Most people in the United Kingdom have someone in their family past who served in the Great War of 1914 - 1918, everyone has heard all about the trenches, the mud and the terrible slaughter, but what was everyday life like for the British "Tommy" during the "war to end all wars?" That's what a small group of dedicated enthusiasts set out to answer on the 70th anniversary of Britain's entry into the Great War when they created The Great War Society.
The Society did not have an easy birth since although the 1908 pattern Mills Web equipment was cheaper and more common than now, the uniform presented some difficulty because original examples of the tunic were costly even then, and were nearly always too small unless your build happened to match the rather undernourished norm of the time. The best that could often be hoped for was a converted pair of Second World War Battle Dress trousers and a 1922 pattern tunic which was similar to, but not quite the same as the 1902 tunic in which "Tommy" went to war.
As time went by it became obvious to interested parties that the fledgling group were intent on presenting themselves in a way that honoured the memory of the men who had given their lives for their country rather than as just another re-enactment. Talented people were attracted to the group and before long were producing reproductions of clothing and equipment that were unavailable, or simply just too precious to be used in the rough and tumble of public presentation.
The Group continued to grow throughout the 90's and added many well known organisations to itís list of satisfied clients such as English Heritage, The National Army Museum and the Modern Regular Army. The small group that had begun as the Middlesex Regiment grew to accommodate new groups of The Manchester Regiment, The York & Lancaster Regiment and The Rifles.
Perhaps one of the Groups proudest achievements was to be flown by a private aircraft belonging to the Belgian Government to take part in a remembrance celebration there, afterwards being conducted on a private tour of the underground vaults of the National War Museum where large numbers of now rare British weapons from the Great War have been preserved.
The Great War Society continues to enhance itís presentation by the acquisition of new (or rather old) original equipment from the great war period, and by initiating new projects such as the building of a working reproduction of a horse drawn field kitchen. In recent years the sourcing of uniforms has become a little easier as private companies founded to supply clothing and equipment to re-enactment and living history have begun to produce accurate reproduction uniforms and webbing equipment. This has also meant that new Great War groups have been formed, some of them of potentially excellent quality, however The Great War Society still holds a premier position with regard to prolonging the memory of the British "Tommy" who gave his life in thousands for his country.