One hundred years ago. A fateful year. It all began in the middle of that summer. Off to war. The average life expectancy of a young British officer fighting in the trenches was six weeks.
My grandfather was 17 that summer in the fateful year. The following year he fought in France, injured and gassed in battle. He was told then that he would not live that much longer. All fates considered, he beat his longevity odds and lived to age 75, lucky thing for his grand and great grandchildren living in 2014.
There is no shortage of reading material or documentary film available this year that chronicle the story of that time, especially the accounts of life in the front line battles. What is equally important is to get a sense of what the social and political story lines were on the home front.
Since my heritage story is an English one, this is where I start. Both books mentioned here are vivid, easily readable historical representations that will answer the question, “What else was going on?” There are just over 13,000 people over 100 living in the UK right now who were but children back then. My book hunt is on to find out more about them.
We owe our promise of longevity in 2014 and beyond, to those young people who had their promise cut short and to those children who did survive through that time even to this day. Across the world memorials are abound with volumes of stories to read and remarkable it is to discover that we are them, ever living a fateful year.
(The Fateful Year, England 1914 by Mark Bostridge; Penguin 2014)
(Back in Blighty, The British at Home in World War One by Gerard De Groot; Vintage 2014)