The Great War brought the reality of modern conflict into the lives of a whole society. This book collects some specifically Catholic experiences and responses, in two texts written by Eileen Boland in 1915.
These booklets come from the first year of the Great War, when British involvement was mostly limited to the men of the Regular Army and the Territorial Force. Wartime volunteers (“Kitchener’s Armies”) did not reach the front line until 1916. Many of the stories concern French clergy in uniform; the anti-clerical government there refused to exempt priests from military service, and so many fought in the trenches. Their witness did something to dissolve anti-clerical prejudice. Other stories involve atrocities perpetrated by German troops in Belgium, some against priests and nuns. It used to be fashionable to dismiss these as wartime propaganda; but there is good evidence that the German Army pursued a deliberate policy of terror with the aim of discouraging resistance amongst the civilian population. Belgium was famously the most devout Catholic country in Europe; religious would have been obvious and visible targets. That being said, other stories here show the Germans acting as fellow-Christians. Stories of the Great War brings a variety of wartime stories together in one booklet.