Every once in a while, we stumble upon an online resource that makes us wonder how we ever managed to get along without it. Such is the case with the clunkily named First World War Digital Poetry Archive, which features even more interesting historical tidbits than advertised. The main focus here, of course, is one the men of letters who found themselves ensconced in the trenches, and attempted to maintain their sanity by recording their experiences on paper. That means the there are plenty of goodies like Wilfred Owen’s first draft of Dulce et Decorum Est, or the notebooks of Ivor Gurney. (If you can decipher the man’s cryptic handwriting, his lyrical account of the Battle of Ypres may well rock your world.)
But the more immediately gratifying treats here are in the audio/visual realm—especially these early films produced by Britain’s War Office. Gearheads in the audience will take particular delight in the footage of primitive tanks inching their way across the wire-strewn No Man’s Lands of the Western Front.
All of the material is not only an educational time suck; it’s also a reminder of how thankful we are not to have been, say, an 18-year-old British male in 1914. Those were some dark times.
(h/t Steve Silberman)