Sunday, 31 August 2014

The Co-ordination of Effort

From The Times, 31st August, 1914.



"With the approval of her Majesty the Queen it has been arranged that a meeting of one representative of each of the Queen Mary's Needlework Guild, the St. John Ambulance Association, and the British Red Cross Society shall be held every Wednesday afternoon.... in order to ascertain what garments and articles have been received by each Society, and what are the special requirements for the following week.

"A statement will then be issued to the Press... Great confusion and much unnecessary work has been caused by unauthorized statements appearing in the Press.  The workers for all three Societies named above are earnestly requested to note that this weekly statement will be authoritative, and no attention should be paid to any others.

"Those who are so kindly giving garments to the societies are earnestly recommended to pay for the work to be done by women who would otherwise be unemployed.
The Societies wish to draw attention to the following matters :—
  • Many questions have been asked as regards flannelette.  The Societies are not refusing garments made of this material, but flannel is greatly to be preferred.  
  • Width and length of bandages should be clearly marked on each roll.  
  • No helmets are required at present.  
  • All socks other than bed socks must be made with heels.
The special requirements of each Society for the coming week are as follows:—
  • Cotton twill nightshirts.
  • Pillowcases, 20in. by 30in.
  • Handkerchiefs.
  • Dressing gowns.
  • Drawers.
  • Drawers.
  • Vests.
  • Pillowcases, 20in. by 30in. 
  • Dressing gowns. 
  • Towels.
  • Flannel day shirts. 
  • Handkerchiefs. 
  • Cardigan jackets. 
  • Socks (made with heels).
[When I read this attempt to sort out the confusion over who should provide what, I thought 'about time too' - until I remembered that the country had been at war for less than a month at this point,  so it was understandable that it would take a while to get organised.

The QMNG is catering here for the sick and wounded - clearly that was always the remit of the other two societies.

Flannelette is a brushed cotton fabric, to imitate flannel (wool).  Flannel was more expensive but officially preferred - for instance, uniform shirts for the Army were made of flannel, even for summer wear (I believe).

'Helmets' means Balaclava-type helmets, either to wear on cold days or for sleeping in.

There had been several letters in the press from private individuals (for instance, here)  suggesting that socks made without heel shaping had several advantages - they would fit any size foot and would wear better, because the heel of the man's foot would not always be in the same place.  The societies reported here obviously felt that this idea should be firmly suppressed.]

Friday, 29 August 2014

Appeal for Socks

From The Times, 29th August 1914.


Lady French writes from The Manor House, Waltham Cross, Herts:—There is a great need for knitted socks, &c., for our troops. It is, indeed, a crying need, as the War Office allowance is only three pairs for each man, and a long day's march will wear socks into holes. I would ask those who have leisure to knit, or are willing to employ others to do so, to send parcels as soon as possible ... to Miss Douglas and Miss N. Selby Lowndes, at the Ceylon Tea Depot, ... These ladies have kindly consented to receive and acknowledge all contributions, whether in knitting, wool, or money, and to forward them in my name to the different regiments. Wool is very welcome, as there are many willing workers who are glad to give their time but cannot afford to buy materials; and gifts of money will also be laid out to provide these and to pay for the work being done when it cannot be given voluntarily, thus doing a double kindness.  Socks are needed more than anything, but comforters (not less than 2½ yards long and 12in. wide) are much appreciated.

[Lady French was the wife of Sir John French, commander of the British Expeditionary Force in France.   This appeal is I think the first indication that there was a legitimate, official, need for volunteers to provide extra socks for soldiers on active service. ]

Miss Susan Ballard, 17, Waldegrave-park, Twickenham, writes:—Socks without a shaped heel have three advantages—first, the pressure, not coming to the same place, they last much longer; secondly, they fit any foot; and thirdly, they are so quickly knitted. Cast on as for any ordinary ribbed sock.  Knit till you come to where you begin the shaping for heel, then knit plain, all round the three needles, till you decrease for toe.  Do the decrease for toe on each of the three needles.  You then have a long sock the same all round in every part.  Knitters must not on any account let a knot come in the foot.  

"T. A. C." would like to draw attention to the supreme necessity of washing socks before handing them over, as if this is not done it may cause blistered feet.

Mrs. Campbell Turner, Inveraray, N.B., suggests that every maker of socks and stockings shake a teaspoonful of boracic acid powder into the foot of each sock; this is a great comfort, prevents sores from dyed wool, and a pennyworth of powder will go a long way.

[Like the suggestion to provide a darning needle with every pair of socks, the hints from private individuals may or may not be sensible.   The idea that heelless socks were better than the traditional kind cropped up several times.  I doubt if such socks were ever officially acceptable in Britain.   

The last two hints suggest that the dyes then used must have left some residue in the yarn which was irritating to the skin.]  

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Send Darning Wool with Socks

From The Halifax Courier, August 29th 1914.


Sir, -- May I offer a suggestion to the ladies who are knitting socks for our soldiers.  It is that with each pair a darning needle and a small ball of wool be enclosed.  I believe every soldier of any experience would value them and would by this means make the socks last a far longer time with comfort.

I should recommend the despised “poker” needle as most suitable to man’s clumsy fingers, and suggest about a quarter skein of wool.  The point of the needle should be protected; a small cork would serve, but there may be better ways. – I am, yours truly,
Aug. 28

[There were many letters to the newspapers about this time with more or less sensible suggestions for people knitting & sewing for the war effort. 

The darning needle suggestion here seems a bit unnecessary, since soldiers carried a 'housewife' containing mending materials, which would presumably include a darning needle - see for instance, the list of kit required for the Huddersfield Territorials when they went off to war on August 5th.  And a parcel of socks, each pair containing a darning needle, ball of wool  and cork, sounds very cumbersome, if not dangerous.] 

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Patriotic Work for Women

From The Times, Thursday, 27th August, 1914.



Into the work of providing clothes and hospital comforts for our soldiers and sailors women have thrown themselves with ardour. Many have formed working parties; others have ordered things from the makers, or collected unemployed sempstresses and thus done good in two ways at once.  More might be accomplished, no doubt, in this last method, if it were easier to find unemployed sempstresses; but the Women's Local Government Society ... reminds us ... that, until the relief committees take this matter up, unemployed women and girls can always be obtained at the Labour Exchanges, and that 10s. a week and tea would be a fair wage to pay. ...

Besides clothes, there are a hundred things that would be welcomed by our soldiers and sailors, sick or sound.  Tobacco is most important (the Misses Thackeray, Lumville Hut, the Curragh, county Kildare, are appealing for tobacco, which will be sent out under the Red Cross Society); Colonel Hassard has reminded us that pipes are necessary; and Mr. Septimus Bright, 19, Dover-street, appeals to private persons and firms for pouches and other smokers’ requisites, new and old, among those old pipes which every woman is so anxious to clear out of the caches of her menfolk.

[10s. (10 shillings) translates to 50p - not a lot to live on even in 1914, and  I doubt if it was a 'fair wage', though it seems to have been a common weekly wage for women at the time. Perhaps the 'tea' made it more generous.    

Most soldiers in the trenches smoked and tobacco was one of the comforts most in demand.  The Curragh of Kildare was a huge army camp (and is still used by the Irish Army). The idea of using someone else's old pipe strikes me as moderately disgusting. ]    

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Sherlock Holmes in "The Valley of Fear"

Sherlock Holmes re-appears in the September STRAND MAGAZINE.  In the New Story, “The Valley of Fear,” CONAN DOYLE has provided as much thrilling incident and excitement as was enjoyed in the case of the last Sherlock Holmes serial, “The Hound of the Baskervilles.”

No admirer of Sherlock Holmes will miss this New Masterpiece.

A brilliant, thrilling, and amazingly clever story.  It is Sherlock Holmes at his best. 

(Glasgow Herald, 26th August, 1914.)

["The Valley of Fear" was the fourth and last Sherlock Holmes novel. After being serialised in the Strand Magazine, it was published in book form in 1915.]  

Sunday, 24 August 2014

A Note on Prices

During the First World War, the British currency was pounds, shillings and pence, and remained that way until decimalisation in 1971.  I was brought up with  the old currency and at junior school we did arithmetic in pounds, shillings and pence - not to mention yards, feet and inches, and stones, pounds and ounces.  The abbreviations for the old currency are £ for pounds, as now, s for shillings, and d for pence.  ('d' is short for the Latin denarius.)   So for instance, 3s 9d means 3 shillings and 9 pence.  There were 20 shillings in a pound, and 12 pence in a shilling.  (And so 240 pence in a pound.)

Prices in shillings and pence might be written as 3s 9d, or as 3/9.  A price like 5 shillings was often written as 5/-.  

When the currency was decimalised, the pound stayed the same but the old penny was dropped and replaced with a new penny.  There were 100 new pence in  a pound, and so 1p was worth 2.4d.   The shilling no longer had a role, although the shilling coin (worth 5p) continued to be used.

When notes were introduced in August 1914, to replace gold coins (described here), there were £1 and 10s denominations.  Ten shillings was a lot of money to many people - it was a week's wages for many women. The smallest coins were the ha'penny (½d) and farthing (¼d).  I  have not seen any mention of the farthing in prices from WW1, but it remained in use for a long time  - I remember my grandma using farthings at the local bread shop in the 1950s.  The price of a loaf cost, I think, 9¾d (ninepence three farthings).

Prices involving 11d were common, or even 11½d.   So £1 19s 11d is supposed to sound much less than £2, even though it is only 1d less, and 1s 11½d is supposed to sound much less than 2s.  I imagine it was as effective in fooling the customer as prices like £4.99 are now.

Posh shops, on the other hand, and especially posh clothes shops, priced their goods in guineas.  A guinea was £1 1s - the guinea had not been an official part of the currency for a long time, but it evidently carried a suggestion of the aristocracy and old money.  It also had the useful side-effect for the shop of  increasing the price by 5% compared to the same number of pounds.

Buying for Soldiers and Sailors

A selection of ads from the Glasgow Herald, 24th August 1914.




WE     HAVE     ARRANGED     FOR     THE 





TRAVELLING   SPIRIT   STOVES,  complete  with
Pan 1s each.   Combination Knife and  Fork, 9d each.
Collapsible Drinking Cups, 6d and 1s.  Vacuum Flasks
(will  keep  liquids  boiling  hot  for  24 hours),    1s 11d
each.  Tin Openers, 4½d each. Hollow Ground Razors,
1s. each.  Razor Strops, 9d.   Safety  Razors  from 1s.
to 21s.  Electric   Pocket   Lamps   from   8d  to  1s 9d
each.   Candle Lanterns, 1s.  Field Glasses from 7s 6d
to 27s 6d.  Strong Ironclad Watches, 3s 9d each.         
FOLDING WASHSTANDS, 7s.   Sponge  Baths,  8s. 
Enamelled Pocket Flasks, 9d.    Enamelled Water Jugs,
1s 9d.   Nail  Brushes,  4d.   Cloth  Brushes, 1s.   Shoe
Brushes,  6d.  Polishing  Cloths, 3½d each.  Aluminium
Soap Boxes, 6d each.                                                 
folded  39in.  by  6in.  by  4in.,  weight  19lb.,  15s each.
Tuckaway  Camp  Beds,  10s 6d each.   Camp Chairs,
2s 11d.    Camp  Stools,  1s 6d  each.    Kit Mirrors, 6d
each.  Air Cushions, 15in. diameter, 1s 9d each.          


ETC.,      ETC,      ALL    OF    WHICH    ARE   BEING

Dark Steel,  Shetland Grey, and  Lovat  shades, at 11s.,
12s., 12s 9d., and 15s 6d per dozen.                              
ODD LOTS OF FLANNEL SHIRTS, 3s 11d each.      
3 for 17s.                                                                   
ALL-WOOL   FLANNEL  SHIRTS,  6s 11d  each,  3 
for 20s.                                                                     
BALACLAVA  ALL-WOOL  CAPS,  12s and 16s 6d 
per dozen.                                                                 
worth 2s 6d.                                                             
worth 5s 6d.                                                            
CEYLON  FLANNEL  PYJAMAS,  5s 11d per suit; 
worth 7s 6d.                                                            
clear,   10s 6d per suit; were 13s 6d  and  15s 6d  per 


[Like many other newspapers at the time, the front page of the Glasgow Herald was all advertisements and personal announcements, in narrow columns. No matter how momentous the news of the day was, there was no sign of it on the front page. 

There were articles in the press about this time saying that because of the war, consumers were avoiding buying anything not immediately essential, and that this was leading to unemployment.  The McDonalds ad suggests that this employer was choosing to keep staff employed when perhaps there was not enough trade to need them all. 

The list of items in the Shaw & Walker ad 'For Territorials' seems better suited to a camping holiday, although the Territorials at this point were mostly in training camps around the country.

The ad from Copland & Lye makes clear that socks and flannel shirts were easily available to buy.  It's not clear why ordinary soldiers would have needed to buy shirts - the War Office would have provided them.  (Extra socks were always welcome, though.)  But officers provided their own uniforms, so perhaps the ad is mainly aimed at them.  The ad also shows that volunteers making flannel shirts at home were in competition with an existing industry which was set up for mass production and could produce them much more efficiently. 

For a note on the prices, and the currency in use in 1914, see the next post. ]

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Hebridean Fishergirls in Wartime

Letter to the editor of the Glasgow Herald, 24th August, 1914.


North Bay, Isle of Barra, August 21.
Sir.-—At a time when so many people are interested in the unemployed women of this country I wish to make an appeal to your readers for a fishing community in the Outer Hebrides.  The fishergirls of the Island of Barra at this time of the year and onward till Christmas earn their living, and in many cases that of a whole family, at the East Coast herring fishing.  At the best of times the struggle for life in these Hebridean islands is a severe one.  At present—their own home fishing this year being almost completely failed and their only other source of income being closed—distress is certain.  If a small fund could be raised to buy wool and to pay these women a small sum for what they knit for our sailors and soldiers this distress would be lessened.  If anyone interested in our Hebridean islands and in their very fine and industrious population feels inclined to help them through what is certain to be a very hard time I shall be most grateful to receive their subscriptions at the above address.—I am, etc.,

[This letter gives a specific example of women's unemployment caused by the war.  It seems that later in the war, some Scottish fishergirls found their traditional work elsewhere:  Alice Starmore, in her book on Aran Knitting, says that during the war the Aran fishing industry was far busier than before, and attracted Scottish fishergirls ("herring lassies") to gut, fillet and pack the fish.  She thinks that the women of Aran may have learnt to knit ganseys from these fishergirls.  This development of the fishing industry would have taken some time.   Presumably it arose because the seas around Aran and the sea route from the Hebrides were not as threatened by German U-boats as the North Sea.]     

Friday, 22 August 2014

Lady Volunteers and Unemployed Women



Queen Mary's Needlework Guild has received representations to the effect, that the provision of garments by voluntary labour may have the consequence of depriving of their employment workpeople who would have been engaged for wages in the making of the same garments for contractors to the Government.  A very large part of the garments collected by the Guild consists, however, of articles which would not in the ordinary course have been purchased by the Government.  They include additional comforts for the soldiers and sailors actually serving, and for the sick and wounded in hospital, clothing for members of their families who may fall into distress, and clothing ... for the prevention and relieving of distress among families who may be suffering from unemployment owing to the war.  If these garments were not made by the voluntary labour of women .... they would not in the great majority of cases be made at all. ... 

The Guild is informed that flannel shirts, socks, and cardigan jackets are a Government issue for soldiers; flannel vests, socks, and jerseys for sailors; pyjama suits, serge gowns for military hospitals; underclothing, flannel gowns, and flannel waistcoats for naval hospitals.  Her Majesty the Queen ... desires that the workers of the Guild should devote themselves to the making of garments other than those which would, in the ordinary course, be bought by the War Office and Admiralty.  All kinds of garments will be needed for distribution in the winter if there is exceptional distress.

The Queen would remind those who are assisting the Guild that garments which are bought from the shops and are sent to the Guild are equally acceptable, and their purchases would have the additional advantage of helping to secure the continuance of employment of women engaged in their manufacture.

(The Times, 22nd August, 1914.)

[There seems to have been a lot of confusion at the start of the war about what volunteers should be contributing, and what could be left to the War Office - presumably in part because the War Office was struggling to equip the huge numbers of new volunteers.  For instance, the above implies that volunteers should not be knitting socks, because they were already provided, but in fact there was an official appeal for socks in September 1914, and demand for extra socks continued throughout the war.]  

Thursday, 21 August 2014



No Rise in our Prices.
As our contracts for Autumn and Winter goods were fortunately made early in July, and as they are not subject to War risks, our prices during the coming months will be as advantageous as usual.


and in the present crisis we shall not even be slaves to any fear as to the ultimate result, and this is so because we have implicit confidence in the righteousness of our cause and in all the administrators of our National affairs - CONFIDENCE is a necessary foundation of all great successes.  As retail distributors, we attribute our increasing success to the ever growing public confidence in our merchandise, and in our written and spoken word---A confidence which we fully appreciate, and are thankful for, one which has been gained by consistently giving good service, honest value, exclusive styles, and always keeping prices as low as is consistent with the very best materials and soundest workmanship.

Watts The Clothier, Brecon
Opposite the Monument.

(The Brecon and Radnor Express, 21st August, 1914.)

[This is a real period piece.  They don't write ads like that any more - far too wordy and full of words like 'advantageous'.  And no-one now would have confidence that 'righteousness' would be a guarantee of success, even if you could be sure that the righteousness in a conflict was all on one side.]

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

British Red Cross Society


The Executive of the British Red Cross Society (Scottish Branch)  [requests] that all medical and surgical stores, such as bandages or bandage rollers, dressings, or crutches, be sent to 137 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow.  Everything else, such as cardigan jackets, caps, flannel, gloves, handkerchiefs, etc. should be sent to St Andrew's Halls, Glasgow.

It is necessary here to point out that according to the Geneva Convention the Red Cross Society can only provide for sick and wounded—those soldiers, in fact, who have ceased to be combatants.  The society cannot provide clothing, food, and comforts for troops in the field.  There has apparently been considerable misunderstanding with regard to this point in some quarters, for such supplies have been sent to the society.  Provision for combatants will, it is understood, be made by-the Regimental and Territorial Force Associations, and these will shortly make a public announcement with regard to the acceptance and forwarding of clothing and comforts for combatants.....

Some criticisms have appeared in the press of those women who are helping the Red Cross Society to provide comforts for our wounded soldiers instead of paying their unemployed sisters to do such work.  Such criticisms, however well intended, show an inadequate consideration of the facts of the case.  This voluntary work is not a substitute for paid work, but an addition to it.  It can provide at most but a fraction of the articles required.  Many of these must be and are purchased for or by the society.  These are the product of paid labour.  It is of course open to anyone who desires to do so to organise paid working parties.  The society's primary duty is to organise voluntary help in general, and it is impossible for the Central Executive to attempt the arrangement of these smaller details.

(Glasgow Herald, 20th August 1914.)

[I chose this piece because (a) it lists the kinds of things that volunteers were sending Red Cross and (b)  it says clearly that the Red Cross is only providing for non-combatants - all the men's clothing that they were collecting was destined for sick and wounded soldiers.  Many people were evidently confused about that - indeed, a booklet produced by the Red Cross (available here) contains knitting patterns that could be equally useful for men at the front (gloves, mittens, cardigans, a cap-scarf,...), so the confusion is perhaps understandable. 

There was a lot of confusion too about the roles of volunteers v. paid workers, not just in making things for the Red Cross, but also in providing comforts for men on active service   - several later posts will be about this too.  The last paragraph above doesn't help at all in clearing up the confusion, to my mind.]      

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Socks for Soldiers

(The following 3 pieces appeared in the Glasgow Herald, 17th August 1914)

The following are directions for closing a stocking or sock toe so as to avoid the hard ridge which is often so pain-giving: -- Take in the toe in the usual way until you have about nine stitches on each of two wires, back and front.  Break the wool, leaving about half a yard, and thread this through a darning needle.  Insert needle in first loop of front wire as if for plain knitting.  Take off loop on to needle and insert needle again as if for purling, draw wool through, but leave the second stitch on wire.  Now go to back wire and take off first loop on to needle as if for purling, put needle in again as if for plain knitting, and draw wool through, but leave this second stitch on wire.  Put needle on to front wire again as if for plain knitting, and so on until all the stitches are gone over, and draw an inch or two of what remains of the wool along the side of the toe.

[I think it is almost impossible to give adequate instructions for grafting without diagrams (or preferably YouTube), but this is a brave attempt.  Sock patterns before 1914 sometimes gave similar instructions for grafting the toes, so the technique was known.  It was not, of course, called Kitchener stitch.] 

Paisley holiday-makers are reminded that knitting and sewing form a delightful occupation at the seaside or on the hills in the open air.  Our soldiers and sailors require our sympathy and help.  The articles of greatest value in this campaign are (1) shirts, (2) socks, (3) sleeping helmets. Shirts should be made of khaki Army flannel, the neck sizes in common use being 14½, 15, and 15½.  Socks should be made of strong, hard knitting wool, the sizes in common use ranging from 9½ to 11.  Sleeping helmets should be made of cotton or wool.  They are intended to cover the head, the neck, and part of the shoulders, with an opening for the eyes, nose and part of the face.  These helmets are used by the soldiers for sleeping on the ground in the open air.  Mr John Bardie, MA., mathematical master, Paisley Grammar School, receives consignments of goods for distribution among our soldiers and sailors … After being assorted these goods will be periodically despatched to the War Office. To facilitate the assorting of the consignment the sizes of articles should be clearly marked.

[Attempting to make flannel shirts in the open air seems an ideal way of ruining a holiday and probably ruining the shirt too.  This seems likely to be a bit of private enterprise on Mr Bardie's part, although the specification of sizes suggests that he might have consulted someone at the War Office.  It's odd that he felt it necessary to describe a sleeping helmet as though readers might not know about them - other appeals (e.g. in yesterdays's post) refer to Balaclava helmets, or just helmets, and assume that everyone knows what they are.] 


The Executive Committee of the Scottish Branch of the British Red Cross Society … issued the following statement on Saturday:--
The suddenness of the war having not unnaturally led some branches to take action without waiting to consult headquarters, it is necessary to remind members of the Red Cross Society that the organisation was started with the express purpose of preventing overlapping and waste of energy which result from unco-ordinated individual effort.  The Executive Committee, while fully appreciating the zeal of those branches, is bound to see that the society adheres to its primary duty of supplying to the Navy and Army the assistance which they call on it to provide.  For this reason the Executive Committee must remind local branches that it cannot be answerable for any expenditure incurred without its sanction.  It has no wish to interfere with any arrangements made by branches at their own expense, but it ventures to point out that it would be a great misfortune if their resources or trained members were wasted on enterprises of doubtful value.  The Government is naturally reluctant to decline any offer of help.  The fact that an offer is not declined must not be taken as a proof that it is useful.

[This strikes me as a wonderful piece of writing - a severe reprimand to the local branches for behaving in an over-enthusiastic and undisciplined manner, including a threat to withhold payment, all in the politest language.  Although Mr. Bardie in Paisley appears to have no connection with the Red Cross, I can't help feeling that his efforts are the kind of "unco-ordinated individual effort" that they were objecting to.]

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Sewing and Knitting for the Soldiers


Many local ladies have now got well to work in the making of garments for soldiers, and in other cases provision is being made for “sewing meetings” twice or thrice a week with the same object in view.  The correct patterns should be ascertained before any work is begun.  It is also necessary that too many of one particular style of garment should not be made.  In some places there is a scheme under which all garments are being cut out at one central depot, so that it is possible to regulate the exact number of garments produced, and to see that they are not only correct in shape but in quantity.

It is said that our soldiers have been sent out well provided with helmets, so, though more will be wanted later on, the advice to all the good knitters is to turn their attention to socks for the time being.  Hand-knitted hosiery lasts much better than that which is machine made.  At the same time, those who are equally good with the needle will do well to devote the chief part of their time to the making of garments for the hospitals, and keep their knitting for odd moments.

(The Halifax Courier, 15th August, 1914)

[Helmets here means Balaclava helmets - they had been associated with the army since the Crimean War, from the name, and I think that they had been knitted as soldiers' comforts during the South African War.  So for the writer of this piece it would be natural to advise on whether helmets were needed at the time.  (Although  as far as I know, the soldiers of the British Expeditionary Force had not been provided with helmets and it was not part of the standard kit issued by the War Office.)]

(Cambrian Daily Leader, 15th August 1914)

[What civilian men were wearing in 1914. I suspect that at least part of the reason for the sale was that far fewer men were buying suits than usual - either because they were in the army or were thinking of volunteering, or because the war had made everyone reluctant to spend money if it wasn't absolutely necessary.]   

Friday, 15 August 2014

Mills Closed in Brighouse



Hundreds of people are idling about the streets of Brighouse to-day.  The reason for this is that trade is bad and many of the mills are closed down for an indefinite period.  In the cotton industry trade has been on the decline for some time, and masters were looking forward to the local holidays, which are due this week-end, so that factories could be closed down for a short period, at any rate.  But the war has urged matters to a climax a little earlier, and all the cotton mills in the town are closed until further notice.  A principal at one of the mills told a “Courier” representative on Monday that if they went on working it would take warehouses as large as the factories themselves to store the manufactured article; and then they were not quite sure whether the stock produced would be of the quality or kind demanded.  So there was nothing else left but to close their premises.  Quite a lot of business was done for Continental export, and not a small proportion with Germany.  Under the present state of international affairs it is impossible to get orders delivered, not to mention the difficulty of receiving raw material.

The silk industry, one of the chief trades of the town, is also undergoing a slump.  One can quite readily understand why this is the case.  In times of general depression, naturally only the necessary things are worn, and silk to most people is looked upon as a luxury.  ....

So serious is the position locally that the Mayor and Corporation have considered it needful to ask employers of labour to meet them and discuss together the best ways and means of alleviating distress in the district.  On every hand can be seen signs of distress, and Brighouse would appear to be one of the local areas to be most seriously affected up to the present.

To a man with a spark of humanity in his heart the scenes are distressing. Young men in the bloom of health, strong, hearty and well, are by the score wasting time because there is nothing to do.  Women and children are perambulating the streets, picking up stray morsels of coal and coke, and bearing upon their faces the pinch of hunger.  A mite of less than twelve summers pitifully pleaded with our reporter this morning to be told where she could get "some cinders to make a fire at home."  Just then a coal cart passed along, and away shot the little girl looking wistfully at the coal which refused to tip over the edge of the cart.

(The Halifax Courier, August 15th, 1914.)

[I wonder how many of the young men who joined the army in August and September 1914 had lost their jobs at the start of the war and so might have felt that the army was their best option.] 

Thursday, 14 August 2014

To the Ladies of the Colne Valley

(Colne Valley Guardian, 14th August, 1914)

Will all ladies of the Colne Valley District meet in the Liberal Hall, Slaithwaite, on Friday evening, August 14th, at 7 o'clock, to discuss ways and means for helping the sick and wounded soldiers and sailors and their families.
(Huddersfield Examiner, 13th August, 1914) 

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Free Admission to the Hippodrome


Mothers and Wives of the Soldiers called
away, Will be admitted FREE
To-night (either House) to the Hippodrome
to see "The Pride of Byzantia."
Doors open 6 o'clock.
Just give regimental number.

You will receive Two Hours' Genuine Enjoyment.

(Huddersfield Daily Examiner, Friday 14th August, 1914)


Contrary to what one expected to find during the present crisis, the Hippodrome was packed at both performances last night, and the new version of “The Pride of Byzantia” met with general approval.  It is a delightful pantomime, brimful of comedy, and supported by some very clever principals.  Miss Mabel Medrow, who takes the part of Princess Sadie, contributes some pleasing songs.  Her best number, perhaps, is a soldier song, in which she is assisted by a charming little girl of not more than ten summers, who has a remarkably sweet voice.  “The Pride of Byzantia,” however, would not be complete without Mrs. Blenkinsop and her son Sammy, a typical Yorkshireman.  Those who have seen the piece previously will find Miss Lucy Murray and Mr. Will Lindsay funnier than ever.  They are irresistible, and the audience were frequently convulsed with laughter throughout the entertainment.  Mr. Albert Cavendish is quite a success in the role of Mr.  Oofenstein, while other principal parts are ably sustained by Mr. Charles Wilkins (Lieutenant Jack Dareham), Mr. James Chippendale (Sir Joseph Rivers), and Mr. Charles Tolcker (Adolph).  Much merriment was created by the antics of Miss Madge Soutter, the inimitable maid-of-all-work, who has lost none of her dexterity, and Miss Minnie Myrle (Mabel Rivers) and little Mary O’Hara contribute largely to the success of the piece.  Special mention must be made of the Eight Little Sunbeams, an attractive speciality act, the powerful chorus, and the beautiful dresses.  The piece is admirably staged, and everything goes with a swing.

(Huddersfield Daily Examiner, Tuesday 11th August, 1914) 

["The Pride of Byzantia" is described as a pantomime-play by Arthur W. Field, in The Stage Year Book for 1913.  The first production was in Bradford in 1911, and it seems to have toured widely thereafter.] 

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Appeal to the Women of Huddersfield


At a largely-attended women’s meeting at the Town Hall, Huddersfield, on Tuesday, a committee was formed to organise the efforts of the women who are anxious to offer any assistance to the sick and wounded.  It was decided to open a central office at the Guild of Help Rooms, 4, Ramsden Street, to be open daily between the hours of 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. from to-day onwards.

Offers are invited for sewing, knitting, visiting, interpreters, office work, messengers, houses for convalescents, nurses, and gifts of all kinds, viz., money, red flannel for bed jackets, twill for shirts, pillow-cases, towels, and wool for socks.

Funds are urgently requested to buy material, and the smallest contribution will be gratefully acknowledged.
DORIS S. THOMPSON (Deputy Mayoress)


If any of the ladies are in doubt or difficulty with the making of the garments for the sick and wounded, and will come to the Infirmary and ask for the “Sewing Room,” there will always be someone there to give all help possible. - MATRON.

(Huddersfield Daily Examiner, Thursday 13th August, 1914) 

Schofield & Oldfield ad, Colne Valley Guardian, August 21st, 1914. 

Monday, 11 August 2014

Halifax Lady Workers' Committee

Public Notices


NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that at a Meeting of the Mayoress's Lady Workers’ Committee held this morning, it was decided to organise all Ladies within Halifax and District willing to give their services by making up good serviceable Clothing for the use of Soldiers and Sailors serving their country, and also the making up of any article which may come in useful, or which may be wanted by, the Red Cross Society, Ambulance Brigade, Local Relief Committee, or similar institutions.

For the above purpose, the Borough and Districts have been divided into Sections, and a Head appointed for each Section.

 [table giving Name of District, Head, Address follows]

Any Lady willing to assist should at once communicate with the Head of the Section in which she lives, and she will then be provided with material.  All cutting out and preparation will be arranged for at Headquarters.
Contributions of money or promises for any of the following materials: --

  • Butter Muslin, White Flannelette for bandages, Flannel in scarlet, khaki and dark grey, Union Flannel for shirts in grey or dark colours, White Heather Wheeling for socks, &c., in navy, khaki, or grey, Old Linen, washed and free from starch, 

should be sent to Miss E. Ingham, Savile Heath, Manor Heath-road, Halifax.
Dated this 11th day of August, 1914.
Joint Hon. Secretaries.

(The Halifax Courier, 15th August, 1914)

[This sounds very well-organised, if not regimented, but on the other hand, the remit sounds a bit vague - anything "which may come in useful, or which may be wanted".] 

Ad in The Halifax Courier, 29th August 1914 

Sunday, 10 August 2014

The Queen's Appeal to Needlework Guilds


Queen Mary has issued the following appeal:—
I appeal to all the presidents of the needlework guilds throughout the British Isles to organize a large collection of garments for those who will suffer on account of the war, and I appeal to all women who are in a position to do so to aid the guilds with their work.

Garments will be of service to the soldiers, sailors, and Territorials, to their families, to the military and naval hospitals, and to those among the poorer classes of the population who will suffer from any distress that may arise.

I hope that the guilds will cooperate with the Prince of Wales's National Relief Fund, with the Red Cross Society,... the Territorial Associations, Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Associations, and the Soldiers’ and Sailors' Help Society.

The most useful garments for soldiers and sailors on active service are flannel shirts, socks, sweaters, and cardigan jackets; for the naval and military hospitals, nightshirts, pyjamas, flannel bed-jackets, and bed-socks...

Large numbers of all the ordinary garments for women and children will be required.  Those intended for the wives and children of soldiers, sailors, and Territorials will be distributed with the help of the Soldiers’ and Sailors' Families Association and of the Territorial  Associations... Those garments intended for persons suffering from distress owing to unemployment should be sent to the Committees for the Prevention and Relief of Distress which are being formed by the Mayors and Provosts, and the chairmen of the county councils and larger urban district councils. ... 


(The Times, August 10th 1914)

[I don't know why it was felt necessary, this early in the war, to provide basic items of clothing for serving soldiers and sailors, such as flannel shirts, which was surely the job of the War Office.  Later appeals were for 'comforts',  additional items of clothing beyond the official provision, especially for warm winter clothing and extra socks. At this stage, many people seem to have felt an urge to do something to help, but a lot of confusion about what it should be.]     

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Opinion on the War in Halifax


 Though the war does not touch our shores, there have been stirring scenes all week, owing to the calling out of the Reserves and Territorials. The men have responded with spirit to the call of duty, convinced that the policy of this country is right in defending the weak against the strong, in honourably standing by the engagements entered into with the neutral States of the Continent, and in acting up to the full spirit of our happy entente with France. Regret that war is necessary is universal, for a friendly feeling was slowly growing with Germany, and was taking the place of the distrust excited by the constant huge growth, to our disadvantage, of the German naval armaments. Many people, indeed, impressed by the rapid growth of these armaments, have felt that the present unhappy conflict was bound to come.

One immediate effect of the war is to send up prices of provisions and commodities, through the huge demands of people who are rather panic-stricken. There is no need for alarm, as the supplies in the country will last for months, and abundance will come in from our Colonies and from foreign countries, the waterways nearly all over the world being open to our commerce.


Should the war continue long, there will of necessity be much short time and unemployment, for which the public should be preparing themselves. The Government are making preparations for the emergency, and the benevolent public will be ready to respond to calls to help the destitute, and to assist the wives and children whose fathers have been called away to their military duty. It is a time when we must all stand together in firm defence of the land we love, yet trusting that the war cloud, which now looms so darkly, will soon pass away.

 (The Halifax Courier, 8th August 1914)

[I included this,  because it shows that enthusiasm for war was not universal, even at the start.]  

Friday, 8 August 2014

£1 Note Issued



Yesterday, the Halifax banks re-opened, and there was nothing in the nature of a panic.  At one bank a large crowd assembled, and formed into a queue, the explanation being that most of the early visitors were desirous of drawing out their holiday money.  In many cases, however, it will probably be placed on one side as a reserve in case of later need.  All the banks were busy but it is pleasing know that a large amount of the business was in paying in as well as drawing out.  The closing of the banks for four days caused tradespeople to accumulate more money than they care to keep on hand, and it was a relief to deposit it in the banks.  The issuing by the Government of the £1 and 10s. notes will be a big relief to the gold.  The notes were issued in London yesterday, and some were received by the Yorkshire Penny Bank from their head offices in London.  The Provincial banks will be supplied with them to-day or Monday.

The alteration from coins to paper money makes no difference.  The notes will be offered and accepted in payment, just the same as gold, and should be treated by the public with the same confidence.  Wages paid in paper will have exactly the same purchasing power as if paid in gold, and workers need have no hesitation in accepting them.  Postal orders are also legal tender.  The Government scheme is introduced for the benefit of the public whose duty it is to support the scheme and reserve the gold.

The new £1 notes are printed on small slips of paper 2½ in. by 5in.  They bear the following wording printed in Old English type:--
These notes are a legal tender for a payment of any amount issued by the Lords Commisioners of His Majesty's Treasury under authority of Act of Parliament.
                             (Sd.) JOHN BRADBURY,
                                         Secretary to the Treasury.
On the left-hand side they bear the King's portrait amid ornamentation encircled by the inscription “Georgius V., D.G. Britt. Omn Rex, F.D., Ind. Imp.”  The notes are printed on white paper, watermarked with the royal cipher.

We are informed that the Yorkshire Penny Bank have paid all the holiday and wage money in coin, and the public have willingly taken the new £1 notes issued by the Government.  The supply of notes sent down from the head office in London has been exhausted, and all payments were being made yesterday afternoon in cash.  Business is absolutely normal, and a most gratifying feature is that the deposits yesterday were almost equal to the withdrawals.  There is no reason for the public to have the slightest fear.

(The Halifax Courier, 8th August 1914)

(Image from the Bank of England's Withdrawn banknotes website)
[A 'small slip of paper'  doesn't seem very confidence-inspiring in comparison with a gold sovereign.  This first design was replaced in October 1914.  It was still printed only on one side, but was considerably larger.]

Thursday, 7 August 2014

The London Crowd



London is back in Mafficking mood, and the blood lust has gripped its people. I hope the provincial towns are meeting the crisis in a far more serious mood. I wish I could blot from my memory the scenes of the last three days. They have been of the kind that shakes one’s faith in all those things which makes for moral and spiritual advancement in mankind. I saw London twice during the South African war. I witnessed the orgies of Ladysmith night. I saw them again on Monday and Tuesday evening, in the East End, West End, and the South side of the river, and I confess I was appalled with the light-hearted wrecklessness of my fellow men and women. Judging by the demonstrations of the crowd it might have been a picnic that nation was entering upon instead of the greatest crisis of a century – shouting, singing, cheering mobs; beside themselves with blood lust and war intoxication. They shouted patriotic songs, sang “Rule Britannia”, they clamoured on the top of the buses, waved miniature Union Jacks, and generally conducted themselves in a way that proved they could have no idea of the gravity of the situation.

(Halifax Courier, 8 Aug 1914)

[James Parker was the Labour M.P.  for Halifax from 1906 until 1918.  Mafficking (referring to loud and boisterous public celebrations) was a word invented after the news of the relief of Mafeking in 1900 during the South African War reached London, and led to widespread 'Mafficking'.  It seems obvious that James Parker had judged the situation better than the London crowds.]  

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Huddersfield Territorials Depart



The Huddersfield Territorials were mobilised early on Wednesday morning [August 5th].  The order was received at the Drill Hall at 8-15 on Tuesday night with enthusiasm and hearty cheers.  During the night the men slept on the floor of the Drill Hall with one blanket under, and one over them.

When mobilisation was ordered, the men joined their companies at the earliest possible moment, and brought with them the following articles for their personal use:  (1) whole of their regimental equipment and clothing (with the exception of scarlet uniform); (2) one pair of boots in addition to those in wear; (3) complete change of underclothing (including shirt and socks); (4) knife, fork, spoon, razor, shaving brush, comb, button brass, sponge, blacking brushes, brass brush, cloth brush, two towels, soap, cleaning materials, toothbrush, and hold-all; (5) one spare pair of boot laces; (6) pair of braces; (7) housewife, with buttons, needles, and thread; (8) clasp knife, with tin opener.  The articles provided would not necessarily be of military pattern, but were required to be serviceable enough to last three months.  If found serviceable, payment would be made for the articles.  The above-named articles composed the whole of the men's war kit, and in addition they were provided with entrenchment tools and 100 rounds of ammunition each.

In the parade ground adjoining the Drill Hall, 450 officers and men of the 5th Battalion were paraded. ... The men were then marched through the streets to the railway station....   Hundreds of people lined the route, and a good deal of interest was shown in the men's departure.  On every side, the seriousness of the situation was realised.  The men, however, had a very cordial but quiet reception.  As the men marched into the station, some of them began to sing, and shouted “Are we down-hearted?”

The station was closely guarded by police and railway detectives, and no one who had not legitimate business was admitted.....  There was good reason to believe that two bank clerks who travelled with the train were in charge of £6,000 which was taken in order to provide for the men's requirements.

The members of the band of the 5th Battalion did not take their instruments, but the bandsmen, together with the sanitary staff, will be under Major Demetriadi's command.  They will sleep in the waiting-rooms at Grimsby station.  The members of the band have passed examinations in ambulance work while at camp, and they have attended lectures on ambulance work during the past winter. The band of the 5th is said to be the most efficient band of the division in stretcher work.

(Colne Valley Guardian, August 7)

[The Huddersfield Territorials were the 5th Battalion of the Duke of Wellington's (West Riding Regiment).  Major Demetriadi was a Huddersfield doctor and surgeon - the bandsmen acted as stretcher bearers when the battalion was on active service.]

Ad for Rushworths,  Ltd., Huddersfield.

Monday, 4 August 2014





Second only in importance to Sir Edward Grey’s declaration of Great Britain’s attitude in view of the European developments was the announcement, made yesterday, that the British Army was to be mobilised, and that the Navy was already on a war footing.  The mobilisation proclamation will be signed to-day, and the necessary orders for the Reserves to return to the colours and the Territorials to be embodied will then be issued.

The necessary preparations for war are being made with all speed.  Every Post Office in the United Kingdom will be kept open night and day.  All vessels carrying wireless installation must dismantle it on arriving in British waters.  A Royal Proclamation announces the right of the Admiralty to take over any vessel flying the British flag for transport use or other purposes.

Earl Kitchener was on his way back to Egypt by the overland route, and had actually embarked on the cross-Channel steamer at Calais when he was recalled by telegram, and returned to the shore.

The mobilisation of the British Navy was completed in all respects at 4 a.m. yesterday morning.  This is due to the measures taken, and to the voluntary response of the reserve men in advance of the Royal proclamation, which has now been issued.  The entire Navy is now on a war-footing. 

(Glasgow Herald, 4th August)

Friday, 1 August 2014

The Halifax Territorials in Camp



Local territorials were given a good send off to camp on Sunday morning, parents, relatives, and friends assembling to watch the march to Halifax station shortly before eight o'clock. ...  There would be between 500 and 600 men in the 4th battalion [of the Duke of Wellington's (West Riding Regiment)], very few being left behind to join the camp in the second week.
At Marske they found wet weather, and it was not till Tuesday that the conditions were good.  They have had good training during the week.

Excitement reigned after breakfast on Thursday by a rumour that the Territorials had to go to Grimsby for mobilisation.  This rumour lessened to the effect that it was only the Imperial Service men.  When all came out the Special Reserve department of the Battalion were ordered to fall in, and were not allowed to parade with the other men for the morning's drill.  Later in the day the Special Reserve were served with two days' rations and entrained for Walham and Grimsby.  This has caused much excitement at camp, and many men are anxious to know how they can join the Special Reserve.

... for next week interesting schemes are being arranged.  The battalions will have outpost duty until late one night.  It is not intended to have any of the troops out in the open throughout the whole night, but on Thursday and Friday the brigade will be engaged in field operations in the vicinity of Eston Moor.  On Saturday, the day before the men leave for home, there will be a ceremonial parade on the beach at Marske.  

(Halifax Courier, 1st August 1914.)

[The camp was scheduled training for the Territorials - at the start of the war, most of the Territorial units throughout the country were in camp, to coincide with the August Bank Holiday. The Territorial Reserve had been formed a few years previously and was intended for home defence, but amongst them, the Imperial Service men were those who had signed up for service overseas in the event of war.  It seems that by 'Special Reserve', the reporter means the Imperial Service men, although the Special Reserve was actually something quite different, I'm told.  Marske is on the North Yorkshire coast. ]  

Imperial Service badge worn by territorials