Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Christmas in the Trenches

Xmas in the Trenches.

Boom of Guns on the Yser.

Christmas Day brought a hard frost and a heavy winter mist to Belgium and Northern France (says a Times correspondent). The weather did its best to produce the Christmas atmosphere, but the combatants would not take the hint.  In the early hours of Christmas morning the guns began to boom on the Yser, showing that there was to be no truce.  The Germans made a fierce night attack on the French and Belgian positions recently won to the north of Nieuport. The Allies, however, were ready for them, and the German marines were driven back by machine guns and rifle fire, losing many men.

The Allies then made a counter- attack in their turn, which proved successful and resulted in a little more ground being won in the dunes.  There was a desultory bombardment over the Belgian front, particularly to the south of Dixmude, where the Belgians have succeeded in establishing themselves on the farther side of the Yser Canal.

On the British front things were quieter.  Thursday had seen one of the most violent cannonades of the war, but on Friday there was only occasional shelling, and on the whole our men were able to eat their Christmas dinner in peace.  For most of them there seems to have been good things in superabundance.  Plum pudding was served out to all the troops, so that quite apart from private supplies from home, plum pudding was eaten wherever rations could be delivered to the trenches.  The Army has been so flooded with parcels from home during the last days that men had five or six puddings to themselves.  Stories of orgies which will no doubt become legendary are already current, but the gist of all the talk that one hears is that our Army did, in spite of war conditions, spend its Christmas very merrily.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Internees Knitting

From the Portsmouth Evening News, 30th December 1914. 

Interned Naval Men

“A Helper” ...  gives some details of the Christmas treat provided for the interned Naval men in Holland through the efforts of Commodore Wilfred Henderson, and his officers and friends.  The small appeal made by them to the public was most generously responded to, and it was made possible to provide a splendid Christmas dinner of turkey and plum pudding for the 1,500 men, as well as a small gift for each.  The interned men are clothed and fed and housed and every effort is made to keep them occupied and in good spirits.

Commodore Henderson, in answer to inquiries, asked that no ready-made woollen garments should be deflected from the men at the front, but that friends should rather give wool, or money to buy wool, so that the men should knit their own warm garments, and when those on the spot were provided, should go on knitting for their less well-provided comrades in the trenches and at sea.  This was done, thus giving a number of men useful and interesting occupation.  

Monday, 29 December 2014

Seasonal Yorkshire Pudding and Oxo

From the Cambrian Daily Leader, 29th December 1914.

[What sort of Yorkshire pudding was seasonal, and obtained from grocers?  None that I have heard of.]

[Many ads were beginning to refer to the war - especially ads for products that the people at home could send to their men at the front. Oxo was a meat extract, sold in a jar (like Bovril) or in cubes.  I think "Oxo is made in a moment" refers to making a hot drink from it.   The beef stock cube is still the main product sold under the Oxo brand, but it has diversified into other products as well.]  

Sunday, 28 December 2014


From the Birmingham Daily Post, 28th December 1914.


It is already evident that one of the prime pantomime jests evolved from the war will be directed at the untiring industry displayed by so many ladies just now in knitting and sewing.  “Sister Susie’s sewing shirts for soldiers” is to be heard well-nigh everywhere, while the comic man tangles himself and all around in knitting of the wildest description.  This good-natured satire does not go very far beyond the mark, for some of the exhibitions of feminine zeal in this direction are almost of themselves a joke.  Perhaps it was carrying the joke a little too far when, at the recent State opening of Parliament, an indefatigable lady passed the time of waiting for the King and Queen by knitting in the Royal Gallery of the Palace of Westminster.  When, just as the picturesque procession was about to appear, she dropped her ball of wool, which rolled right on to the red carpet, and was rescued and restored by a gorgeously-clad official just in time, a humorous scene was provided which not even the most daring pantomime producer would have devised.  The overflowing industry, indeed, has led to a demand for the creation of a name to fit the myriads who practise it.  “Knitster” is suggested on the analogy of “spinster,” and it would have the advantage of meaning precisely what it indicated, while the latter has lost its original significance.  The new word, in any case, might be preserved in the language as one of the war’s results.

[“Sister Susie’s sewing shirts for soldiers” was a popular song of 1914.  The words are given in an earlier post.] 

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Knitting and Shooting

From The Observer. 27th December, 1914.


Dinner parties are extinct as the Dodo in this new London; people dine together in twos and threes, and bring their knitting.  If they play bridge, the winnings go to the war funds. Only for those who come back on a couple of days' leave from the trenches is an effort at gaiety made; a play or a restaurant dinner and as much cheerfulness as can be got into the few hours of their stay among us.

It has been said of the Queen in old days that Her Majesty knitted at every spare moment: at meals, and in the evening when talking to anyone.  This may now be said of the major portion of the social world of London; every woman knits and most of the men.  Those who did not know before how to manipulate knitting needles have speedily learnt, and thousands of useful woollen garments—socks, comforters, belts and mittens — have been made in the West End and sent out to our troops in Northern France.

So much for London.  In the country the customary autumn house-parties, which in grouse districts begin in August and in partridge districts have their commencement in September were conspicuous by their absence.  Almost every suitable house was offered to the War Office as a hospital.  Some of them are empty still, but they are equipped and ready with all the necessities for sick and wounded.  Game must be shot, but partridges and pheasants, hares and rabbits go to hospitals, to camps, to the fleet.

[Although it doesn't say so openly, it seems that before the war the Queen had been thought a bit eccentric and perhaps old-fashioned for knitting in public - until everyone else joined in.

The account of what's going on in the country sounds a bit Downton Abbey (upstairs).   I'm not sure why all the game has to be shot - especially the hares.]  

Friday, 26 December 2014

Boy Scouts as Coastguards

From the Yorkshire Evening Post, 26th December 1914.


This week I had a chat with two of the 10th S.W. Leeds lads who have been on coastguard duty at Filey, and who, after being away from home for nearly five months were granted a week’s furlough for Christmas.  They returned to the East Coast to-day.

Tanned by the sun and breeze, and with frames hardened and strengthened, these lads have benefited immensely by the outdoor life, and they admit that the job of coastguard is far more congenial than that of tailor or printer, to which they have been accustomed hitherto.  The party at Filey is made up of six Leeds lads, one Bridlington and one Filey lad.  They have quarters at the coastguards’ house and though in this case the Scouts do not prepare their own food, they have to keep the station shipshape.

As to the nature of their duties and their experience, the lads are reticent, and rightly so.  Each is on duty about nine hours in the twenty-four, taking his share of night work: so that they have not a great deal of leisure time on their hands.  A local gentleman takes them on early morning fishing trips occasionally, and the party has returned with much as a stone [14 pounds] of fish after one of these excursions.

Instead of the cowboy hat and khaki shirt, they wear the round hat of the coastguard and a dark blue knitted jersey.  The cowboy hat is not suitable for coast duty, and even the tight fitting hat in use requires to be fastened with a band under the chin.  Each has his oilskin for dirty weather.

The Leeds lads at Filey will probably be on duty till the end of the war, and if one may take Patrol Leaders Barlow and Earl as a criterion, they will derive great physical benefits while fulfilling the duties of auxiliary coastguard.

[The school leaving age in 1914 was 12, which explains why Boy Scouts could have been previously employed in Leeds, before becoming coastguards.  And even though the writer of this article probably didn't imagine the war going on for four more years, it is possible that some of the boys could have continued as coastguards until the end of the war, and were then still under 18 (the minimum age for joining up).]     

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Comforts for Welsh Troops

From the Cambrian Daily Leader, 24th December 1914. 


(To the Editor).
Sir,—I shall be glad if you will kindly allow me to appeal through your columns on behalf of the National Fund for Welsh Troops.

The committee is anxious that all Welsh regiments serving at home and abroad should be provided with additional comforts, such as shirts, socks, mittens, and Cardigan jackets, also pipes, tobacco, and cigarettes.

All contributions of money and kind will be gratefully received by me at 11, Downing-street, Whitehall, S.W.-- Yours faithfully, 

Margaret Lloyd George, 
Chairman of Committee.
11, Downing-street, Whitehall, London, S.W., 
December 21st, 1914.

[David Lloyd George was Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1914 - 11 Downing Street is the official residence of the Chancellor.  He had been Chancellor since 1908, when he had introduced Old Age Pensions, and became Prime Minister in 1916.  Margaret Lloyd George was Welsh, like her husband, and she raised a huge amount for charities during the war.] 

Christmas Presents for Soldiers and Sailors

From the Colne Valley Guardian, 24th December 1914.


We are Specialising this Xmas on Presents for Soldier and Sailor Boys.

They are doing a great deal for us.  What are we going to do for them?  They cannot have a very Happy Christmas this year, but we can make it a bit happier for them by sending them something warm and comfortable.  Here are a few things suitable:

Sweaters, Pants, Body Belts, Cardigan Jackets,  Vests, Socks, Wool  Gloves, Mitts, Flannel Shirts, Sleeping Helmets and every recognised Clothing Comfort for Troops.

H. Calverley & Co., John Wm. Street, Huddersfield.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Christmas Post

From The Times, December 22nd, 1914


...The public has become more or less familiar with the effects of the "Christmas rush" on the General Post Office.  But this year the difficulties are enormously increased owing to the pressure which already existed as a result of the war. It is probable that what may be called the ordinary Christmas business will be less than usual, inasmuch as there will be less miscellaneous present-giving.  The postal authorities, indeed, are reckoning on this and are taking on less than the usual number of extra Christmas hands.  Last year 11,000 additional men were engaged.  This year it was decided that 10,000 would be enough, and there has been some difficulty in getting that number, in spite of the fact that salaries have been increased from 24s. to 26s. and 28s. a week for postmen and 28s. to 32s. for sorters, to which the pay for overtime has to be added.  ...

...The Post Office had lost about 6,400 regular employees who are on service.  Of these about 1,000 were formerly in the Navy and 2,000 in the Army and have rejoined from the Reserves; the rest have gone as recruits in the new Army, with the Post Office Rifles or as Engineers, in which capacity they have done invaluable work in organizing the postal and telegraph services with the Army in France. ...In addition there are about 100 men, all necessarily expert, detailed for special telegraphic service at the Admiralty and War Office, besides smaller numbers detached on special duty in connexion with the various camps at home.  To replace these 6,400 there have been taken on 4,200 new men since the war began (though a proportion of them are women), the preference being given to married men and those over military age. ...

...Our Armies cause immensely more work and give much more trouble than would the same number of men in civil life.  For a long time past the number of postal packages containing "comforts" of all kinds sent to our troops abroad has been on the average about 20,000 a day. ... In the six days ended on December 12, which was the last date at which packages were supposed to be received for delivery to the men for Christmas, the parcels amounted to the appalling total of just upon 250,000.

The amount of inadequate addressing is deplorable.  The British people seems unable to get it into its head that a regiment is not a tactical unit and that it is insufficient to send a package to a man with no other indication than that he is a private in the Berkshires, the South Wales Borderers, or the London Scottish.

Sadder is the number of letters and parcels addressed to men who are "missing."  All these come back to the General Post Office.  There they are detained until the War Office releases them by information that the news of the man’s death or loss has been conveyed to his relatives at home.  The packages are then, whenever possible, returned to the senders....

And even greater and unnecessary is the burden of careless packing.

The "hospital," where these mangled parcels are cared for and repacked to be sent to their destination, is an extraordinary sight.  Profoundly pathetic is the amount of loving care which has been expended on making up a package of "comforts," which is then, perhaps, wrapped in thin paper and tied with a single piece of frail string, so that it has fallen to pieces before it has even reached the London office.  The Post Office does all that it can to repack them properly and speed them on their way: but too large a proportion are crippled beyond repair.....

[There are also] some 2,000 packages a day received for British prisoners of war in Germany, and 1,200 a day from Germany for German prisoners of war in Great Britain.  All these have to be "censored"— i-e., examined to see that they contain nothing illegitimate, though the German Customs manifest, when it details the contents, is generally treated as sufficient.  It is to be hoped that the authorities in Germany are taking the same pains to see that the parcels for British prisoners there reach them with promptitude as are being taken by the Post Office in London.  On the other hand, it is a pity that the British public does not emulate the carefulness with which the Germans do up their packages, each one of which is admirably packed....

[Interesting that the report says that 4,200 new men have been taken on, before mentioning that some of them were actually women.  

Also interesting that there was the Post Office was handling post for British and German prisoners of war, just as normal postal business, and that the German Customs were trusted to state the contents of parcels honestly.]

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Christmas Crackers

From the Glasgow Herald, 21st December, 1914.

[Tom Smith invented the cracker in 1847.]

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Newspaper Comforts Schemes

From The People’s Friend, Dundee, 19th December 1914. 

[Extracts from a much longer article on schemes set up by the papers and magazines published by John Leng & Co. of Dundee:  the “Dundee Advertiser”, the “People’s Journal”, the “People‘s Friend”, “My Weekly” and “The Happy Home”. ]



Let us first look at the programme of beneficence initiated by the “People’s Journal” – Scotland’s greatest weekly.  Under the heading of “Comforts for the Soldiers” the editor has received and despatched thousands of pairs of socks, hundreds of body belts, helmets, mufflers, shirts, gloves, mitts, cuffs, and bootlaces. ….  When donations of money came to hand wool was purchased for socks, the knitting being undertaken by readers all over the country, and by the staff of young ladies attached to the “People’s Journal”.  The packages, needless to say, were, and are, gladly welcomed, and many letters from officers speak of the goods arriving in the trenches in the nick of time, and being balloted for among the men.

The Tobacco Fund has also been an unqualified success, the sum subscribed being beyond all expectations, and as the “weed” was purchased at wholesale prices, duty free, from recognised firms, and distributed among all the Scottish regiments, it can be readily understood that the quantity forwarded had the merit both of quality and weight.  Thousands of boxes of matches have also been supplied to the troops. … A number of [tobacconists] placed boxes upon their counters bearing the request “A Fag for Tommy.”  The response of the customers has been liberal, and several tobacconists have been able by this means to supply the “People’s Journal” with many thousands of cigarettes.

Next there is the Christmas Gift Scheme.  … It was .. made possible to present each Scottish regiment in France with a huge hamper of mufflers, gloves, buns, shortbread, chocolates, candies, &c.

“People’s Friend” Excels.

Ever since the war began, the lady readers of the “People’s Friend” have been working enthusiastically for the benefit of the soldiers and sailors, their wives and families.  They have turned out some 1600 pairs of socks, 170 shirts, 750 body belts, and nearly 2000 helmets, mufflers, cuffs, gloves, mittens, &c.  Besides this, they have sent vast bales of cast-off clothing to the soldiers’ wives and children, and to the Belgian refugees all over the country.  They have also given money generously.  In quite a short time £200 was subscribed for Christmas puddings for the men at the front.  Four thousand puddings have been sent, and .. each pudding is enough for two men.  Money has also been given generously for the purchase of cigarettes and tobacco, whilst large numbers of pipes and tobacco pouches have been contributed.  

[People's Friend and My Weekly, both women's magazines, are still published from Dundee, now by D. C. Thomson & Co.] 

Friday, 19 December 2014

Raising Money to Buy Wool

From the Bucks Herald, 19th December 1914. 

WADDESDON WESLEY GUILD. --An entertainment arranged by the Guild was given in the Wesleyan Sunday School on Thursday evening, Dec. 10.  A good number attended, who highly appreciated the excellent programme given by the girls.  The object of the entertainment was to raise more money to buy wool for knitting soldiers' comforts, in which work the girls have been engaged for some time.  The programme commenced with the National Anthems of the Allies, very nicely sung by a few young girls.  Glees, solos, recitations, and patriotic songs followed, amongst them favourites being "Land of hope and glory," and "Be proud that you're fighting for England."  The programme concluded with an amusing sketch "Mistresses and maids." — The Chairman, Mr. Holland, thanked all who had taken part, especially Mrs. Rushton for training the girls and Miss Newman for accompanying.  The amount raised was £1:2:8, and 10s. 6d. is to be sent to the "Daily Telegraph" Glove and Mitten fund, the remainder to be spent in wool.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Paying Dressmakers' Bills

From The Times, 18th December 1914.

A Word to Some Ladies.

We have received, and continue to receive, letters on a subject which we wish to bring to the notice of our feminine readers.  It is appropriate to Christmas and the end of the last quarter in the year.

They are pathetic letters, appealing on behalf of a struggling class which has been very hard hit by the war and can find no help in any quarter.  We refer to the dressmakers, and particularly those who work for themselves or for small employers, who have no financial resources to carry them over a prolonged period of depression and no alternative lines of business, like the large houses.  Such small employers have struggled to keep their establishments going, but have been compelled to dismiss the girls they employ one after another because there was nothing for them to do.

They appeal not so much on their own behalf as for the girls who have been discharged.  These workless girls—and the dressmakers who work at home on their own account are in the same plight—go to the committees which are administering public funds for the relief of war distress, but they go in vain.  They are sent from one committee to another, with the same result.  There is no work for them, although there may be ladies there doing for nothing work which they would be thankful to do for a very modest wage.  They naturally ask why they should not be employed if the object for which the money is subscribed, and the organisation exists, is to help persons in their position.

We do not suggest that any committee or other organization should give them work, because it would be futile.  What we suggest is that their former customers should rouse themselves for a moment from the absorbing pursuit of war activities and remember the existence of the unfortunate dressmaker.  She is not a person of whose existence it is necessary to remind them in normal times.  They remember her very well indeed, think of her very often, and demand her aid with an importunity which is bestowed upon few other people.  It is not kind or fair to forget her altogether when a superior interest supervenes.  To forget her bills, too, is something much worse, deserving a different description.  We are informed that ladies whose names have appeared in the lists of one or other of the war funds for large subscriptions have not paid their dressmakers' bills.  This is not charity or patriotism; it is affecting both at someone else's expense.  A good resolve for Christmas would be to pay what we owe and to pay the smaller people first

[It was a long-standing practice for well-off people to receive goods from tradespeople before they paid for them, and to run up a bill which would be paid later.  In many situations, the tradespeople were in a very weak position if they were not paid - they could not afford to antagonise their customers by making a fuss.  And there are many references  in literature to people owing large sums and being very slow at paying.  

The article also mentions again the problem of volunteers doing work for nothing when there were women who could be paid to do it. ]  

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Condensed Milk for the Front

From the Daily Record (Glasgow) 17th December 1914.


Apropos the strength of our periodicals and their value as advertising media, I may mention that the editress of “Home Chat” conceived the idea of sending tins of condensed milk to our soldiers at the front.  The scheme was not only approved by the War Office, but they also undertook to send the milk out for us.

Although the scheme has only been running a little more than a fortnight, and only 1s subscriptions were invited from our readers, you may be interested to learn that we have already received close on £400 from “Home Chat” readers alone.

Ten thousand tins were despatched last week; another ten thousand will be despatched this week; and a further twenty thousand are on order.

I have no doubt that in a very short time we shall have increased this quantity four or five times.

["Home Chat" was a weekly magazine for women, launched in 1895.  The amount asked for was one shilling (1s) - see my earlier post on the currency of the time.] 

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Appeal for Bovril

From the Amman Valley Chronicle, 17th December 1914 - a similar appeal appeared in other newspapers. 


To the Editor of the “Amman Valley Chronicle”.

In memory of Lord Roberts, who was ever thinking of the welfare of our troops, I am starting a fund to provide Bovril for our soldiers who are suffering so greatly from exposure in the trenches.  I am offering to the public the Lord Roberts Post Card, which contains a facsimile of the great General's handwriting, his photograph, and his address to recruits.  The entire profits from the sale of these cards will be devoted to the above purpose.  By arrangement with the War Office the Bovril will be dispatched without delay and distributed equally among the soldiers in the trenches.

I am delighted to say that I have already received support which has enabled me to supply over 10,000 cups of Bovril.  Her Majesty the Queen is greatly interested to hear that such a large amount has been sent for the comfort of the soldiers at the front.

A sixpenny Postal Order and a stamped addressed envelope for six "Roberts" Cards will be received by me with sincere and grateful thanks.

Yours faithfully,
89, Broadhurst Gardens,
South Hampstead, N.W.

[Gladys Storey was an actress and continued her Bovril Fund throughout the war.  Bovril was (and is) a concentrated meat product - it was intended by Miss Storey to be used to make hot drinks for the troops. 

Lord Roberts had served in the British Army throughout the second half of the 19th century, including leading the British forces in the South African War from 1899 to the end of 1900, and became Commander-in-Chief of the Forces in 1901 until the post was abolished in 1904.  He had died of pneumonia in France, in November, at the age of 82. ]

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Seen at the Shops

From The Observer, 13th December 1914.


Dickins and Jones, Regent-street.

In paying particular attention to Christmas gifts of a thoroughly serviceable order, Messrs. Dickins and Jones are once again evidencing that fine spirit of discrimination so characteristic of the house.  Emphasis is laid, for example, on warm gifts for soldiers and sailors, a capital khaki wool sleeping helmet, 2s. 6d.; wool jackets, with sleeves for wearing under tunics, 12s. 9d.; natural wool body belts, 2s. 6d.; and warm knitted gloves, 1s. 11½d., being among the most reliable offerings that are equally well adapted to our men serving abroad or at home.

Practicability and daintiness are charmingly allied in a fine ecru lace blouse, mounted over pale pink or ivory ninon, the high back collar finished with a chic little black velvet tie, a possession anyone would prize, and costing only 20s. 6d. Then a most fascinating choice prevails in fashionable neck wear, such as pleated aerophane collars, with velvet tie 4s. 6d., the new striped silk collar, with vest attached for wearing under an open fronted coat, 4s. 11d.; jabots of fine cream lace, 5s. 11d.; and the latest thing in wired Medici collars in cream or black lace, 5s. 6d.

A fur-lined travelling coat, for those who can afford the necessary expenditure of 5 guineas, could not possibly be received with anything but gratitude, as also a smart little ermine cravat at 49s. 6d., or one of the numerous other fur sets procured by Messrs. Dickins and Jones at exceptionally moderate prices.

Appealing, too, is a useful work bag, fitted with rings to sling over the arm, that starts in cretonne at 1s.11d, and rises in value, according to the quality of the material used in its construction, to 7s. 11d, the shape in every instance being the same practical style for holding knitting, &c.  Handbags, always a feature here, start off with a charming little model in dull shades of leather, the interior fitted with inner division, 4s. 11d., a particularly handsome bag, in fine seal leather, with centre division and vanity case, costing 25s. 6d., an extremely nice moire bag, with metal frame, lined rich corded silk and fitted with hanging mirror, striking a happy mean at 13s. 9d.

[There's an interesting contrast between some of the prices given here, and the wages earned in relatively good times by the women featured in the previous post.]

Saturday, 13 December 2014

A "Work for Women" Workshop in Bethnal Green

From The Times, 12 December 1914.


In the poor districts of London the Central Committee on Women's Employment in connexion with the Queen's Fund have started model workrooms, which are relieving local distress where it is most bitter.  These workrooms do not in any way interfere with existing employment, as the work done is in all cases given away to necessitous women and children.

[At the] Bethnal-green workrooms ... in Viaduct-street, where the work of making cradles for the maternity outfits for poor mothers is in progress, a representative of The Times was given some idea of the dire poverty with which the fund is coping, and also of the great courage of the poor women who come to the labour exchanges and the distress committees, not with the plea that they are hungry and want relief, but with an urgent demand for work.

Seeing them in their little groups at tables in the long room that holds about 75, working away in the main silently, one realizes what the sudden stoppage of work means to many of them....  The trades of these women had been trouser-making, boot sewing, paper folding, feather curling, or French polishing.

From one table in that room one may select a few typical cases.  There was Mrs. P--, a clean-looking old woman of 64, painfully thin.  She was the doyenne of the room and the best worker in it, though the work was new to her.  A trouser-maker by trade, she had lost her work on the Saturday before Bank Holiday—that was the black date in the calendar of most in that room—and for eight weeks, until the Queen's workrooms opened, she had been out of work.  At the best of times she had not been well off.  She used to make 5s. 6d. or 6s. a week finishing trousers at 2¾d. a pair, a farthing of which was stopped for sewing on the buttons by machinery.  Her husband was a cabinetmaker, but he was too old for work, so he was told, and her earnings kept the meagre home together.  When they ceased she had been pawning and selling until the home was almost gone.

Next to her was Mrs. D--, a young-old woman looking wretchedly ill, speaking with difficulty because of an abscess in her mouth, but clean and tidy and strangely patient.  She had been a house-worker, and her husband was in the infirmary with a wasting disease.  But she was intensely proud of him, and was most desirous to have it known how anxious he was to go to the front.  He had been a sergeant in the Surrey Regiment, and after serving his time had become a tea-packer.  “His poor legs are getting fatter,” she said, “and he says he'll soon be able to be up and fight for the old flag again. He's that restless to be up.”

On the other side of her, a strange contrast, was a very pretty girl of 17, the eldest of a family of eight, whose father, a comparatively young man of 39, was a permanent invalid in the infirmary.  She had been a French polisher, but explained that, though cabinet-making was not quite stopped, French polishing was, because the furniture was only polished when it was going to be sold, but not if it had to be stored.  She had been out of work since August Bank Holiday.  A young sister had got some work making “patriotic buttons,” but that was now at an end.  There was a young married woman near her, who got married on the Bank Holiday, the great wedding day of the East-end, and she and her husband had both found themselves out of work ever since.  The room was full of such stories.

At 138, Piccadilly, there is a workroom ...[where] the workers are those who have lost their work owing to the closing of West-end workrooms, and most of them belong to the special class of skilled tailoresses and dressmakers who are suffering from the vaunted economy in buying new clothes of their richer sisters.  In all the workrooms arrangements for cheap meals have been made.

.... Many thousands of homes throughout the country are depending on women's energy, and would long since have been broken up but for the work of the fund; hundreds of workshops have been kept open which would otherwise have been closed; and thousands of women have been given employment which has not displaced other women.  In addition, where work cannot be carried on along strictly commercial lines the products of the women's labour— clothes and so on—are distributed to women even poorer than themselves.

.... The amount reached by the [Queen's "Work for Women"] Fund last night was £96,588.

[The Bank Holiday referred to was August 3rd 1914, the day before the start of the War.  Throughout the country, many workers found themselves without a job to go back to after the holiday.]

Friday, 12 December 2014

Mittens, Caps and Tea Tablets

From the Cheltenham Chronicle, 12th December 1914.


The following letter has been received from Colonel A. C. Lovett by Colonel J. C. Griffith, of Cheltenham, dated Dec. 5th :—

"Dear Griffith.—I write to thank you all on behalf of the regiment for so kindly sending out to the men such welcome gifts of socks, mittens, etc., etc.  We are all most grateful to our good friends in Cheltenham, and if time permitted we should like to acknowledge their generosity individually.  But I feel sure they all know that this is impossible.  The Government issues are now being made very liberally to each man, who gets a warm undervest, shirt, sweater, belt, hairy Canada coat, great coat, socks, and pants all new.  With all this a man should be warm, but mittens and woollen caps are ever welcome, as they get worn out, also warm socks.  If donations are ever received they could be spent well on tea tablets, soup squares, or small tins of potted meat, rather than on cigarettes, of which we have now two months’ supply.  We have had bright weather lately, but now it is colder, and we expect some snow.

“We are now over 900 strong, with twenty officers, a good lot.  His Majesty inspected us on the 3rd inst. and presented Pte. Law with a Distinguished Conduct Medal. --Again thanking you very much, yours sincerely,

[ Along with the previous post, this suggests that the men at the Front  were by now adequately clothed for the winter.  Don't know what a 'hairy Canada coat' was.

A request for plum puddings is conspicuous by its absence - but perhaps December 5th, when the letter was written, was a little early to be thinking of Christmas in the trenches.]


Thursday, 11 December 2014

Cigarettes and Plum Puddings

From the Lichfield Mercury, 11th December 1914.


[Extracts from a letter from Colonel C. S. Davidson, Commanding 2nd Batt. South Stafford Regiment.]

The consignment of comforts, chiefly consisting of warm clothes, that reached us the day after we got into rest camp has more than satisfied the present needs of my men; indeed, I brought out some things my sisters had made and collected and could find no one this morning who would accept anything in the way of shirts, socks, mits, scarfs, cap comforters, etc.  It is no use sending out more comforts in the shape of warm clothing until after January 1st.

The one cry from the men is for cigarettes (Woodbines) and matches.  .  .  .  Small one pound plum puddings in parchment covers would be most acceptable at Christmas time; they would be lighter than in tins and much easier to open, and each man could have one.

[Around Christmas 1914, Punch had at least one cartoon suggesting that the men at the Front were being overwhelmed with gifts of clothing and tobacco.  From this letter, it may have been true that the men of the British Expeditionary Force were by this time adequately equipped for the winter weather.]    

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Gifts for Soldiers and Sailors

From the Perthshire Advertiser, 9th December 1914.


Recognising .the demand for something useful and comforting as an Xmas Present for our defenders, we have encouraged our employees to utilise every spare movement [moment?] during business hours in knitting and making articles that are sure to be appreciated.
They have a range of
Hand-Knitted Socks, Mittens, Belts, Sweaters, Gloves and Sleeping Helmets; also Flannel Bed Jackets and Nightingales, for Wounded in Hospital.
The materials employed are the best for the purpose, and in most cases the prices asked do not include any charge for labour, which is given ungrudgingly.
There is now great difficulty in obtaining yarns, so that we are unable to accept any special orders for the knitted goods.
Along with these Special Articles we show an excellent range of
Knitted Balaclava Helmets, Gloves and Scarves, Woven Belts and Helmets, Sleeping Socks, Khaki Mufflers and Handkerchiefs.

W. BRYDSON, 23 St John Street, Perth.

[It seems an odd idea to have shop assistants knitting items for sale, while at work. It's not clear whether the other items, i.e. not the 'Special Articles', were machine knitted, but presumably they were, if 'Hand-Knitted' was considered to be special and worth stating.

There are occasional mentions at this time of a shortage of knitting yarn.] 

Monday, 8 December 2014

Keating's Powder

From the Huddersfield Examiner, December 8th, 1914.


Writing to his wife, a customer of mine assures her that he gets as much good food as he can eat, more clothes than he can wear, more tobacco and cigarettes than he can smoke.
The only thing he asks her to send him is two boxes of Keating’s insect powder.  There’s a hint, an unpleasant one, I admit, but none the less useful, for those who are anxious for the comfort of the men who are doing the drudgery of the war. – Yours &c.

2, Cecil Street, December 6th, 1914.

Ad for Keating's Powder

["Keating's Powder Kills with Ease, Bugs & Beetles, Moths & Fleas."  Although  the ad doesn't specifically mention lice, I imagine that that was the problem that the soldier writing from the trenches had. ]   

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Plum Puddings for Tommy

Extract from Christmas Number of the Lady magazine, quoted in the Dundee Evening Telegraph, 8th December 1914.


I am firmly convinced these wholesome puddings would be what Tommy declares “filling,” and many a housewife could spare the materials to make at least one to send out with her usual parcel of shirts and knitted comforts.  Here is my recipe.  It is a very homely one, but if you boil the pudding for six or seven hours it looks rich and tastes delicious:—Two pounds of bread-crumbs (stale bread being best), one pound of flour, one pound of apples (weighed after peeling and slicing), one pound of chopped suet, half a pound of currants, half a pound of raisins, half a pound of sultanas, a quarter of a pound of candied peel, a level tablespoonful of ground ginger, the juice of a lemon and the minced rind of two, half a pound of Demerara sugar, two ounces of almonds cut into small cubes, and two eggs, sufficient milk to mix.  Mix breadcrumbs, suet, and flour, add the fruit, ginger, chopped peel, and almonds.  The latter ingredient is not strictly necessary, but improves the puddings.  Add the beaten eggs, the juice of the lemon, the sliced apples (remember to cut them thin), the lemon rind, then mix to the ordinary consistency with milk.  Put into small greased moulds, cover with a greased paper, then with a cloth, and boil tor six to eight hours.  Take out of the moulds and tie up in clean, dry, floured cloths.  When sending abroad I pack mine in a cardboard box with thin sides and fill up with shavings of paper.  As they are made in small sizes Tommy will need only to slip them into his pan of boiling water and heat them through.  I am sure our brave boys will bless you if you send a few of these to be added to their ordinary menu, as one recipient wrote, “They are uncommonly good cut in chunks and eaten cold; and you've no idea how hungry a man gets out here.”

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Mittens for Breconshire Soldiers

From the Brecon & Radnor Express, 5th December 1914.

Will the knitters of Breconshire help again and make 300 pairs of mittens for 2nd Bn., S.W., [South Wales Borderers?] now marching into Germany.  Germany is very cold.  Col. G. Raikes, D.S.O., is begging for mittens.  There is wool at 89, The Watton, Brecon, and here is the recipe for knitting:--
Eight pairs should be made of 1 lb. wool.  Please begin at once.

Pattern for Mittens :-- 4 No. 12 needles. Cast on 48 stitches. Knit 24 rows 3 purl 3 plain.  Knit 20 rows plain.  To make hole for thumb.  Turn and purl all 3 needles.  Turn and knit all 3 needles (as for back of heel in sock).  Do this 12 times.  Knit plain all round 6 rows, 12 rows, 3 purl, 3 plain, cast off loosely.


[Miss de Winton was evidently a woman of few words. I think the mittens are intended to be knit in the round, although she doesn't make that clear.

I'm sure the South Wales Borderers were nowhere near marching into Germany at this point in the war - or for several more years.]

Friday, 5 December 2014

Clothing for Sailors

From the Sunderland Daily Echo, 4th December 1914.

Regular Fat Boys.

Stay-at-homes who feel the cold may get some notion that it is colder in the North Sea by glancing at this list of clothing worn by officers of the Fleet at present: --
Thick woollen underclothing.
Chamois leather waistcoat.
Flannel shirt.
Lifebuoy waistcoat.
Naval tunic.
Duffel overcoat of heavy frieze.
Balaclava helmet.
Oilskin hood.

"We do look regular fat boys with all these on,” said an officer.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Shoddy in Khaki

From the Huddersfield Examiner, Thursday December 3, 1914.



The recent criticism in the House of Commons by Sir Joseph Watson regarding the quality of khaki made in “the home of shoddy” was referred to at a meeting of the Dewsbury Chamber of Commerce, which was attended by Sir Mark Oldroyd, who explained that he was willing to be catechised by any member of the Chamber.

He added that there was some foundation for the allegations regarding the inferior quality of some of the khaki supplied, but it was not sent from the Heavy Woollen District, and Sir Joseph Watson’s insinuation was that the Heavy Woollen District should be avoided.

In the course of a discussion it was freely admitted that khaki, which had been submitted by manufacturers to the War Office and rejected, had afterwards been accepted from other quarters for the use of the Territorials.  It was, however, stoutly denied that the cloth in question came from the Heavy Woollen District, one member asserting that it was made in the Leeds District.

It was further stated that more wool had been used in the Heavy Woollen District during the past two or three months than ever in the history of the trade, and as a proof that shoddy was not being used in making khaki, it was pointed out the whilst spinning machines were running night and day, rag machines for the manufacture of shoddy had practically nothing to do.

[Shoddy is cloth made from recycled wool, and Dewsbury was one of the main centres of production. The Heavy Woollen District is an area of woollen manufacture consisting of  Dewsbury, Batley, Heckmondwike, Ossett, and surrounding smaller towns.  It seems a typical reaction to say that poor quality cloth must have come from  Leeds, i.e. blame the neighbours.]        

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Lyddite Works Explosion

From the Huddersfield Examiner, Thursday December 3, 1914.

Six persons were killed, four are reported missing, and twelve have been more or less seriously injured as the result of the disastrous explosion of lyddite on Wednesday at White Lea, a district situated between Heckmondwike, Dewsbury and Batley.

The works, which were owned by Messrs. Henry Ellison, Ltd., were wrecked, considerable damage was done to buildings in the vicinity, windows more than a mile away were smashed, and the explosion itself could be heard as far away as Leeds and Bradford.

It appears that three lyddite magazines exploded in a field near the works.  So terrific was the explosion, however, that not only were the whole of the works involved in ruin, but property within a radius of  hundreds of yards suffered damage.  …. [list of dead missing and injured follows.]

Among those employed on the premises was Jim Gath, the famous forward who played with Yorkshire when the star of the Batley Football Club was in the ascendant.  The discovery of his insurance card in the remains of a coat among the ruins led to the assumption that he had been killed, but it was afterwards discovered that he had gone quietly home to nurse injuries which were not serious.

Messrs. Ellison’s factory was situated on the brow of a hill overlooking the Spen Valley, and the force of the blast, travelling straight across the intervening gap, smashed in shop windows at the other side two and a half miles away. ....

The explosion obliterated all trace of its origin, and as presumably the men nearest the magazines lost their lives, it is very doubtful whether the cause will ever be ascertained.  The manufacture of explosives was not a new undertaking at these works.  Lyddite was made there during the South African War.  The production of powerful explosives had been resumed since the outbreak of the present war and an extension of the premises was being made in order better to cope with the work.  Lyddite, the modern military high explosive, is chemically much the same as picric acid.  The consignment of picric acid – a yellow solid crystalline – stored in the magazines had only just been prepared for delivery to the Government.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

A 'Work for Women' Workroom

From The Times, December 1st 1914


The Queen yesterday visited the workroom which has been established at the Royal Institute of Public Health in Russell-square as a branch of Queen Mary's Needlework Guild.....

Her Majesty inspected the workroom, in which 30 girls and women were engaged in making and remodelling clothes, and conversed with many of the workers.  In the library of the institute a number of garments were displayed.  Some of these were new, but others had been remodelled.  There were petticoats made out of tea-gowns, a girl's dress made out of a man's dressing-gown, and, notably, a number of clothes for boys and girls which had been fashioned from golf capes.  Some hundreds of garments have been sent from the workroom to our soldiers and sailors and to the Belgian refugees.

The undertaking has an excellent educational value, as the women to whom employment is given are taught the work of remaking clothes.  The Queen expressed her appreciation and approval of the work that is being done.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Mittens for the Troops

From the Glasgow Herald, 1st December 1914.


1st A. and S. [Argyll and Sutherland] Highlanders. – Mrs. Adair Campbell, Rockbank, Helensburgh, has been asked by Colonel Henderson of the 1st A. and S. Highlanders to collect 400 pairs of mittens for men of the regiment, which has just returned from India and is shortly going to the front.  All contributions from work-parties or from those interested in the regiment will be most gratefully received at the above address.

Christmas Fare. – The Scottish Branch of the Queen Mary Needlework Guild (St. Andrew’s Ambulance Association), 180 West Regent Street, Glasgow, will be very grateful for gifts of plum puddings and fruit cakes to be forwarded to our Expeditionary Force and Home Regiments for Christmas.  It is advisable that the puddings should be cooked and tied in a buttered cloth, and packed in cardboard boxes, and sent in before December 5.  It is felt that such gifts will be appreciated by our soldiers, and the making of an extra pudding will not entail much extra trouble.