With World War I and its horrors so much in the public mind I wanted to share the impact that this war to end all wars had on the day-to-day life of women and children in this country through the most normal of items - a knitted sock. The formidable Queen Mary led the movement to keep our troops warm during winter in the trenches, when Lord Kitchener asked her to undertake the huge task of providing 30,000 pairs of socks for our brave lads.
The 70th anniversity of D-Day the centenary of the First World War pinpoint 2014 as a year of wartime nostalgia. Amongst fabulous stories of rebel veterans absconding from their care homes to Normandy and colourful re-enactment celebrations, one of the quieter questions being bartered around is 'do kids really know what's going on?.'
Before the Great War, Armed Forces rugby had to fight against the success of soccer - in 1906 the Army and Navy had 758 'Association' teams. A rugby Challenge match first held in 1878 was revived in 1905, became 'Official' in 1907 and an annual fixture in 1909, endorsed by no less than Admiral Lord Jellicoe...
Much recent writing on the Great War has veered between the highest-ranked and the humble: a determined rehabilitation of Haig at one end, with plain-spoken voices from the ranks at the other, whether individual Tommies who survived to tell their story, or whole battalions of 'Pals'. Lost in all this has been the story of the men arguably most responsible for British obduracy and eventual success - the officers of the line.
Lest we forget, this year marks the 100th anniversary of the war that shaped the 20th century. The first of three world wars (two hot and one cold), this conflict is remembered once a year as a lesson in human suffering, as a reminder that the war to end all wars was only the beginning of the human cost of the past century.
We should reflect on the causes and how to prevent a repeat of the massive, inhumane loss of life that the 'Great War' brought about. We should be doing that regardless of whether the number of years can make the graphics look pretty. But there are so many other conflicts that need documentaries made about them.
As the British government seeks to ensure that centenary activities fully mark the contribution of Empire and Commonwealth soldiers, can it find common ground to reflect Australian and Canadian pride in the birth of a nation, Indian and Pakistani concerns about getting the form of recognition right, and South African scepticism about the contemporary relevance of a conflict fought between long lost Empires?
Just like the courtesy of learning a few words of the language, for someone from the UK travelling to countries with different memories of WWI than ours, learning a little more about the scale and legacy of this truly global conflict can be invaluable in effectively navigating and building relationships of trust.
My granddad died a year ago. We've been clearing out his papers. Like so many men of his generation (he was born in 1921), his early adult life was cut around the events of the Second World War. And, like many of his generation, his was not the first experience of war-service in the family. Amongst the papers he left, we also came across documents and letters about his own father's service in what became the First World War...
My Grandfather tragically lost his friend on the battlefield and suffered from depression for the rest of his life, which rendered him unable to speak for the days surrounding 11 November. My Great Uncle was severely, severely shell shocked and as an additional complication, the PTSD triggered psychotic episodes during which there was an attempt to break into Buckingham Palace.