Ipswich in the Great War by Rachel Field. Pen & Sword, 2016, 176pp. (ISBN 9781473828117). £12.99
This is a handsome book, well put-together with an intriguing colour picture on the front cover which encourages one to dip in.
What we find is a warm, generous social history of Ipswich with some reference to the county and surrounding towns and villages. There are informative and fascinating monochrome illustrations which are very well chosen. Furthermore, the captioning of them is in itself abundant and illuminating.
The anecdotal accounts are widely sourced and adjust to the tone of the times - bewilderment and awe followed by incredulity and grief culminating in surprise and jubilation.
The cooler factual and mundane matters of the times are an equally captivating counterweight to the human stories: the excellent reference section at the end has, for example, good details of the Suffolk Regiment's involvement in the Great War. The accompanying concluding timeline is also very useful in encapsulating much of the events of the Great War as they affected the town. Moreover, the bibliography of research at the Suffolk Record Office is extremely detailed and very useful for anyone else who cares to follow up the information provided by the author in this estimable book.
From VC war hero to “conchie”, from schoolchild to local worthy, the book captures a sense in the people of the time of the resonant, repugnant and yet ultimately redemptive effect the war had on the town.
The audience for this book is broad; an absorbing quick read or one to refer to from time to time. It would be appreciated equally by a student as by someone who wants to become swiftly familiar with the Great War.