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Middle-class men on the English Home Front, 1914–18
Author: Laura Ugolini

Historians of the First World War often seem to have a very clear idea of who middle-class men were and how they reacted to the outbreak of the conflict. This book explores the experiences of middle-class men on the English home front during the First World War. It first focuses on the first twelve months or so of war, a period when many middle-class men assumed that the war could hardly fail to affect them. The book then delves deeper into middle-class men's understandings of civilians' appropriate behaviour in wartime. It explores middle-class men's reasons for not conforming to dominant norms of manly conduct by enlisting, and considers individuals' experiences of 'non-enlistment'. It also focuses on middle-class men's involvement in volunteer activities on the home front. The book also focuses on middle-class men's working lives, paying particular attention to those aspects of work that were most affected by the war. It considers civilian men's responses to the new ambivalence towards profit-making, as well as to the doubts cast on the 'value' of much middle-class, whitecollar work in wartime. The book further assesses the ways in which middle-class men negotiated their roles as wartime consumers and explores the impact of war on middle-class relationships. It considers the nature of wartime links between civilians and servicemen, as well as the role of the paterfamilias within the middle-class family, before turning to focus on the relationship between civilian fathers and combatant sons.

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Middle-class men and the First World War
Laura Ugolini

Introduction: Middle-class men and the First World War Decades after the end of the conflict, F. W. M. Drew recalled that in 1917, at the age of thirteen, he had entered ‘HMS Conway, the naval training base near Liverpool’. He had ‘fully expected to be able to take an active part in the war, but the following year it was all over. Still, several of my fellow trainees, lads of sixteen and seventeen who had graduated and gone to sea, never returned’. He added that ‘the toll had been so terrible that no one dared speak of their experiences. Only those like myself

in Civvies
Laura Ugolini

middle-class men’s involvement in this home front ‘war work’ that is the focus of this chapter. After a brief survey of the options open to middle-class male volunteers and an examination of individuals’ motives for selecting the particular activities and organisations with which to become involved, the chapter considers more in detail two of the most common volunteering choices made by middle-class men: enlistment in the Volunteer Training Corps and the special constables. After assessing the extent to which participation in these two bodies allowed middleclass men to

in Civvies
Laura Ugolini

such heavy demands on people and material, and led to such widespread disruption to international trade, consumer practices were hardly likely to remain unaffected. • 227 • chap7.indd 227 05/04/2013 11:06:37 Civvies The aim of this chapter is thus to examine middle-class men’s wartime consumer and leisure practices. Recent research has shown that far from being disinterested in consumption, preferring to leave it to their womenfolk, Edwardian middle-class men were keen purchasers and users of the whole range of commodities and leisure opportunities on offer to

in Civvies
Laura Ugolini

feeling that the war would change lives fundamentally and perhaps irrevocably. This chapter and the next will thus explore some of the changes experienced by middle-class men as they went about their ‘everyday’ lives in wartime. Focusing particularly on the first twelve months or so of the war, this chapter will suggest that although ­middle-class men were physically distanced from the actual fighting, the war intruded in their lives in a variety of ways. Indeed, it was generally felt right that it should: few believed that people should continue their normal activities

in Civvies
Abstract only
Laura Ugolini

for several subsequent days’.4 Many, no doubt, behaved less than impeccably. And yet most middle-class men tended to portray themselves as spectators to the celebrations, rather than as active participants. Shifting attention for • 302 • conclusion.indd 302 05/04/2013 11:07:31 Conclusion a moment north of the border, for example, Thomas Livingstone noted in his diary that on 11 November there were ‘Great scenes in Glasgow. Took Agnes and Tommy [his wife and young son] into town to see the sights. City packed’.5 Others too emphasised their role as observers rather

in Civvies
Laura Ugolini

– of his middle-class contemporaries would have agreed with the sentiment.2 And, indeed, thousands of men did just that. By 22 August 1914 more than 100,000 had enlisted.3 The publication of the Mons Despatch in The Times on 25 August, presenting the battle as a ‘heroic defeat’ and ending ‘with an appeal for more men to join up’, provided a new fillip to recruitment: almost 175,000 men enlisted between 30 August and 5 September.4 ‘Sport-mad’ upper- and middle-class men, often – it has been suggested – deeply influenced by a public school ethos of ‘chivalric

in Civvies
Laura Ugolini

getting tired out, people no longer talk of the war, they are saturated with it, they live with it, they sleep with it, it enters into their every thought and action, it is part of their flesh and of their bone … When are we again to live proper lives?’1 The war, Arthur Marwick suggests, was changing lives on the home front in important ways, and ‘as 1916 passed away the community began to savour more sharply the realities of modern total war’.2 It is some of the most significant changes to the ‘everyday’ lives of middle-class men that are explored here. The chapter

in Civvies
Laura Ugolini

•  8  • Families and relationships Introduction In April 1918 Horace Joseph spent two days in Gloucester, visiting an uncle: ‘it was a rest to be away … from the Bursary, and rationing, and the Volunteers’.1 Networks of family and friends were extremely important to middle-class men, and became even more so during the war. It was within these networks that they often spent their working hours, as well as their leisure time. It was from these that they sought information, advice, solace in time of trouble and sometimes practical help. As Joseph found, family and

in Civvies
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Glorifying the working body
Joanne Begiato

-Man’, and ‘The “Blue Jacket’s” Sampler’.2 These employments were no doubt intended to represent the magazine’s readership, but they also offer valuable insights into the ways in which working men were imagined, consumed, and deployed in constructions of manliness. Middle-class men wrote and illustrated the British Workman, so this chapter explores the role of such representations for their own social group. As such, it returns to where this book began, with desire for the male emotionalised body and the gender it embodied. Working men’s erotic power lay in their

in Manliness in Britain, 1760–1900