This book was created almost a decade ago as part of an oral history project in Britain to interview the remaining survivors - soldiers and civilians alike - who lived through the First World War. Many of these people were well into their 90s and a few were older than 100. Their stories described a Britain which went through wrenching, profound changes in terms of its economy, attitudes, social mores, and daily life.
Through reading this book, it became painfully clear that not a city or village in Britain was left untouched by the war. People went hungry. Some died from malnutrition. Women (as well as children) contributed in a big way to the war effort by working in munition factories and in the countryside, planting and harvesting crops to help offset the effects of the U-Boat blockade, which nearly strangled Britain in 1917.
The following statement by Emily Galbraith, whose brother Peter was killed during the Somme battles in 1916, speaks volumes as to the war's lingering effects on people who lived through and after it:
`My father wrote every week to the War Office to know what had happened and all we heard was that he had been at a place called High Wood, but what happened we never knew.
`After the war, a memorial at Hornchurch was dedicated to local men who'd died, including Peter's name. And we discovered a young man used to go on every anniversary of my brother's death and lay flowers on the memorial. We never knew the reason. Anyway, in the 1930s, after my parents were dead, this boy's mother and sister asked me to their house at Manor Park in London. While I was there I decided to visit the memorial at Hornchurch, which was some twelve miles away. I had my dog with me and thought I would take him for a walk, and the man insisted that he walked with me all twelve miles --- he said he would go by bus on the way back but we never did.
`We walked twelve miles to put flowers on the memorial and then walked eleven and a half miles back before he said anything about my brother. My brother had been killed helping someone else --- him. A machine gun had started firing and Peter and three friends were in a bunch together. They all got into shell holes, and this man in the shell hole on Peter's right went into a panic. He screamed for my brother to come and my brother got out of his safe shell hole to help but as he did so a sniper shot my brother and he fell, dead.
`How could I react to this revelation? I just took it calmly, you couldn't alter anything.'