This year’s Remembrance Day commemorations have been very different from previous years. While we socially distance and avoid coming together, we can still mark the day and remember the men and women who served their country in the Armed Forces. Also known as Armistice Day, the day marks the end of the First World War and at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month, a two minute silence is held to remember those who have died in war.
There are lots of resources to find out more about Remembrance Day – Newsround have created a useful page aimed at children to explain the background and history of both the Day and the wearing of poppies, while The Royal British Legion Remembrance pages have ideas for ways to commemorate as well as links to online activity you can get involved with. You can also find out more using our eLibrary resources. Encyclopaedia Britannica can provide information on history, who people were and what happened when, while through The Times Digital Archive, you can explore how events were reported through the years. We also have eMagazines including BBC History available through our RB Digital service. If you need any help accessing these resources, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Remembrance Day reading
We have a wealth of titles on our catalogue and on BorrowBox that mark Remembrance Day and explore the lives of the people who fought and died in our Armed Forces. Here are a selection of both fiction and non-fiction for all ages, as well as local history resources to explore to find out more about those who served in Warwickshire.
This trilogy of novels explores the history of the First World War and its impact on those who fought in it. Starting with ‘Regeneration’, set at Craiglockhart War Hospital in Scotland in 1917, the book follows army psychiatrist William Rivers, tasked with treating shell-shocked soldiers including poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, as well as mute Billy Prior, who is only able to communicate by means of pencil and paper.
Needing to escape from it all, Gemma agrees to help renovate a rundown farmhouse in Doullens, France, a town near the Somme. There, in a boarded-up cupboard, wrapped in old newspapers, is a tin that reveals the secret letters and heartache of Alice Le Breton, a young volunteer nurse who worked in a casualty clearing station near the front line. Set in the present day and during the horrifying years of the war, both woman discover deep down the strength and courage to carry on in even the most difficult of times
This is the story of Stephen who arrives in Amiens in 1910. His life goes through a series of traumatic experiences, from the clandestine love affair that tears apart the family with whom he lives, to the unprecedented experience of the war itself. Set before and during the great war, Birdsong captures the drama of that era on both a national and a personal scale.
Ever since hairdresser Poppy Day married her childhood sweetheart, Mart, she’s been deliriously happy. Now Mart is fighting in Afghanistan, and Poppy is counting the days until he returns. It takes one knock at the door to rip Poppy’s world apart. Mart has been taken hostage, and it’s too dangerous for the army to rescue him.
Often called the most famous anti-war novel ever written, this novel follows the moving story of a young ‘unknown soldier’ experiencing the horror and disillusionment of life in the trenches. Told by a young soldier in the trenches of Flanders during the First World War, through his eyes, we see the realities of war. Incidents are vividly described, but there is no sense of adventure, only the feeling of youth betrayed.
In Letters of Note: War, Shaun Usher brings together some of the most remarkable letters that encapsulate the human experience of war, from unimaginable feats of courage and compassion, to unthinkable episodes of violence and horror. Written from a variety of perspectives, this collection was des cribed by Stephen Fry as “Funny, tragic, brilliantly incisive, historic, lyrical, romantic and studiedly offensive”.
World War I Poetry (various collections available in physical copies, this collection available as an eBook)
Wilfred Owen, Rupert Brooke and W B Yeats are just some of the poets whose work is featured in this anthology. The raw emotion unleashed in these poems still has the power to move readers today. As well as poems detailing the miseries of war there are poems on themes of bravery, friendship and loyalty, and this collection shows how even in the depths of despair the human spirit can still triumph.
The Normandy Landings that took place on D-Day involved by far the largest invasion fleet ever known. Making use of overlooked and new material from over 30 archives in half a dozen countries, ‘D-Day’ is a vivid and well-researched account of the battle of Normandy.
Black Poppies by Stephen Bourne (available as physical copies)
In 1914 there were at least 10,000 black Britons, many of African and West Indian heritage, fiercely loyal to their mother country. Despite being discouraged from serving in the British Army during the First World War, men managed to join all branches of the armed forces and black communities made a vital contribution, both on the front and at home.
Spitfire Stories, published in association with Imperial War Museums, is a fascinating anthology of first-hand stories from Spitfire heroes and heroines of the Second World War. Using documents, letters, stories, photographs and articles from the Museum’s unparalleled archive, this is a tribute to the most iconic plane in aviation history – and the people behind it.
Whatever It Took by Henry Langrehy and Jim DeFlice (available on eAudio)
Published to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day, an unforgettable never-before-told first-person account of World War II: the true story of an American paratrooper who survived D-Day, was captured and imprisoned in a Nazi work camp, and made a daring escape to freedom.
A passionate and profoundly moving tribute to the Lancaster bomber, its heroic crews and the men and women who kept her airborne during the country’s greatest hour of need. John Nichol, Gulf War veteran and ex-POW in Iraq, reveals the true cost of flying the iconic and deadly Lancaster – through the few authentic voices of the RAF veterans who are left to us.
Virginia Nicholson tells the story of the women’s war through a host of individual women’s experiences. She tells how they loved, suffered, laughed, grieved and dared; how they re-made their world in peacetime – and how they would never be the same again. The eAudio version is a special multi-voice recording featuring five actresses that bring to life the hundreds of personal testimonies, diary entries and books that make up this superb study. Read by Patience Tomlinson, Annie Aldington, Rachel Bavidge, Julie Maisey and Georgina Sutton.
Daisy and the Unknown Soldier by Tony Bradman (available as an eBook)
The war has claimed the lives of thousands of men whose bodies will never make it home, and the Unknown Warrior will represent them all. As hundreds of people crowd to Westminster Abbey, Daisy knows she has to make it to the ceremony. Because although they call the warrior ‘unknown’, she is sure that he is her father …
The Skylarks’ War is a beautiful story following the loves and losses of a family growing up against the harsh backdrop of World War One. Clarry and her older brother Peter live for their summers in Cornwall, staying with their grandparents and running free with their charismatic cousin, Rupert. But normal life resumes each September – boarding school for Peter and Rupert, and a boring life for Clarry at home with her absent father, as the shadow of a terrible war looms ever closer. When Rupert goes off to fight at the front, Clarry feels their skylark summers are finally slipping away from them. Can their family survive this fearful war?
As life for German Jews becomes increasingly perilous, Anna’s parents put her on one of the last trains leaving for England. But the war follows her to Kent, and soon Anna finds herself caught up in web of betrayal and secrecy. How can she prove whose side she’s on when she can’t tell anyone the truth?
Remembering those in Warwickshire
As we mentioned in our previous blog about women’s history, the Our Warwickshire website is a treasure trove of local history stories and insights. There are lots of entries relating to those who served their country and county in the Armed Forces and many photographs of war memorials, objects related to those who served and accounts of life during wartime both from a military perspective and on the Home Front.
Our Local Studies collections likewise contain content that delves into the lives of people from Warwickshire who served. ‘Lady Under Fire: The Wartime Letters of Dorothie Feilding‘, edited by Andrew and Nicola Hallam, follows the path of Lady Dorothie Mary Evelyn Feilding, who spent almost three years on the Western Front in Belgium during the First World War driving ambulances for the Munro Motor Ambulance Corps, an all-volunteer unit. She wrote home almost daily. Her letters reflect the mundane, tragedy and horror of war and also the tensions of being a woman at the front. A second book about Lady Feilding, ‘Fearless‘ by Patrick Vanleen is also available.
‘Amidst Cheers, They Marched To War‘ by Hannah Spencer looks at the service men who came from four villages from the Alscot estate. Their men lie in graves in France, India, Iraq, Burma, South Africa and many other places besides. Some are remembered in perpetuity. Others are not.
Also in the our collections, you’ll find books that remember people from Kenilworth, Henley, Warwick and other parts of Warwickshire too as well as looking at the lives of those who stayed in Warwickshire, serving either in the Land Army or on the Home Front.
Some of our Local Studies collections also feature photographs of soldiers and other personnel. The below photograph is from Leamington Library’s collection. It shows six women in the uniform of the Women’s Royal Airforce based at the Midlands Headquarters of the RAF, Somerset House , Clarendon Square in Leamington. The Women’s Royal Air Force was formed in 1918 and disbanded 1920 – they acted as mechanics, drivers and telephonists, enabling more men to fight at the Front.
Some of our collections aren’t accessible at the moment, but for other photographs, visit Windows On Warwickshire and explore their archive.
You may be marking Remembrance Day in a number of different ways, whether it’s with quiet time and reflection, perhaps remembering someone in your family who served. You may be taking part in a virtual event or holding a two minutes silence at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. However you choose to commemorate, we will remember them.