Poetry & The Great War, a series: 4 The Home Front
The absence of great numbers of men resulted in changes on the Home Front where they were replaced by women in many of the essential industries. At the height of the war one million women worked in munition factories, some of whom died as the result of explosions or TNT poisoning. Women took over farm work, drove buses and trains, moved into various clerical and industrial jobs. By the end of the war 37% of women were employed. The Suffragette movement suspended its activities during the war and resumed them after the Armistice which eventually saw women enfranchised in 1928.
For the first time it was total war which included the civilian population along with children. All played an important and significant role. German Zeppelins bombed the principal cities. 2000 were killed as a result of these raids. Food was rationed and the endless lists of dead and wounded found their way to mothers, wives, girlfriends and others. The emotional impact was enormous. The Home Front was as crucial to the war effort as the front line on the battle field. But what of women poets and writers? Most of the major anthologies of war poetry concerned men at the front and this cast a shadow on those women who took up pen and paper to express their emotions and plight. These women were often overlooked or simply ignored but a great deal can be gleaned from their writings.
Here are a few who are certainly worthy of mention:
Vera Brittain - nurse, writer, feminist and pacifist. ¨Because you died ¨- a selection of poetry and prose
Mary Wedderburn - Book ¨The War in Poems ¨ and particular the poem -¨Women Demobilised ¨.
Margaret Posgate - The poem ¨The Falling Leaves ¨ an anti-war poem from a woman´s perspective
Rose McCaulay - Poem ¨Many sisters to many brothers ¨.
Alice Meynell - ¨Parted ¨a poem in summer 1914
Margaret Sackville - ¨There was no sound at all, no crying in the village ¨.
As a consequence of severe numbers of casualties, whole communities throughout the country lost significant numbers of its menfolk. Nearly every family in the nation had lost someone. On one day thousands were killed, most of whom came from one town and its neighbouring villages. Whole streets went into mourning. No one could comprehend the great losses which were endured. Men who had left in a fervour of patriotism were never to return.
An agonising scream, a piercing wail, a door slammed shut.
Heartfelt sobs, the sounds of bitter weeping broke the stillness of the dawn
A kaleidoscope of human suffering
Sadness concealed as blinds were drawn,
but nought could stifle the chorus of those who wept
till tears came no more.
Women, old and young donned black attire
Symbols of irreparable loss.
A lad from every street never to return, hurt beyond belief
Souls lost in grief, hearts ached with pain.
Lost in a moment.
Lives, families destroyed, communities fragmented
A town scarred by a grevious blow
A maze of streets, pathways of grief
An opened wound never to heal
Widows, orphans created overnight
Memories left of happier days as salt in the wound
A church bell tolled as if counting the dead, again and again.
A town immersed in sorrow, drenched in tears
Despair, despondency and abandonment.
Would any return? A glimmer of hope perhaps,
or had all gone for eternity?
Mournful countenances, some veiled, others with vacant expressions,
wide eyed and disbelieving: lost foresaken, empty and bereft.
A woman´s voice was heard to cry