Blighty and Beyond: Why a WW1 blog?
My leap into the blog sphere began with a classic novel and a TV show—Jane Austen's iconic Pride & Prejudice, set in the early 19th century, and the British television drama Downton Abbey, set a hundred years later.
I began to notice striking similarities between Austen's plots and characters and those of screenwriter Julian Fellows: a house full of girls with no heir, an entailed estate, a landowner living in a grand house, a crotchety female matriarch, and high society characters falling in love with, well, those not so high society. My romance novelist brain began whirring, and I asked myself, what might happen if Austen's most famous couple was propelled forward a hundred years into WW1? After much delightful daydreaming, my Darcy's Hope saga was born.
But casting Austen's heartthrob Fitzwilliam Darcy as a WW1 British army captain and heroine
Elizabeth Bennet as a nurse's aide would require research. My knowledge of Word War 1 hardly
went beyond "trench foot" and "trench warfare." I would need a basic understanding of the British Army and the system for evacuating wounded soldiers from the field of battle. Reading a diary or two should do the trick.... Or so I thought.
It didn't take long to realize that WW1 was an immensely complex topic, and I found myself eager for answers to the myriads of questions that arose. Captivated, I read six hours a day for nine months, and slowly a picture of life on the Western Front began to emerge.
What I found was a richness far beyond historical facts. Not only was I impressed by the war machine's high level of organization in an era before computers, but also of the people themselves. The Brits came together with tremendous passion and self sacrifice to support their countrymen and allies. Over and over I saw simple but powerful acts of kindness, and soldiers who remained cheerful amongst unprecedented carnage, death, and suffering.
After reading some twenty first hand accounts, numerous Army manuals, and countless websites, I emerged with over two hundred pages of typed notes, a fascination with The Great War, and a sobering respect for a generation I knew little of. With my Darcy's Hope saga complete and my country perched on the eve of our centennial commitment to join our British, French, and Belgian Allies, I thought, why not share what I discovered?
Join me as I reveal pieces of the past--of not only historical details like how patients moved through the evacuation chain, how hospital beds were assigned, and the brands of cigarettes smoked by Tommies—but "beyond Blighty" to the life lessons whispered from the pages of diaries of men and women who were there. Like me, you may find their words not only shape your understanding of the past, but shape who you choose to become in the future.