The People of Devon in the First World War
by David Parker
The History Press (www.thehistorypress.co.uk )
RRP GBP £16.99
This book presents a beautifully illustrated social history of the British county of Devon during the First World War. This war brought about massive cultural changes to both the country and county and the book examines them from the perspective of this county.
These events had many facets so the author has divided the study into a number of themes. These themes include soldiers, aliens and spies (both imagined and real), refugees, medical personnel, conscientious objectors, the clergy, the changing roles of women and children and as Devon was an agricultural county, it recounts the effects of the war on farming.
There are six interesting chapters – each presenting the war from a different angle. They start with “Devon in the Summer of 1914” and how the county was prepared for the great events that lay ahead. Then he has “Going to War” which covers recruitment into the forces, a summary of life in uniform and facing the enemy.
Devon in this era was a tight-nit county so any outsiders were easily identifiable. Hence he discusses such outsiders under “Aliens, Spies and Outsiders”. The war caused massive numbers of men to be wounded or diseased and he evaluates Devon’s response in the caring for the wounded.
The final two chapters discuss the social side of skilled workers, ardent patriots and the pressures on local communities such as national priorities, local turmoil and how residents could make a living. If you are interested in the history of this county during this era then this book is the perfect choice. Given that the centenary of the start of World War 1 is later this year this volume is an ideal review of the county during those four long years.