The First World War left no family in Britain untouched, and of course changed the course of history. Much has been said over the years of how this it precipitated Britain from an Edwardian country into the modern age. Technology, medicine, and people's outlook on life altered completely.
My family like most others was involved this conflict. Both my grandfathers fought as soldiers, and both were injured. One died prematurely several years after the war as the result of weakened lungs from mustard gas poisoning. The other had only a minor wound and lived to the age of 84, so I knew him, though not really well.
My mother's mother was only a teenager during the war. My father's mother, Lily, worked as a tram conductress. I have published here a photograph of her in a uniform, looking carefree and happy, as if revelling in her new-found independence. This was a time when women stepped out of the home and became vital in roles that had previously been the sole domain of men. When I looked out the photograph, I realised that she was not wearing the uniform of a tram conductress (that would be a skirt and a hat with a brim). She is dressed in what looks like a male army uniform, complete with puttees on her legs and a cigarette in her hand. My imagination now runs riot - was she in fancy dress, or wearing someone else's uniform for a lark? It seems to fit her, and she was only five feet tall, so this appears to be unlikely. There's a story here!
This era first attracted my interest when I studied World War I literature for my A level English. I was mesmerised by the deep anguish of Wilfred Owen's poetry, so eloquently and sometimes shockingly expressed. But what caught my imagination most was the autobiography of Robert Graves, Goodbye to All That. We were reading about a young man of our own age, who at eighteen didn't go off to university, but instead went off to war. The frank description of his experiences made me try to understand what it must have been like for a young man, like us, in such extreme conditions. Because of my grandfathers' war service, it made me feel closer to them as well.
I always knew that I would want to write about this era. I originally planned a sequel to Melody for Lizzie, which would move into World War I. However, this never came to fruition, though it isn't forgotten. At the moment I'm working on polishing two novels, one of which begins in the final months of World War I. Researching for this has made me contemplate the experiences and feelings of those who went through that grim time. It also made me reflect on how the war changed the country and its inhabitants as they moved into the future. The sacrifice and determination of our forebears has made this country what it is today.