FORGOTTEN VOICES OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR
A DEVON couple has spent nearly a year reading thousands of local newspaper copies from 1913-1919, at the Plymouth Reference Library and West Devon Record Offices.
Anne and Michael Corry sat through hundreds of hours of archive material researching the First World War, and the challenging moral issues of the time which saw many young couples on the home front – banned from kissing and cuddling on the Plymouth seafront.
Their findings also looked at the profound impact on post First World War issues in the South West – through the eyes of the Evening Herald, and especially where local men were forced into uniform, and taken away from their homes – in a conflict that changed the city forever.
62-year-old, life coach counsellor, Mrs Corry, said: “We felt like we’d been transported back in time, and the Herald is the best narrative of life in the city during one of the bloodiest conflicts in European history.”
The husband and wife team live in Plymouth, and started the project of investigating the First World War in June 2013, in collaboration with the Plymouth Museum.
Mrs Corry, added: “We were both regular fixtures at the City’s Reference Library and West Devon Record offices, and we uncovered some amazing facts of contemporary life in Plymouth through the eyes of local journalists at the time.”
“It seems bizarre in today’s climate, but the city council had a ‘Watch Committee’ whose main focus was to look at the sexual and public morals of Plymothians – where couples kissing and cuddling on the promenade were banned.”
“Old spinsters were up in arms and called it an ‘impulse to love’ at the time.”
“The world of work opened up for women in Devon during the First World War, and the biggest openings was in the munitions industry.”
62-year-old, Michael Corry, a local copywriter, added: “We uncovered spy stories, and how the Astor family were influential in securing war work for the city.”
“Copies of the Herald newspaper used to be shared by soldiers in the trenches who regularly wrote letters to the paper talking of their war experiences on the Western front.”
“It was very moving reading poignant articles of thousands of wounded and injured soldiers being brought to Plymouth from across the UK to convalesce in the South West.”
“Many other stories included conscientious objectors to the First World War – who refused to fight for King and Country.”
“We intend to run a series of talks building up to the centenary of the FIrst World War through research uncovered from Herald newspapers from 1913-1919,” said Mr Corry.
Anyone looking to share stories of the First World War can contact: www.facebook.com/TheLifeDetectives
Letter to the Evening Herald
Dated November 11th 1914
From the Fighting Line in the Trenches:
A Plymouth man’s death
I am a great reader of your most interesting paper.
Amidst the great battle that is now in progress around….,
‘Jack Johnson’s’ flying all around us, shrapnel bursting over our heads and bullets whizzing over the top of our trenches.”
I sit quietly down smoking cigarettes just come from Plymouth, also reading the dear old Evening Herald which my parents have sent me.
I find it there is no paper so interesting to me and to one of my section, who is a Devonshire man. I get them so often that everyone likes to read it in my company.
They are from all parts of England and they prefer to read your most interesting paper before any other.
There was another chum of mine (of Jubilee Street, Plymouth) who was a Corporal, who used to always come to me and say, ‘have you got the dear old paper Eddy?’
‘I feel so miserable I know that will cheer me up a bit.’ But the poor fellow got shot through the back after taking a range during an attack which our battalion was making.
Poor Dick he was killed outright.
Pictures: Michael and Anne Corry at the Plymouth Museum