When Gabrielle West wrote diaries about her war to send to her much missed favourite brother in India she had no idea that a hundred years later they would be of interest to anyone. Soon after the outbreak of the First World War, Vicar’s daughter Gabrielle joined the Red Cross and worked as a volunteer cook in two army convalescent hospitals. She then secured paid positions in the canteens of the Farnborough Royal Aircraft Factory and then the Woolwich Arsenal, where she watched Zeppelin raids over London during her night shifts. Having failed a mental arithmetic test to drive a horse-drawn bread van for J. Lyons, she was among the first women enrolled in the police and spent the rest of the war looking after the girls in various munitions factories. Gabrielle wrote about and drew what she saw. She had no interest in opinion or politics. She took her bicycle and her dog Rip everywhere and they appear in many of her stories. She had a sharp eye and sometimes a sharp pen. At the end of the war she was simply sent home. She spent the rest of her life caring for relatives. She lived to 100 and never married. The First World War was her big adventure. These days, the reader might feel MI5 should worry about those detailed line drawings of the processes in the factories being sent by Royal Mail across the world …but a hundred years ago?
MENUS, MUNITIONS AND KEEPING THE PEACE The Home Front Diaries of Gabrielle West 1914-1917
Gabrielle’s diary begins in June 1914 and gives valuable insight into life in Britain just prior to the conflict. Gabrielle worked in a variety of kitchens in convalescent hospitals and munitions factories. The munitions factories were targets of Zeppelin raids and Gabrielle describes some that she witnessed in great detail She also explains the layout of the factories and what each department produced, taking us on virtual tours – all illustrated with diagrams and drawings.