“These anecdotes recounted over and over again in dug-outs and during the tedious hours of rest in camp should be saved from oblivion”
- from Poil et Plume (May, 1916), magazine of the French 81st Infantry Regiment.
By the end of 1914, the trenches of the Western Front were established and the armies on both sides were forced into the uncomfortable routine of trench warfare. During this time, the troops turned to writing and illustrating as an outlet for their feelings.
Units of all sizes, from individual companies to whole regiments, divisions or army corps, produced magazines filled with poetry, stories, jokes, cartoons, observations, anecdotes and illustrations in an effort to document their experience and to lighten the load of serving at the Front.
As rationing, conscription and bombing brought the War to the civilians of all combatant nations, the home front was changed profoundly. By including magazines produced by civilian organisations, charities and companies directly involved in the war effort, the digital collection offers a vital and unique perspective on the global conflict.
Readers can discover the experiences and views of munitions workers, charities engaged in the welfare of wounded and disabled servicemen and even of conscientious objectors in internment camps.
ProQuest has sourced the contents for the digital collection from leading libraries and archives around the world; the Imperial War Museums, London, The British Library, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin and the Library of Congress. Brought together in this way, the full breadth and impact of the First World War – on serving personnel and civilians alike – can be fully appreciated as never before.
The practice of trench journalism was not confined to any one nation. Combatants on all sides of the conflict and on all active fronts produced magazines which have been carefully digitised so as to unlock their contents for researchers today.
British, Commonwealth and US units’ magazines are well represented in the digital collection but so too are the journals of all combatant nations, including France, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Austro-Hungary and Russia. Although the majority of journals which have survived were produced by units engaged on the fronts in Europe, magazines in other areas, including Africa, India, Mesopotamia, Palestine, the Balkans and Gallipoli are featured. Even ships at sea, transporting reinforcements or evacuating the wounded, created magazines during their voyages.
ProQuest has digitised the magazines carefully, ensuring their continued preservation and capturing each magazine from cover to cover in high definition colour or greyscale images with searchable background transcriptions of texts in English, French, German and Italian in order to further aid discovery.
Modern, mechanised warfare wrought an extraordinarily bloody toll on the fighting troops of all combatant nations. On the first day of the Battle of the Somme alone, the British Army lost nearly 20,000 men with twice as many wounded.
The medical services of all sides developed modern, efficient methods and procedures ensuring that, from battlefield to the back areas to the home front, the wounded soldier had never had a greater chance of survival. The stretcher bearers, casualty clearing stations, field hospitals and convalescent homes frequently produced magazines, contributed to and read by nurses, doctors and patients alike.
Trench journals and unit magazines were subject to censorship and the danger of the publications falling into enemy hands was known to the editors. Consequently, the magazines’ contributors are frequently anonymous and the units that produced them are often not identified. ProQuest, in collaboration with the source libraries, has researched each title, adding historical information about the units; where they came from, where they were based during the War, what type of unit they were (medical, infantry, civilian, etc.) and, importantly, the unit’s name.
Researchers today can lift the veil of anonymity and search and browse using ProQuest’s powerful search platform to make fresh discoveries that would not be possible even by consulting the original documents themselves.
In November 1918, after more than four years of conflict, the guns finally stopped firing.
An Armistice was declared; the terms of the final Peace were decided upon eight months later at Versailles in July 1919. During this time, and long after, in the cases of many service personnel, life in the armed forces continued as the process of demobilisation ran its course.
ProQuest has extended the coverage of Trench Journals and Unit Magazines of the First World War up to 1923 to include the writings of units after the War as they consider their return to civilian life – with both excitement and anxiety – as well as ponder if the battlefields themselves will recover and regenerate.
These magazines represent a vast library of previously untapped primary sources from every facet of the First World War. They offer the researcher, in a broad range of subject areas, the opportunity to eavesdrop on the hitherto unappreciated writings of the common serviceman and woman during this pivotal moment in world history.
Trench Journals and Unit Magazines of the First World War has received wide critical acclaim. The Charleston Advisor describes the collection as “an unparalleled archival resource” and Information Today calls it an “unfiltered view into life in the trenches during the First World War”. Choice Magazine states that it offers “a wealth of interesting material” to the researcher in a range of subjects.
ProQuest is proud to bring this unrivalled collection of rare and previously inaccessible resources to the researcher at a critical time in the re-assessment of the “war to end all wars”.
Trench Journals and Unit Magazines of the First World War is available for institutional access. Learn more about the database and methods of access by watching the video, viewing the product page and contacting ProQuest about institutional trials and purchases.