Two cans in particular were different. Recording the Home Front in 1918, they were shot in close to a fly-on-the-wall style, and even without sound the things one could read from the faces of those captured chilled me to the marrow. Here were people who had undergone four years of warfare, of total national mobilisation, of food shortages, of the unremitting toil of sixty-hour working weeks with never a day's break, year after year; their nation was bankrupt, and without the USA's (costly and opportunistic) assistance Britain would have collapsed financially. They had given everything in the cause of the war, and had largely borne its unimaginable costs. Every family, every person in that footage, had been touched by grief. Nearly a million men dead, and five million damaged and disabled.
What was on their faces was utter exhaustion, their minds and bodies numbed and wearied, with just their will overcoming the pain in their limbs and their hearts. Their world was drab and utilitarian, unpainted and unmaintained, worn and shabby. What they didn't know was that a global Influenza pandemic was just about to hit, and tens of thousands of them, at their lowest ebb, would be carried off to the grave.
The contrast with just a few years before was stark; here was Britain at its zenith in the Edwardian age, prosperous and confident, with growing social progress and rapid advances in science, technology and medicine, new built and gleaming, white muslin and bright flowers in the Sun.
It's this scale of change that Britain is facing again, now. The pain to come will be sharp and deep, and will challenge the nation to find again those reserves of courage and endurance that we must depend on to see us through, however dispirited, however exhausted, however weary we may become. And because of Labour's stunning economic incompetence, their waste, their foolishness it will be longer and harder than it would otherwise have been.
Tomorrow is Britain's chance to give Labour the kicking they so richly deserve, for all the pain to come. Don't miss the opportunity.