Mrs Christmas gave me a beautifully presented and sadly evocative book; Paola De Pietri’s To Face. In August 1980, whilst teaching English to a young Italian student at Cortina d’Ampezzo in the Dolomites, I first came across some of the vestiges of one of the most extraordinary theatres of the First World War. This particular part of that attrocious conflict, evocatively analysed and described in Mark Thompson’s The White War; Life and Death on the Italian Front, 1915-1918, took place at altitude and in the winter. Where the fashionable now ski, men once fought, starved, froze and died. In 1980, somewhere near the Ra Valles Refuge (at 2,500 metres altitude) we could see spread out on a rocky mountain slope the remains of a military encampment, including broken wagon wheels and barrels and mountains of rusting tin cans. How could men live, let alone fight, in such conditions? De Pietri did not get up to Ra Valles, but she did go up into the Alps, the Pre-Alps and the Carso (the equivalent in significance to the Italians of the Somme to the British or Verdun to the French), in winter and in summer, and she photographed what she saw. In her own words; ‘I explored the places that witnessed history, searching for the thin thread of memory, the final defence of a past … before it enters oblivion. …the landscapes which appear to be natural are in fact the result of the battles fought and the daily lives lived, for years, by hundreds of thousands of soldiers.’ Her photographs ‘…trace the gradual disintegration of the signs left by the events of war and their reabsorption into the natural environment..’ De Pietri’s beautiful book is a monument to man’s folly and his fortitude and the inevitability of obliteration.