Edward Cain (1891-1978): War and Memory

Although Edward Cain lived through the First World War and the Second World War, his wartime recollections do not play a prominent role within his memoir. War is not a central theme in Cain’s reflections and so the mentioning of his time in the army is very brief. The Second World War isn’t mentioned at all during the memoir.

There are no poignant details about the war or any memories from the war that discuss what

Edward Cain and Tommy Carter c.1914
Edward Cain and Tommy Carter c.1914

life was like on the home front or the front line. Although Edward Cain had a very short spell in the army, the conditions of war both home and away aren’t discussed which could lead the reader into believing that either war was traumatic for Cain or that it simply didn’t impact his life enough to reflect on during his memoir. As his autobiography is primarily about mining and the politics surrounding his work in the mines and after, Cain would not need to write about the war as that is not the key message of the memoir. If Cain or his family were severely affected by the war, by looking at the other sensitive subjects included in the memoir, Cain would have shared it in his autobiography.

Cain barely had chance to see the front line of the war as when he was declared old enough and fit enough to enroll, he was discharged because of ‘poisoned arm’ (pg 6) and later developed Rheumatic Fever and so was discharged from the Royal Garrison Artillery less than a month after he arrived on the 21st  November 1914.

Due to his connection to Wheatley Hill Colliery, Edward Cain was part of the ceremony to open the war memorial.
Photograph of Councillor Edward Cain unveiling the Wheatley Hill War Memorial Durham County Record Office, D/X 338/189

Though the account is short, it depicts the other side of the war, where people were drafted but barely saw the devastation on the front line because of illness or injury. As an important leader in the mining community, however, Edward was part of the ceremony unveiling the Wheatley Hill War Memorial.




Cain, Edward. ‘Memories’. Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiography, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection, 1:119

Featured images on this page found at: http://www.durhamatwar.org.uk/story/11510/

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