Unlike those on the front line, little has been written about soldiers’ loved ones left behind – and even in what’s recorded, there are big gaps.
These are gaps archivist Sarah Charlton is trying to fill for a major commemoration project about the home front in Bucks, availabel for schools in the summer term.
She said: “The Great War reached into people’s lives like no war before. From schoolchildren to old women, from farmers to factory workers, everyone’s lives were touched and they were expected to use their skills for the war effort.”
“But we know very little about what went on back on the home front in Buckinghamshire while the men fought in the front line trenches. And this is where I’d like some help from residents whose families have a long history in the county.”
Sarah has focused on researching just a few Buckinghamshire residents, including a teenage girl and an agricultural auctioneer in his 40s.
Swanborne teenager Florence Fremantle, whose brother Halford was killed fighting in France, joined the Women’s Land Army, and Sarah says the archives are fortunate to have a number of colourful and descriptive letters she wrote about her experiences.
However, for Winslow auctioneer Sidney Wigley the background is sketchy.
“We know Sidney attended Winslow Congregational Church, and looked after the family business while his brother went to war, and there are records of his position with the wartime agricultural committee,” said Sarah.
But she said the archives are starved of the kind of local personal recollections of him and his family that colour and enrich social historical commentary.
And while there is one file photograph of Sidney auctioning sheep, Sarah is keen to locate other photographs.
“These are what will really bring the Home Front to life for school pupils who take on this project,” said Sarah.
Martin Phillips, cabinet member for community engagement, said Sarah’s research was vital to make the First World War social history accessible to today’s young people.
“The direct memories of the Great War have slipped away with the passing of that generation,” he said. “Now we’re beginning to lose the generation who can recall their grandparents’ experience of it. Soon, they’ll be gone and it will be as distant an historical event as medieval times.”
Sarah’s basic schools project information is available free on the County Council website at http://tinyurl.com/nlurwtk
but she is hoping it will be brought to life in her companion CD, The Home Front in World War 1, with research on the lives of people supporting the war effort back home. At £10 the CD is available via [email protected]