Thursday, 31 December 2015

Comforts for Local Men

From the Llangollen Advertiser, 31st December 1915.



The collection for the above was held on Dec. 23rd, when 266 garments were brought in, made up as follows:—
6 shirts,
60 pairs socks,
20 vests,
6 caps,
6 jerseys,
19 bags,
87 scarves,
12 handkerchiefs,
50 pairs mittens,
2 various. 
Since the last report, owing to Christmastide, no extensive distribution has yet been made.  Mrs. W. Best has, however, sent 99 pairs of mittens to Queen Mary's Needlework Guild (recognized by the War Office), 50 pairs of socks to Mrs. Lloyd George's Fund for Welsh Troops, 2 pairs of socks for convalescent soldiers, and the following parcels to local men:—
Pte. Edwd. Wallis, R.A.M.C., 2 vests, 2 pairs socks, pair mittens; Pte. J. E. Roberts, 1st Welsh Horse, 2 shirts, pair socks, cap-scarf, mittens, handkerchief; Pte. E. Jones, 5360, 2nd Batt. R. W.F., 2 vests, shirt, pair socks, 2 hankerchiefs; Morris Williams, Montgomeryshire Yeomanry, 2 pairs socks, jersey, cap-scarf, mittens; Pte. A. Dean, 1st Welsh Horse, 2 vests, cap-scarf, pair socks, jersey, mittens.

During 1915 sixty-five parcels have been sent to local men, mostly all abroad at the time, and up to date only nine have not been acknowledged.

The next requisition for the County Comforts Association is another 1,000 scarves.  Mrs. Best has promised 120 this time, to be ready by Jan. 13th at latest.  Regulations are, “size, 10 in, by 58 in. —fleecy wool.”  The ends should be run in with a needle when finished.  Names and addresses should be attached to all mittens and scarves when brought in.

[This is such an odd mixture. At one extreme, local knitters were just a small part of a national scheme to provide thousands of scarves, under the direction of Sir Edward Ward, who had sent the requisition for 1.000 scarves to the county. At the other, they are sending personal parcels to several local men, as if they were family members.]    

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Kirkcudbright Cake and Candy Sale

From the Dumfries and Galloway Standard, 25th December 1915.


Cake and Candy Sale

A cake, candy, produce, and toy sale, promoted by the Kirkcudbright War Work Party, working in connection with the scheme for voluntary organisations, was held in the Town Hall on Thursday afternoon.  There were three principal stalls, which had been erected by ex-Provost Wallace, and all were attractively decorated.

The cake and candy stall was in charge of Mrs MacMyn and assistants, and it contained a great quantity of tempting goods, including all sorts of fancy cakes, sweets, shortbread, etc., laid out in a manner well calculated to tempt purchasers.  Mrs Brown, Knockbrex, was convener of the toy stall, which was laden with an immense assortment of articles has likely to catch the eye of the youngsters, balls, crackers, Christmas stockings, teddy bears, toy crabs, Chinese lanterns, etc., were displayed in endless variety. The produce stall had for convener Miss Muir, Castle Street, and it simply groaned under its load of hares, pheasants, fowls, cheese, butter, etc. The flower stall, which contained a pretty collection, was in charge of Mrs R. L. Wilson; and the refreshment department was ably superintended by Miss Rankine.

There was a large attendance when the sale was formally opened.  Mrs. Brown, Knockbrex, presided, and in introducing Mrs Maitland, Cumstoun, to perform the opening ceremony, said that as usual they were out for money, and this time they wanted a great deal more than they had ever wanted before.  Already the Central Association had asked for 500 mufflers and 500 pairs of mittens for 8th January.  That meant a lot of work and a lot of money to buy wool.  The Kirkcudbright Work Party had 418 cuts of wool out just now, so they would gather from that how much money was wanted.  Last year the work had been very haphazard.  Various ladies throughout the county appealed for goods for their husbands' men, without saying what number of men or what quantity of goods, with the result that some soldiers got far more than they knew what to do with.  She heard of one soldier who got 15 pairs of socks and sent 14 pairs home to his papa.  (Laughter.)  That was obviously bad business.  Under the new arrangements there could be no recurrence of that kind of thing.  The Red Cross had done a great deal in connection with the Work Party, and some of them were present to assist that afternoon.  They had also given a contribution of £8 7s instead of taking a stall.  She had pleasure in introducing Mrs Maitland to open the sale,,,.

Mrs Maitland said she had been looking round the stalls, and felt sure that after all the good things on them had been eaten it would make all more kindly disposed towards our "Tommies," and work all the harder to provide the outer comforts that were so much wanted at the front.  She had great pleasure in declaring the sale open.  (Applause.)
A brisk business was then commenced and the goods quickly began to disappear from the stalls.  The proceedings were much enlivened by the programme of instrumental music submitted by Messrs J. M'Robert (piano), Mr J. M’Gowan (violin), and Mr H. Livingston (cornet).  Songs were tastefully rendered by Misses Logan and Rae and Gordon, and Master A. M’William.  Misses Gretta M’Lean and Marjorie MacMyn danced the pierrot and pierette dance; Miss Oliva Clark the tambourine dance; and Master D. MacMyn played a violin solo very nicely.  Madame Orynthia, the famous palmist, had numerous clients during the afternoon and evening to have their hands read.

The drawings amounted to £75 16s.

[I have included this mainly because of the frank admission that provision of comforts to men in the Army had previously been inefficient, and that the Work Party needed money to buy wool for the mufflers and mittens that had been asked for.  (A cut was a quantity of knitting yarn.) The sale did very well in taking  £75 16s. - at the start of the war, many working women earned no more than £1 for a 40 hour week, so this was a considerable sum.] 

Sunday, 27 December 2015

De Reszke Cigarettes

From the Halifax Courier, 24th December 1915.

Gentlemen of genial bent
Cease your lamentation
That you cannot blow a cent
On a pal's potation

Since the Rulers that you trust
Rank it a transgression,
Hospitable feeling must
Find a new expression.

Dash the tear drop from your eye -
Things are not so pesky:
Friendship may be fostered by
Standing a "De Reszke"! 

The World-famous Quality of "De Reszke" Cigarettes remains Unchanged and Unchallenged

"DE RESZKE" Cigarettes are neither reduced in size nor in quality. The only effect of the Budget is slightly to increase their price.  In actual fact the rate of increase is much less on "De Reszkes" than on any other standard brand.

Thus it would be false economy to substitute a cheaper brand for "De Reszkes."  You could not avoid the tax by this means. You would only add to the burden because if you are accustomed to the real enjoyment to be had through smoking "De Reszkes" you could never be satisfied with a cigarette of inferior quality.
"De Reszke" Cigarettes to-day command three fourths of all the trade in cigarettes at their price, a leadership gained and maintained through sheer merit alone.

Your Friend on Active Service!

If you intend to send him cigarettes remember he is worthy of the very best. So buy a box of "De Reszkes" and post them with your own hands. Then you know that they will reach him safely.


[Table of prices for TENOR (large size ), BASSO (extra large size) and SOPRANO (Ladies' size).]

Your attention is particularly directed to the "De Reszke" AMERICAN Cigarette, which is recognised in the Trade as the finest cigarette of its kind in England.

Sold by all Tobacconists and Stores or post free from J. MILLHOFF & Co., 86, Piccadilly, W.

[The rhyme at the beginning refers to the 'no treating' order, introduced in October 1915:  no-one could buy a drink for another person in a pub.  This was intended to reduce alcohol consumption amongst working people - employers complained that drunkenness was reducing productivity (and so affecting the war effort).  Notice that the rhyme cleverly tells you how to pronounce De Reszke.   

De Reszke cigarettes had also been featured in The Illustrated London News earlier in December, in one of their 'Christmas in the Shops' advertising features.  

Presumably the tax on cigarettes had been recently increased,], 

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Comforts for the Troops: Mittens wanted

From The Brecon and Radnor Express, 23rd December 1915


Sir.—The Director General of Voluntary Organisations has sent a requisition to our county depot for 500 pairs of mittens, which he desires the Radnorshire Association to forward as quickly as possible to his Base Depot at Havre.  Mittens should be 8 inches in length from wrist to knuckles with short thumbs and have long cuffs.  The hon. secretary, Mrs Gilbert Moseley, County Buildings, Llandrindod, will be glad to receive contributions of mittens, a single pair or more will be gratefully acknowledged.  This is the first requisition sent to our Association, and we are most anxious to be able to fulfil it satisfactorily.  There are 60 parishes in Radnorshire, will not each one help a little?  The need is real and as the articles are to be sent direct to France from Llandrindod, there is no fear of any delay in their reaching our men in the trenches.  We hope to be able to send off the parcel early in January or as soon as it can be ready.

—Yours faithfully. 
President of Radnorshire Association, Halesworth, Suffolk. 
Dec. 17th, 1915. 

[Here is Sir Edward Ward (Director General of Voluntary Organisations) putting volunteers around the country to work, to supply exactly what he decided was needed.  Requisitions like the one sent to Radnorshire must have gone to every county association, presumably tailored to the size of the county.  I do wonder what the volunteers felt about the new system.  Previously each group had sent their comforts to specific groups of men - sending things to a depot in France for distribution to the Expeditionary Force must surely have seemed much more impersonal.]

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

A British Canteen in Paris

From the Derbyshire Courier, 21st December 1915.

A British Canteen in Paris.

The British canteen at the Gare du Nord Station in Paris is one of the most useful of war institutions in that city.  The Women's Emergency Corps founded it in February.  It is worked by ten English ladies, each of whom contributes to the expenses, and they are on duty in three shifts during the 24 hours.  An immense cellar placed at their disposal has been converted into a warm and pleasant clubroom, capable of serving as dormitory, dining and sitting room, kitchen and storeroom.  Hundreds of soldiers and sailors, British. French and Belgian, use it daily, and both they and their officers appreciate thoroughly what is done for them.  This consists of preparing and serving a midday meal for nearly 300 men, distributing coffee, fruit and cigarettes to the wounded who arrive in hospital trains, and preparing and serving tea and supper to even a greater number.  Men on their way to and from the front sleep in the canteen, and always find a hot breakfast ready at whatever hour they may have to leave.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Training for Women

From the Derbyshire Courier, 21st December 1915.

Women and the L.C.C.

The London County Council has not lagged behind in recognising the importance of training women to take the places of men who will shortly join the colours.  It very wisely called in the aid of several highly educated and competent women, who drew up some schemes for training girls in a number of skilled London industries.  The result is that women have now a chance of learning better paid trades, and a new chapter of industry is beginning.  Courses for women and girls are given at the Borough Polytechnic in the mechanism of the motor car.  Superintended by a skilled motor-car engineer, the pupils learn to repair and clean the machinery, to take it to pieces, and to re-construct it.  The lessons are as perfect as it is possible to make them, and are given in a motor engineering workshop.  There are also “workshop” courses; where women can be prepared to take up skilled employment in the metal and wood industries.  Another course teaches women and girls to do all the “odd jobs” about a house, and at the Grocers’ Trade Schools many girls have prepared themselves to serve in grocers’ shops.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Lady Smith Dorrien's Hospital Bag Fund

From The Observer, December 19th, 1915.


Although this particular fund has now been running since last April and the bags supplied amount to 450,000, there are still people who are asking what exactly is the part played by them in the hospital regime.  The inspiration that prompted the kind thought was the fact that when a wounded man is taken to a casualty cleaning station his uniform is removed and the contents of his pockets placed on the floor beside his bed.  Or rather they were, before the advent of Lady Smith Dorrien's bags, which measure 10 by 12 inches, a size that suffices to hold all small personal treasures, and are consequently very highly appreciated by the wounded, who cling to their treasure bags, no matter how often they are moved—as frequently happens, to three and four hospitals—ere reaching England.

The fund is duly authorised by the War Office, who are finding the average daily output of 1,200 insufficient to meet the demands.  Therefore, Lady Smith Dorrien would gladly welcome the assistance of guilds, schools, working parties, or individuals who would be willing to undertake the delivery of a given number within a stated period.  Full particulars of the character and style of the bags best suited to the purpose can be had on application to Lady Smith Dorrien, 21, Eaton-terrace, S.W., together with a pattern bag, if required.

[The original appeal from Lady Smith Dorrien was published nationally in April 1915. Hospital bags seem to have proved very useful, especially in ensuring that a soldier's pay-book, containing his will and details of his next of kin, stayed with him when he was wounded.]

Friday, 18 December 2015

36 Million Pairs of Gloves

From the South Wales Weekly Post, 18th December 1915.



The shortness and dearness in all classes of raw material, combined with the shortage of labour, is constantly increasing prices.

A large underwear company advise firms at Swansea that the Government have called for 

Undervests    …   …   …    3,858,797
Woollen under-pants  …  11,797,479
Cardigans and jerseys …   4,990,123
Cap comforters    …   …    6,759,680
Body belts     ...    …   …    3,711,320
Worsted gloves    …   …    2,604,834 pairs
Worsted socks     …   …   36,033,523 pairs

It is computed by a large Swansea hosier that less than one-third of the manufacturing output is now available for civilians’ use.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Women's Part in the War

From The Times, 15th December 1915.



The market-place of the village of —, not very far from the front in Picardy, is crowded.  Pine boards, placed on low saw-horses, serve as counters of the canvas-roofed booths.  They groan under the weight of the wares piled upon them.  Picture post-cards and woollen mittens, socks and mufflers, leather purses, old books, torn sheet-music, spectacles, and pince-nez, which range in price from 4d. to ls., fresh vegetables and butter, fish and meat, cut flowers and chocolate, fowl and game (live and dead) are being sold to eager buyers.  Not the usual clientele of peasant women, but bronzed- faced, steel-helmeted French troopers, turned housemaids, are busy buying the week's supply for the messes of the hundreds of battalions quartered in the neighbourhood.....


One corner of the market-place has become the centre of interest.  Out beyond the line of booths an old, wrinkle-faced peasant woman stands, holding a pair of fat ducks by the feet, one in each hand.  The birds wriggle and squawk, but she pays no attention to this: grasping them the more securely, she holds first one and then the other on high, that her customer, as well as the group of soldiers that has gathered, may inspect and admire the fine birds.  And the customer?  She is a khaki-clad, slim, young English girl.  Her skirt is short, her boots heavy and well-worn.  She has shoulder-straps on her Red Cross uniform, and her broad-brimmed felt hat shades a face tanned and burned by months of out-of-door life.  She is utterly unconscious of the crowd, and merely keeps on repeating to the duck woman, “Trop cher, trop cher.”  The woman bursts forth in an elegy of her ducks, in a French patois that sounds interesting, but is unintelligible.  “Trop cher” is the only reward she gets for her pains.  The young girl pulls a memorandum book out of her pocket, consults it, and then looks fixedly at the market-woman.  She evidently wants the ducks.  The woman remains obdurate.  Then the girl snaps close her notebook, and turns to go.  But the victory has been won.  The ducks are hers at her own price.  There is a murmur of admiration as the wriggling birds are borne off to the Red Cross motor-ambulance that stands waiting at the kerb.  The girl steps to the front of the car, cranks the heavy engine, jumps into her seat and in a moment is off, piloting her big motor ambulance through the confused traffic, across a narrow insecure temporary bridge.  “C’est chic, les Anglaises.” a bearded young veteran murmurs to a comrade, as the khaki-coloured car passes out of sight.


The participation of women in war tasks has in all countries been admirable.  The devotion of Frenchwomen in caring for the sick and wounded under the most difficult circumstances, even under heavy shell fire, has called forth justly merited praise.  But of all the belligerents Englishwomen alone have had an active share in the fighting, in that in so many cases they are doing a man’s work.  Hundreds of young Englishwomen have, for more than a year, been living close up to the front, working at men's tasks, with a skill and untiring cheerfulness that are astounding.

I was standing at the railway station of a village somewhere back of the French lines.  A trainload of wounded arrived.  A certain number of the wounded were allotted to the town.  They were removed from the train into a temporary waiting-room, and then to the ambulances.  I noticed that more than half of the stretcher bearers were women—Englishwomen— and the ambulances were driven by the same women.  The admiration of the French trooper for the amazon-like achievements of the Englishwomen knows no bounds.  Their own women are devoted, tender, and sympathetic nurses, but Les Anglaises are heroic.  A man who has been wounded three times during the war told me that the difference between a man and a woman driver of an ambulance was all to the credit of the latter.  “I would a thousand times rather be driven by a woman,” he said to me.  “They’ll look out for every pebble in the road, avoid every jolt, and it makes a difference, I can tell you, when you have got a bad pain in your body.”  As far as I can ascertain, Englishwomen are the only women in this war who have driven motor ambulances.  These services have been performed not only at British bases, but more particularly among the French.  Clad in fighting clothes, wherever there are fighting men there the Englishwoman is to be found.

Stretching across the rolling sand dunes of the north-east corner of France there are vast tent colonies, where for a year British women have been living under canvas, in all kinds of weather, nursing British wounded.  It is one thing to nurse the wounded in well-heated, comfortable hospitals, and another to live in a cramped, ill-heated, draughty tent, where one is obliged often to wade ankle-deep in mud to reach one's patients.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Lack of Accommodation for War Workers

From the Birmingham Daily Gazette, 11th December 1915.


Lack of Accommodation for War Workers.

Coventry is at the present moment faced with a problem more difficult probably than any it has hitherto had to tackle.  Thousands of workers have been drafted into the town for employment on various forms of munition work, and within another month or so, a "Gazette" representative learned yesterday, some 6,000 women are to be brought in for a similar purpose.  In addition there has been a great influx of men employed in the building trade owing to the extensions that are being made to existing factories and the erection of new buildings, and with no houses available for their accommodation, practically every house where lodgers are taken is full up, and the common lodging-houses crowded, the problem of housing the extra crowds has become critical.

As far back as last August, when the National Registration was made, and before the invasion really commenced, it was estimated that the shortage of houses could only be represented by big figures.  Indeed the enumerators had instances where beds were being used by both day and night shift men, and were only really "made" once a week, Saturday being the only day they were not occupied.

Special Trains.
Since then other steps have been taken, and a great number of the munition workers are housed in Rugby, Nuneaton, Warwick, Kenilworth, Leamington, Bedworth, and even as far as Atherstone, and for these special trains are run night and morning by the railway company, whilst accommodation on the ordinary trains has been increased.

The Corporation have, at the request of the Local Government Board, commenced a scheme for the immediate erection of six hundred working-class houses at Stoke Heath, in close proximity to the Coventry Ordnance Works, whose employees will be given preference in the letting.  These will be let to munition workers only, for the period of the war.  About fifty acres of land have been acquired for the purpose at a cost of £200 on acre, and though the Ministry of Munitions are not contributing to the cost of the site, they are giving financial assistance towards the cost of the houses, streets, and sewers.

In order to get over their difficulty to a certain extent one of the munitions firms is erecting hutments to house about 2,000 women workers, whilst 300 temporary self-contained dwellings are also being provided in the same locality. These will be of the bungalow type, containing three bedrooms kitchen and scullery.

Skilled and Unskilled.
It has been stated that a large number of women workers are being brought in to release men for the Army, but this is not quite true.  What is happening is that a "dilution" scheme is in progress, by means of which each factory will have such a proportion of skilled, semi-skilled, and unskilled men and women, as will give the greatest efficiency to every one, and it is mainly owing to the excellent concessions made by the trade unions that this has come to pass.

It is unfortunate for Coventry that sufficient accommodation cannot be found for all these workers within the town.  It is estimated that already there are some 6,000 or 7,000, or even more, extra workers in the town which, if even only a small proportion of them are married, would mean a huge increase in the population.  What it would mean with another 6,000 or 7,000 coming in during the next month can easily be imagined.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Women Sweepers in Glasgow

From the Glasgow Herald, 6th December, 1915. 



The Cleansing Committee of Glasgow Corporation drew the attention of the citizens recently to the great difficulty which the department is experiencing in overtaking work which is so essential to the health of a great community.  Owing to the large numbers of men who have enlisted into His Majesty's service the staff has been seriously depleted, and this state of affairs is becoming worse.  An appeal was made to householders to relieve the department by burning as much refuse as possible in the domestic fires.  The appeal has had a gratifying response, but much more might be done in this way with economic and sanitary results.  To relieve in some measure the pressure Mr Greig, the superintendent, has had about a dozen women engaged during the past weeks sweeping back courts, work which was formerly done by men who were beyond the age of the able-bodied class.  The experiment, which has been tried in various districts of the city, has proved so satisfactory that in all likelihood it will be extended.

[Mr Greig perhaps thought that he was very daring in employing women to do the work of men "beyond the age of the able-bodied class", but it's more than likely that many women in Glasgow were already doing much harder physical work.]  

Friday, 4 December 2015

Christmas in the Shops

From the Illustrated London News, 4th December 1915.

Christmas in the Shops. 

Always in touch with the times, Messrs. Wilson and Gill, of 139-141, Regent Street, W., in addition to their stock of jewellery, plate, etc., arc offering dainty naval and military badge-brooches in gold and enamel at moderate prices.  The A.S.C., illustrated, costs £3 17s. 6d.; the Naval badge, £4 10s.; and the Royal Flying Corps, £2 10s.  The badge of every regiment is kept.  There is a new gold identification-disc, forming locket, at 75s., which includes engraving of name, regiment, etc., and a gold neck-chain.  Treasury Note cases in black moiré, pigskin, etc., cost from 5s. each.  Messrs. Wilson and Gill will send an illustrated catalogue on application.

For men on active service, or for ladies—for whom the pen is sold in a silk-lined case—an always acceptable Christmas gift is an "Onoto" Safety Fountain Pen, for it possesses the cardinal virtues of such pens: perfect freedom from risk of leakage; self-filling; cleanliness, and constant readiness for use.  The "Onoto" can be sent by post without fear of leakage.  For military use the pen is made to fit comfortably into the bottom of the regulation tunic pocket, where it is least likely to fall out and get lost.  It can be filled readily without any external appliance, from any ink supply, and as the ink is drawn through the nib in filling it does not get choked up.  The "Onoto" costs from 10s. 6d, and it can be seen at all stores, stationers, etc., or it can be ordered by post.

Not only at Christmas, but all the year round, those who are not faddists know that a little stimulant is often desirable to keep one in health, and, so long as moderation and purity are studied, physicians admit that a little whisky is wholesome and beneficial.  But it must fulfil these conditions, and the one which depends upon the distiller can be assured by choosing Messrs. Buchanan's Scotch whiskies, which are matured and carefully blended.  Their famous "Black and White" and "Red Seal" brands contain all the elements to ensure good health, and a case forms a very seasonable gift.

"Carter's" and "comfort" have become almost identical terms, for the skill of the well-known house of surgical engineers at 2, 4, and 6, New Cavendish Street, W., in producing apparatus for the increased ease and comfort of invalids, cripples, and those who are not strong is amazing.  In these days of war their inventions are peculiarly valuable, and much in request for presents.  Their catalogue, which will be sent on application, is a revelation. Their productions are not wholly for the wounded or the invalid.  Their "Rest and Comfort" chairs are made to conform to any position the tired body may desire.  These chairs are supplied from 37s. 6d. each.....

Eighteen months of war have served to show what is perhaps, the most welcome of all presents to men at the front or on the sea, whether officers or men, and that is tobacco.  In times of peace there is an endless variety of articles suitable as gifts for men; but to-day there is no doubt that the majority of those serving their country would prefer what is the best and most acceptable gift for any man at any time — a box of really good cigarettes.  With this in view, it would be well to buy some "De Reszke " cigarettes for men friends — "De Reszkes," because they are acknowledged to be a superlatively excellent brand.  A hundred "De Reszkes" mean a hundred thoughts of you, and the giving of a hundred pleasant times to the brave fellows who are fighting for their country—and for you.

…those seeking Christmas presents will find a luxurious host of them, of all kinds and at all prices, at the show-rooms of Messrs. Charles Packer and Co.. 76 and 78, Regent Street.  This year they are wisely specialising in articles cognate to the war, for anything that is of use to our men at the front makes irresistible appeal just now; and at Messrs. Charles Packer's there is, for instance, a small, compact match-box case in silver, the lid of which, when open, forms a miniature wind-screen, behind which a light can be obtained under any conditions.  This will prove a real boon in the trenches, and is in much demand.  In solid silver its price is a guinea, and no more welcome present for soldier, sailor, or civilian could be desired.  A luminous wrist-watch, too, is an indispensable part of field equipment, and Messrs. Packer offer some for £2 15s. complete, with luminous hands and figures.  It is strong and serviceable, and a perfect time-keeper.  Of military-badge brooches, which form ideal Christmas boxes for ladies, Messrs. Packer make a speciality, supplying the badge of any regiment set as a brooch and made in fine gold and enamels, correct in every detail, for two guineas each.  A fully illustrated catalogue of Messrs. Packer's fine collection of jewellery and plate will be sent, post free.

There are some seasonable presents which are universally acceptable, and although the time-honoured axiom, "sweets to the sweet," holds good, there are some "sweets" which are equally appreciated by ladies, children, and our soldiers and sailors.  Of such is Mackintosh's Toffee de Luxe, and the sugar, butter, and cream which are its ingredients give it a real warming, stimulating, and food value.  Mackintosh’s Toffee, nicely put up in tins and made by Mackintosh, of Toffee Town, Halifax, is a seasonable and welcome gift to young and old, and no doubt will be included in countless parcels sent to our brave defenders by land and sea.

Appeal for Mufflers

From the Denbighshire Free Press, 4th December 1915.


We hear that, although the notice that they were required was very short, the 1,000 pairs of mittens asked for by the War Office by November 25th, were successfully provided by the county, in response to the appeal of the Association, and were at once sent out to France.  A fresh War Office requisition for 1,000 mufflers before December 15th has now been received, and an earnest appeal to all workers is made for their help to provide these.  The mufflers should be 58 inches long, by 10 inches wide, of khaki wool.  This can be obtained at cost price from the Association Depot now established at the Drill Hall (and open on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons from 2 till 4), and a rebate of threepence per lb weight will be returned to the working parties on the finished articles brought in to the Depot.

[It seems very strange to me that the War Office should have arbitrarily designated mittens and mufflers as 'comforts', i.e. luxuries, that they were not going to provide, and then started issuing requisitions for them (through Sir Edward Ward).  It seems a churlish way to treat volunteers too.  Apart from other considerations, if the War Office wanted thousands of mufflers, they could easily have had them made by machine, rather than asking hand-knitters to provide them.]       

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Comforts for Bedfordshire Soldiers

From the Bedfordshire Times and Independent, 3rd December 1915. 



A meeting of the Committee of Ladies to provide comforts for the Regular Battalions and Special Reserves of the Bedfordshire Regiment, was held at the Shire Hall on Saturday morning.  Lady Ampthill was in the chair, and there were present [several other ladies], Colonel Tilly, Hon. Treasurer, and Miss Tilly, Assistant Secretary.

A letter was received from the officer commanding the 147th Company of Cheshire Engineers, stating that there were 15 Bedfordshire men in that regiment, and asking for comforts to be supplied to them. Considerable discussion arose on this problem as it was considered that the fund was subscribed for the benefit of the Bedfordshire Regiments and each county was looking after its own regiment.

A letter from Major Poyntz, Officer Commanding the 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, asked for a supply of tobacco, cigarettes, curry powder, tinder lighters, handkerchiefs, bootlaces, mouth-organs, candles, safety matches, footballs, and cocoa.

Lady Ampthill remarked that the War Office stated that there were nine million pairs of socks ready for distribution to the troops and she thought some steps should be taken to ascertain why the Bedfordshire Regiment needed socks.
The question arose as to whether anything should be done by this Committee for the various Bedfordshire Battalions of Kitchener's Army.  It was felt that this was a small county and not over rich, and it was stated that the 6th and 7th battalions were practically all Hertfordshire men.  At Hitchin and elsewhere much good work was being done to provide their men with comforts.
Lady Ampthill stated that the children of one school at Wilden had made 54 pairs of socks, and thought that was extraordinarily good.
Col. Tilly said there was a letter from the Director of Education stating that the children in the Schools under the County Education Committee were engaged in making a number of garments for the men of the Bedfordshire Regiment. A consignment of 278 pairs of socks, 265 pairs of mittens, and 265 scarves had already left his office.
The Committee expressed much satisfaction.

[This is a cut-down version of the original report.  Lady Ampthill's committee had evidently been set up to support the Regiment at the start of the war, when it consisted only of the battalions of the Regular Army and the Territorials.   It was unable to cope with the vast expansion of the Army, and hence of the Bedfordshire Regiment.  There are  obvious inconsistencies in their decisions - not supporting the Bedfordshire men in the Cheshire Engineers, because a Cheshire fund should provide for them, but also not supporting the 6th and 7th Battalions because they were mostly not Bedfordshire men.  

Many of the things asked for by Major Poyntz are. as usual, hardly luxuries - candles and matches, bootlaces, handkerchiefs.   And if no-one was supplying these things to the 6th and 7th Battalions, how were they managing?   

From Lady Ampthill's remark about 9 million pairs of socks, I assume that Major Poyntz or some other officer had also asked for socks.  She is confused (as I am) by the statements from the War Office saying that there was an adequate supply of socks, and the  requests from officers, claiming the opposite.]     

Monday, 30 November 2015

Sister Susie, Send Some Socks

From Woman's Own, 27th November 1915.

Sister Susie, send some Socks
To save the soldiers' soles.
Some you sent some months ago
Are now reduced to holes.
Send them quickly, Susan darling,
Use the Auto-Knitter, So that someone's son or sweetheart
Gets them all the quicker.
The AUTO-KNITTER knits a pair of socks or stockings in less than 30 minutes.  Experience and distance immaterial.  Write for full particulars of our offer whereby you may earn another £1 a week and war bonus.  Enclose 1d. stamp for postage.

["Sister Susie" first appeared in a popular song of 1914 - the lyrics are given here.  Since then she had become a shorthand way of referring to the women who were making comforts for the troops.]  

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Seen at the Shops

From The Observer, 28th November 1915.

Seen at the Shops

Christmas Presents

Shoolbred, Tottenham Court-road. 
Children are naturally looking forward with as much enthusiasm as ever to Christmas festivities and presents, their ardent young minds being quite unaffected by the war, saving only that it has most unquestionably brought to the fore games and toys of a martial and maritime order.  Even Doll Land comes under the jurisdiction, Shoolbred, among their big selection of fascinating toys, presenting a beautifully-made unbreakable cloth “Tommy” in private's uniform, and a regulation “Jack Tar,” in two sizes, respectively 3s. 9d. and 4s. 9d., a Trenchman in puttees and fur coat, 5s., and a Red Cross nurse at 7s.  The new game, “From the Ranks to Field Marshal,” is most amusing, as is also “With the Flag to Berlin,” both procurable at two prices, 9½d. and 2s.  And, of course, there are endless field guns, anti-aircraft guns, whole armies of soldiers, and a realistic St. John Ambulance set; in fact, every feature of the war is represented in some form or another, the lighter side being touched upon in a number of novel and entertaining puzzles, suitable alike to young ones at home or soldiers on active service.

Coming to the more familiar type of Christmas gift is to find Shoolbred as fully prepared as ever to meet the demand, the fancy goods department overflowing with novel expressions of such old time tested favourites as folding photo frames, cretonne covered boxes, leather purse bags, manicure, dressing and jewellery cases, and the always popular attaché case, fitted with the usual addenda.  While making a very strong appeal is a fine range of knitting and work bags and work stands, the latter in cretonne or silk mounted on strong wood folding frames; the cretonne coming out at 6s. and the black silk, lined with a colour, at 10s. 9d.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Modern Bathing Dresses

From the Derbyshire Courier, 27th November 1915.


Almost the last word in silly extravagance—in war time—is the introduction of silk taffetas for bathing dresses.  It may be very well for “beach bathers”—that's the name America gives to the promenaders who get themselves up in elaborately-trimmed silk and satin bathing suits that never touch salt water.  I regret to see some effort at introducing the vogue at some of our seaside resorts.  It seems to me to be an excuse for women to show themselves off in the fewest possible garments.  I remember seeing one such some couple of years ago.  She emerged from the bathing tent attired or undressed in a pale blue silk frilled shirt and short pantaloons well over the knee, the hair was elaborately coiffed with a ribbon to match the garment threaded through, and silk shoes of the same colour.  She made something of a sensation when she appeared, which I presume was the object aimed at, and we were all dying to see how she'd emerge from an encounter with salt water.  But she never even wetted the tips of her dainty shoes.  She simply strutted up and down until the ribald remarks of the crowd drove her into the shelter of her “bathing tent” again.

This was my first experience of the particular type of “bather” that is very general in other countries.  It is a custom or fashion which I hope we will honour in the breach rather than the observance.  But those taffetas “bathing suits” brought the fear back with some misgivings.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Zeppelins in London

From the Derbyshire Courier, 27th November 1915.


Matinees and Pantomimes.

London is normally a world containing many worlds, but the war has had a considerable levelling influence on its social and domestic life.  At first the metropolis took the war almost lightly, but the awakening came with the Zeppelin raids, the stringent regulations as to darkened streets, and the present and final recruiting campaign, all of which are palpable and unavoidable evidences of the seriousness of the war.  City and west end workers are anxious to get to their homes in the suburbs early in the evening, lest the appearance of Zeppelins may hold up the train services, and theatre-land is inevitably suffering from this apprehension.  London managers scarcely know how to meet the situation.  Matinees are the rule, and at some theatres the evening performance commences at 5.30.  Some of the Christmas pantomimes will be given at noon and 4.30, thus reversing the old order of things -- dinner first and theatre afterwards.  Many of the professional and well-to-do families are, however, giving up late dinner, and substituting a light repast that involves little, if any, special cooking.  Early hours, servant difficulties, and the need for economy are all having a marked influence on social life in London.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Christmas Presents for the Front

From the Portsmouth Evening News, 26th November 1915.

Presents for Britain’s Sons Abroad.

With the approach of Christmas the thoughts of all will be directed to our soldier boys, husbands and sweethearts bravely serving in the trenches in France and Gallipoli or wherever the British fighting forces are engaged, and the heads of the “old folk at home” will have to seriously don the considering cap to determine the nature of the comforts and luxuries which will be most acceptable.  When traders vie so successfully in making their productions attractive, and their glowing claims almost induce one to believe that each particular article they produce is “just the thing,” the task is not altogether easy.

Friends naturally endeavour to select those things which the Government themselves do not provide, or which are not generally sent out by the hundred-and-one invaluable organisations that thousands loyal ladies so willingly work up.  Some little assistance in the perplexing matter may therefore not be unwelcome, and if we can aid in directing readers to send the most acceptable gifts, the purpose of the article will be more than served.
Value of Chocolate.
Mr G. Valentine Williams, with the British General Headquarters, recently wrote:—
For some time past, while going round the trenches and the billets in rear of the firing line, I have been inquiring both from officers and men as to the little comforts which are most popular with the men.  The typical weather in winter in these parts of Belgium and Northern France is a biting wind accompanied by drenching, icy rain.

Anybody who has experienced the horrors of this climate knows that after you have guarded against the cold as well as you can by donning warm clothing, the next best thing to keeping the body warm and the heart cheerful is to have something “grateful and comforting” to eat, something to chew on between meal times.

There is nothing more warming or more sustaining than really good, strongly concentrated, eating chocolate.  When communications become difficult the men in the front line are sometimes reduced to the hard ration oatmeal biscuits in lieu of bread.  Those biscuits are nourishing and extremely filling, but terribly “monotonous” to eat: but officers and men alike have assured me that a piece of chocolate, eaten with them, renders them quite palatable.

In the recent offensive in the Champagne, I believe, the French military authorities issued a special chocolate ration to the attacking infantry, relying on its nourishing and sustaining powers against the possibility of a delay in getting the rations up during the battle to the men in the most advanced line.  Therefore, if you can, put a tablet of good, strong chocolate in your packages for the front.

Sweets, Stationery, Smokes.
Peppermints and bull's-eyes are also enormously appreciated by the men (adds Mr. Valentine Williams).  Some of the little general stores in the villages behind the line are beginning to stock little packets of English peppermints, a sure sign of their popularity with the Army, for in the shops in our zone of operations supply invariably follows demand.  Peppermints and bull’s-eyes are very cheap in England, and take up very little room in a parcel.  Home-made toffee and gingerbread biscuits (ginger snaps) are also eagerly welcomed, and I daresay that chewing gum would be equally popular; in fact, anything that is warming and pleasant to the taste and, at the same time, calculated to take a man’s thoughts a little off desperately disagreeable surroundings.

Writing materials are always useful, but the so-called letterette writing-blocks in which the paper can be folded up so as to form its own envelope are the most popular form of writing-blocks of all.  Neither in the trenches nor in their billets have the men much room for their belongings, and a pad which combines letter and envelope in one is therefore very acceptable to them, as in the long evenings in billets letter-writing is one of their principal occupations.  It would be well worth the while of an enterprising manufacturer to put some combination writing-blocks of this nature on the market in quite cheap paper and therefore at a moderate price.

If one is sending “smokes” to a Regular battalion sometimes put in some “black twist” tobacco.  Old soldiers of the Regular Army dearly love this black tobacco which you can cut from its twist with a knife, and are missing it greatly in the field.  The Territorial battalions, being, generally speaking, recruited from a different class, have little use for “black twist” and prefer to stick to cigarettes and smoking mixtures.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Army Winter Kit

From The Western Times,  23rd November 1915.


Warmer Clothes for the Kilted Troops

The coming of winter has found the War Office Department whose duty it is to clothe the Army fully prepared with supplies of warm clothing for the protection of the troops against the rigours of winter warfare.  The following is a list of the apparel provided by the military authorities for each soldier at the front:  Winter service cap, waterproof cover for cap, cap comforter, body belt, woollen vest and drawers, shirt, cardigan waistcoat, tunic and trousers, fur or leather (flannel lined) jacket, great-coat, waterproof cape, fingerless snow gloves, woollen gloves, socks, puttees, and boots.

In addition, gum boots reaching to the top of the thigh are provided for men actually in the trenches.  The special needs of the kilted regiments have not been overlooked, and auxiliary warm clothing is provided for them.

The authorised scale of equipment, we are informed, allows two shirts and four pairs of socks for each man.  From time to time complaints reach this country that men in this or that battalion are in want of socks and shirts, and appeals for these articles or money for purchasing them are advertised.  It is stated on good authority that there is no real necessity for such appeal, as ample Government supplies are available to meet all demands made through the proper channels.  Mufflers and mittens, however, are not a “Government supply,” and the making, purchase, and collection of them is a field in which the generosity and industry of the public will be warmly welcomed.

[There was a continuing confusion in the newspapers about what 'comforts' the men at the Front need.  The official War Office line was that only mufflers and mittens were needed, in the way of clothing,  and only because the War Office had decided not to supply these, and to leave then to the knitters at home.  But at the same time there were many letters and other appeals in the papers asking for socks, which seem to be well-founded - several officers at the Front write to say that 'you can never have too many socks'. ]    

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Christmas Parcels for Halifax Men

From the Halifax Courier, 20th November 1915.


It is exceedingly gratifying to announce the practical consummation of the great Christmas Gifts scheme for the soldiers, sailors; wounded and prisoners.  For our own share we have gathered in, and had promised, enough cash to pay for the parcels we are sending out, for Halifax borough, and for the comforts committees of Mytholmroyd, Cragg Vale, and Greetland.  One other may join, so we hear.

This cause has spurred every district around Halifax, and a very happy and just understanding has been brought about, that each neighbourhood this Christmas shall look after its own, by finding the cash, at any rate.  The grouping, the comparing of notes to see that no case is covered twice, and a score of other points, have been most happily done; all helpers, when the immense task is over, will feel that the method has been well worth the effort, while the scheme will secure, we think, that not many local men will be missed; in the Halifax area only those will be left out who have failed to comply with our well-published requests.  The “Courier’s” share in this business is well advanced.

The goods are ordered, and each man will receive—
A Plum Pudding. Cigarettes.
Spice Loaf. Tobacco.
½ lb. Toffee. 3 Candles.
¼ lb. Coffee ¼ lb. Cocoa.
We are sure there will be a lot for the money.  The general wishes of the men abroad were consulted before settling the list.  The cigarettes, by the way, number 171,000.  Fancy over 8 miles of them!

[This article follows an appeal in the previous week's Courier, which complained that money for the Christmas Fund was not coming in fast enough - this is much more cheerful.]  

Friday, 20 November 2015

Pattern for Sweaters

From The Times, 20th November 1915.



Sir,-- At last!  I now have the perfect pattern for a sweater which, of course with your unfailing kindness to the sweater industry, you will print verbatim for me.  It begins, “Cast on 76”  -- But no;  though I (wholly incredulous) am told that a baby can knit it in bed, it takes three-quarters of a column to describe, and comforts should not encroach on Job’s comforters – also it might become the mode in the home of Berlin wool.  So I ask ladies, especially the kind working parties who helped me so much last year, to write for the pattern which I have printed off.  If necessary, I might screw out a small cheque for wool for a start (out of your readers, of course, that is).  Meantime, while dressing and undressing the Army to get them really comfortably sweatered, I have had to put them off with et ceteras, with the result that I have not mitt, sock, or muffler left – this is a bald fact, though the young gentlemen are incredulous.  May I have enough of these smaller comforts to keep them quiet till the millennium of new knitted sweaters arrives?  It is an easy prophecy that I shall want rather a large quantity early in December.
With grateful thanks for the many already sent,
Yours faithfully,
8, King’s Bench-walk, Inner Temple, E.C., Nov. 19.

[Another of John Penoyre's letters asking for sweaters - and now, other comforts too.  His previous letter was published in October. 

As usual, his letter is entertaining but occasionally obscure.  The reference to 'Berlin wool' seems to mean that a pattern for sweaters published in The Times might get to Germany and thereby help the enemy.  The 'young gentlemen' are Army officers, asking for comforts for their men - ordinary soldiers were largely working class, and therefore not gentlemen. ]    

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Christmas Comforts from Halifax

From the Halifax Courier, 13th November 1915.

What About Their Christmas?

Can We Enjoy Ours If We Forget Them?

Our appeal for Tommy and Jack's Christmas Comforts cannot be kept open a moment beyond the 22nd, whether £1,000 has been raised or no.  If we fall short —well, the parcels will contain fewer things.  We cannot understand why the scheme has not bounded along: perhaps, it may yet.  It is seven weeks to Christmas Day, and on that day it is hoped to land a 5s. parcel in the hands of every loca1 soldier abroad.  Think of it please, a 5s. parcel after 7 weeks have elapsed.  Not 2d. a day to enhearten his trench life.  £1,000 is still our cry, and we should be ashamed if we have to do with less.  There are 4,000 soldiers to participate in this.  And there are not less than 250,000 to provide £1,000....

My Kind Friends, —I am still receiving the parcels, which are so nice: I cannot thank you enough.  No doubt it is the finest fund for the lads fighting hard for king and country.  You ought to see my chums’ eager eyes when I am opening your parcel, which contains such luxuries.  We are still rolling around the cold briny, patiently watching and waiting to have a pop at them.  My love and good wishes to all.— F. W., North Sea.

Nov. 5: Out of the trenches. —Thank you very much for the comforts issued to-day.  I am sure we all realise the hard work you have been put to to try and suit every one of us.  We are all very grateful to you.  We have plenty of hard tasks to perform, and your interest in our welfare gives us new heart.  I only wish every paper in the country thought so much of their lads, but there are others to thank as well, the ladies and gentlemen who have given much valuable time to further your efforts.  We have been here two days, after a most strenuous time in the trenches.  When we were in the trenches we were in some places up to the waist in water.  I don’t know how we managed to get relieved, but it was managed.  This was the first time that we have had the use of motor buses to bring us out of the trenches.  I don’t know how long we are stopping here, but of course it will take some time to re-equip us, because most of our belongings were either lost or damaged by water so as to be of no use.  We are just having an impromptu concert, and your records are giving us a right proper laugh.  I am glad to say everybody seems to be enjoying themselves.  You would not think that we came in here two nights since more dead than alive.  Again thanking you and hoping that your further efforts will meet with success. —Sergt. C. Naylor, C Co.
‘Tis impossible to convey, to any who have not seen, the immense need of protection against the mud and rain.  Every man who is out here needs what I’ve received. [Perhaps this is a reference to waterproofs sent by the 'Courier Fund'.]    The Government are gradually supplying, but the weather is here, and all men need really now.  A few skin coats have been issued this week, and the men look very queer in them.  The Battalion is out for a rest, and well they need it after this 4 days’ swim in the trenches.  The rest has, of course, revived many men and, except for serious cases which have been drafted to hospital, the Battalion is itself again; good spirits prevail, and song and jest are more prominent. —Fred Smith.

I received the parcel from the Comforts Fund and thank you for it very much.  We have had rather a rough time the past few days. Soon after arriving in the trenches it started to rain and didn’t cease all the time we remained in.  It wasn't long before the water reached over the knees, and in places one went up to the waist.  Trenches were falling in as fast as we could repair them.  Some chaps got no sleep all the 4 days.  We were all thankful when the time came to be relieved.  Then came the struggle down the long communication trench.  Stoppages were frequent in order to extricate some unfortunate who had stuck in the mud.  It was without doubt the worst night we have had.  At last we reached the place where motor lorries were waiting to convey us behind.  Even then our troubles were not over, for our driver contrived to land us in ditches.  However nobody was hurt.  We arrived at our billet in a very muddy and exhausted condition indeed.  Hot rum and tea were waiting for us, and we received every attention possible.  We are in a barn at present.  To-day we have had fur coats and leather gloves issued; also a generous supply of soap, cocoa, etc., from the “Courier Fund.”  We are all thankful to you for the efforts you have made on our behalf.  Perhaps nothing sent out here caused more enjoyment than the gramaphones.  They are played night and day. —Herbert B. Gledhill.

Lower Hough House, Stump Cross, Halifax.
Dear Sir, —We have the pleasure of sending you four scarves for our brave soldiers.  We earned the money for the wool by selling small fancy goods.  We also enclose 5s. for the Christmas gift fund, and sincerely hope that you will receive all the money needed for it. —Yours truly, Edna and Bertha Cattell; and Nancy Bolton.

This letter has come from the Girls’ Department,  Tuel-lane School:—Dear Sir, We have collected over 600 candles for the local soldiers this week.  The candles have been made into bundles of three and fours.  We have had many dear delightful letters acknowledging the parkin and toffee which, thanks to your kindness, the soldiers received on Nov. 5.  [Parkin and bonfire toffee are traditional on November 5th, Bonfire Night.] We shall be very glad if you will undertake to send off our candles to the Front along with your other parcels.  Thanking you for your very kindly interest in us. Yours sincerely, Amelia Jones.

[The Courier's Comforts Fund aimed to provide for all the Halifax men in the armed forces.  At this time, many of them were serving together in the local Territorial Battalion and hence reported similar experiences in the trenches. It's noticeable that no casualties, or even fighting, are mentioned in the accounts of their 4 days at the front.]

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Nothing Like Hand-Knitted Socks

From Woman's Own, 6th November 1915.

NOTHING LIKE HAND-KNITTED SOCKS FOR WEAR AND COMFORT.  Make them for our soldiers at the front from J. & J. BALDWINS 5-PLY WHITE HEATHER SCOTCH FINGERING WOOL on the fine recipe given in their booklet No. 17 -- "Knitted Comforts for Men on Land and Sea," post free for 2½d. on application to -- J. & J. BALDWIN & Partners Ltd., HALIFAX, Eng.

Reliable people will be provided with profitable home work on AUTO-KNITTERS by knitting War Socks.  Write for full particulars, enclosing 1d. stamp for postage.
The Auto-Knitter Hosiery Co. Ltd.,... LEICESTER.

Friday, 6 November 2015

A Bar of Soap

From The Graphic, 6th November 1915.


An Incident of the Trenches

Tommy -- Look here, boys; someone's dropped a cake of Pear's soap.  What a quick answer to my letter home of last night asking for some to be sent in the next parcel. Line up.  We must have it.  It'll do for the lot of us; and, by George! we need it.

They got it, and had the wash of their lives!

Pears' Soap is doing capital work at the front.  The boys give a cheer when they see it.  There is nothing like it for freshening up the skin and keeping it in healthy condition.  It is the most economical of toilet soaps, therefore always make a point of including Pears in your parcels.

[The British Army did not have steel helmets until 1916, so the depiction is to that extent realistic,  though it's hard to imagine that someone might have carelessly dropped a bar of soap in front of the trench. One of the men is wearing apparently a knitted wool cap (or possibly a cap-comforter) which seeems more practical trench wear than the peaked cap.]   

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Making Soldiers' Comforts

From the Brecon and Radnor Express, 4th November 1915.

Soldiers' Comforts.


Sir.—May I be allowed through your columns to make known the official scheme for organising and stimulating the making of comforts for our soldiers which I have been asked by the Lord Lieutenant to undertake for the county of Radnor.

Your readers will probably have seen that Col. Sir Edward Ward, Bart., K.C.B., K.C.V.O., has been appointed “Director General of Voluntary Organisations,” with an office and central depot in London.  From thence it is proposed to spread a net-work of associated workers all over the kingdom by means of County and Borough Depots to feed the Central Organisation.  The War Office recognises with gratitude and appreciation this immense amount of useful work which is being done and has already been accomplished.  The objects of this present scheme are to avoid overlapping, and to encourage and stimulate this work by giving it official recognition and directing it into the most useful and needful channels.  We shall be told from time to time what things are most needed, and a list of articles that can be made, in great variety, is already provided.

The hon. secretaries of the various depots are asked for fortnightly or monthly returns of the work they have in hand, to be forwarded to Headquarters when required.  It has been decided to establish a Radnorshire Depot at the County Buildings, Llandrindod Wells....

Associations of workers, however few in number, who undertake to work regularly, may apply to be officially “recognised by the War Office,” and, further, individual workers, who continue their efforts for three months, will be entitled to badges as war workers.  This will, it is hoped, not only encourage many ladies and young girls to enrol themselves, but will also help us all to realise that this systematic making of socks, shirts, comforters, bandages, etc., is to be looked upon as a serious duty to be undertaken for our country.

It is fully recognised that most localities have their own men for whom they must first provide, or special regiments and ships in which they are personally interested, and it is very far from our wish to discourage any efforts in these directions.  But it is also felt that if the ladies of Radnorshire, in the various localities, will all forthwith start work parties and organise local associations, there will still be a great stream of useful comforts to flow to the County Depot in Llandrindod; and thence through headquarters to those battalions and hospitals at the front which are most in need of them.

Sir Edward Ward has given notice that he is quite unable to meet the numerous requisitions which have already reached him.  Mufflers and mittens are most needed at present.  Any further information will be most gladly given either by Mrs Moseley or myself, and we shall be only pleased to hear of any districts or associations in the county which will support the movement.  It is proposed to invite representatives of the above to form a county committee.

I am, sir, yours, &c.,
Llysdinam, Nov. 1st, 1915.

[You could get a badge for knitting!  That seems excellent psychology, showing appreciation for the efforts of the knitters - surprisingly perceptive of the War Office.      

This letter seems to be slightly in conflict with the aims of the War Office in appointing Sir Edward Ward.  I think that the idea was that all 'comforts' (except of course for those made for individual men by family and friends) should be under the central control of Sir Edward, to avoid groups making things that were already supplied by the War Office, and to make distribution to the front fairer and more efficient.  But if the groups could simply say "we are providing for our own men" and carry on as before, that wasn't going to work.  I think in the end it did work, and there was a strong central distribution of 'comforts', but perhaps there was opposition at the beginning, hidden by the polite language in the papers.]      

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Life in a British Internment Camp in Holland

From The Times, 3rd November 1915.


I have just returned from visiting the men of the Royal Naval Brigade interned at Groningen.  They are entering on their second year of confinement with a rigorous and healthy camp life well organised.

All the north-eastern part of Holland is a bleak and rather forbidding country at this time of year, interminably flat, with patches of cultivated land alternating with wide stretches of heather dotted with small pools of dark, peaty water.  The camp, H.M.S. Timbertown, is on the immediate outskirts of the town of Groningen, a cluster of great black-and-white barrack-like wooden huts, easily accessible from the town on one side and no less exposed to the bitter winds which, at this time of year, sweep the open country, on the other.

Abundance of keen, hard air, however, never did healthy men any harm; and 10 miles of good route-marching a day, from 9 a.m. to noon, six days in the week, make excellent medicine.  So the men are extremely fit.  The sick list varies from one-half to three-quarters of 1 per cent., and a large proportion of the cases are the result of injuries on the football field.

Football is, indeed, next to route-marching the chief preoccupation of the camp.  In a competition promoted by the Groninger Dagblad, in which five Dutch teams took part as well as three teams representing the various battalions of the Brigade, the latter had practically to fight it out among themselves, Hawke Battalion (which had already knocked out Collingwood) beating Benbow in the final tie after a thrilling game by a rather lucky 1—0.  The question of international supremacy being thus satisfactorily settled, the Brigade is now engrossed in an inter-company league series of its own.

There are, of course, grumblers and “slackers,” as there must be anywhere in any party of 1,500 men; and these write letters home telling of their miserable plight and of the inadequacy of their food.  These letters sometimes find their way into print and annoy the rest of the camp even more than they do the Dutch authorities.  The food is not inadequate, and the men are more comfortable and on the whole better off — except for the consciousness that they are prisoners — than are our new soldiers on Salisbury Plain.  So far from demanding sympathy, the camp takes pride in its independence and self-sufficingness.  Parcels of “comforts” and other gifts from friends outside to individuals are a private matter and are undoubtedly always welcome; but for the camp itself, as a unit, it has nothing to ask of England.  Old books or newspapers for its library and reading-rooms are acceptable; but, beyond that, its only appeal to people at home is: —“Keep your money and help for the men in the firing line.  We’re all right!”

On every side, indeed, one sees evidence of the robustness of the camp organization.  It is spread before you in the wide strip of flower garden, all the work of “interned talent” which at this season, when the perennials are being taken in under glass for the winter, is still gay and gives Timbertown at first glance rather the appearance of a large summer pleasure camp.  If you open a door at random in one of the long ranges of huts you may come —as I did— on a rehearsal of the “Timbertown Follies,” under stage-manager Signalmen Fred Penley, or (as I also did) on one of Mrs. Oakley’s knitting classes, with a dozen members of the Brigade profoundly immersed, behind barricades of khaki and Navy blue wool, in knitting socks for the men at the front or in the Fleet.  Or you may find yourself in the bootmaker's shop, in the petty officer’s billiard room, in the great recreation room at one end of which is the Church, in the well-equipped gymnasium or in the offices of the Camp News, a daily typewritten, manifolded broadsheet, and Camp Magazine, a monthly illustrated periodical which has now issued its seventh number.
Then there are the Operatic Society, with a Gilbert and Sullivan repertoire; the dramatic club, which has given A Pair of Spectacles elsewhere than at the camp with tumultuous success; the Timbertown Orchestra and the brass and banjo-and-mandoline bands, and there are the wood-working shops, where surprisingly good work is done and the various "firms" (as any four or five work-men who associate themselves together style themselves) are kept profitably busy on orders for the picture frames, jewel boxes, and other knick-knacks which they make, of oak or satinwood, and which will in the future be prized as souvenirs of the days when British soldiers were interned in Holland during the Great War.  Above all, perhaps, there is the canteen—“dry,” of course —which, since it was taken over from the local contractor, has produced the chief part of the funds necessary to run the various organizations which cannot be made self-supporting.

The University of Groningen has generously thrown all its lectures open to members of the Brigade who care to attend.  There are numerous classes at the camp for teaching languages and so forth as well as frequent lectures; and the Royal Society of Arts and London Chamber of Commerce have both made arrangements for examinations to be held at Timbertown, at which successful candidates will be awarded the appropriate certificates.  The Government of Holland has, moreover, permitted men to go from the camp to take regular employment elsewhere, provided that in doing so they do not compete with native labour.  A few men already have regular work in Groningen, and a request, which will probably be granted, has just been received for 100 men to go to Rotterdam.  In these cases a portion of the men's wages is given them weekly while the rest is paid to the Dutch War Office, there to accumulate until their liberation.

From all the foregoing it will be seen how well the camp has found itself.  The contrast with the early days of last winter —days of depression and unorganized monotony in crowded quarters before the present huts were built— is most striking.  For that contrast credit is chiefly due to Commodore Wilfred Henderson, who has the confidence and respect not only of the Camp but, what is no less important, of the Dutch authorities.  That the men’s lives can be other than limited and more or less dull and harassed with regrets and longings is, of course, impossible.  It is at most but making the best of a bad situation.  But that best could not be nearly so good without the most helpful kindness on the part of the authorities and the friendliness of the Dutch population of the neighbourhood.

[Holland was neutral in the First World War, and men of the Royal Naval Brigade who had retreated into the Netherlands were interned there for the duration of the war, along with Belgians and Germans (though different nationalities were in different camps).  I have included this article mainly because of the mention of knitting socks, but also because it is an aspect of the war that seems little known.]    

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Missions to Seamen booklet

From The Manchester Guardian, November 1, 1915. 

“The Missions to Seamen” has recently published a new edition of the little booklet entitled “Ladies’ Work for Sailors”.  It contains instructions for making all the warm comforts which experience has found to be most acceptable to both sailors and soldiers, and for which there will soon be a great demand again as winter approaches.  A copy of this book will be sent free of charge on receipt of a postcard by the secretary, the Missions to Seamen, 11, Buckingham Street, Strand, London, W.C.

[The Missions to Seamen was founded in 1856, and still exists, though now renamed the Mission to Seafarers.  And it still asks for warm knitted items to distribute to seafarers - balaclavas, scarves, gloves and hats  - though now the patterns are posted online.  

An earlier edition of "Ladies' Work for Sailors" (front cover shown below) is in the Richard Rutt Collection, in the Winchester School of Art Library, and can be downloaded from there.]

Friday, 30 October 2015

Schoolchildren Knitting

From the Grantham Journal, 30th October 1915.

JUVENILE WORKERS.—The girls and boys of the Folkingham School have been endeavouring to “do their bit” by collecting money in the village, spending it on wool and knitting comforts for all Folkingham men who are serving their King and country.  During the past week they have sent off fourteen parcels, and hope to forward the rest shortly.  Each parcel contains socks, mufflers, mittens, and a tin of sweets, together with a cheerful letter from one of the scholars.  The scholars wish they could do greater things.  We hope the inhabitants will continue to support them by being liberal with their pence in order that they may continue their good work.  The sums already collected amount to £1 17s. 10½., whilst a friend sent 10s.  Strict accounts are kept by the children, and may be seen at the School.  Already some of the scholars have received letters from several of the recipients, thanking them for the gifts.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Women Aren't Knitting

From the Daily Express, October 29th, 1915

Where You Can be of Service

It is a curious fact that though the winter is advancing rapidly, women are not apparently making any great effort to make warm clothing for the troops.  I hope I am mistaken, and that the work is going on sub rosa, but one no longer sees the ubiquitous knitting needles and balls of khaki coloured yarn that were to be found on all sides this time last year. 

Why is this?  Surely women do not fail to realise that the need for knitted articles with which to keep our brave man warm and comfortable during their arduous work by sea and land, when they are out in all weathers, is as great, nay, greater than ever. 

Is knitting for the troops to be put alongside the tango and ping-pong, as a craze of the moment, absorbing the attention of all for a few months, and then dropped again as quickly as it was taken up?  Surely this is not the case.  

There can be no doubt that the energies of every woman are needed to help to supply the great demand for such articles.  Even the woman who is busy most of the day can find time in her spare minutes to ply the needles in the good cause; she was ready enough last winter, and if she only knew how badly these things are wanted, I am convinced she would be as ready this.

We need not fear that our gifts will not be required.  We have Queen Mary’s appeal, an appeal which should rouse the keenest wish to respond in the heart of every woman.  We have the official notification from the War Office that thousands of pairs of mittens and warm mufflers are needed as soon as possible.  Sir Edward Ward is organising a movement to bring local working parties into co-operation, so that all may unite in making what is wanted, and making it correctly. 

In the meantime, don’t wait for further instructions but set to work on mittens;  they must be made with thumbs, no fingers, and eight inches long, of close knitting in khaki-coloured wool – and khaki mufflers, ten inches wide and fifty-eight inches long – just a strip of plain knitting that any child can manage. 

To help those who have not already made these particular mittens. I have a printed leaflet which gives clear instructions how they should be knitted, which I shall be glad to send free to any reader on receipt of a stamped addressed envelope.  The finished articles should be forwarded to the Chief Ordnance Office, Army Clothing Department, …

Wool and knitting needles are to be had in abundance, so I ask every woman who reads this, not to leave the matter to another time, but to go straight out and buy the necessary materials, and set to work “doing her bit” as soon as she possibly can.  One hears so much about the women who are hoping to do war work, but here, close at hand, lies “war work” that every one can do.  If those who cannot leave home will only realise it, by plying their needles they will be doing quite as good work for the country as those other women who are able to work in shell factories and munitions works. 

Requests for the knitting leaflet should be addressed to Janet Gray, Daily Express, 23, St. Bride-street, E.C.

Janet Gray

Thursday, 22 October 2015

A Red Cross Nurse

From Woman’s Own, October 22nd 1915.

The Diary of a Red Cross Nurse

A sprightly series of articles by Emily B. Forster, which gives insight into and real information about the duties of a nurse in wartime. 

DEAREST FLO,—Well, here I am at last.  The dream of my life has come true.  I am a Red Cross nurse, in a ward full of wounded soldiers.  I know you are all eagerly waiting for a letter from me to tell you my first experiences as a nurse.
I was quite afraid Sister would hear my heart beating, I was so nervous when she took me into a ward filled with "heroes," saying "This is your ward."
Most of the men were in bed; only three were up.  All eyes turned upon me at once, and I heard a whisper, "A new pro."  Just at that moment Sister, hearing a low moan proceeding from a bed at the end of the ward, left me and disappeared behind the screen that was round the bed (a bad case).  I was left standing alone just inside the door.
Ah, I did feel so shy and nervous!  I felt so "new"; quite a "pro"  [probationer]. I was wondering what to do, when a feeble voice near me said, "So you have come to look after us poor chaps for a bit, miss, and it's uncommon good of you.  My missus says they may talk about angels at Mons, but there ain't no doubt about the angels in the hospitals.  I knows as how what she says is true—this is my second go invalided home."
Before I tell you any more about the patients I must remember my promise to the girls to let them hear all about my uniform.
Can you picture me—neat hair, stiff collar, full skirt—everything just unlike what your frivolous little Betty wears at home, from the low-heeled shoe, tipped with rubber, to the demure cap that will not keep straight on my rebellious hair?
I mean to have my photograph taken soon, to send to you; but Sister says I look so stiff at present, so I am waiting until I feel more comfy in my standup collar.  My frock is just a plain cotton —very plain—and it is what the committee call a "sensible width."  I feel as if I were walking about in volumes of skirts.
A large white apron almost covers the dress, and when shall I ever get used to it—the linen collar?
But the crowning point of all is the Red Cross.
I know you all want to hear about everything I do.  Well, I am just a "pro," and that means, to give a full explanation, that I am a probationer, here to learn.  And as I want to get on, I keep my eyes and ears open to learn all I can. At first it seemed so hopeless—everybody seemed to know everything except me, and I knew nothing, and as the ward was short-handed (one nurse was ill), no one seemed to have time to pay much attention to me.  There was certain work portioned out; only as I have never swept or dusted or done any real work in my life, it wanted a lot of courage to start.
Of course, I made a wrong start, but my "angel friend," as I always call him in my own mind, came to my rescue: "You’re sweeping against the grain; go the way of the board, nurse."  Now, that was a tip worth knowing.
I got into dire disgrace over my dusting.  I had often noticed the maids shake their dusters, so when I finished my dusting I shook mine.  Oh dear, Sister was so angry!  She said I should be shaking carpets over the wounded next.  Somehow I think she feels it a duty to be severe to me, because I know nothing; but then, as I tell her, that is why I have come, for her to teach me.  She said you do not want a room full of sick men to learn to dust, but how else could I learn?  Why, if I took to dusting at home, all the servants would give notice, Sister said "No wonder!"
Well, I must get back to the ward now; it is time to give the medicines.
 —Your loving BETTY.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015


From The Times, 21st October 1915.



Sir, -- May I, through your kindness, answer inquiries from Army and public alike by saying that the sweater industry to which you were good enough to give publicity last winter reopens this week?  I have better space, and more (but not better) helpers.  I have also the usual brisk circle of candid friends to tell me that I won’t get any more sweaters, and that if I do they won’t be needed.  For the first point, I back my country; for the second, the young gentlemen are beginning to write on behalf of their platoons, and I am authorized to tell your readers that the War Office thoroughly approves of them and me.

Well, what I ask for is sweaters; any colour, because I dye them khaki, and any shape, because our Army is more like Proteus than Procrustes.  I know there are not so many old ones to be dyed as last year (there ought to be none), but there is still wool – and these nice long quiet evenings, so thoughtfully provided for us, are just the thing for knitting sweaters.  If a few ladies will send me knitted patterns with the awe-inspiring stage directions of how it’s done pinned to them, I could try them on the blushing Army and disseminate the most acceptable pattern for a model.  A dozen different samples will be enough – not all Pickford’s vans for a week, as sometimes happens when one asks for the Army.  Our readers will kindly understand that this offer holds good until further notice.  I will let them know if it becomes my duty to affiliate this venture to any organization indicated later by the War Office; or if I have to go and make the Germans laugh at my conception of military duties in the Essex trenches.....

In October 1914, I wrote that the feeling of the nation for the Army came as something of a surprise.  But if we were proud, honoured, and grateful to lend a hand then, what shall be the measure of our love and regard to-day?

Yours faithfully,
8, King’s Bench Walk, Inner Temple, E.C., Oct. 20.

[This is the first of the appeals from John Penoyre for the 1915-16 winter - he had written several letters to the Times during the previous winter, of which this was the most recent.  

I think that "I am authorized to tell your readers that the War Office thoroughly approves" is a reference to Sir Edward Ward's appointment as Director General of Voluntary Organisations - it seems that John Penoyre had checked that he could carry on with this efforts to provide sweaters, even though Sir Edward was asking only for mufflers and mittens at this point - see here

John Penoyre had a very lively style, but the classical and other references are sometimes a bit hard to follow.  I have omitted one part that I couldn't begin to explain.   Proteus was a Greek shape-changing sea-god, and here the name signifies that men in the Army came in all shapes and sizes.  Procrustes was a villain in Greek mythology who cut the legs off passing travellers, or stretched them out, to fit his bed.  I think John Penoyre means (again) that soldiers were not all a standard size, though the analogy with Procrustes doesn't quite work.   

Pickford's is a removals company with a long history - perhaps the Post Office called them in when they had a large volume of deliveries to the same address. ]