All roads lead to France

by Andrew Swift


All Roads Lead to France describes the Great War’s impact on one English community —the city of Bath. Over 1800 men from the Bath area died in the Great War. Their average age was 27.

Abroad, Somerset men fought battles not only on the Western Front, but in Mesopotamia and Palestine. At home, there were battles between jingoists and conscientious objectors. There was industrial unrest, with strikes continuing throughout the war. There were fears of a breakdown in public order. Bigamy reached record levels. While soldiers struggled against terrible odds in the mud of Flanders, their families battled against poverty and hunger caused by rising prices and rationing.
Bath’s men went to war — and the war came to the city. There were three aircraft factories in the city, as well as factories turning out shells, torpedoes and experimental tanks for the war effort. Tens of thousands of soldiers were billeted in the city; tens of thousands more were cared for in a purpose-built war hospital.
After the war came peace — but it was not the time of prosperity the Tommies had dreamt of they lay listening to ‘whizz-bangs’ and thinking of their families. They came back to a land where nothing would ever be the same again.
Interweaving letters from the front with stories of life at home, and illustrated with over 300 photographs, many published for the first time, the book creates a compelling picture of those terrible years. And, although Andrew Swift tells the story of one community, it was a story repeated, with minor variations, in hundreds of other towns and cities as they lived through the time when all roads led to France.
An appendix to the book gives details of over 1800 men from the Bath area who died in the Great War, including name, rank, regiment, age at time of death, place of burial or commemoration, and home address.

“Describes in amazing detail the devastating effect the war had on the Bath area … The meticulous manner in which the research has been undertaken is evident on every page, while the nine appendices devoted to the local war dead constitute a unique record of the suffering endured by some many families in and around Bath … Other aspiring authors might be well advised to use All Roads Lead to France, which has brought an unprecedented degree of scholarship to local Great War research, as a template for their own work.”
Jonathan Harlow, Avon Local History Society Association

“Highly recommended.”
Michelle Young, Western Front Association

“An immensely readable account … Lavishly illustrated throughout.”
Sonia Batten, Centre for First World War Studies, Birmingham University

“We must be grateful for this excellent book.”
Bob Wyatt, Stand To! Magazine

“I was profoundly moved by this book. It is a compilation of newspaper articles, letters, war histories, political speeches, anecdotes, poetry and novels, all taken, in roughly chronological order, from the First World War period. The broad focus is upon Bath and its environs, though, in order to place it in a historical perspective,the author does not hesitate to quote from authors, politicans and poets who had no direct connection with the city … He draws largely upon letters and records of officers and men in the Somerset Light Infantry. In parallel with this, he uses extracts from the Bath Chronicle to give a picture of life at home in Bath … The author’s skill lies in his ability to weave from this ragbag a tragic and compellingly beautiful tapestry.”
Hylda Holden, The Regional Historian