As the country pauses to remember the end of the First World War, a new book is shedding light on the struggle endured by those back home in Dundee.
Dundee gave proportionately more men to the conflict than any other Scottish city and suffered some 4,200 casualties.
The impact was huge.
Retired head teacher Linda Nicoll’s new book, titled Dundee and the Home Front, is a fascinating insight into an often overlooked aspect of the conflict.
In it, she recounts the story of the teenage Serbian refugees for whom Dundee became home, the enormous sums raised by the city to aid the wounded and their struggling families, the dissenting voices and the boom in war work which helped lift the community.
Yet when she volunteered to help out at the Dundee City Archives, writing a book was the last thing on her mind.
“As a child, the legacy of the First World War was all around us but it wasn’t talked about,” said Linda, who is from Carnoustie.
“My grandfather had served in the Royal Army Medical Corps, but just didn’t talk about it.
“Once, when I was about 10 or 11, I was at a Remembrance service with my father and I asked if this is something that people would do forever – remember the war, I mean – and he said we must always remember, we must never forget. That stayed with me.”
As she started the research which ultimately resulted in the book, Linda was naturally drawn to the story of Dundee’s schools.
She said: “One of my first tasks when I joined the archives was to help digitalise school records.
“It was just fascinating – discovering how the children of Dundee began knitting comforts for the troops, scarves and mittens, and how some were also given to the children whose fathers were at the front.
“I learned that this city had raised £100,000 by the end of 1914 – a phenomenal sum.
“I learned the cost to the city too. By the end of the war, 56 children at Dens Road Primary School alone had lost their fathers.
“This whole process has been a journey for me. I never set out to write a book, but this is a story that we should all know.
“And it’s about the people more than anything.”
Linda’s book isn’t about the strategic war goals, the tactics of the Western Front or the campaigns further afield – it’s a very human tale of ordinary people coping with extraordinary times.
“I wanted it to be accessible, readable,” she said. “I hoped to be able to donate a copy to every school library in Dundee and now, through the generosity of the Nine Incorporated Trades, this will become a reality.”
The book details the defence put in place to keep Dundee safe, the tireless work of the churches and hospitals and how the city’s manufacturing industries played their part in winning the war.
“It’s been a learning experience for me too,” said Linda. “While the legacy of the war was all around us as I was growing up, there’s so much I had never heard before.
“The tale of the Serbian boys for example. The Serbian Government realised that the future of their country was at stake so ordered 20,000 teenage boys to retreat with the army.
“Some were as young as 12. They had made an arrangement with Britain and France that they would take them in as war refugees and educate them with a view to them being repatriated after the war.
“Only 4,500 boys survived the journey. About 35 of those came to Dundee where they were enrolled at Harris Academy and Dundee High.
“It’s a story I’d never heard before.”
Linda’s book as available from Dundee City Archives and is £9.99.