I never knew Christina Keith, but she was my grandmother's eldest sister. She died in 1963, just a few months after my parents became engaged. In her will she made a gift to my father, her nephew, 'to help him start off in his married life'. In our family home there was an exceptionally big bookcase, which caused problems to the removal men each time we moved house. That bookcase had belonged to Christina Keith or 'Auntie Tiny' as she was known within the family. She was one among a host of legendary relatives whose names I knew, an intellectual who was somewhat eccentric and took her tins to the nearby hotel to be opened because she couldn't use a tin opener.
That was largely the extent of my awareness of Auntie Tiny until November 2011, when my father first showed me her manuscript memoir from 1918 to 1919. In this short book Christina, using the pseudonym 'A Fool in France' recounts her experiences as a young lecturer to the troops in France at the end of the First World War. It is a story in two parts. In the first she recalls life at the base among men who were desperate to be allowed home, while the second part describes an astonishing journey which she and a female companion took across the devastated battlefields just four months after the Armistice. From the moment I read the memoir I was captivated. I wanted to know more about Christina, her life, her background and the scheme which had taken her to France as the First World War came to a close.Read More
The Real First World War
By Flora Johnston and The History Press