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The Boy Scouts in the Great War (Hardback)

WWI Social History Home Front in WWI 1914 1915 1916 1917 1918 Military

By Dr Craig Armstrong
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 208
Illustrations: 100 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526723246
Published: 5th August 2021



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The Boy Scouts Association was just seven years old when war broke out in 1914. With its members brought up with a strong ethos of duty and loyalty, it was no surprise that many wanted to play the best role possible in the nation’s war effort.

Many members were amongst those who rallied to the colours and enlisted in the heady days of the first weeks and months of the war. Some already belonged to either the Reserves or the Territorials and so found themselves immediately thrust into the front lines and casualty rates were high. Several of those who fought were decorated for their service, with a number even wining the Victoria Cross.

On the Home Front, Boy Scouts served as messengers, printers, dispatch riders etc. in the War Office and other government offices, both locally and nationally. Scouts helped gather in the harvest, hunted for spies, aided the civil and military authorities, maintained watch during air raids, helped various wartime charities and sold old bottles to raise funds for recreational huts and ambulances for the front. Others found themselves mounting guard on the coasts and on vulnerable points such as the railway network, or aiding recruitment efforts across the country. The Boy Scout became a trusted and common sight on the streets of the country and the contribution they made was great indeed.

The book covers things like Scouts helping out in the community, or helping local communities out with jobs that are deemed not suitable for young adult men who are off to war when it could be done by a group of older teenagers. Towards the end of the war and the book, we learn more stories about various former Scouts who had joined up and did well serving that deserved recognition and praise. I’m going to say that most of the Home Front news and information I had heard of before having been in the Scouting moving for 30+ years. It was the war news and skills of former Scouts where I learnt new information. An interesting book, I think most will have heard of the Home Front news before as it gets well publicised, I think most will get satisfaction from the roles of former Scouts in serving in the war. A good book indeed.

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UK Historian

The book contains so much it really is a great resource and read. Well done Dr Armstrong.

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For the Love of Books

"Craig Armstrong gives a year by year account of their activities in 1914-1918...with over 50 black-and-white photographs throughout...a thorough account that highlights the exploits of ordinary Scouts living through extraordinary times."

Nina Hoole, Who Do You Think You Are Magazine

The book is well structured with chapters covering each year of the war sub-divided into Home Front and Military sections with many photographs, many of which are new to this reviewer. The scope of the effort of the Scouts is quite remarkable and the author does a good job in covering innumerable factors.

This comprehensive history is to be welcomed and is a worthwhile addition to the shelves of those who have an interest in the Great War and social historiography of the time.

Martin Willoughby, Chairman of the Wessex Branch of the Western Front Association

About Dr Craig Armstrong

Born and bred in Northumberland, Dr Craig Armstrong is an experienced historian,with a special interest in the history of the North East of England and Scotland. He works as a freelance author and has taught history at both Newcastle University and Northumbria University.

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