Date of Award

Summer 8-2017

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

History

Committee Chair

Dr. Allison Abra

Committee Chair Department

History

Committee Member 2

Dr. Brian LaPierre

Committee Member 2 Department

History

Committee Member 3

Dr. Andrew Wiest

Committee Member 3 Department

History

Abstract

In the postwar period historians argued that the horrors of the First World War created an irreparable disconnect between soldiers’ pre and postwar lives. Scholars led by Paul Fussell and Eric Leed presented the Great War as a futile waste of life for a meaningless cause. This historiography argues that the generation which survived the Western Front returned to Britain as jaded shells of their former selves unable to relate to their old lives and families. Bitterness and apathy replaced belief in cause and country. In contrast, recent historiography asserts that British soldiers maintained belief in their country’s cause and adjusted normally to civilian life. This project expands on the ideas and themes found in these works by analyzing British soldiers who served in both World Wars. Rather than being a generation of detached cynics who lost faith in fighting for king and country, many veterans actively sought ways to contribute when their country was once again at war.

This study examines soldiers who served on the Western Front in the Great War and went on to serve their country in some capacity during the Second World War. The soldiers examined in this study experienced the full extent of the horrors of World War I, yet still felt compelled to offer their services. Using soldiers’ personal papers located in the Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives in London and literary sources this thesis argues that soldiers’ experiences of the Second World War were influenced by their First World War service.

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