Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Manchester Remembering 1914-18 ........ six months on

It is pretty much a given that part of the history business is about anniversaries, whether it is a battle, the birth of someone or the invention of something that didn’t quite change the world.

The book, 2017
Now I am not being sniffy at this, I have over the years trawled the events of the past to write a blog story, responded to others who have a special moment in time and of course produced a book on the start and end of the Great War which included lots of the bits in between.*

And now that book has qualified for a sort of anniversary.

It is just over six months since it was published, and six months and seven days since the first book launch at Central Ref.

Unknown British soldier, circa 1918
Since then there have been more book signings, and the promise of another in the autumn.

But enough of this vain and naked self promotion and instead on to considering what that book meant to me.

On the simplest of levels I got to learn a lot about Manchester during the Great War, and encountered the stories of many, many people who each in their different way contributed to the successful prosecution of that war.

I also lots of people who over the course of the last few years have become good friends.

Unknown British soldier, circa 1918
And what has struck me more than anything is the way the book has taken me off in all sorts of directions making links with places from my own life and has connections with other books I have written and am in the process of writing.

So one family from Manchester who featured in the book spent time in 1915 and 1918 just a few doors from where I grew up in London, and another two could trace their ancestors back to the Chorlton of the first half of the 19th century which I also wrote about it.

And finally a few of the men who went off to fight and had grown up in the care of the Manchester and Salford Boys’ and Girls’ Refuges will feature in the new book.**

It all makes for some fascinating links and no doubt others will appear in time, meanwhile new projects like the new book have taken over.

Clara, date unknown
But you don’t spend a couple of years of your life on writing about a subject without a lot of it sitting on your shoulder.

So when I walk down a Manchester street I can catch myself looking for a building or a house linked to someone from the book on the war, and have even found myself coming across a document or pictures which I think would have gone well in the book.

But that is the nature of writing and just leaves me to return to the theme of anniversaries.

Later this month, one hundred years ago was the start of the battle of Passchendaele, and next year will see the anniversary of the end of the Great War, which will be marked by a special event organised by my old friend David Harrop, of which more closer to the time.

For now I shall close with a second personal admission about the book which is that the last but one photograph is of my uncle George, who never served in a Manchester regiment was not from the city and as far as I know never visited it but he served in the Great War.

George Bradford Simpson, circa 1918
He never talked about it and I never asked, which was a shame, so by writing about the conflict and its impact on the men, women and children who lived through it I was drawn closer to both him and the other six members of my immediate family who went through that war.

And that I think is what history is about.

Location; Manchester during the Great War

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*Manchester Remembering 1914-18, Andrew Simpson, 2017, the History Press, https://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/A%20new%20book%20on%20Manchester%20and%20the%20Great%20War

**A new book on the Together Trust, https://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/A%20new%20book%20on%20the%20Together%20Trust

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