“I Tried To Stop The Bloody Thing”

The new Crimson Cats audio book title, War Girls, an anthology of poems and prose by women in the 1st World War, is published this week. The CD costs £10.99 plus p&p and the MP3 download is £6.98. The collection begins with a quotation from the journalist Evelyn Sharp who, in response to the question posed in the English poster, “What did you do in the war, Daddy?” said “I tried to stop the bloody thing”.

It has taken us nearly a year to track down all the copyright holders of the various poems and pieces of prose in this collection but it has been worth it. It has been quite a task though. Many of the better known poets of the 1st World War  (the men…!)  died so are out of copyright.  Many of the women lived on. We found most of them but by the end of it we could have given lessons to Hercule Poirot.

The material in this collection ranges from the tragic – loss of husbands, brothers, sons – to the joyful sense of the new freedoms which many women experienced at this time. And there are some surprises too. Poems like Jingo Woman, an attack against the women who handed out white feathers, or the story of a lady who was recruited into MI5. Then there is the poignant poem Lamplight which looks at a couple’s planned future that now will never happen or the comic verse The Scullery Maid’s Song about a woman doing menial work with the VAD.

And there is irony, of course. One piece talks about the work women did in the 1st World War and says at last women will have equal pay with men. Wonder what happened to that then?  The real puzzle is how so many of these excellent women poets remain unknown. A treasure trove of material waiting to be discovered.

The music consists of songs of the period, Roses of Picardy, If You Were The Only Girl in the World, Oh Oh Antonio and so on. They are all played on the piano by Bill (chicken keeper and civil servant) Byrne far away in his little family nest in Jersey and emailed to us. Ah, the wonders of modern technology. And there is another first for Crimson Cats – a recorded interview with Ruth Sillers, the actress who put the collection together and reads the various pieces. She talks about the material, how she chose it and how the project came together. For those who buy the MP3 download that interview is part of the package, but it is also available to listen to on the War Girls CD page on the Crimson Cats web site.

We are sometimes asked how long it takes us to prepare and publish an audio book but there really isn’t an accurate answer. Our anthology of cat stories and poems, How To Own A Human, was assembled recorded and published in about 6 weeks. War Girls has taken just over a year.

Maybe it could have been quicker but, as the old song goes, “Work can only be done one way”. The right way – and sometimes that means taking time.