Life Away from the Front

Even in wartime, soldiers did not spend all of their time in the heat of battle. Often there were weeks or even months of waiting before they were sent into action and, fortunately, there were periods of rest and relaxation between engagements. The case studies presented here show how some soldiers spent their time away from the front, British soldiers in Germany during the final months of the First World War mounting very sophisticated theatrical productions, Otto Hartmann, a German soldier who, for a time, stayed quite close to home in the same conflict, and the Canadian McDaniel brothers, posted to a surprisingly peaceful part of England during World War II.

Time Off during War: The Saarlouis Theatrical Productions

It has often been said that soldiers during wartime are bored ninety-nine per cent of the time. The other one per cent of their lives, of course, is sheer terror. But what do soldiers do when they are not training, marching, fighting, and preparing for war? Certainly, their thoughts are focused away from the battlefield and on family and loved ones and the normalcy of ordinary life. During both World Wars, regiments entertained themselves in order to boost morale.

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Letters of a German Soldier in the First World War: Otto Hartmann

At about 9:45 pm on 30 March 1915, a German soldier named Otto Hartmann readied himself to sleep on a chaise-lounge well known for its softness in the day duty officer’s shack at the Rennfeld prisoner-of-war camp in Münster, Westphalia, where more than two hundred prisoners had just arrived from Giessen and Darmstadt. Stationed quite close to his wife Ada and their three children in Minden, he had been spending his free time eating eisbein and sauerkraut and drinking beer with fellow soldiers.

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Young Canadian Brothers in England: “Even here it is hard to realize there is a war on”

Fresh with enthusiasm to accomplish his part in the war, Aircraftman (AC) Francis J. “Wit” McDaniel arrived at Hastings, England in May 1942 to await posting as an erk (aircraft maintenance crewman). He was not uninformed about the nature of his imminent service. His elder brother Leading Aircraftman (LAC) Bernard M. “Bain” McDaniel, a member of the ground crew of No.

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