Cambridge is one of the most famous universities in the world and its library is one of only five copyright libraries in the UK. At the start of the twentieth century it was a privileged life for some, but many in Cambridge knew that war was becoming truly inevitable. What the proverbial ‘gown’ feared communicated itself to the surrounding ‘town’. Terrible rumours were rife, that the Germans would burn the university library and raise King’s College chapel to the ground, before firing shells along the tranquil ‘Backs’ of the River Cam until the weeping willows were just blackened stumps. Frightened but determined, age-old ‘town and gown’ rivalries were put aside as the city united against the common enemy.
This book tells Cambridge’s fascinating story in the grim years of the Great War. Thousands of university students, graduates and lecturers alike enlisted, along with the patriotic townsfolk. The First Eastern General Military Hospital was subsequently established in Trinity College and treated more than 80,000 casualties from the Western Front. Though the university had been the longtime hub of life and employment in the town, many people suffered great losses and were parted from loved ones, decimating traditional breadwinners and livelihoods, from the rationing of food, drink and fuel, to hundreds of restrictions imposed by DORA. As a result, feelings ran high and eventually led to riots beneath the raiding zeppelins and ever-present threat of death.
The poet, Rupert Brooke, a graduate of King’s College, died on his way to the Dardanelles in 1915, but his most famous poem The Soldier became a preemptive memorial and the epitaph of millions.
If I should die
Think only this of me
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England.
As featured on ARRSE.ARRSE, Jean Sinclair
The latest in Pen and Sword's superb series on towns and cities and how they coped during the Great War - full of local personalities, excellent range of photos and facts that will engage and inform people of the city of Cambridge. Faultless.Books Monthly, November 2016 – reviewed by Paul Norman