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Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Wartime Memories: Making Things, Finding Things

The third episode of Wartime Memories is now online and it's been a tricky one.
William is talking about the market of services that existed within the army.  This seems largely to have involved the officers paying the ordinary soldiers to do odd jobs and make things for them.  Whilst this could be seen as class exploitation, I wonder who's exploiting who?  Yes, the working class are generally doing the work for the upper class, but in the great leveller of the war, they're commanding extremely high prices.  The skilled worker has control of the market.  Of course, William may have remembered these details incorrectly, but I suspect not by much.  If the officers wanted the work done, they were going to pay.
The high prices are as much about the control of labour as well as a perceived pointlessness to money.  As William said in the previous episode, (I paraphrase) there isn't much point in a thousand pounds if you're dead.  So, it seems that those with money threw it around like water and those without either looked for work to get it or stood next to the person who did.  In the opening clip he speaks of the great kindness of helping someone spend his money.  It seems that William sent a lot of his money home to his mother - again, presumably on the principle that they needed it more than him.
A similar attitude went with the appropriation of property.  William, and everyone else, took what they needed and sometimes what they wanted - because no one else would need them and they might be dead themselves tomorrow.  A few items from a burnt out building, the map case of a dead soldier.  And the odd piano.
As these accounts move on, though there is laughter in the room and a lightness to his telling, there are glimpses of the darkness that a soldier would have faced coming through.  The next episode confronts death and survival in various ways.

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