaves ideas around storytelling and the power of imagination into a heart-felt, heart-breaking tale of loss, love, friendship and the devastating effects of war. One of the most exquisite, raw and outstanding books I have ever read.'
Liz Hyder, author of Bearmouth and The Gifts

‘This is a remarkable book.  Rebecca F. John recreates the entirely convincing experience of a British soldier in the disastrous Gallipoli campaign. She evokes both the time and the place wonderfully in a narrative voice infused with Welsh sensitivity to language.  And we are constantly aware of the sea whose marvellously observed presence is there from the beginning of the book to its end.’
Alix Nathan, author of The Warlow Experiment and Sea Change




bottom of page