I'm Kathryn. a DPhil history student at Pembroke College, University of Oxford. I hold the college's Julian Schild Scholarship for history, and a Pembroke Senior Studentship, as well as the Western Front Association's PhD grant.

My research focuses on the social experience of religion for soldiers in the First World War through the case study of the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA). 

Throughout the war the Association developed a network of recreation huts across the base camps and active fronts of the war to care for the 'mind, body and spirit' of soldiers in the British Army. This work provided recreation, refreshment, education and fellowship for the men in an environment which would uphold Christian morality while also welcoming men of all faiths and none. 

My thesis seeks to understand the means through which the YMCA's social work could be used to encourage men towards religion, as well as the character of the Association's Christian teaching. You can read more about it here.

My work builds upon my MA History of Warfare from the University of Birmingham, in which my dissertation examined the relationship between the YMCA and the organised churches during the war. This in turn developed out of my undergraduate dissertation at the University of Manchester, which looked at Christian chaplaincy.

This blog documents my research through regular articles based on my sources and points of interest, as well as providing updates on my life as a DPhil research student, book reviews and battlefield tour diaries.

Since I began working on First World War history in 2013, I have also spent time researching local war memorials in the Gloucestershire area. This started when I began researching the men on the North Nibley memorial, where my Great Great Grandfather Percy William Parsons is commemorated. This research was particularly exciting when I discovered that Percy was also remembered on the nearby Stinchcombe war memorial, unknown to my family.

Walter the Raleigh at Plugstreet, Belgium
When I'm not studying the First World War, I can often be found running or cycling. My blog was originally named after Walter, my Raleigh bike on which I cycled the Belgian battlefields in 2014 as my first solo battlefields trip. This was an amazing experience, and spending time in the landscape of the Ypres Salient completely re-shaped my view of the war and the significance it still has (and needs) in modern life. I have since been on further trips to the battlefields, tracing the stories of local soldiers who died a century ago. Diaries from my trips can be read on this blog.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch. I'm happy to research any Great War soldiers you may wish to know more about, especially if they were from the Gloucestershire area, or served with the Glosters. Similarly, if you have any more information to add on any of these posts, anything relevant to my research, or about any of the memorials, I would love to know.

Kathryn White
Email: kathryn.white@pmb.ox.ac.uk
Twitter // Instagram


  1. I have just come across your site via comments on Twitter about GASK. Your do not refer to my book 'Muddling Through' and wonder if you are aware of it as a study of the organisation of all chaplains in the First World War? There were than Anglicans involved. Uou can contact me at petros.howson@btinternet.com

  2. Dear Kathryn,
    Very many thanks for your paper yesterday (16th April, 2019)at the 'Recording Leisure Lives' conference. I did not get any time to ask a question so I wonder if you could oblige through this contact.

    1. Did the German YMCA movement offer a similar service to their soldiers?
    2. During the Boar Wars the YM provided exercise classes for potential recruits. Do you know if they did something similar in WW1 or WW2?

    My regards, Keith

    1. Keith,
      Thank you for your message and for hearing my conference talk!
      In answer to your questions:
      1. I'm not aware of anything similar being provided for German soldiers and the YMCA were very much on the side of the Allies in their work. They provided services for primarily British (inc. Empire) and American forces, although later in the war they did also work for the Belgian Army.
      2. The YMCA largely as a result of the Boer War were really involved in fitness for young men in the British cities. They continued this during the war, with an eye towards those who were not quite of military age. In their Association newspaper there's a photo of a strengthening exercise class for potential recruits in Manchester.