All Roads Lead to France.

By Andrew Swift

Printed: 2005

Publisher: Akerman Press.

Edition: First edition

Dimensions 17 × 24 × 3 cm

Language: English

Size (cminches): 17 x 24 x 3

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In the original dustsheet. Red cloth binding with gilt title on the spine.

  • F.B.A. provides an in-depth photographic presentation of this item to stimulate your feeling and touch. More traditional book descriptions are immediately available.

“All Roads Lead to France” describes the Great War’s impact on one English community – Bath. The city, dedicated to health, and famed for its architecture, was surrounded by villages devoted to farming or coal-mining. The Great War had a devastating effect on the entire community. Over 1,800 men from the Bath area died in the Great War – more than 2 percent of the population. 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 of public order- bigamy reached record levels. Illegitimate births led to tragic tales of infanticide, divorce, and even murder. 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 Bath, 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 at a purpose-built war hospital. Many people lived in constant fear of Zeppelin raids, and a strict blackout was observed. Temperance supporters, however, fought a different campaign against what they saw as a greater enemy than the Kaiser – drink. And after the war came peace – but it was not the time of prosperity which the Tommies had dreamt of as 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 vivid picture of what it was like to live through that terrible conflict. It is a story of grief, suffering, and anger – but there is laughter too. And although Dr. Swift has told the story of one community, this is the story, with minor variations, of hundreds of other British towns and cities as they lived through the time when all roads led to France.

Review: Andrew Swift has produced a fascinating study of the effects of the Great War on the inhabitants and the city of Bath. The book also serves as a memorial to the 1,808 men from the city and from Bath Rural District who died during the conflict. Dr Swift’s opinions may not wholly appeal to revisionist historians, but this does not detract from the quality or the content of the book. Dr Swift explores in great detail the impact that the war had on Bath, and also on England. Taking each year as a separate subject, he examines not only the major events taking place in various theatres of war, but on the home front as well, with case histories of soldiers and individuals at home in Bath; for example the sons of the Mayor were killed within weeks of each other in 1916. Not only is recruiting dealt with in detail, but the cases of Conscientious Objectors are examined, probably for the first time, many make very sad reading, as do the stories of soldier’s wives and individuals who committed suicide owing to the pressures of the war. The book is very well illustrated with many unseen photographs and postcards, and produced on fine quality paper, which is probably reflected in the price. Notes appear at the foot of each page which I always find pleasing. There are ten very interesting appendices, and a complete roll of honour. Highly recommended. Michelle Young Western Front association One of the principal strengths of this book is the way it is lavishly illustrated throughout. Swift has marshalled his material confidently. I was impressed by the variety of illustrations: they ranged from postcards, newspaper photographs, advertisements and photographs of memorials and cemeteries, to poetry published in local newspapers, cartoons, commemorative postcards and memorial ephemera. Many of these examples have not been seen before. Sonia Batten Centre for First World War Studies.


                 Skyline of Bath city centre with Bath Abbey and its Roman buildings and walls

Bath is a city in the Bath and North East Somerset unitary area in the ceremonial county of Somerset, England, known for and named after its Roman-built baths. At the 2021 Census, the population was 101,557. Bath is in the valley of the River Avon, 97 miles (156 km) west of London and 11 miles (18 km) southeast of Bristol. The city became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, and was later added to the transnational World Heritage Site known as the “Great Spa Towns of Europe” in 2021. Bath is also the largest city and settlement in Somerset.

The city became a spa with the Latin name Aquae Sulis (“the waters of Sulis”) c. 60 AD when the Romans built baths and a temple in the valley of the River Avon, although hot springs were known even before then. Bath Abbey was founded in the 7th century and became a religious centre; the building was rebuilt in the 12th and 16th centuries. In the 17th century, claims were made for the curative properties of water from the springs, and Bath became popular as a spa town in the Georgian era. Georgian architecture, crafted from Bath stone, includes the Royal Crescent, Circus, Pump Room, and the Assembly Rooms, where Beau Nash presided over the city’s social life from 1705 until his death in 1761.

Many of the streets and squares were laid out by John Wood, the Elder, and in the 18th century the city became fashionable and the population grew. Jane Austen lived in Bath in the early 19th century. Further building was undertaken in the 19th century and following the Bath Blitz in World War II. Bath became part of the county of Avon in 1974, and, following Avon’s abolition in 1996, has been the principal centre of Bath and North East Somerset.

Bath has over 6 million yearly visitors, making it one of ten English cities visited most by overseas tourists. Attractions include the spas, canal boat tours, Royal Crescent, Bath Skyline, Parade Gardens and Royal Victoria Park which hosts carnivals and seasonal events. Shopping areas include SouthGate shopping centre, the Corridor arcade and artisan shops at Walcot, Milsom, Stall and York Streets. There are theatres, including the Theatre Royal, as well as several museums including the Museum of Bath Architecture, the Victoria Art Gallery, the Museum of East Asian Art, the Herschel Museum of Astronomy, Fashion Museum, and the Holburne Museum. The city has two universities – the University of Bath and Bath Spa University – with Bath College providing further education. Sporting clubs from the city include Bath Rugby and Bath City.




Dr Andrew Swift was educated at Barnstaple Grammar School, Exeter College, Oxford, and at the Shakespeare and Barber Institutes at Birmingham University. He has written extensively on the Victorian and Edwardian periods, and is the co-author of Bath Pubs and Awash With Ale: Two Thousand Years of Imbibing in Bath. He is also a dealer in early photographs, picture postcards and ephemera. He is particularly interested in the history of railways, and is a member of the Bristol Industrial Archaeological Society (BIAS).  With his wife, Kirsten Elliott, he has also made a study of pub history in Bath and beyond.

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