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The Long Way Home

The Long Way Home: Part 2 – Call-ups, confusion and Censors

Some more snippets:

One factor that grew in this country in the early years of the Great war, was the nationalistic fervor for which it was received. A combination of jingoistic press, advertising campaigns and peer pressure. People from all walks of life joined and recruitment centres sprang up in all towns.

As a rule, the majority of men were initially posted to the local regiment. this shows why many of those railwaymen who joined up at the time ended up in ‘Pals’ batallions. Britain had formed territorial units from large companies, such as the LNWR, and they were the initial formations that became the Railway operating Division. It was only after concerns were raised by the railway companies – of the decimation of their workforce from what was an essential industry, that this was changed.

Note, in later years, men who were called up were placed in regiments that needed the reinforcement. The idea of the Nottingham lads ending up in the Durham Light Infantry came from a story recanted to me by my friend and author, Liz Ringrose. Her Uncle would have normally joined the Sherwood Foresters, being from Nottinghamshire. However, he (and his three mates) were offered the Durham Light Infantry or another regiment elsewhere. They chose the Durhams, solely on the fact that Newcastle United played football in black and white stripes. This was the same colours as their beloved Notts County. As I have said before, in many occasions, real life is so much better than pure fiction!

In the novel, Dafydd is promoted by an admin error. I have no evidence of this happening, although field commissions were common and not always recorded quickly. My great-Uncle, Stanley Evans is one example. He was killed about ten days after being raised to Sergeant and the records differ throughout. The newspaper reported this, the wall at Tyne cot where the Royal Welsh Fusiliers are honoured, until recently showed him as lance Sergeant. However, the Commonwealth war graves commission has him down as a Corporal. As pay would have been sorted out by the unit, they would still be paid a per rank.

There is evidence also of ranks being changed and not reported. a testimony in ‘They Shall not grow old’, has an old vet telling his particular tale. He entered the Army as a corporal. but then found out that NCOs were more liable to be killed, so he ripped off his stripes and spent the rest of his war as a private.

The other thing I have written into the story, is the censorship of letters – both to and from the war. The Army was concerned that stories of events could be demoralising. The location of units (and munitions factories) were strictly controlled. Part of the work of the commanding officers of a unit was to act as censor. The fear was that essential information could fall into enemy hands, through intercepted mail either in transit or by fifth columnists..

Next time, I’ will be explaining Talbot House. What it was and why it is still important (and a serene place) today.

By Geraint Roberts

Stuck in a limbo and desperate to do something meaningful, what to do? That is where writing began for me. A creative way of expressing myself and a chance to harness my wondering imagination. I close my eyes and I'm there. Wish I'd picked 'there' as a warm sunny day on a sandy beach, with the waves gently lapping on the shore...but I have to let the story load in my mind, then watch it unfold, wherever it may be. Currently I'm in an Estonian forest being bitten by midges

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