Wednesday, 15 October 2014

A White Feather to the Wrong Man

From the Huddersfield Examiner, 15th October 1914


The campaign of the female patriots who go about presenting white feathers to men who had not enlisted has not been a complete success.  But it is doubtful whether any of the champions ever blundered so egregiously as did a coterie of them in Manchester.

A bluejacket now away on one of his Majesty’s ships of war writes to relatives in the northern city a restrained account of the incident, which explains itself.  His epistle is dated from H.M.S. ______, and runs:

“On Tuesday October 6th, a chum of mine visited Manchester to see some relatives, and during the afternoon of the same day, while walking down Market Street, was accosted by two supposed young ladies.  One of them asked him why he did not join the army, and he replied “I do not wish to join any army.”  Without more ado the other supposed young lady darted forward, and placed a large white feather in the buttonhole of his coat, while a minute later he found himself the centre of a laughing, giggling crowd.  This man, who is a bluejacket, was one of the survivors of the late H.M.S. Cressy.  The man to whom they had presented the ‘trophy of cowardice’ had only a few days before relinquished his hold on a spar so that a comrade who could not swim might have a chance.  This is the man who was presented with a white feather in public, a stranger in a strange town.  Do these people who carry white feathers about with them and make a practice of giving them away in this manner realise what they are doing?  Do they realise that it is the men and not the cowards who fear the white feather?  In this case a good man’s well earned leave was spoiled by the folly of the so-called white feather brigade.  As a Manchester man I think it my place to publish this, and I sincerely hope that it may catch the eye of all who witnessed the event and of the two young people who were responsible.  I hope that they will find a better way of helping their country than by ridiculing the men on whom the country depends.” 

[HMS Cressy and two other cruisers were sunk in the North Sea by a German U-boat on 20th September.  See

I think it's interesting that this episode was reported in Huddersfield, a long way from where it happened. It seems to indicate disapproval of the white feather campaign as a whole, and not just of incidents like this.]

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