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To coincide with the conference and community events being held in St Andrews from the 18th – 23rd of June on The Home Front we have selected a range of items from the Russell Cawthorn (WWI) Collection to display in the Main Library.

Our blog post on Monday discussed some of the books in the collection which highlight the role of women during the conflict, today we look at other titles which provide us with a further understanding of life on the Home Front and some of the issues which the civilian population had to face.

Some industries expanded rapidly with the onset of war and workers were needed in both the munitions factories and in the steel and coal industries to ensure Britain had the weapons it needed. The following two books in the collection document the impact war had on those who were at home working and how industry developed throughout the duration of the war.

One of the major challenges during the war was the food supply and how to feed both the troops and those back at home. Naval blockades reduced food imports which meant that Britain was no longer able to rely heavily on them as it had done before the war.

World War 1 Food Economy Poster
The personal accounts of soldiers and their experiences of food in the trenches are documented in The Stomach for Fighting : Food and the Soldiers of the Great War

Bully Beef & Biscuits: Food in the Great War documents many of the issues surrounding food during the war, the practicalities of getting food to the front, what was eaten in the trenches and the importance to the troops of food parcels from home. It also includes a chapter on the issues back at home relating to food

It was not until early in 2018 that Britain introduced rationing but prior to that the civilian population had been encouraged to participate in voluntary rationing and to become more frugal.

Great War Britain : The First World War at Home discusses how magazines included hints and tips on how to produce economical meals, advice on how recipes could be adapted when certain foods were short and all with an emphasis on reducing cooking times as fuel was also in short supply and expensive. Similar adverts and guidance can be found in the newspapers of the period and in particular in The Illustrated London News.

Many books in the Russell Cawthorn Collection include personal narratives of what it was like to live through the war. The experiences of soldiers and those at home are prominent in the many diaries and memoirs held in the collection. Home for Christmas: Cards, Messages and Legends of the Great War and Voices from the Trenches: Letters to Home are just two examples. The poem “Those Who Wait” in A Corner of a Foreign Field: the Illustrated Poetry of the First World War (p.118) reminds us that there were many back at home waiting for news of their loved ones.

If you’d like to explore the Russell Cawthorn Collection further then you will find all the books listed on the library catalogue.

On Saturday 23rd June please come along to our Show and Tell Event to see some of the the surviving documents, books and records dating from World War I held in Special Collections. Turn the pages and get close up to letters home from the front, diaries which tell the story of life in Fife during the war, photographs of soldiers and women, and explore the important role played by the University in support of the war effort.


Image details

[1] World War 1 Food Economy Poster, 1917. Caption reads ‘We risk our lives to bring you food. It’s up to you not to waste it’.. Photograph. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 31 Aug 2017. Accessed 28 May 2018.


Life on the British Home Front
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