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The Great War Diaries

How ordinary people – soldiers, mothers, nurses, even children – experienced World War One.

Dr Ingrid Sharp hears how ordinary people – soldiers, mothers, nurses, and even children – experienced World War One.

Through letters, diaries and memoirs, Ingrid Sharp – a historian from the University of Leeds in northern England – brings to life personal stories 100 years after the First World War began. These writings, some of which are dramatised, portray the little-known human side of the world’s first truly global conflict: stories of love and loss, hope and grief, fervour and brutal death.

Elfriede Kuhr is a 12 year-old German schoolgirl who lives in a small town near the Russian border. Elfriede, led on by nationalist teachers and excited about Germany’s early victories, soon learns about deprivation and the loss of loved ones – including her first boyfriend.

Charles Edward Montague, an Englishman who was too old to volunteer for the army, lies about his age to be allowed to fight. Montague loses his early illusions in the trenches of Belgium and gets into trouble for taking a visiting Member of Parliament too close to the front line.

Finally, Marina Yurlova – a Russian teenager, daughter of a Cossack colonel and faithful supporter of the Tsar – suddenly finds herself on the wrong side after the Russian Revolution.

These diaries, along with other characters from Britain, France, Russia and Germany, are woven into a vivid tapestry of the Great War – focusing not on military strategy or the causes of war, but on what it was like for ordinary people to live through a conflict that is otherwise too overwhelming to grasp.

Picture: Digging up potatoes in Dulwich, Credit: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

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55 minutes

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