Technofile: The People's War

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The Independent Culture
Despite poor health, humble origins and socialist convictions, Mick Mannock secured a commission in the Royal Flying Corps and won a reputation as an outstanding combat leader and a posthumous VC. But the First World War seems to have destroyed him even before he was killed. "I feel that life is not worth hanging on to," he wrote in his last letter to a friend. There was little to draw him back home. Already estranged from his drunken father, Mannock had returned to France after finding that his mother had become an alcoholic and his sister a prostitute.

Mannock's extraordinary tragedy features in the International Internet Encyclopedia of the First World War, a collaborative work in progress hosted by Spartacus, a small educational publisher. Some of the contributions, written by teachers and students, provide the engineering details of warfare; many draw upon contemporary testimony. These are reinforced by a focus on local experiences of the Great War. At the moment, only those of East Grinstead are online; they should be joined by others from Athens, Biarritz, Dublin, the US town of Wellsburg, and Lechbruck in Germany. The whole hypertext will form part of a larger encyclopedia.