The First World War had a rather different impact on the Isles of Scilly than on most of mainland Britain, and as a result this entry in this series feels rather different to most. At the start of the war Scilly was an isolated area, with a low population, no running water and no electricity. Its main industry was flower growing, and its main connection to the mainland came from single ferry.
It soon became clear that the islands would find themselves in the front line of the naval war, as they were located at a key location in the western approaches to Britain. As the U-boat campaign began, the islands were soon surrounded by sinkings. A naval base and a RNAS base were both built on the islands, bringing large numbers of service personel to the islands. We get detailed accounts of the activities of the small warships and the flying boats that were based on the islands, which spent two years carrying out routine but still dangerous patrols.
The islands were also impacted economically, with the flower growing industry almost entirely suspended for the duration, and the existence of the single ferry often threatened (indeed it was eventually sold off and the islands had to rely on the Navy to bring supplies and take people to and from the mainland). The isolation of the islands meant that recruits had to go the mainland to sign up, so we don’t get the normal training stories. The arrival of more people put great pressure on the existing water supply, which turned out to be inadequate both in quantity and quality.
The military side rather dominates this book, but we do still get a fair amount on the impact of the war on the civilians of Scilly, as well as the many losses suffered during the fighting. The book has a rather different feel to many in this series, and gives us a good idea of the impact of the Great War on an isolated island group.
1 - 1914: It will all be over by Christmas
2 - 1915: The war at sea comes to Scilly
3 - 1916: The Western Approaches becomes a killing ground
4 - 1917: The islands become a major naval base
5 - 1918: The tide turns
6 - 1919: The aftermath - We will remember them
Author: Richard Larn, OBE
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military