The Great War seen by the British Civilians (LS-FR-25)

Letters: a testimony of British Civilians history during WW1

Soldiers who fought on the front line during the First World War wrote dozens of letters to their families, relatives or friends. These letters are incredible sources to study the history of the First World War using the point of view of the people who directly experienced the incredible violence of the conflict, by facing the enemy in the trenches.

Women in the first World War

Soldiers were not alone on the battlefields. Indeed, the staff was also present on the field to carry out the military operations. Less noticed by the public is the role of women on the front during the First World War. Of course, we know well the role of the women who were involved backstage to produce weapons, usually called “the Munitionettes”. However, the role of nurses involved on the front line is less known whereas they were very important taking care of the soldiers who were exposed to the worst violence ever.

Using Europeana to connect with the past

Europeana is a valuable resource to commit students to study these topics. It gives us access to published or manuscript letters by soldiers. And also, via the « Women in the First World War » collection, to documents about the VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment) and to portfolios focusing on individual nurses portraits.

From one side, the letters of Arthur Ramsay Stanley-Clarke, a British lieutenant who was among the first soldiers to go to the front in Ypres, Belgium, are very interesting to underline the feeling of a soldier who didn’t expect what he was going to live on the Western front. These letters show the different steps of the war lived by the soldiers. Besides, they show how the conflict went deeper and deeper. The case of the three nurses from the VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment), Nancy Garnett, Ella Brigid McCarthy and Georgina May Hill, is very interesting too. These women were involved in the conflict by taking care of the soldiers and by facing the violence of the battles rescuing the soldiers injured. These nurses looked after the soldiers by wounding them after the conflict, as Georgina May Hill did. Ella Brigid Mc Carthy served on the Eastern Front, especially during the Dardanelles Battle.

The importance of memories

The letters, memories or items they allow us to immerse ourselves in the daily life of these people who were facing violence all day long. By working on what they left, we can pay tribute to their involvement during the war.

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CC BY-SA 3.0 – The featured image used to illustrate this article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike. It is attributed to The New Cavendish Club for the Europeana 1914-1918 Collection. To find the original image click here.

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