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 33,000 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 essay examines the lives and wartime experiences of some of those 950 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 essay maps the return of some of these men; men who were part of one of the largest return migrations in British history.