Soldier Profiles

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1,166 names and growing. For the past two years, research assistant, Lizzie Hobbs, has been pulling together the names of men who served in the 8th Battalion, The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment, the men who Jack sometimes referred to as “my lambs.” Over the next few months we will be posting individual soldier profiles, hoping to bring depth and humanity to the names and numbers of 8th Battalion rolls.

The First World War Letters of H.J.C. Peirs team often reflects on the positive aspects of Jack’s war experience, echoing the tone in his letters, but many soldiers lacked the support structures that Jack depended on during and after the war. Unlike Jack’s parents and sisters, many families did not have the joy of welcoming their soldier home. While researching individual soldiers we have uncovered all sorts of stories. Many of them are challenging because of their relentless sadness or disturbing because of their grim details.  Others include court records, courts-martial, and evidence of illicit conduct.

In a recent post on Historians for History, Edward Madigan asked, “What do we do with the inglorious dead?” He poses the question in the context of First World War veterans deployed to Ireland during the Irish War for Independence. But it is important to ask this question whenever examining the lives of individual soldiers – both on and off the battlefield. Often, First World War soldiers are described as either self-sacrificing heroes or helpless victims. Looking beyond these superficial narratives is important to gaining a more complete understanding of their war experiences and the war itself.

“Their name liveth for evermore.”