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New book lifts the lid on life across the region during World War One

A new book is lifting the lid on what life was like for people living in Lichfield and Burntwood during World War One.

Author Professor Karen Hunt has gathered together personal tales from across the county for her new work, Staffordshire’s War.

From experiences of zeppelin raids to conscientious objectors jailed for their beliefs, the region had plenty of connections to the conflict in Europe.

Karen has drawn on diaries, eye witness accounts, letters, military tribunal papers and official notices – including one in Lichfield regarding rationing of meat – to tell the story of Staffordshire’s war.

She said: “While Staffordshire’s War should interest those who want to know more about the past of the county they live in or where their family comes from, this story has a wider reach beyond Staffordshire.

“For the first time we have a local picture of what it was like to live through a war which in the end touched every home in the country and changed everyday life.

“Many of the features we have come to associate with a home front, such as food rationing, were invented in local communities during the Great War. In every neighbourhood, people demanded that scarce resources were shared out fairly.”

The book shows how the winter of 1917/1918 was the hardest of the war for those struggling to maintain the home front.

Karen added: “Exactly 100 years ago, lengthy queues were to be found across Staffordshire. Women and children drawn by the rumour of supplies, gathered early in the morning to queue for scarce goods like sugar, margerine and tea.

“Local authorities saw that unless they took action desperate people might not just queue but, as they often left empty-handed hours later, they might riot.

“Government knew only too well that food riots had triggered the Russian Revolution earlier in 1917 and now Russia was coming out of the war. Neglecting food queues was dangerous.”

A team of volunteers recruited by Staffordshire County Council’s Archives Service worked with Professor Karen Hunt to research and write the book.

Cllr Gill Heath, Cabinet member for communities at Staffordshire County Council, who leads on the county’s Great War commemorations, said: “This is a remarkable collection of personal accounts that gives us a really valuable insight about life on the home front in Staffordshire during the First World War.

“It shows us how ordinary people managed to survive in a new wartime economy which impinged on every aspect of their daily lives. How they coped to earn a living, how they shopped, cooked and shared food despite increasing food shortages and a rocketing cost of living.”

Staffordshire War is available from Amberley Press via the link below:

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Founder of LichfieldLive and editor of the site.

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