From every city to the smallest of villages around Britain, every traveller will always come across a war memorial dedicated – most often – to those fallen in World War One and World War Two.
All too often one finds themself looking at the names of these people and imagining those times and of the utter devastation of the population and the trauma suffered both at the front and of those waiting back home to hear news; yet waiting in dread as each letter may be an official notification of death.
Their Duty Done, reminds us that each name on the memorial stones and the graveyards spread around the world belonged to real people, with families, jobs and a sense of duty.
Whether you are familiar with my neck of the woods or not, Forest Town and its surrounding area is a typical example of any town you care to pick from, all of which saw many men go to war. FT has the distinction of being a mining town which perhaps aided (for those in that occupation) with the speed of demobilisation and arguably saved many from the early stages of the war, if they chose not to volunteer.
The first half of the book gives a brief overview of each year of the war and chronicles those who died, giving details of their ages, rank and date of death. There is also a write-up about each soldier, from their birthplace , parent’s names, job, army history and the details of their demise and resting places, where the bodies could be recovered.
It brings home the fact that each person was real, it seems obvious, of course but with all the literature, films and so on, it is easy to be fixated on the final body count of various battles and the war in total. In essence we have become desensitised to the human side of war, in the face of the sheer scale of carnage.
The second half of the book focuses on the aftermath, those that came home and received medals, a brief look at how the town has changed and also a look at the range of sources the author used to research the stories of the soldiers. The research element in particular is interesting as it opens up sources for those also interested in their local history and potentially searching out their ancestors.
From the scene setting cover onwards, you will get an accessible and well researched book that brings home the human component of war. Local history is often overlooked for the past in other places which seems more exotic than our everyday surroundings but a look at one’s own area is always refreshing and can be most surprising at times too.