Teachers at the Front 1914 – 1919 written by Barry Blades and published by Pen & Sword Books – £25.00 – Hardback – Pages 264

Amongst the patriots who joined the colours 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 teacher-soldiers. 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 them 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. This is a book based upon extensive research and an eclectic body of source material. Detailed and powerful narratives of individual lives combine to illuminate the confluence of grand strategies and personal circumstances in times of war.

 A lovely book that follows the lives of a number of men and women who before the war were in the teaching profession from all over the world in the Commonwealth. A book that provides the reader with a fabulous perspective from people in the teaching profession, all nervous, proud, worried and patriotic. A couple of good things about this book. Firstly it looks at the development of these soldiers, in that we see how their training is developed, their life as soldiers and where they served, survived and died and how the end of the war affected them. Secondly, you also get a teacher’s perspective about what went on and how things were put in place. I really enjoyed seeing it from another perspective rather than just the everyday soldier.

This book has been well written and I found the writing to be really good and enjoyed what I felt was a bit of a ‘punchy’ style. The research gone in has been a lot and very thorough. There is a good supporting photographs section in the middle of the book, but also a very good notes, appendices and links section near the end of the book. I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to all, you don’t have to be in the teaching profession to enjoy it.

By Ben Davidson

Hello, I have been studying all aspects of history for about 25 years. I have a BA History from the University of Bedfordshire. My historical areas of interest are anything really, but I specialise in 19th - 20th century Britain, America and Ireland. I am also strongly aligned with most military history, really enjoying WW2 and the US Civil War. Chuck in the king or queen and Bob's your uncle.