Folklore of War and Peace: 2018 Virtual Special Issue to Commemorate the Centenary of the End of the Great War Folklore


The approaching anniversary of the end of the First World War provides an opportunity for The Folklore Society to gather together articles for this podcast on folklore’s role in both war and peace studies.  Venetia Newall’s article ‘Armistice Day: Folk Tradition in an English Festival of Remembrance’ (1976) deals directly with traditions of celebration on Remembrance Sunday. The article engages with the links between John McCrae’s poem referring to the poppies that bloomed in the battlefield after the end of the war, memories of men who fought in the Great War, and the continuing support of injured ex-servicemen through the annual Poppy Appeal. The ‘trench fraternity’ created by the extreme conditions of trench warfare is explored by Graham Seal in ‘“We’re Here Because We’re Here”: Trench Culture of the Great War’. He surveys the ephemeral but extensive folk culture phenomenon of the ‘trench press’ which flourished from late 1914 until just after the end of the war (Seal 2013, 179). These crudely produced publications expressed the attitudes of the common—largely non-professional—soldiers, through numerous folk genres including cartoons, jokes, satirical songs, gossip, and rumour. They contain accounts of impromptu sporting events and sing-alongs and provide an invaluable source for trench lore such as fear of the number thirteen, the existence of mascots as good luck talismans, and the legend of a mysterious figure called the ‘Helper in White’ who protected and tended wounded soldiers.

Please find the full introduction by Juliette Wood here.

Folklore of War and Peace

Further Reading