An information “black hole”: World War I in Africa

There are many unknown stories of how there were War and Home Fronts beyond Europe.  In this article, our guest author Marika Sherwood brings our attention to the information ‘black hole’ on World War I in Africa. Introduction There has been much commemoration on our television screens, on our web-sites and in our newspapers on World War I.  But where was the war fought? That World War One was also fought in Africa is usually relegated to a sentence or a brief paragraph in most books on the War. The BBC’s website, www.bbc.co.uk/history/0/ww1, for example, states that it was fought ’from the trenches and the Somme on the Western Front, to the collapse of Russia and the Ottoman Empire on the Eastern Front’. There are 19 films/videos, innumerable articles and speeches on http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-i , but no mention of Africa. On the Wikipedia website which many people would look at, there are c.19,000 words dealing with the war itself of which 90 are on Africa. (But, to be fair, there is a reference to a useful website.) In The Guardian newspaper’s archive on WWI (available on the web), there is nothing on Africa. Any reports published in the newspapers during the war in Africa are either a sentence in a general report on the war, or occasionally very very brief reports issued by the War Office.  South Africa merits a few more sentences. Thus information was very tightly controlled. The Times published one article by ‘Our East African Correspondent‘ on 22 January 1918:  ‘A Land of Promise: the possibilities of East Africa’, which deals with the problems being faced by...

A Journey into Russia

As the Käthe Buchler exhibition, Beyond the Battlefields, enters its final week, Jennifer Deakin writes about another woman photographer of the period: Florence Farmborough (1887-1978). Jennifer is currently writing her PhD on Farmborough at Canterbury Christ Church University. She was inspired by the Centre’s Witnessing War workshop in March to compare Farmborough’s work with Buchler’s, placing both women in their broader historical contexts. THE RED CROSS ON THE EASTERN FRONT, 1914-1917 (Q 107166) Nurse Florence Farmborough wearing her travelling uniform – dark brown dress, black apron with red cross and black veil. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205350049 In 1974 Florence Farmborough (1887-1978) with the encouragement of her family published the first edition of her diary, Nurse at the Russian Front followed by her Russian Album 1914-1918 in 1978.  At that time, she was living in a retirement home in Heswall, Cheshire and the shop where my mother was manageress ran a book promotion to coincide with the launch.  So, I subsequently acquired my signed first edition which I carefully put away to read for when time permitted.  In 2015 I discovered the diary again and this has led to my current PhD research. Florence had always wanted to travel and in 1905 left England, and took up the past as governess to the two daughters of eminent Russian heart surgeon Dr Pavel Sergeyevich Usov in Moscow. When war broke out she joined the Russian Red Cross after taking the necessary exams to enable her to serve at the front as a surgical nursing sister.  This was at a time when women were prevented from serving at the front...