Their Duty Done: Forest Town and the Great War – Tim Priestley

24 Nov

wp_20161122_001Forest Town in Nottinghamshire would send many of its men to war.  This is the story of those who never returned and whose names are inscribed on the local memorial.

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.






Posted by on 24/11/2016 in History, Life


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22 responses to “Their Duty Done: Forest Town and the Great War – Tim Priestley

  1. Liz

    24/11/2016 at 17:25

    This sounds like a fitting tribute to those who served in our name. Thank you for highlighting it.


    • Ste J

      24/11/2016 at 17:51

      Once again, a book highlights a whole new area of books (local interest) I need to look into. This is a good thing, yet also a highly expensive one!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. shadowoperator

    24/11/2016 at 18:31

    Is “Forest Town” the name of a city, or the name of an area in a city? It’s too unfortunate that “their duty done” has a connotation of their having paid “the highest price,” as it’s called. Someday I would like to read a book about people who’ve successfully reintegrated in their society after the war, not to deny or in any way cast aspersions on the sacrifices of the others, but only in order to free the successfully reintegrated from “survivor guilt.”


    • Ste J

      24/11/2016 at 18:46

      Forest Town is a small mining village a couple of miles from my home town of Mansfield. It is such a final sounding title, even for those who made it back with all the associated mental and physical scars. Now your suggestion would indeed be a fine book to read, when I have time I will look into that.


  3. clarepooley33

    24/11/2016 at 21:07

    I love reading local history so it’s good to know that there are researchers who are putting books together which tell the stories of ordinary people. I was watching a programme on BBC4 on Tuesday evening (World War 1 at Home: When the Whistle Blew) which talked about the rugby and football players who died. The narrator said something similar to your comment, that histories talk about the body count and hardly ever about the individuals.


    • Ste J

      25/11/2016 at 15:30

      I missed that one, will have to check the iPlayer for that. I recently found a book called Wartime Wanderers which focused on Bolton Wanderers FC and as I remember a fine book that needs a reread after all this time. The vast death toll is astonishing still and each one was a normal human being caught up in the tidal forces of the time, it’s staggering the more I think about it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Alastair Savage

    25/11/2016 at 07:00

    Many of us have a strong link to WW1. I met my great-grandfather, who had endured the whole war including the Somme. He lived to be 93, I’m very happy to say.


    • Ste J

      25/11/2016 at 16:16

      That is impressive, He must have seen so much, I couldn’t imagine seeing such huge changes as he must have done in his life.


  5. Tim Priestley

    25/11/2016 at 21:37

    Many thanks for the review


    • Ste J

      12/12/2016 at 14:47

      Thanks for the copy, it was a fascinating read.


  6. Andrea Stephenson

    27/11/2016 at 22:31

    Sounds like a great book Ste. We have a WWI project here where volunteers have been researching the stories of all those in the area that died and putting mini blue plaques on the houses where they lived – we have one of those plaques as a father and son both died from this house and it was interesting and moving to learn about their stories.


    • Ste J

      12/12/2016 at 15:16

      That is a really good idea, it gives everybody a connection to the community and brings history to the fore. The loss that small towns suffered is still shocking after all these years.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Lyn

    28/11/2016 at 05:09

    Another book to add to my ever-growing list 🙂


  8. Sheila

    29/11/2016 at 16:22

    That’s true that since this is local history, it must have been easier to picture and feel those lives. Now you’re making me want to read more local history. Luckily, the more books I have to read, the more exciting it all is.


    • Ste J

      12/12/2016 at 15:12

      I read something once about a lady who moved to a new place and got a job transferring all the church records onto the internet and she became fascinated by all the stories, I think there is a human connection no matter the place but yes I agree, knowing the area does give it another edge.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Idle Muser

    07/12/2016 at 03:14

    Wars always makes somebody lose someone. It is hurtful, hurtful to lose someone and still act strong that you are proud of the lost one (which they probably would be), but deep inside you are cursing the world to take away your loved from you.


    • Ste J

      12/12/2016 at 15:22

      True, there is rightly many focus on those in the front line but the wounds of the families are also a strikingly potent and heartfelt when focused on.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Sherri

    21/12/2016 at 15:20

    So late to this post my friend, but this is a book that needs to be read for an understanding of so often overlooked local history and the devastation of war…lest we forget…


    • Ste J

      21/12/2016 at 16:22

      It does bring an extra layer of context to something that is something far away in both time and place from us. It is sometimes easy to overlook that the war took its toll on our home soil as well.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sherri

        22/12/2016 at 11:19

        Very important to remember the impact on local communities…thank you my friend for this wonderful review…



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