The study of grief and mourning in relation to the First World War often centres around the experiences of the Home Front, both during and after the war. However, very little attention is often paid to the soldiers who witnessed the violence and devastation of war first-hand. This paper explores the First World War infantryman’s responses to death on the Western Front, 1914-1918. It considers many of the principal themes and concepts present in my recently completed doctoral dissertation, ‘A Study of the Variety of Responses to Death in the British Army on the Western Front 1914-1918’. This talk will largely focus on the individuals’ experience of death on the frontline, charting their changing attitudes to losses and considering the emotional codes of the communities to which soldiers belonged. This highlights how these groups facilitated the processes necessary for individual and shared mourning to occur. It will also briefly consider how interactions with mass death influenced soldiers’ communities and how different battles became the focal points for each cohort who served on the Western Front. This paper will introduce the concepts and experiences in relation to death in war that both united and divided regular, territorial, volunteer and conscripted soldiers. This paper demonstrates that the British Army was a community, and comprised of communities, in mourning.
All welcome- this seminar is free to attend but advance registration is required.