I like this picture, though I can't trace where it came from. Wounded men, around 1915, heading back to hospital. Walking wounded from many regiments. Note the shorts on one, the kilt on another, the bandages, the tickets authenticating their wounds. I like this because it shows them together, all for one, probably in pain, being held up for a photograph for the folks back home.
I was given a list of dead Great War soldiers details recently and have been adding them to the website I raised for them, Braintree & Bocking War Memorial, and am intrigued by the types of work in which they or their relatives were employed. Quite a few appeared to be 'sons of a horseman on a farm,' which makes sense in this country area. However when did you last see horses in daily employment? At the time of the Great War farms were dominated by horse drawn equipment and a large number of men were employed in their care, a ploughman being a very skilled operator. Agricultural labourers also abounded and one or two who served had that delightful (ha!) work as the war began. Dunfermline Co-op did use horse drawn vehicles even in the early 60's, and the 'St Cuthbert's Co-op in Edinburgh had them in the early 70's if memory serves me right, although few were still in daily use. Occasional Brewers Drays are seen in various places throughout the country. Horse grooms and ploughmen just don't exist as such today.
I am also intrigued by the change in the shopping patterns. Several men were sons of Grocers, others were Butchers and no such shops appear today. Actually I am wrong, a butcher still exists here but the only Fruit & Veg left are stalls on market day. These shops, along with almost all Bakers, have now been replaced with large supermarkets containing pretend Bakers, Butchers and the like instead. While many women enjoyed the flirting that resulted in the shopkeepers desperation to obtain their cash it also meant a trek between several shops, sometimes a distance apart, although it did make them fitter than today's lass who has to spend time at the gym to keep her figure.
Foremen in the Boot Factory or employees of a Mat Factory also appear, and it is many years since we stopped making boots in the UK. I'm sure someone still does somewhere by even the great factories in East Anglia have long gone, probably to China. Who makes Mats? India I wonder? Even those employed by the big iron foundry, who employed large numbers of females to make munitions, or Crittall's and their famous steel window frames, are a distant memory today. Crittall's existed a few years ago, I almost had a day's employment there myself, but moved away and I am not sure it still operates today. The iron foundry, like the rest are now housing estates that leave people struggling to pay the mortgage. So many businesses that men fought four long years for no longer exist, and those that do, like agriculture, have changed immeasurably in the century that has passed by. Once thirty or more men worked on a farm, now there is only two, with a third to power the machinery during harvest time. House painters and Publicans have not changed that much, neither I suspect have solicitors! The street layout is similar but the buildings that survived two wars, and not all did, are much changed. Hopefully we can discover how many men obtained their jobs again once they returned, in many places they did not!
A hundred years is not a long time when looked at from a historical viewpoint. Much similarity remains, but the world is a very different place. Cars now growl where horses plodded, long working hours are replaced by shorter hours and long paid holidays, heavy labour is much reduced by machinery, and women do all the shopping in one day, making him carry it to the car and drive her home. Washing machines and Microwaves, electricity for all, and the wonder of radio & TV would frighten the ploughman more than they would the horses. While rail travel enabled long distance travel most folks did not venture far, today they holiday in Spain, or even Hawaii. The NHS heals most of the sickness soldiers took for granted and dole money and pensions are a godsend to one and all. The men pictured above may well have survived the war, although that looks very much like a 1915 picture, and they would have benefited from the advances. What would those who did not survive think if told today I wonder?