Annie Lord (b.1899): War and Memory – Writing Lives

Annie Lord (b.1899): War and Memory

“… the 1914 soldiers use[d] to line up for there dinners in the High street Hornsey from the drilly Hall Bottom of nightingale Lane they use[d] to march up opposite the compasses Hundreds at a time in the front Way and out the Back as one lot finished another lot would fall in with Plates and mugs…” 

Lord, p: 2

Annie documents how those around her were greatly affected, first-hand by the war. She did not sustain any physical or mental injuries as a result of the war, and nor did she witness the trauma and the violence out on the battlefields. Nevertheless, Annie was deeply affected by what the war did to her husband.

Annie’s husband John gained numerous injuries from the war, the two most significant being the wound on his leg and his mental state. Annie was often used as his metaphorical punching bag. Thus, the frequent beatings he inflicted upon Annie, mirrored the violence and the constant struggle happening inside his mind. Throughout Paul Fussell’s,The Great War and Modern Memory, he states, “Every war is ironic because every war is worse than expected. The Great War was more ironic than any before or since. It was a hideous embarrassment to the prevailing Meliorist myth which had dominated the public consciousness for a century. It reversed the idea of Progress.” (Fussell, p: 50). Furthermore, Fussell highlights that the men that go to fight in such wars, are never truly prepared for it. Due to their lack of knowledge about the true realities of war, their injuries appear even more severe because of the communal, lack of realisation and underestimation of war.

Bombing Disaster, 1917 – A result of the war.

Furthermore, Annie goes on to document how, “One night 14 killed 3 doors away But we all helped one another the Best we could.” (Lord, p: 5). Frustratingly, Annie never goes into detail about how her neighbours died. However, due to the sheer amount of deaths in one night, she suggests that the house was bombed by foreign soldiers, through the night. Despite this horrific tragedy, Annie highlights the strong sense of community when highlighting how everybody came together to help those in need, during this difficult time; “… But we all helped one another the Best we could. (Lord, p: 5).

A British, WW2 propaganda poster, encouraging men to sign register and fight to defend their country.

Additionally, the aspect of war that, arguably, affected Annie the most, was when all three of her sons were requested to go and fight in Germany and India during World War Two: “Well I was just getting on my feet getting a bit of a Home together, when one after the other was called up for service, the Eldest was dispatch[ed] in Germany and the other one was sent to India…” (Lord, p: 4). However, she refused to let her youngest son go, claiming he was; “… to[o] young to go abroad.” (Lord, p: 4). Thus, Annie struggled with this, not only because she was worried for both her children to return home safely, but also because she was left vulnerable to her husband’s wrath. As a result of John’s extreme violence, Annie states, “I can Remember having to call the Boy home from India Because I was having such a terrible time with my Husband.” (Lord, p: 4). Therefore, Annie was expected to accept her husband’s violence and understand that his abuse of her, was his way of dealing with what he went through. Ultimately, in her acceptance of his actions, she only excuses and rationalises his behaviour, rather than addressing it, which could make her suffering stop.

Furthermore, despite not experiencing the first-hand effects of war, Annie still suffered violence, loss and destruction because of it. Thus, she was forced to accept and deal with her abusive marriage, because his behaviour was thought to be a result of his war injuries. As well as this, Annie also had to deal with the constant worry for her children whom were away, fighting in the war and defending their country. In short, the only positive outcome of war that Annie documents, is witnessing people come together in difficult times to help one another. Ultimately, Annie suffered just as much, if not more, than soldiers fighting in the battlefields. However, the significant difference being, Annie suffered in her home and at the hands of her loved ones. Thus, Annie was fighting her own battle, on her own land.

Works Cited:

Fussell Paul (2000). The Great War and Modern Memory. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 45-384.

Lord, Annie. ‘My Life,’ Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection Library, 2:486.

Images Used:

A bombing disaster in London. From, The Daily Mail: 

A British propaganda poster for WW2. From: Culture on the Edge: 

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