'A County at War'

'A County at War'

          Within this book :-

The book is an attempt to capture a little of the impact of the First World War or Great War, as it became known at the time, on Berkshire and its citizens, those who served in the military and others who remained civilians - both had life changing experiences.

The above traces the transformation of the euphoric bellicose excitement of the summer and autumn of 1914 to the later years of 'war weariness' as the casualties were reported and the wounded appeared on the streets of Berkshire.  Although comparatively safe, the civilian population mourned the loss of loved ones and endured deprivations of food and fuel while simultaneously being continually exhorted, sometimes berated, to support the war efforts as dictated by the stern edicts of 'she who must be obeyed'.  The stern mistress was DORA (Defence of the Realm Act) who wielded seemingly unlimited powers regarding matters of daily living.

The pages also record the loss, some multiple, suffered by so many Berkshire families.  It is impossible to imagine or convey the grief suffered by Mr and Mrs Cook, Chapel Street, Thatcham who in August 1918 heard that they had lost a third son in action and a further two were still serving at this time.  Such a catalogue of family sacrifice seemed unending when one reads that Mr and Mrs Painter of Brightwalton had eight sons serving and that their second son was killed in France in 1918.

The cost to small village communities was tragic, 51 men and 1 woman, 20 per cent of the population of East Woodhay and Woolton Hill did not return, the 14 men of Eastbury who lost their lives in action would have been mourned in a number of families in this village of less than 300 people and 217 were missing from the streets of Wokingham.

There are records of heroism, many performed by men with no previous experience of service life unable to have rehearsed or have nightmarishly imagined the horrors that they were to face.  Life in the generally peaceful Berkshire countryside could not have prepared them for night-time wiring parties, trench raids, gas attacks, heavy artillery bombardments, the fear of the unexpected explosions from enemy mines laid under their feet in a far from comfortable trench nor the order as the whistle blew to go 'over the top' into the killing fields of 'No Man's Land'.

There is a reminder that there were theatres of war outside the Western Front - Gallipoli, Palestine (The Berkshire Yeomanry saw service in all these areas), Salonika, Africa and, closer to home, Ireland.

It is hoped that the book will go some way to portraying a little of the life changing experiences that civilians and service personnel alike underwent during the years of the Great War even should such be 'outside the power of language'.

It contains 172 pages with over 40 photographs and illustrations - available through John Trigg or the Woolhampton Village Shop.

click here to see some examples

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