War Sketches

An occasional series of sketches by Matthew Crampton to give a flavour of life during wartime through contemporary voices


Propaganda in action

John Buchan, author of The 39 Steps, used his pen to promote the war as head of the British propaganda department.

Two Poets of War

Laurence Binyon and Vernon Scannell: How the words of one first world war poet inflamed another.

Recruiting blackmail

Before conscription was introduced in 1916, female music hall performers were used to lure men to volunteer.

Toc H

Soldiers out of the line from Ypres might head 10 miles west to an unusual haven known by the gunner's signalling code of Toc H.


On the Western Front an estaminet was not a pub. Neither was it a café or a restaurant. It had some of the qualities of all three.

Shirkers at the Seaside

How newspapers reported the "rounding up" of men of military age the military and police thought should have joined up.

Purple Propaganda

Many soldiers hated how newspapers exploited the first world war to increase circulation by pushing lies about the glory of it all.