Antiques Roadshow World War One in 100 Family Treasures, Paul Atterbury

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To mark the centenary of the start of World War I, the Antiques Roadshow team filmed a series of specials at the Somme, where the public brought in their family’s war memorabilia and photographs. These ‘antiques’ weren’t financially valuable, or in some cases even very beautiful, but the stories that came attached to these momentoes were priceless.

Antiques Roadshow: World War I in 100 Family Treasures takes 100 of the most fascinating and moving stories and shows how they fit in to the wider history that was occuring around them. From Rifleman Frank Edwards, who led the ‘big push’ in September 1915 kicking a football in front of the troops (and survived to tell the tale) to the formidable Catherine Murray Roy, one of the first 50 nurses to be sent to the front lines in France. The story behind each object paints an intimate portrait of a long-lost relative, and quotes from the modern-day participants in the roadshow provide a moving link between the families then and now.

Publisher: BBC Books, August 2014

Reviewer: Briony Stebbings

The Antiques Roadshow had asked for people to come forward with their family treasures and heirlooms that told a story from World War One, they did this for a show celebrating the centenary that they filmed at the Somme. The response was so huge that it couldn’t all be fitted into the programme and the stories were so amazing they couldn’t just be forgotten either.

Paul Atterbury , the Antiques Roadshow’s military specialist, has gone beyond the show and taken 100 of those amazing and special items, researched the story behind each one, unearthing new facts, correcting family myths and really painting an amazing an individual story for each person whose item was bought forward.

The First World War is something I know woefully little about, I was taught about World War Two at school, there are plenty of films and TV series depicting it as well that I have watched over the years but there is far less about The Great War and whilst I know the basics I wouldn’t profess to know much more than that. Which as it is such an important part of our history and a topic that interests me greatly is actually quite sad.

I have enjoyed reading this book so much, I have found it educational, interesting and really just enjoyable. It has proven to be a great talking point as well, everyone who has visited and seen it on the arm of my chair or on the coffee table has picked it up to flick through, read a quick story or just chatted about memories they have of grandfathers or other relatives who fought but I never met.

Whilst this is a big book, not just the topic but physically as well, it has been written in such a way that makes it easy to read. You start with the introduction which tells you a little bit about how the book came about and gives you an idea of what to expect and this leads into the first story, a personal one about Paul Atterbury’s Great Uncle and it’s a nice way to start as it proves that this book is a very personal one. Each story is about someone specific and in turn about their relatives who have remembered them and wanted the remembered by others. It is personal to each and every person who reads it as whilst it may not be about their own relatives they will be related to someone whose greater story this is about.

After this introduction the stories have been told chronologically and split into sections, 1914, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1918 and post war. At the start of each section there are a few pages detailing the historical facts about that year, major events and general background. Each story is only 2 or 3 pages long and although centred around the artefact that has been presented also covers that person’s story. With brilliant images and truly amazing stories this book is not to be missed.

I have enjoyed each and every page of this book, although I do have to admit to having my favourites tales, such as the stuffed rat that made it back from the front lines and was dutifully cared for or the wallet full of family pictures that stopped a bullet in its path.

I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in history, be it a general interest in history as a whole or a more specific interest in the World Wars. I would certainly recommend it to anyone who likes family history, true stories and biographies. This would be brilliant for children learning about World War One in school as not only does it cover the history but it is more likely to pull them and interest them due to the nature of the individual stories. Just anyone who likes and appreciates a beautiful book will enjoy this. It works well as what I call a ‘coffee table’ book, one with lovely pictures that can just be picked up and put down easily or as a novel. I realise I am now wittering on a bit now but I cannot sing the praises of this book highly enough, it is amazing!

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