Teachers at the Front, 1914–1919
by Barry Blades
August 1914. Flags waved, people cheered and armies mobilized. Millions of citizens throughout Britain responded to the call-to-arms. War fever was contagious. In the far reaches of empire, young men also pledged their allegiance and prepared to serve the King and his empire.
Amongst the patriots who joined the colors were thousands of schoolmasters and trainee teachers. In London, students and alumni from the London Day Training College left their classrooms and took the King’s Shilling. In the dominions, hundreds of their professional counterparts in Perth, Auckland and Toronto similarly reported to the military training grounds, donned khaki uniforms and then embarked for the ‘old county’ in its hour of need.
Teachers at the Front 1914-1919 tells the story of these men. It recalls the decisions made by men who were united by their training, occupation and imperial connections, but were divided by social and geographical contexts, personal beliefs and considered actions. It follows these teacher-soldiers as they landed on the beaches of Gallipoli, attacked across no man's land in Flanders, on the Somme and at Passchendaele, and finally broke through the Hindenburg Line and secured victory. Many did not survive the carnage of what became known as the Great War. For those who did, wartime officers and men who had been proud to call themselves Tommies, Anzacs, Enzeds and Canucks, returning home presented further challenges and adjustments.
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