The appalling loss of life in World War One is well documented but often overlooked are the privations that the soldiers’ wives and families were undergoing back on the Home Front. How did civilians cope with everything from sugar rationing to Zeppelin raids, and what was the mood of the people?

Members of the Friern Barnet & District Local History Society, led by chairman David Berguer, have put together a book of Barnet’s experiences during the Great War.

All Over by Christmas includes more than 140 illustrations and quotations from letters and interviews of those left at home, and charts the progress of the war in Britain as a whole, in London and specifically in Barnet, Finchley, Friern Barnet, Whetstone and New Southgate.

“We thought it would probably be about 12 pages long, to start with,“ laughs 74-year-old David, from Whetstone of the almost 300-page book.

“About half a dozen of us went through old local papers from 1914 to 1918 and through archives.

“What was quite amazing were the letters from the trenches. I was astounded that they were allowed to be published, because it can’t have done a lot of good for people at home to be reading how bad conditions were in the trenches. The descriptions are quite horrendous – treading on dead bodies.“

The book also charts how initial patriotism and optimism gave way to war weariness and a realisation that victory was by no means inevitable.

“Gradually it dawned on people that it wasn’t going to be a short war, things didn’t go well for the Allies for a long time,“ David continues. “By the end, people were completely fed up with it, all these thousands of men being killed each day, they just wanted it to end.“

Facts from All Over By Christmas

John Parr, from Lodge Lane in Barnet, was the first British soldier to be killed in World War One. He died on August 22, 1914, when his 4th Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment came under fire from a detachment of German cavalry near Mons.

Sergeant Albert William Baker was the first soldier to be taken prisoner by the Germans, in the same incident. After the war, he lived at Cecil Cottages, Rasper Road, Whetstone.

In July 1915, Mrs Linsey of Porch Cottages, Oakleigh Road, Whetstone received a letter from her son on the Front describing an attack: ‘… all you could see were arms, legs and machine guns being blown up about 50 feet in the air […] The worst sight was to see five of my mates blown to pieces around me. And me the only one missed.’

Ena Constable, who was 15 at the start of 1915, describes food shortages in Whetstone: ‘I can remember queuing at the shops and not knowing what I was queuing for. There was a grocer’s shop opposite our premises and if we saw one or two people gathered there we would join in and not know what it was.’

The North Middlesex Golf Club, in Friern Barnet, suffered from a drop in membership. Half of the course was given over to growing hay and some areas to growing vegetables. Returning wounded soldiers and those on leave were welcome to play.

In July 1916, a Dr Fraser Nash of Oakdene Nursing Home, Oakleigh Road, Whetstone pleaded guilty to having a bright, unshaded light at night, and was fined ten shillings.

On October 1, 1917, 11 Zeppelins set out to attack England and one arrived over London. Five Royal Flying Corps planes were scrambled and it was shot down, falling at Potters Bar and killing everyone on board.