Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Imperial War Museum London
Friday saw my first visit to the Imperial War Museum in London, to research my novel set during the First World War. The museum was relatively easy to find, and the staff were extremely helpful; not only were they courteous and polite but they had also set out a pile of relevant books for me to use in preparation for my visit. I got there much later than I had anticipated (after checking out of my hotel), so didn't get nearly half as much done as I would have liked. In fact, I only managed to read and take notes from two books. Both were very useful however, but I do plan to go back at some point, whenever I am next in London. Just a note to anyone planning on going - take your own pencil and pencil sharpener, as you are forbidden to use pen in the Reading Room, and their pencil sharpeners do not work!!
So, what have I discovered? Well, the First World War was pretty much like the Second World War, in terms of price increases, air raids, rationing, Women's Land Army and Munitions work. What I have discovered is that there was a great deal of mistrust in foreigners at the time, in case they were spies, with German shopkeepers living in the UK being targetted violently by local gangs. There were lots of 'War Babies' as Victorian sensibilites went out of the window and people adopted a 'live for today' attitude. There was a great pressure on men to enlist in the army, and those that didn't were punished, not just by the government, but by the general public too. Working class women had money for the first time and spent it on cosmetics and other luxury items. Women served in the police force, as tram and bus drivers, blacksmiths and in other jobs that had traditionally been classed as 'male'.
So what now? Well, I think it's high time I started actually writing the bloody thing! I think I have enough to start with, so I need to collect my story together, based on the information I have collected here, and make a start on it. I'll keep you posted...