Leicestershire soldiers

I was commissioned by the Century of Stories programme to investigate the motivation of men from Leicestershire to serve, fight and persevere during the Great War.

This project was a partnership between Leicestershire County Council, Royal British Legion, Heritage Lottery Fund and the Friends of Leicester and Leicestershire Museums and ran from 2017 to the centenary of the Armistice in 2018. The research results of the project were presented at a conference on 9 November 2018 at De Monfort University.

This research examined, from the perspective of men who lived in Leicestershire and fought in the armed forces, why they enlisted to fight, how they managed the stresses of active service, their combat motivation, and what impact their experience of war had on their commitment to the ‘cause’ in which many had volunteered to fight. This project used the letters, diaries and memoirs of these men, to present their views.

The aims were to:

  1. Conduct a qualitative survey of the available letters, diaries and memoirs of these Leicestershire men to examine the reasons men gave for enlisting in the military, enduring the strain of active service and fighting during the war.
  2. Contribute to existing historical debates on morale, endurance and combatant motivation during the Great War.
  3. In relation to men’s decisions to serve and their ability to cope in war, consider the importance and impact of:

(a) their links with their community and family-based in Leicestershire.

(b) men’s local patriotism, municipal pride (e.g. of Leicester) and affinity for Leicestershire’s topography and geography.

  1. Assess the role of local communities and institutions (e.g. churches) in supporting men’s morale away on active service (e.g. sending parcels).
  2. Appraise how a serviceman’s personal civilian circumstances (e.g. single/married, volunteer/conscript) and their background (e.g. social class) may have shaped their attitudes and conduct in uniform.
  3. Evaluate how the motivation of servicemen changed over the course of the war in relation to international events, local news or familial changes (e.g. birth of a child).