2014 marked the 100th anniversary of the First World War. Now BBC has collected over 1400 stories and pictures to describe what the United Kingdom's home front really looked like during those long 40 years.
Last year marked the 100th anniversary of the Great War, the first time world powers aligned against one another on a large scale. Alliances switched and many citizens joined to fight against the other side. But it wasn’t just soldiers who joined the fight. The BBC’s World War One At Home aims to include lost stories along the way—in part by using digital media to let readers discover the information.
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A continuation of the BBC production from 2014, the book looks at a few of the many stories collected by the network, including the formats offered by radio and television stations and online. Initially, 223 stories were published from local, national, and international families and museums. The numbers have dramatically risen since February of last year.
“First-hand accounts, and tales of life on the home front” allows the BBC “to illustrate these stories in such an accessible and vivid way,” says Executive Editor Craig Henderson. With over 1,400 stories and photographs, the 112-page book offers a broader perspective of the British home front during WWI. Like the original collection, themes dominate the format.
Downton Abbey may not be a true story, but aristocratic families joined the fight by turning their stately homes into make-shift shelters for wounded soldiers. Highclere Castle, location set for the BBC drama, became such a place with Lady Carnarvon in charge of saving life, limb, and sanity of soldiers in need. Family homes transformed in the war effort as women took on new roles in trying times.
Six months training before being sent to the battle lines didn’t guarantee a safe return, either. Hallowed and haunted whispers of the ‘The Immortal Seventh’ inspired discretion when sending in troops. The 7th Division’s previous battles throughout the empire didn’t save their lives. With less than a month’s training, the unit lost over half the men in under a month in field.
As Britain battled and lost soldiers, a push for enlistment started. More lives would be lost by the end of the war. Chemical weaponry like mustard gas and chlorine on the fields turned fatal. The junior officers were only expected to live for six weeks once they had left the British soil. There would be no saving grace of a family willing to be anything and everything possible to keep the soldiers alive when so far away from home.
Lessons on international affairs and relations worked no miracles in the trenches.
Even animals earn a spot in the war effort. An entire chapter discusses how animals created a stronger war effort for Britain. Easy to see how a horse would be helpful in carrying supplies and soldiers to battle, but did you know that elephants and sea lions played a strong role?
Or that the British military requisitioned 25,000 horses from the private sphere? Long before farmers and business people could afford cars, horses were vital in transferring products and planting crops. Imagine the blow on the home front. Losing the labor killed a business’s future.
At Home mentions the Weymouth family, where the war sent the patriarch to war and left Alice, the matriarch, to run the family pub. When Edward shipped off, the business ended up without a strong laborer on hand and labor didn’t just mean human form.
Not only did The Marquis of Worcester function as a pub and bakery, but also as a stable. Without horses, the stables became moot and a large portion of the family’s income disappeared. It’s hard to carry products like bread and across distances on foot. Not to mention that without travelers, income is limited to just St. George and surrounding area's townspeople.
In a fit of justifiable anger, Alice threw the 40 gold sovereigns aside and declared the ‘blood money’ to be worthless. How many people other than World War I academics or scholars would know about the gutsy woman standing up to the British army in any capacity without the book? Probably very few.
War stories aren’t always positive but sometimes the most unexpected heroes can be overlooked.
How many people know that many women worked in shelling factories, loading the ammunition for military men to shoot and defend their home country? Just two million rounds ended up on the front line by April 1915, not enough to help soldiers survive. Added to the lack of ammunition for victory was the simple fact the rounds weren’t always firing as needed. So the government stepped in and by the end of the war in 1918 over 187 million rounds ended up in the battlefield.
It’s not just Rosie the Riveter who helped men fight.
Women unexpectedly wore “boiler pants,” a rare sight in the prewar modest society. But skirts were dangerous in factories filled with machinery and live rounds. And making up one-third of the new workforce—nearly 27,000 women—meant new opportunities in the age of commercialism. During the Interwar Era, women would use their new found job market and salaries to buy consumer products. World War I set up the consumerism still used in most societies today.
In 2011, the BBC noted that the rise of employment opportunities outside domestic services meant more disposable income. Middle class stay-at-home wives enjoyed new commercial conveniences like dishwashers and electric ovens. The timing is important as later, in the 1950s, television helped shape pop culture and TV dinners meant no longer eating around a table.
The Economist noted in one article that the decrying motions of life without home-cooked meals harken back to the 1845 by Frederick Engels, co-founder of the Marxist theory. It's not a new force, but an increased push that means women are no longer the sole source of food in a processed food world. But who has time in the modern age to do everything with a limited 24-hours a day?
Joining the workforce in mass meant a change in culture. Women were and are a driving force in the global market.
Even though the interactive e-book World War One At Home is only available to iPad, Android, and Kindle Fire users, there is a pdf format for those outside the UK or without a tablet-style device.
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Take a walk through what the United Kingdom contributed over a hundred years ago. And why the knowledge still matters today. Pictures range from propaganda posters to family and coworkers, including rarities such as potato farmers to estate-turned-hospitals.