A Broken World : Letters, Diaries and Memories of the Great War

Much has been written about the First World War and yet, such was the scale of the conflict that still, a century later, unique stories and experiences continue to be discovered. Published to mark the Centenary of the outbreak of War, this latest anthology provides us with a diverse selection of letters, diaries and memoirs by writers from a variety of countries. Many of these writers have not been published before and have been selected to allow us new insights into this conflict. There is a greater concentration on the impact of the War and its side-effects, rather than the fighting itself, although the experience of the trenches and battle is not ignored.

Some of the most moving excerpts, for me, are in the final section of the anthology and relate to the absences felt at the end of the War. The responses of families to the Imperial War Museum’s request in 1917 for photos of Officers and, subsequently, all members of the Armed Forces, who had been lost, are difficult to read. Mrs S. E. Chessum goes from having eight children sitting around the kitchen table to just her alone. She also writes movingly about sending seeds to the Front, so that another soldier may be cheered by the sight of flowers growing.

In another excerpt, during the two-minute silence of the Armistice, a war widow thinks of selling her husband’s medals to buy shoes for her daughter. One writer, Arthur Mee, describes the “Thankful Villages” from which all of the men who went to fight returned. R. E. Roller creates a unique gift for his uncle of framed railway tickets obtained in Ypres Station whilst it was under bombardment.

Over the next few years, it is expected that there will be a great deal more published about the First World War. It will be analysed and discussed in great depth. It is, perhaps, the more personal stories however, that give us the greatest understanding of just what happened over those four years of “The War to End all Wars” and the impact felt by those who lived through it and had to live on after.

You can find further details of A Broken World on our Main Catalogue.