With the First World War 100th anniversary commemorations ongoing, I’m welcoming John Broom, author of Fight the Good Fight: Voice of Faith from the First World War to Essex & Suffolk Surnames. His book examines the way that faith and war combine – how one person’s faith might prompt them to seek after peace, whilst another’s inspires gung-ho nationalism. John looks at the experiences of people from many countries involved with the First World War, and uncovers previously untold stories of belief and bravery in the face of unparalleled destruction and despair.
His second book, about faith and the Second World War, will be out in April 2016.
So I asked him a few questions…..
In July, I went to Somerset to visit my dad, and we ended up in the Smuggler’s Cave in Watchet. There’s all sorts of treasures to be found here – antiques, mid-20th century bits and bobs, from grand polished dining tables to boxes of bent cutlery. I was rummaging through some photos and 1950s receipts, when I struck up a conversation with the chap who runs the shop.
“If you like old photos,” he said, “You’ll love this old album I got the other day at a car-boot sale.”
Off he went and came back with a dark green album, which at the beginning was full of late Victorian and Edwardian family photos, with first names added. Family sat outside a house, a line of Edwardians strung together as they ascend an icy mountain, horse-riding in Ireland. Following these were page after page of very old postcards, mainly of churches and cathedrals. At the back, there were newspaper clippings from WW1 with photos of soldiers who had been killed – Thomas Eland Clatworthy and Harold Richard Taylor. Further on, there was a programme for an evening of genteel entertainment at Flook House in Taunton, and photos of someone in… India? All the photos have been glued in, so there’s no chance of peering behind to see what might have been written on their backs.