By Judith Phillips
As part of the project, we’ve made an effort to look further than the fighting that took place between August 1914 and November 1918. In our talks programme we covered food in the trenches and at home; we’ve looked at commemoration, music, fashion, propaganda; we’ve considered how widows were treated after the war and our next talk, on Saturday 12th May, will look at how men with facial disfigurements were treated medically and socially. But what about the ex-servicemen, the survivors, the men who came back?
When people bring us stories and mementos of the First World War that come from their own families, so often we hear that the men didn’t want to talk about their experiences, certainly not to family members. But they might have been able to share and talk about their war with other men who had gone through the same or similar experiences. Ex-servicemen’s clubs provided a safe environment where members knew – or at least had some idea – about experiencing war. Perhaps these clubs also helped members when times were difficult as the economic problems in the 1920s and 1930s began to affect communities and individuals.
One of the volunteer researchers was recently working in Durham County Record Office, checking for First World War records in Barnard Castle. She came across a reference to the Barnard Castle and District Ex-Servicemen’s Club and Institute Ltd. We’d love to know more about this. Was it related to the DLI Club that has recently closed? Were there other ex-servicemen’s clubs in Teesdale? Was there a national organisation or was it a local initiative? How long did these clubs last? Did they expand to include ex-servicemen from the Second World War and later conflicts?
There are still so many areas relating to the First World War that we could do with knowing more about. As on many occasions in the past, I am hoping that among the readers of the newsletter, there’ll be someone who can give us some more information or at least send us in the right direction to do some research.