Dorothy Peel was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1918 by the Ministry of Food to recognize her creation of wartime recipes for householders. Peel’s great granddaughter wrote this book after finding Granny Dot’s cookery book on an attic shelf. Straker assembled more than 150 pages of recipes supported by color photographs and a table of measurement conversions. There is also a table that shows the compulsory ration amounts that helped cooks prepare pre-war recipes using the 1918 authorized quantities.
By 1917, Peel had a reputation for her domestic and culinary writing. The Ministry of Food contacted her to help in their task of insuring successful allocation and use of rations during the war. Using her contacts she insured nutritional content was maintained in her recipes during the rationing.
Peel wrote: “I did think that it was worthwhile to try to do what I was given a chance to do, to find … that those who do make the most mistakes! Still, if one is frightened of failing one is not likely to succeed.”
This reviewer has read a number of histories of the home fronts of Britain, the U.S., and France, and this oral history is by far the most fascinating. Authors van Emden and Humphries conducted about a hundred interviews from the late 1990s until the early 2000s with people who had grown up in Britain during the war. This rich trove of experience forms the core of the book, but the authors supplemented it with letters, diaries, and earlier recorded interviews. The chapters are a harmonious blend of distinct topics and a chronological approach. The oral histories bring alive such diverse topics as the shelling of East Coast cities by the German Navy, hunger and poverty, the poor treatment of people of German descent, the Zeppelin and airplane raids on Britain, the care of the wounded, the experiences of munitions workers, etc. The chapter “It is my painful duty…”, where the interviewees recount how they were notified of the deaths of their fathers or older brothers, is absolutely heart-wrenching to read.
This is a story about the home front from the perspective of children and teenagers, and a story primarily told by women. This reviewer did not find either of these demographic situations to be a weakness of this book. These oral histories are powerful enough to stand on their own, in addition to the fact that the interviewees often also recounted their parents’ perspectives on these events. If you’re going to buy only one book on the British home front, it should be this one.
Reviewed by Steve Suddaby, past president of WW1HA who In the 1990s interviewed about 40 people who had lived through the Zeppelin raids on Hull, England.
This is a wonderful book, filled with new or rarely-before-seen sepia-tinted photographs, many from the soldiers’ own private collections. These images are linked to appropriate text such as these observations on the first day by Rifleman Giles Eyre of the 2nd Kings Rifle Corps:
“We are now scrambling over what must have been the British front line trenches, a maze of humps and hillocks, half-filled-in ditches, mounds of faded and burst sandbags, barbed wire clumps sticking out here and there, shell holes, smashed trench boards and a litter of rusty tins, pieces of equipment, broken rifles and goodness knows what else.” Eyre continues: “We strike out into what was once no-man’s-land, … Here all the casualties have not been gathered in yet, and horrible-looking bundles of khaki, once men, still lie in shell holes.”
Van Emden is not trying to write a study of the Somme campaign, but he does form some opinions: “Before the Somme, there was still public optimism that the war could be won with one great masterstroke … idealism did perish on the Somme.”
Twenty-four years prior to the release of this book, historian Peter Liddle’s “classic” The Soldier’s War, 1914-1918 introduced readers to the four-and-a-half month Battle of the Somme. Here “Liddle reconsiders the battle in the light of recent scholarship” although without using even one German source or citing even one German unit in the index.
His narrative of “one of the most significant and controversial episodes in British military history” is “based on the graphic and revealing first-hand testimony of [British] soldiers….” An analogy might be to read the description of a football game (American or British) that presents only one side’s actions, decisions, and feelings.
Liddle’s end chapter “Verdict” claims “that in 1916-17 terms, a British victory was won on the Somme,” and “that the resolve of the soldier of the [BEF] had not been broken by the experience….” Compared to Passchendaele a year later, the Somme could be considered a wildly successful operation.
The book has a very nice British order-of-battle for the beginning of the battle on 1 July 1916, as well as its 12 phases through 18 November.
This book is a companion to the BBC DVD series Walking the Western Front. It includes 150 prints in color and black and white taken during multiple filming trips to the Somme. Historical photos taken 100 years ago are accompanied by shots in the exact same spot today. Many of the modern photos are beautiful, in sharp contrast to the carnage and destruction that occurred in these locations. The captions and narrative accompanying the images is well written and includes interesting historical stories.
The publisher explains that the purpose of this book is to answer “questions asked by visitors to the Somme; where did my ancestor fight?” It uses battle accounts with modern notations on historical trench maps, intended to help the reader locate individual units. The index has an impressive list of military units, but it may not be easy for someone standing on the battlefield today to locate where their ancestor’s unit actually would have been 100 years ago looking at these historical b&w maps.
This guidebook uses a different approach from the previous one above that covers Ypres, and it is much less effective and rather old fashioned. There are no color maps or color photos and the book is not as well organized. For example, the modern map of Serre shows twelve numbered locations, but these appear over the next 28 pages and are not easy to follow. There are many historical photos, including several of the soldiers who fought there with brief descriptions of what these men did.
The author’s approach is to make the single massive nine-airship raid of 31 January 1916 the center of a broader history by following the crews, their airships, and the targeted cities and towns through the war and beyond. The author’s grandmother and mother narrowly survived this raid, prompting Powis to devote years of research to this book. His appendix listing those killed is probably the first time that all their names have been published in one place.
Mick Powis’s meticulous work and unique insights are impressive to a reviewer who has studied the Zeppelin raids for almost 25 years. For example, his study of the pattern of bomb strikes shows conclusively that Zeppelins did hover to drop their bombs if weather and a lack of antiaircraft guns allowed it. He created maps from multiple sources that showed the path of each of the nine Zeppelins, often correcting errors in Britain’s official history, The War in the Air. Unfortunately, the maps as printed almost require a magnifying glass to read the town names, a minor annoyance in an otherwise excellent book.
Reviewed by Steve Suddaby, past president of WW1HA
Len's Summary: New addition to the Battlefield Europe series edited by Nigel Cave. Analyses the action of May 9, 1915 when battalions of the First and Seventh Divisions and the Indian Army Corps attacked in support of an ultimately unsuccessful French drive against Vimy Ridge .
The Retreat from Mons 1914: North: Casteau to Le CateauThe Western Front by Car, by Bike and on Foot by Jon Cooksey ISBN: 1783030380 Published byPen & Sword Books on August 19th 2014 Genres:Military Pages: 160
Visiting the Somme and Ypres Battlefields Made Easy: A Helpful Guide Book for Groups and Individuals by Gareth Hughes ISBN: 9781473821392 Published byPen & Sword Books on September 11th 2014 Genres:Military, Travel Pages: 160
Ambassador Shurtleff, a retired American Foreign Service officer who served as President of The World War One Historical Association and as a past President of The Western Front Association – U S Branch, passed away on January 22, 2014. This searchable version of Len’s Bookshelf has been created and will be maintained in his honor.