Monday, 25 September 2017

Comforts For 1917-18

From The Times, 25th September 1917.


Sir,—I am very grateful for 10,999 good comforts for the troops sent me in answer to my letter on summer knitting.  I am not perturbed by Hephzibah's apt yet chastening dictum, “much cry and little wool.”  Every post tells me that only a proportion of the things knitted from my patterns comes my way.  The housemaid’s brother-in-law and the laundryman's nephew upset my figures, but the Army is served just as well by these and other deserving warriors being supplied direct.  Friends of this industry may like to know that the total amount of comforts received to date is 83,337, of which just about half are sweaters.

Now, Sir, may I save the Post Office, the public, the paper interest, and myself much wasted energy by answering here a few daily breakfast-table conundrums: —

“Why doesn’t the Government supply the things if they are really needed?”  Now, old subscriber, our men form the best equipped armies ever put into the field in the course of history, but that is not to say that it is for the Government to dress them up like White Knights to meet every possible emergency.  The extras (the comforts, that is) are to be supplied as wanted by you, and it is to be your pride to do this ungrudgingly as it is mine to stick on the stamps—while I think of it I might have a few more of these sent me now.   When you come to think of it, the technical use of the word “comfort” is an addition to the vocabulary of the war, and it is instinctively a good one—though it sounds oddly when applied to mouth organs.  The fact is the human mind is so constituted that in times of very special stress and trouble the little extra personal comforts to which one is attached bulk very large indeed.  I know of one distinguished explorer who always wears light gloves in the primeval forest, and I remember that for three months on the Upper Amazon I had a clean handkerchief every day.  (It was the same handkerchief though.)  There is then this intimate personal side to comforts, there is further the “very grateful sense of being remembered at home even by those who never saw us” (there. Sir, I have put it in just as you wrote to me), and there is the larger issue that a good comfort has often saved a good man's life.

“Will you please let me know to whom these things go?  Do you distribute them yourself?”  I did once.  I look back to the bad days of wet camps, blue uniforms, pneumonia, mud, and flurry, when one rushed about giving first-aid, so to speak, to the comfortless, of any old thing, and I still treasure the letters and receipts of the winter 1914.  Those days seem a long way off now and, so far as comforts are concerned, the Government seems to have beaten our friends over the way at their own pet game of organization.  Besides the time-honoured regimental associations, a central “pool of comforts” has been created for the vast army of “nobody’s children” —labour companies, machine-gun units, trench mortar batteries, whose numbers form the most astonishing feature of the armies of to-day.  From this pool every commanding officer is authorized to draw exactly what he wants for his men from the base depots on all the fronts.  The mechanism is there to perfection, but it is for us to see that it is kept working top speed, full measure, pressed down and flowing over.

“I like to knit what is most useful; what comforts are most needed?”  Madam, to-day, September 25, 1917, we want every single hall-marked comfort we can get.  Special needs may emerge later in the year, but what is wanted now is a vast store of gloves, helmets, mittens, mufflers, socks, and sweaters for the commanding officers to draw on according to their need.  So for the present you really have your choice.

“I should be glad to help; but where can I get wool at a reasonable price?”  Well, the wool is a difficulty; perhaps it may help if I say that recognized associations obtain wool at the Government price from any of the D.G.V.O.'s depots throughout the country, on the understanding that it is returned in the form of knitted comforts for the central pool.  In case of difficulty I could probably give some small measure of help in the matter.

I generally have some one class of helpers to thank, but to-day I must ask in one sentence all schoolboys, maids, centenarians, nuns, and leading stokers, who have recently abetted me, to believe that the men are very grateful.

What is wanted, then, is a continuous supply of comforts to be sent throughout the winter, either to the D.G.V.O.’s depots throughout the country or to the London depot at 45, Horseferry-road, S.W.1.  I will gladly acknowledge any addressed to me there.  I should add that easily knitted printed patterns are on hand here at 8, King’s Bench Walk, Inner Temple, E.C.4, for any ladies who like to write for them.  In particular there are some entertaining addenda to the literature of the sock.

Yours faithfully.
8, King’s Bench Walk, Inner Temple, E.C.4

Monday, 28 August 2017

2 Million Hospital Bags

From The Times, 28th August, 1917.

2,000,000 HOSPITAL BAGS. 


At first sight a cretonne bag with its flowery design seems too feminine a possession to be associated with the war, yet since April, 1915, over two million of these little bags have been sent out by Lady Smith-Dorrien to the clearing stations, the hospitals at the front, and the hospital ships. Their purpose is to safeguard the valuables of the officers and men admitted to the clearing stations. Yesterday, at 26, Pont-street, the headquarters of the Hospital Bag Fund, there were 20 bales waiting for the parcel-post collector. They were nearly all "standing orders," and were urgently needed at the casualty clearing stations. The usual demand is for 100,000 a month but 10,000 extra have been now asked for by the Director of Medical Services in France, and it is for this reason that Lady Smith-Dorrien is busy speeding up her helpers, of whom there are over 80,000 on the carefully kept files.

What is now a great and business-like undertaking, with branches and centres in every part of England, in Scotland and Ireland, in America, Canada, Spain, Trinidad, Jamaica, and the most out-of-the-way places, started in quite a simple way. A military nurse, known to Lady Smith-Dorrien in Aldershot, wrote to her from the front in the early days of the war saying that the men's possessions were emptied out of their pockets under their beds at the clearing stations and frequently got lost, and the nurses were often blamed for the loss. So Lady Smith-Dorrien made a couple of hundred bags and sent them out to her. Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien, then in command of the Second Army, was much struck by the idea, and asked his Surgeon-General if they would be useful to him. The reply was a request to "send out 50,000 as quickly as possible." Then Sir Alfred Keogh approached Lady Smith-Dorrien and asked her to undertake supplies for the whole of the fighting forces. The work had been carried on at her own house, but it became necessary to move, and Lady Susan Gordon-Gilmour lent 5, Belgrave-place. When that house was sold Mr. Cox, of Cox's Bank, lent 26, Pont-street, where the work is now carried on with the minimum of expense and the aid of 14 efficient voluntary workers. The biggest item of expense is the hessian for packing.


The bags are every colour of the rainbow, but coloured they must be, and with flowers—roses for preference. This has become apparent as little incidents in the distribution came to the knowledge of headquarters. A wounded man was heard grumbling as he looked at a useful stout holland bag that held his little treasures and compared it with a flowered one proudly displayed by his companion in the next bed. "He's an Australian, that's why he got a bag with roses on it," he was saying; but was satisfied by the gift of an even more brilliantly coloured one. On one of the hospital ships where there was a distribution of bags, some plain and some flowered, it was found that the plain ones mysteriously disappeared through the portholes and the "losers" applied for others. But the men are not the only ones who delight in colours; two young subalterns, home on sick leave, called at 26, Pont-street, last week to see the bags en masse, and explained with some diffidence that theirs had meant a good deal to them, having kept all their valuables intact and were so cheering after the drabness of khaki everywhere. "They reminded us of the cushions and covers at home," they said.
Yesterday the post brought a letter enclosing 10s. for materials. The sender was the mother of a boy killed two years ago, and she sent it in memory of a little chintz bag that meant a great deal to her. "He was shot through the head and never recovered consciousness," she wrote, "but having about his neck a small bag with his permanent address they sent me many little treasures, and above all a diary containing his notes since the first day of the war. This is the greatest treasure I could have, and I am sure without the little bag it would never have been sent to me."  Many letters like this find their way to 26, Pont-street. The men never give the bags back, and an attempt to meet the shortage by collecting them at the home hospitals would be deeply resented.

On the roll of helpers are the names of duchesses, busy women in the suburbs, eager school girls, and the myriad workers at the surgical aid societies. Beside each one's name in the files is the record of the number of bags she has made and the intervals at which she has sent them. Elderly ladies are wonderful workers, but some of them have an inveterate love of embroidering something on each bag. One bag picked up in an ambulance train and sent to headquarters "for luck" by the finder has a woolly black cat with red and white and blue ribbons on it.

Lady Smith-Dorrien buys the chintz in bales, getting 50,000 yards at a time. Anyone sending 7s. 4d. can obtain sufficient cretonne, tape, and labels for 30 bags, carriage free. Bags, when finished, should measure 12 by 14in. They can be made, of course, of unbleached calico, or any new strong washing material, but cretonne is preferred by the wounded. A sample bag is always sent to show the correct method of making. It is suggested that people who have not time to make bags should send money, as there are many workers who can give the time for making, but who cannot afford to give cash. Four thousand bags a day are needed.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

An Appeal To Working Parties

From the Western Times, July, 1917.


To the Editor of the "Western Times."

Sir,—Socks and mufflers, but socks especially, will be required in as large or even larger numbers than before, for our troops at the front this autumn and winter. May I, therefore, urge the many working parties, and individual helpers, who have so generously helped the Mayoress's Depot in the past, to continue, and, if possible, increase their efforts? We now have many Devon battalions at the front, and in addition we receive urgent requests for bales from the Director-General of Voluntary Organisations. I am sure it is hardly necessary to remind working parties that the Mayoress's Depot is permitted to supply wool from the War Office at cost price. It would greatly help us if we could hear from affiliated working parties the approximate quantities of wool they would wish reserved for them during the coming months. I shall be happy to hear from any one desiring information on the matter.

Yours faithfully,
J. KIRK G. OWEN, Mayoress.
The Guildhall, Exeter, July 18, 1917. 

Monday, 1 May 2017

We Must Eat Less Bread

From Woman’s Weekly, May 1917.


Unless we ration ourselves carefully at once, there will come days when there may be no bread at the bakers’.

The Food Controller appeals to every housewife to do her utmost to save on the bread allowance. This can be done if the best substitutes are used, and with little loss in food value. The following recipes are to be highly recommended, and it will be found that the food made with meal, etc., is both palatable and good.

These are quite fitted to take the place of potatoes and bread at dinner, while for breakfast and tea they are nourishing and appetising in place of bread.
One cupful of maize meal, boiling milk, a pinch of salt, a little cooking butter, one small egg, a little standard flour. 
Put two cupfuls of milk on to heat; when boiling pour it over the meal and stir well with a wooden spoon till it thickens. Add a pinch of salt and about half an ounce of cooking butter, still stirring the mixture over a good heat. When the butter is well mixed in take the pan from the fire, let the meal cool a little, then mix in the well-beaten egg, and enough wheaten flour to stiffen the mixture to a paste. Turn it on to a floured board, roll it evenly to not more than half an inch in thickness. Mark out the paste with round cutters or a tumbler, put them on a well-floured tin and bake in a fairly hot oven until nicely firm.

Here is another much simpler recipe.

These should be served as the vegetable with meat, vegetarian, and fish dishes, and will be found quite as nourishing. Bread, of course, will not be needed either.
Half a pound of flaked maize, about a pint and a half of water, salt, dripping for frying.
Put the water on to boil, with half a level teaspoonful of salt. When quite boiling sprinkle in the maize and stir with a wooden spoon all the time. Cook steadily till the mixture is thick and solid enough to turn on to a plate. Allow it to cool; it can then be cut in small rounds for frying in the dripping.
The maize can be cooked and cooled in fairly large quantities, sufficient to make cakes for several days.
Many have already given up using maize, as they cannot get used to the flavour, others have persevered and now have taken a real liking to it, and are learning the most practical methods of using it as a substitute.

Equal parts of barley and wheat flour give an excellent loaf. The meal can be bought at several of the large stores, but at present it is not plentiful. When you can get it, use it as follows:
Half a pound of barley flour, half a pound of wheat flour, half to one ounce of yeast, a teaspoonful of salt, a teaspoonful of sugar, warm water to mix. 
Rub the yeast and sugar together; add a tablespoonful of tepid water, cover it and set to rise in a warm place. Mix the flour; when the yeast has frothed pour it into a well in the centre of the flour, sprinkle a little flour over it, and the salt round the edges. Put in a warm place. When the yeast has cracked through the flour, mix in enough tepid water to make a dough. Knead this well till it is smooth and elastic, then place the basin in a warm place, cover it, and leave till the dough is double the size. Knead again, make into loaves, let these stand again in the warm for about twenty minutes. Bake in a very quick oven at first, then finish in a cooler part. The loaves are done when they sound hollow on being tapped.

The egg here gives additional nourishment; it can be left out for a plainer make that can appear at each meal to save the bread.
Three and a half ounces of medium oatmeal, two ounces of lard or cooking butter, a quarter of a teaspoonful of bicarbonate of soda, two and a half ounces of wheat flour, one small egg, half an ounce of sugar, if liked.
Put the flour, meal, and sugar into a basin. Mix them well. Melt the butter or lard, and stir it into the flour, etc., with the slightly beaten egg, and just a little water to bring the mixture to a stiff paste. Turn it on to a floured board, roll it out thinly, cut into rounds, and bake on a greased tin for ten minutes in a hot oven.

Four ounces of fine oatmeal, two ounces of cooking butter, lard or dripping, four ounces of wheat flour, one ounce of sugar, one small egg, one teaspoonful of baking powder, milk to mix. 
Rub the fat into the meal and flour, mixing these two together thoroughly. Beat up the egg, stir in the sugar and a pinch of salt. Add the egg and enough milk to form a stiff dough. Turn this on to the board, sifted with meal. Roll it out and cut in eight pieces. Form these into balls and bake on a greased tin for ten minutes. A quick oven will be needed.

IT IS A CRIME TO WASTE A SLICE OF BREAD. Save it in every possible way. Do not have it brought to your table in slices; the slice that is left often goes to the dustbin. Have the loaf on the table, then each can cut as much as he or she needs and no more. If the well-to-do and the sedentary worker will REDUCE THEIR CONSUMPTION OF WHEAT-BREAD BY 1 LB. PER HEAD PER WEEK, the food problem is well on the way to solution.

Monday, 17 April 2017

War-Time Work For Women.

From Woman’s Weekly, April 17th, 1917.


If you are Unable to do National Service Work on the Land, there is Plenty of other Urgent Work waiting to be Done.

WOMEN are urgently wanted to-day. There must be no "slackers."  Every healthy, capable woman must come forward to help the country at this time, either by making munitions, working on the land, or helping to keep up our industries.
Needless to say, the girl who has had a certain amount of experience or training stands the best chance of obtaining employment. That is why I would advise every girl who is thinking of working for the first time, or of obtaining a better position to ask herself whether there is any training open to her that would help her in the work she wishes to take up. Fortunately, at the technical institutes and evening classes it is possible to obtain, if not entirely free, training, at any rate, at a very low cost.
Thus the girl who wants to take up work where she is likely to have the handling of money or dealing with figures will undoubtedly find it an advantage when applying for a situation to be able to claim having taken an elementary course in bookkeeping or commercial arithmetic.
Below I am giving a list of some of the occupations in which there is the greatest demand for workers at the present time. Applications for work should in all cases be made at the local Labour Exchange. There are, however, other agencies through which employment can also be obtained, and where this is the case these addresses are given in addition.
Army Cooks. --Applicants must he between the ages of 18 and 45. All candidates who are accepted are sent to a training centre at Dartford for a month. The pay is £20 a year in addition to board and lodging. Head cooks receive £40. Army Waitresses.—These are needed to wait upon the cadets and officers. Conditions similar to those for Army cooks. Apply to Mrs. Long, Women's Legion, Centre Block, Room 4, Duke of York's Headquarters, Chelsea, S.W.3.
Bakers.—These are wanted in increasing numbers both for day and night work. Applicants should be from about 18 to 25. The work, though rather heavy, is interesting. Advertisements frequently appear in the daily newspapers for such workers. There are two methods of training. One is to go to a baker's for a low wage, and "pick up" the work. The other, and more satisfactory method, is to obtain training at a polytechnic. Londoners can apply at The Borough Polytechnic Institute, Borough Road, S.E. Others can obtain the address of the nearest technical school from a post office.  
Creche and Day Nursery Work.—Girls between the ages of 16 and 24 are needed to train for this work. Training is, in some cases, given free; in others a small fee has to be paid. The work is strenuous and not highly paid; but the girl with a real love of babies will find her vocation here.  At the end of her training, a girl can either continue her work in the creche as a paid assistant, or obtain a position as lady nurse in a gentleman's family. Applications should be made to the Secretary, National Society of Day Nurseries, 4, Sydney Terrace, Chelsea, S.W.
Grocers’ Assistants. —There are plenty of openings here for quick, capable girls in all parts of the country. Applications can be made to the head offices of any of the large provision merchants. You will find their names and addresses in a commercial directory, which you can consult at any post office.
Optical Munitions. —This is skilled work, requiring training. Accepted candidates are, however, paid whilst they are learning. Applicants, who must be over 16, should apply to the Training Centre at the Northampton Polytechnic Institute, St. John's Street, E.C.  
Motor and Taxi Driving. -- Training, the fee for which is usually a few guineas, can be had at any of the motor schools. Taxi drivers must, in addition, undergo a final training in order to pass the special tests imposed by Scotland Yard. The preliminary licences for this final training have to be obtained from Scotland Yard.  
Mail-Cart Drivers and Grooms.—This work should specially appeal to country  women, as only those who are used to horses and know how to drive are wanted. Their work will be to drive the Royal Mail vans or to groom the horses. The pay is 30s. a week. Applications may be made to Miss Mckenzie, care of Messrs. McNamara and Co., 12, Castle Street, London, E.C.
Dental Mechanics. —Dentists are employing women in increasing numbers for the making of artificial teeth. The training is rather long, but workers are usually paid during this time. Advertisements for girls to train for this work can usually be seen in the dental papers. Applications can also be made by letter to any large manufacturing dentist. You will find a list of them in the Trades portion of a commercial directory, under the heading "Dentists' Material Makers."
Omnibus and Tramcar Conductors. —Applicants must be very strong and fairly tall. The work is strenuous, but the pay good, very often as much as two pounds a week. Applications can be made to the head offices of any of the omnibus and tramcar companies or councils.
Postwomen. —This work is heavy and entails early rising, but the workers have a good deal of free time in the middle of the day. Applications for local work to be made at the local Exchange, but for work under the G.P.O., at the City Labour Exchange, 9, New Bridge Street, London, E.C.
Railway Booking Clerks and Ticket Collectors. —Clerks must be ready reckoners, and all applicants must be of quick intelligence. Applications should be made to the head offices at the London termini stations of any of the large railway companies. Or those applicants living on the S.E. and Chatham Line can apply to Miss Strevitt, S.E. & C. Railway Training School, East Croydon.
Typewriter Mechanics.—Women can now train for the work of cleaning and repairing typewriters. The complete training takes three years, but within a few months girls can do quite useful work that up till quite recently has always been done by men. The workers are paid whilst they are learning, while the fully trained mechanic may expect anything from £2 to £5 a week. Applications can be made to the Remington Typewriter Co., 100, Gracechurch Street, London, E.C.

Warehouse Packers. —These are required by certain big firms for packing goods, such as jams and marmalade, etc., for the Army. Applications can be made to the big jam-makers and other large stores. 

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Haverfordwest Foot-Sling Depot

From The Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph, 21st March 1917

Haverfordwest Foot-Sling Depot.

A branch depot of the Surgical Requisites Association, itself a branch of Queen Mary's Needlework Guild, has lately been started in Haverfordwest.  A small local Committee having been formed, it was decided, in accordance with the express wish of the Association that the depot instead of making, as is usual, such articles as swabs, dressings, pads, bandages, etc., should specialise in one urgently needed Hospital requisite, viz., foot-slings.

Each Foot-Sling, which needs very exact and careful making, consists of a hammock-like foot-piece suspended by long straps from the shoulders.

The Slings are cut out at the depot (17 Market Street), and then distributed to members who do the necessary machine work in their own homes, returning the Slings for “finishing” to the depot.  Each Sling costs in material about 2s 6d, and as the Committee hope to send up at least 100 a month, the estimated monthly expenditure is £12 10s 0d.  The appeal for funds has been most generously responded to and much sympathy has been expressed with the work.  £95 has already been contributed, and it is hoped that a sufficient sum may be collected to enable the work to be carried on until such time as the necessity of providing foot-slings for our wounded ceases to be.  Every penny contributed goes directly towards buying materials, as there are no running expenses connected with the depot.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

A "Comforts" Film


From The Manchester Guardian; March 2nd, 1917

At the Deansgate Picture House yesterday morning a private view, held under the auspices of the Lancashire County War Comforts Association, was given of a new film illustrative of the work connected with the provision of comforts for men at the front. The film opens with scenes in the offices of Sir Edward Ward, where requests for immense quantities of goods are daily received from every part of the world in which British soldiers or sailors are fighting.  For the supplying of these articles Sir Edward Ward depends on the goodwill of all sorts and conditions of people.  First we are shown a class of little schoolgirls knitting mufflers and socks with an industry that seems quite undisturbed by the presence of the camera man.  West End shop assistants—rather more self-conscious, perhaps, but equally industrious—make and roll bandages in a London war hospital supply workroom, while women munition workers spend their leisure time in knitting.  These comforts, together with the books and papers that we saw being handed in over post office counters, are then packed and shipped to their destinations.  Those in which the film interests itself go to France, and we watch them being carried up to the British lines in big motor-vans and then distributed among the men.  The joy with which they are received is very evident and pictures of scenes at a casualty station and in a base hospital show how sadly necessary are the labours of the shop-girls.

It would be hard to find a more interesting subject for a film, or one with a wider appeal. Everyone who has contributed in some way to the bodily comfort of our troops will welcome an opportunity to see for himself how his and similar offerings reach the recipients, and for this the kinematograph is the only medium. The only fault to be found with the film shown yesterday is that it is too short and gives too bare an outline of the good work that is being done.  It might well be expanded to twice its present length without any risk of the interest flagging.