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The Australian National University

‘Returning Home to Fight’: Bristolians in the Dominion Armies, 1914–1918

Date and time

Wednesday, September 2, 2015 - 16:15 - 17:30


McDonald Room, Menzies Library, ANU

 Bristol and the War, 31 Oct.1914, p.1

One issue that migration historians have ignored as a fruitful field of endeavour is the experience of thousands of British-born migrants who either came back to the United Kingdom to enlist in British regiments or enlisted in the respective dominion forces and served overseas. For instance, of the 34,500 volunteers who made up Canada’s ‘First Contingent’, and which sailed to Britain in October 1914, 70 per cent were British-born. This predictably patriotic response to ‘King, Country and Empire’ was repeated throughout the British World as thousands more British migrants rallied to the Colours, temporarily arrived back ‘home’, some forever remaining in foreign fields, never to return to either Blighty or their recently adopted homes.

This paper examines the lives and wartime experiences of some of those 500 Bristolians who returned home from their adopted countries to fight for their native land. Using census records, wartime personnel files, local war memorials, newspapers and family records, this paper maps the return of some of these men; men who were part of one of the largest return migrations in British history.


Kent Fedorowich is Reader in British Imperial and Commonwealth History at the University of the West of England, Bristol. A leading expert on imperial migration, prisoners of war and Anglo-dominion relations, he is also co-editor with Carl Bridge of The British World: Diaspora, Culture and Identity (2003); and more recently with Andrew S. Thompson, Empire, migration and identity in the British World (2013).

Since 2013, working with a UWE colleague , Charles Booth, he was part of the historical advisory team which piloted the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s initiative with the BBC and the Imperial War Museums on their ‘World War One at Home’ collaboration.  Working with broadcast journalists from BBC West and BBC South West, Fedorowich and Booth have helped shape a number of stories for radio and television in these regions since September 2013.


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