Sunday, 31 May 2015

Women as Shop Commissionaires

From the Daily Record, 31st May 1915.


In the West End yesterday I noticed that at some of the big emporiums women are now being employed as door porters or commissionaires.  At one leading shop the women wear a uniform which strikes the observer us being both sensible and serviceable.

It is something after the style of a riding habit in blue cloth, and with it is worn a smart military looking hat.  The women are provided with the taxi-calls, and on wet days stand on the pavement with huge umbrellas for the protection of the lady customers as they pass from the shop to their motors.

Many of the London shops have suffered serious depletions of their staffs through enlistment of their young men, but the employment of female labour in many branches has very materially lessened the difficulties of the situation.

[The role of a commissionaire was, I think, to shepherd lady customers to and from their cars (presumably driven by chauffeurs), open the doors for them (the car door and the shop door), and as the piece suggests, to provide umbrella shelter in wet weather.   They also evidently called taxis for ladies who did not have their own 'motor' - I guess that the taxi-call was a whistle.] 

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Harrison’s Nursery Pomade

From the Brecon & Radnor Express, 27th May 1915.

Comforts for Soldiers

Harrison's Reliable Nursery Pomade, which has a reputation of 20 years behind it, during which time it has proved of great usefulness to the mother who values the health and cleanliness of her child, has demonstrated its efficacy at the front.  Anything which adds to the health and comfort of the British Tommy at once arouses a sympathetic interest at home.  Mr Harrison must be gratified at the receipt of so many letters assuring him that the British soldier has found his pomade a boon and a blessing.  If there is one thing that the British fighting man values it is cleanliness.  His first thought when duty is over is for a wash and shave and change of clothes.  But in the trenches the troops are unable to get their customary wash or change of clean underclothing, and they find vermin a great plague.  In describing the discomforts which are experienced, a British soldier writes:—"When we get relieved from our post, we are unable to get to sleep owing to irritation.  You can see men walking up and down the trenches practically in agony."

The man who cannot sleep is not in the condition to perform the arduous duties which fall to the British soldier, and, therefore, for many reasons Tommy welcomes a remedy which so speedily removes the disadvantages under which he suffers.  A sergeant of the Suffolk Regiment sends this enthusiastic letter:—I find your pomade an excellent remedy. Tell all your customers a British soldier who is fighting at the front has proved it so.  I have recommended it to all my pals out here.

A gunner of the R.G.A. says:—"It is one of the finest articles that a soldier can have in his field kit.  I have tramped the country on public works and I have never been without it, and I would not like to be without it here.

An experienced soldier remarks:—"If we had only known of such a remedy through the Boer War how happy we should have been."

A lance-corporal of the Manchester Regiment says :—"I am pleased to say I have been clear from vermin from the first day of using your famous Harrison's Pomade, and my chums, whom I have let use some, have given it great praise.  I have also mentioned it to my Company Officer, with a view of getting it supplied to the Regiment.”  Letters such as these, which are a mere tithe of what Mr Harrison has received, demonstrate the value of the article he is dispensing.  It is sold by all chemists.

[Harrison's Nursery Pomade was intended for use on children's hair to kill nits and head-lice, but is being promoted here for body-lice, I think.  Mr. Harrison was a chemist in Reading, but evidently selling his product throughout the country.] 

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Comforts For Dundee's Battalion

From the Dundee Courier, 25th May 1915



Sir,— The time has come when I feel I must again seek the hospitality of your columns focus attention upon the needs of the fighting line of the 4th Black Watch.  The public of Dundee is, I know, intensely proud of their prowess and achievements in the field, and anxious, as far as it lies in their power, to assist in promoting their comfort and in mitigating the hardships inseparable from the present conditions of warfare. 

It is abundantly clear from correspondence received from the front that the most clamant and the most persistent wants of the battalion are: — (1) Socks, (2) shirts, and (3) tobacco and cigarettes.  As regards socks, little need be said, as the supply from private donors has hitherto been most wonderfully regular and nearly equal to the demand. 

A considerable difficulty, however, lies in the provision of shirts, chiefly because of their somewhat serious cost, and also the skill required in making them.  It takes well over £150 to supply a battalion with shirts of suitable quality and sufficient warmth to prevent chill by night.  Many people, too, although otherwise generously inclined, raise the objection that a fatherly Government should meet this want, and it is true that free issues of shirts are made officially from time to time.  

When, however, it is realised that the nature of trench fighting necessitates these garments being completely discarded at frequent intervals, and also when the vast number of troops requiring similar attention is kept in view, it cannot be wondered at if Government issues do not always ensure such a degree of comfort as I know Dundonians would like to feel our men enjoyed.  The public will therefore see that private effort is necessary, or is at least eminently desirable, in order to supplement the Government clothing allowance.  I have thus no compunction, despite the varied claims at this time upon the generosity of the citizens, in appealing for a steady supply of garments or of funds wherewith to supply them. 

With regard to the question of tobacco and cigarettes, which appeals to the whole community of smokers, I am already despatching weekly enough to supply each man with fifteen cigarettes or two ounces of tobacco, but this can hardly be said to be sufficient for their needs.  By buying in quantity, and sending out duty free, a very great saving is effected, as tobacco is obtained at less than a third of the usual prices.  I would therefore respectfully suggest to those friends of the battalion who would like to see the weekly supply increased that they should either send donations to Mrs Harry Walker or myself.  Should any-one care to earmark his or her contribution for either shirts or tobacco, such wishes will be given effect to.  Might I further suggest that those who are specially interested in the battalion should proceed to collect periodical contributions, however small, from their friends, and remit me from time to time the result of their labours. 

While I have thus ventured again, as representing the corps in Dundee, to set forth the present and future needs of the men, I am none the less conscious of past favours towards the battalion since they left for the front.  Colonel Walker and other officers have repeatedly expressed to me their gratitude for these tokens of goodwill.  My only excuse for so conspicuously placing the wants of the "Fourth" before the public of Dundee is the knowledge of their peculiar pride and interest in those who are, by general consent, their special representatives in the fighting field.—I am, &c.. 

J. O. DUNCAN, Captain, 
O.C. Administrative Centre. 4th Black Watch, May 24, 1915. 

[The 4th Black Watch was the territorial battalion raised from the Dundee area, and had been in action in France since March.

Although there were many appeals in 1914 for shirts for serving soldiers, along with many other things, (e.g. here), they had disappeared as the War Office supplies got better organised.  By April 1915, the War Office claimed that providing extra clothing for soldiers, including flannel shirts, was unnecessary (here).  This is the only appeal I have seen from 1915 for extra shirts.  Although I'm sure that a clean shirt would have been very welcome and necessary, the claim that shirts had to be discarded after a short period of wear seems a bit odd.  Shirts would get filthy and lice-ridden in the trenches, as the rest of the uniform would, but there were arrangements for cleaning them.  Surely shirts could be used for longer than Captain Duncan implies?  I am sure, for  instance,  that the men did not get issued with new kilts when the old ones were filthy.]

Monday, 25 May 2015

Adoption of Fatherless Children

From The Illustrated London News, 22nd May, 1915.


Miss Florence Nightingale’s birthday was celebrated by memorial meetings in a number of great towns on May 12, and the base of her statue in front of the Guards Monument in Pall Mall was surrounded with numerous beautiful wreaths, and was also saluted by every officer who passed by.  The London meeting was organised by the Women's Freedom League, which was founded by Mrs. Despard, sister of General Sir John French. It was addressed, amongst others, by Susan Countess of Malmesbury, and by Surgeon-General Evatt, who made a most interesting speech, because he had personally well known Miss Nightingale.  He described how, when he was surgeon in command at Woolwich, if any question arose in regard to any matter concerning the health of the Army, he used to go personally to consult Miss Nightingale, and never with-out profit; and he said that the health of our Army to-day is largely due to her trained judgment and her organising faculty.  The statue, “with a bunch of skirts in one hand and a lamp in the other,” came in for much criticism.  “She was a handsome woman, with a wonderful brow, and a woman of the world, and a remarkably highly educated woman in all general knowledge, not a frail, stooping, sad-faced, gentle creature; and yet she was the highest expression of womanliness,” said Surgeon-General Hyatt.

One speech at this meeting—from Miss Townsend, the representative of the Women Teachers of London—incidentally drew attention to an important problem that awaits us.  She said that her father was a Crimean soldier nursed by Miss Nightingale's aides, and so saved to come home and marry; but he died of the results of his wound twelve years later, leaving five small children, and all the help that her mother could obtain took the form of the removal of her children from her care into institutions for orphans.  The speaker urged that the mothers of the present-day soldiers' orphan children should be left to care for their little ones themselves, with some assistance from the State.  I have often urged this very point in happier days for any "fatherless and widows" of respectable life; and such consideration is yet more deserved by those who are of that position (so calamitous that the Church liturgy specially offers constant prayer on their behalf) purely and simply because the father was so brave as to give up his life for his country. In such cases, ought not Britannia to say to the soldiers' widows, as Pharaoh's daughter said to the mother of Moses, “Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages?”  To leave the children with their mothers need be no more costly than to intern them in institutions or “cottage homes,” deprived of all that mother-love means.  It will be less expensive, in fact, if the scheme be not weighted by a crowd of paid inspectors of the mothers, such supervision as would be necessary being given by voluntary committees of ladies.

A different idea, and one that is very desirable in some cases, is the adoption by childless women of means, married or single, of one or more of the children of killed or severely wounded soldier-fathers.  “Now's your time,” ladies!  There will be probably hundreds of poor but educated and honourable mothers unable to see their way, even with such assistance as they may expect to receive from public and private funds, to bring up with due advantages the families with whom they are left, and who would therefore consent, for a tiny baby's own sake, to resign it completely to a foster-mother of good position and certain ability to provide for the child.  The actual mother should be able legally (I believe this is not now the case) to make over once for all her parental rights to the adoptive mother; for success, the real mother must consent to allow the woman who is to fill the part to be the only mother that the growing child will know.  There is not in normal circumstances anything like the opportunity that there is now of finding ready for such adoption infants of thoroughly good stock, with a family record both of moral and physical soundness, and coming from educated and refined parents; for many of our best, strongest, and noblest men, with cultured brains and gentlemanly ways, alas! are now being reft from their wives and leaving unprovided-for their little children.  And though heredity is by no means a certainly working factor—else how does the Kaiser come to be the son of two of the finest characters of the last generation?—yet every racecourse and agricultural show tells how important a factor it is, speaking broadly. Adoption as a social custom has worked out well in ancient Rome and modern Japan.


[I have included this piece not for the mention of Florence Nightingale, although it's interesting to realise that her influence on nursing was then quite recent, and there were many doctors and nurses still working who would have known her.  (She had died in 1910 at the age of 90.)  But the argument about adoption in the article is fascinating.  Adoption was not legal in England, Wales & Scotland before the 1920s.  I think it's remarkable that Filomena assumes that State assistance to widowed mothers is only appropriate if the mothers are 'inspected', either by paid inspectors, or as the writer suggests, by "voluntary committees of ladies".

It's also notable that the influence of genetics on the personality of a child is thought to be of paramount importance (in spite of the example of the Kaiser!) -  so all these ladies 'of good position' and able to care for a fatherless child should only consider adopting 'infants of thoroughly good stock, with a family record both of moral and physical soundness, and coming from educated and refined parents'.    Working class children from poor families were doomed to stay that way.]

Friday, 22 May 2015

"Active Service"

Postcard no. 3 in the series "England, Home and Beauty" by Harold Copping, postmarked 22nd May 1915.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Socks for Soldiers

From the Hull Daily Mail, 20th May 1915


SIR,-It has come to my knowledge that men under my command have been asking for socks through the medium of your paper.

We all know the generosity of the public in times of stress like these, but I should like them to know that the men who asked for these articles are well supplied with necessaries, and that when they have worn them out fresh socks are issued to them by the Quartermaster.  The public are, therefore, requested to take no notice of such appeals unless made officially.

I am, Sir, etc.,
H. R. PEASE. Colonel, Commanding 12th (S.) Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment.
The Camp, Dalton Holme. 19th May, 1915.

[More muddle over whether or not the official supply of socks was enough.] 

Monday, 18 May 2015

Wartime Hobbies

From the Birmingham Gazette, 18th May 1915.

Wartime Hobbies.

The two main hobbies in London just now are the making of sandbags and the upkeep of personal “war books.”  Sandbag parties have superseded knitting parties, says the “Manchester Guardian” London correspondent.

Young women gather together for luncheon, and afterwards give themselves to the cutting or shearing of coarse sacking and stitching it into bags for the wall of sandbags that is said to stretch from Switzerland to the sea.

It is a task people are eager to undertake in spite of its irksomeness, for every sandbag, the worker knows, helps to save lives.  Young girls’ teas are given with this object only, and cards are sent out with “sandbags” in the corner that once had the word “Tango”—a warning to come provided with thimble and enormous scissors—and many girls who have scarcely ever put cotton through an eyelet now spend hours on work that compares rather unfavourably with picking oakum.
War Books.
“War books,” on the other hand, are the bound and often beautiful volumes of collected letters and mementoes of every sort sent from the front, adds the correspondent.

A girl will have, for instance, a large album with her monogram and that of her brother or sweetheart, which contains their letters, postcards, and any snapshot or special newspaper cutting of personal interest.

[Picking oakum was an occupation for Victorian prisoners, intended as a punishment.] 

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Women at the Front

From the Illustrated London News, 15th May 1915.


"Here is a recruiting sergeant," I said to the young woman who was walking with me; "see the little bunch of ribbons on his cap."  To which she replied, with a heavy, longing sigh, "He should recruit me if he might."  Thousands of girls, beyond a doubt, are in a similar frame of mind.  It is hard indeed for them to realise that they may be filling a niche where their work is as important as going to the front.  Yet any sort of chance to render self-devotion to the Motherland would be gladly grasped by a great number of strong, energetic young women, and possibly they might be employed in active war service of more than one kind in far greater numbers than has yet been thought of.  They might be stretcher-bearers at the front, and orderlies, for instance, to set free many of the thousands of men now engaged in such perilous but non-combatant work.  The happy chance has, in fact, come to a few women, and has been splendidly met, apparently, by all to whom it has been fortunately allowed by fate.  Major Gordon, who acts continuously as King's Messenger between our King and the Belgian hero-King, told the St. John's Ambulance Association recently of the good work being done at the front by Lady Dorothie Feilding and many others.  One incident, he said, had filled him with admiration and amazement.  In one of the towns still held by the Belgian Army, and constantly shelled, so that the streets are most unsafe, Major Gordon saw an ambulance-wagon coolly driven in by an English girl; inside it were only two other British women.  As calm as if on a tennis-court, these three picked up as many as the vehicle could take of wounded men, and drove off with their sad load to hospital.  Thousands of girls' hearts will leap with longing to go and do likewise as they read of this quiet heroism of their unnamed sisters, and they will feel damped and depressed if good housewifery be offered to them in exchange.....

...There is likely to be a shortage of dyed woollen materials in the autumn, and fine dyed cloths are already more than twice as dear as the same materials were last summer.  But of charming cottons and muslins there is no lack, and they make dainty frocks at the minimum of expense.  The style for such little morning and quiet afternoon gowns is of the simplest.  The one-piece cut is much affected.  A Raglan sleeve, a full skirt and corsage all in one gathered on to a plain yoke, a deep belt of soft silk, and a tiny hem of the same silk showing under the scalloped or plain edge of the skirt of the fancy material—what can be more simple, and yet so pretty and girlish?  The designs of the muslins and cotton voiles are usually rather large and somewhat vivid, on white or delicate plain-coloured grounds.  It is the usual absurdity of fashion that dictates high collars for summer wear, after open throats all the winter; but as the collars are of the softest materials—lawn, and tucked muslin, and so on—they are not really oppressive.  Many of the little frocks, too, are provided only with collars rising high at the back of the throat, cut low or even with a tiny V-shaped opening under the chin; and the Raglan sleeve often rolls on from the shoulder line into such deep back collars.  In fact, one can select precisely what is most becoming, and be in the fashion all the same, in the matter of the throat finish; and what more can we ask?

"An original afternoon frock with a chemisette and high frilled collar of white tulle and a flounced skirt of the same material, the flounces being hemmed with bands of dark brown ninon."

[I was surprised to read that the writer of this article advocated allowing women to take roles on the front line, and put themselves in mortal danger, as long as they weren't actually fighting.  The discussion of the latest fashions later in the same article seems a very jarring contrast.]  

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Supplies for British Prisoners of War

From the Halifax Courier, 15th May 2015.


Almost every postcard from the internment camps asks preferably for food.  For a long time it has been our practice to send each man a few garments and, as frequently as our fund would allow, some food, with a little solace in “smokes”.  The craving for food, bread principally, was at the bottom of our idea of sending loaves.  We are most grateful to mothers who have answered the appeal, but as we can do with three or four times the number we shall be glad to hear from some of you gentle readers of these lines.  What we ask of you is a promise to send a loaf or loaves on your regular baking day, but only when you see your name in our list on Saturdays.  The following are kindly asked to oblige during this next week, and we tender hearty thanks in anticipation of the kind service:  [list of names and addresses follows.]

We had a letter from the West Riding War Fund (York) yesterday, to say they also are sending out consignments to all West Riding units and to the prisoners of war in Germany belonging to same.  We are glad more interest is being aroused in our war prisoners and the public will be relieved to know it.

[There follows a list of 12 prisoners of war, and the camps they are in, to be sent parcels during the week, and a further 14 who had just been sent parcels.]

Do the parcels get to the men?  This question is asked many times each week.  Yesterday we received a communication which gives the answer.  Some time ago an address in Germany was left with the request to forward a parcel.  The address was faithfully copied and a parcel despatched.  To-day, we are advised by American Express Co. that intimation has been received from the Continent that the particular parcel cannot be delivered as there is no lager of the name given, and asking us to give correct place as soon as possible.  This shows that parcels are being handled with care at the other end.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Comforts from Halifax

From the Halifax Courier, 15th May 1915.


The generosity of readers culminated this week in a great consignment of useful goods for our lads in the First 4th.  This letter, to their C.O., Lieut.-Col. Atkinson, fully explains:—
“Courier” Office.
“Halifax, May 11, 1915.—We beg to advise you that the goods purchased through our Comforts Fund, in accordance with your desire, as expressed in your letter of the 2nd May (received on the 8th), have all been purchased.  Some cases left this office to-day, one or two small ones are to follow, but the bulk of the goods, ordered by local tradesmen, are being sent direct, on their representation, by wholesale houses.  This plan has been adopted to save time, and it has a further advantage in saving cost of carriage between here and Southampton.  It is a great joy to us to have this privilege of carrying some measure of cheer to your brave men in the line.  The cost of the things we have bought, apart from miscellaneous gifts with notes attached, was £260.  For that you have entirely to thank the local public.”
The consignment comprised the following goods bought out of the Fund:—
24,000 Cigarettes.
10,000 Sheets Foreign Notepaper.
5,000 Envelopes.
5,000 Pencils.
5,000 Boxes of Safety Matches.
2,000 Handkerchiefs.
2,000 lbs. of Carbolic Soap.
1,576 Clay Pipes.
1,000 Bags of Biscuits.
1,000 Packets of Tobacco.
500 Wood Pipes.
720 Socks.
300 lbs. of Candles.
96 pairs of Braces.
£5s worth of Sweets.
£5's worth of Dates
£5's worth of Nuts.
£5's worth of Keating's Powder.
48 Electric Torches.
36 Spare Batteries for Same.
50 Razors.
96 Tins of Salmon.
48 Tins of Crayfish.
48 Tins of Whole Pineapples.
48 Tins of Pears.
24 Tins of Lobster.
34 Tins of Sardines.
24 Tins of Herrings.
24 Tins of Apricots.
24 Tins of Peaches.
12 Medicine Chests.
Packers of those tins of things, in a town shop, were so impressed that they themselves subscribed for ever such a nice quantity of tobacco, which they put into the cases.  We strike kindnesses at every turn.

[This astonishing quantity of goods was sent in response to a letter from Lieut.-Col. Atkinson in the previous week's Courier, reported here, listing what he wanted for the men of the First 4th Battalion of the West Riding Regiment.  There were about 1,000 men in the battalion, many from Halifax.  Although it is laudable that the Courier and people of Halifax should try to ensure that local men risking their lives in France should 'want for nothing', as the appeal had said, it's hard to see how supplies at this level could be kept up.]   

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

A Woman Tram Conductor

From the Birmingham Daily Mail, 12th May 1915.


Asked how she liked her first day's work as a tram-car conductor, a Glasgow woman said that car conducting was no more inconvenient for women than office work. The passengers, as a rule, were helpful and polite, and as for climbing stairs - it was simply a jolly exercise.

One little habit of this conductress is said to be enjoyed by the men passengers.  When she wants fares she does not shout "Fares, please!" but gives the passenger a nudge, and the desired fare is quickly produced.

It a thought that the nudge will "catch on" if done gently and in the absence of jealous women passengers.

[It's notable that this anecdote about a tram conductor in Glasgow was reported in Birmingham - women tram conductors were evidently such a novel idea that any story about them might be reported widely.]  

Sunday, 10 May 2015

War Work for Women

From The Times, Monday May 10, 1915.




Over 60,000 women have already registered for war service in the labour exchanges throughout the British Isles.  Of these 11,000 have asked for armament work, 9,000 for clerical, and 7,000 for agricultural employment.  About 2,000 have offered to work as shop assistants, 1,200 as tailors and dressmakers, including those prepared to work power machines, and 1,200 as ordinary needle workers.

The women offering to do armament work are, for the most part, women who have not undertaken work before; those offering themselves as shop assistants, on the other hand, have done other kinds of work, but feel that, as large numbers of young men are employed in the distributing trades, the greatest immediate need for women deputies might be expected from this quarter.

The various schemes of training in agriculture, which have been undertaken by the Board of Trade have been progressing very satisfactorily.  At the Harper Adams College. Newport, Shropshire, a second class of 30 students has just finished their course of instruction in farm operations.  These women have been drafted from Birmingham and Shrewsbury, and are of varying social status, most of them having received a good general education.  The work includes instruction in stock feeding and tending, dairying, poultry keeping, horticulture, and general farmwork.  The Board of Trade inspector, visiting the class before the conclusion of the course, reports that, without exception, the women appear to be enjoying the work and that they far exceeded expectations in energy, enthusiasm, and capacity. ...

Every effort will be made to use the women in their own counties, and in this way to diminish the housing problem.  The women's horticultural societies have cooperated very well, but the fullest advantages of the scheme can only be secured if the farmers will show no diffidence in testing the ability and good will of the women, all of whom are carefully chosen before being sent for training.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Halifax Comforts Appeal

From the Halifax Courier, 8th May 2015.



Every household Halifax through, every home between Brighouse and Hebden Bridge, and between Stainland and Queensbury, should contain hearts tingling with affection for its own soldiers.  In this war, for our very existence, if we do not look after our own, who will?  We ought to see to it that they want for nothing.  If we neglect them, and make them lose heart, whatever is going to happen?
Our own, the distressed at home, and the willing ones in the firing-line, should surely have our first thought, our greatest sacrifice.

Writing us from the Front on May 2, Lt.-Col. Atkinson said: ---
I received your welcome letter of the 28th inst., yesterday, and hasten to reply to it, and I hope you will convey to all your subscribers the very best thanks of all officers, N.C.Os., and men of the First 4th West Riding Regiment for their kindness in subscribing towards the comforts of the men.  Below I give you a few articles which would be much appreciated, but it is difficult to say what quantity is really required for 990 men: —
 Socks are always a good commodity; braces, a few for replacement; razors, a few for replacement; biscuits (small), 1,000 packets, made up in a larger tin, would be easy to distribute; tobacco, 1,000 packets; cigarettes. 5,000 packets; pipes, 500; handkerchiefs, 2,000; small tinned things; nuts, dates, sweets, are all acceptable; soap, carbolic, 2,000; matches, 5,000; pencils, 5,000; foreign note paper and envelopes; Keating’s powder.
 In addition to the above I make the following suggestions:—
Each Company might have a small box of medicine tabloids.  Burroughs and Welcome supply various sizes from 10s. upwards.  I suggest two 10s sizes, and four larger sizes.  We also require a dozen electric torches for the sentries at night.  These should be good ones, so as to last, but not too large.
As regards officers’ requirements, there are 80 of us, and we should appreciate things we cannot get very readily out here.  I am afraid you will have a lot of work in getting all these things together, but no doubt our appreciation will repay you.

[Lieut.-Col. Atkinson was with the First 4th West Riding Regiment, a Territorial battalion that had been in training since the beginning of the war, but had arrived in France in the middle of April. This was the first time that large numbers of Halifax men had been in France, and explains the urgency of the appeal.  The battalion had just been in action for the first time, and this issue of the Courier was full of letters from local men in the battalion describing their experiences under fire. By the following week, several were reported killed, and there were other casualties. 

Keating's Powder  was an insecticide - presumably needed in the trenches against lice.  Some of the other things on  Lieut.-Col. Atkinson's list hardly seem to count as 'comforts'  - why was he asking the Courier for torches for sentries, rather than getting them as official supplies?]

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Girls' Patriotic Clubs

From the North Wales Chronicle, 7th May 1915.



(To the Editor).
Sir,—May I, as I am deeply convinced of the need of this movement, ask your help in making known, through the columns of your valuable paper, the necessary work that is now in hand, for establishing Girls' Patriotic Clubs near Military Centres, of which we have some, and sadly require others.

The time that has elapsed since Lord Kitchener wrote his never-to-be-forgotten message to the troops, has but served to show the necessity for his warning.  It has brought to the women of England the realisation of their responsibility in helping the men to maintain the high ideal so necessary to the success of our arms.

The object of these clubs is to provide a place for social intercourse for girls and their men friends, which they lack owing to the absence of any accommodation large enough for a sudden military influx.  A canteen, where light refreshments can be obtained, is also essential.  Over twenty of these clubs have already been started, and are so much appreciated by the girls and men that requests from all parts are reaching the Central Committee for others without delay.  To enable them to do this an Alphabetical Scheme has been started, 26 ladies having consented to receive donations from a penny upwards, sent to 33, Park Lane, W.  For example, everyone whose name begins with E is to send to Lady French (Eleanor), with O to Lady Smith-Dorrien, and so on with each letter of the alphabet.  Already there is a keen competition between the alphabetic treasurers to secure the first place in their letter, and I am anxious that our county should do well.

Will all your readers help to make the effort a success in our county?  The London Press have loyally co-operated in giving prominence to the work with excellent results.  The following have joined me in this scheme, each of whom will be glad to receive the smallest subscription from anyone whose Christian name begins with the same letter as themselves.  Personally, I am confidently hoping on Denbighshire being first.

A. Adeline—Duchess of Bedford.
B. Countess of Portsmouth.
C. Duchess of Marlborough.
D. Countess of Malmesbury.
E Duchess of Sutherland & Lady French.
F. Frances—Lady de Lisle and Dudley.
G  Countess of Albemarle & Countess of Lanesborough.
H. Duchess of Hamilton.
I. The Lady Idina Hythe.
J.  The Lady Joan Verney & Lady Jellicoe.
K. Duchess of Leeds.
L. Duchess of Beaufort.
M. Countess of Selborne.
N. Mrs Astor.
O. Lady Smith Dorrien.
P. The Lady Phillida Shirley.
Q. The Lady John Kennedy.
R. Viscountess Ridley.
S. Countess Brassey.
T. Theodosia—Lady Boughey.
U. Miss Ursula Buckley.
V. Countess of Leitrim.
W. Winifred—Countess of .Arran.
X & Y. - Miss Yvone Fitzroy.
Z. Countess Zia de Torby. 

Coed Coch,
April 30th, 1915.

[I don't know what Kitchener's "never-to-be-forgotten message to the troops" was.  (If I ever knew, I have forgotten, obviously.)

Some of these women have appeared in earlier posts.  Lady French had appealed for mufflers in October 1914, on behalf of the War Office, and Lady Smith-Dorrien (Olive) appealed here for bags for the personal items of wounded men.  Countess Zia Torby had been  raising funds for her father's fund for gloves and mittens for the troops, during the winter.   Nancy Astor was an American socialite living in London - she later became the first woman to take a seat in the House of Commons.   
The idea of raising money from women with the same initial seems an odd one, though a similar idea had been reported  in January, here.  In the competition between the treasurers, some were obviously handicapped from the start.   Collecting from women with initial Q must have been a thankless task - even Lady John Kennedy who was assigned Q seems to have been called Adelaide Mary, and not a 'Q' name.    Whereas  Rosamond, Viscountess Ridley, Maud, Countess of Selborne and maybe Violet, Countess of Leitrim, would have had a better chance.  I think my money would have been on the As, though.  

But I really don't understand how there could be a a geographical dimension as well - how could Denbighshire come first in a competition between first names?]

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Entertaining the Wounded

From The Cleckheaton Advertiser and Spen Valley Times, 6th May 1915. 

THE CAMP ENTERTAINERS. -- The Camp Entertainers, a concert party formed recently by a number of young Wyke people, visited the Field House Military Hospital on Saturday afternoon, and provided a two hours’ entertainment of a most enjoyable character for the wounded soldiers who are now staying there.  The programme consisted of songs, recitations, and humorous items, and the efforts of each member of the party were very highly appreciated.  At the close of the concert, the Camp Entertainers took tea with the soldiers, and afterwards one of the wounded heroes expressed the very warmest thanks of the inmates of the hospital, not only for the delightful character of the afternoon’s pleasure, but also for the kind thought shown by the visitors, and for the gift of cigarettes they had taken.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Never Enough Socks

From the Portsmouth Evening News, 5th May 1915


Appeal to Continue Knitting.

Although the Government has placed huge orders with manufacturers for the supply of socks for our soldiers and sailors, the supply does not approach the demand, and an appeal is made to the women of the country to help to make up the deficiency.  Lady French declares there can never be enough socks.  Each man requires a pair of socks a week, and no machine-made socks are equal to those knitted by hand, either for wear or comfort.
The advent of warmer weather has apparently given rise to the impression that no further woollen garments are required for our soldiers and sailors.  This is quite erroneous, and in the early hours of the morning, lying asleep in the open air, or during the night watches on board a war ship such comforts are keenly appreciated.
There are many hospitals, camps, and charitable institutions where gifts of woollen garments will be received with grateful appreciation.

From the Yorkshire Evening Post, 3rd May 1915.


Since going to the front the 8th West Yorkshire Regiment (Leeds Rifles) have done so much marching that they have worn out their socks.  In a letter to his wife, Major Alexander, the acting commanding officer, appeals to the public of Leeds to provide the battalion with a thousand pairs at once. Parcels containing wool or socks should be addressed to Mrs. Alexander, 29a, Bond Street (Basement of the Philosophical Hall), Leeds, and letters containing remittances—which should be made payable to Capt Illingworth—may be sent to the same address.  Mrs Kitson Clark has still some wool in stock, and ladies who are prepared to knit it into socks are asked to apply also at the above address.

From the Halifax Courier, 8th May 1915

Many ladies have suspended their sock knitting in on the understanding that the Government supply was more than sufficient.  This is a mistake and the appeal is that women should make up the deficiency.  Lady French declares there can never be enough socks.

[There had been an official announcement from the War Office early in April that "there is now such a large stock of clothing, under-clothing, mufflers, &c., both overseas and at home, that no further supplies of warm clothing need be sent to the troops." Socks were then mentioned in the list of things that had been supplied by the War Office, with the implication that these were enough.  But Lady French was the wife of Sir John French, leader of the British Expeditionary Force in France, and had previously been asked by the War Office to collect a vast quantity of mufflers for the troops, so she must have based her appeal for more socks on sound evidence. The usual mixed messages and confusion.]  

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Girl Guides in War Time

From the Stirling Observer, May 1st, 1915. 


The Girl Guides, under the leadership of Miss Agnes Baden-Powell, are rendering national service at this juncture quite equal to that of the boys, but in different spheres of action.  They have rendered invaluable assistance to the British Red Gross Society in numerous directions but more especially in the cutting and rolling of bandages, in which every girl shows expert skill and speed.  In cycling, map-reading, and signalling they are as useful as the boys.  They also give voluntary help with invalid cookery for hospitals, and in the soup kitchens for the poor.  Many a tired mother is helped in the nursing of a sick child, and with her housework, mending, and darning.  Gardening also appears to come quite naturally to these girls, who have been trained to turn their hands to anything, and whose motto is "Be Prepared."  The chief need at present is for teachers, lieutenants, and captains, and girls from eighteen to twenty-one are required to fill these positions.

[Some of the work being done by the Boy Scouts was described here. ]

Saturday, 2 May 2015

What Women Can Do

From the Halifax Courier, May 1st, 1915. 



“Women’s part in the war” was the subject of an interesting address given by Lady Fisher-Smith on Thursday, at the Imperial CafĂ©, under the auspices of the Halifax Women’s Liberal Association.  There was a large attendance.

Mrs. J. H. Whitley, who presided, remarked that they were not at liberty, any single one of them, to just now stand aloof.  Non-combatants as well as soldiers, women and girls as well as men, had each one to take their part.

Lady Fisher-Smith, who handled her subject most ably, said that women must help at this great crisis.  They must help every man to serve his country in the fighting forces, wherever it was possible, and they must do their utmost to relieve men for the work of providing munitions of war.  In many spheres of agricultural work, and in dairy work, women could, after a little training, carry out the work equally as well as men.  Courses of instruction could be obtained at Garforth, near Leeds, under the auspices of Leeds University, and other centres.  She had it, however, from a woman who understood farming that the best training was to obtain experience on an actual farm.  Owing to the many farm labourers who had enlisted, farmers were going to experience very great difficulties in getting their work done, and there would be great opportunities for women to take up farm positions.
Another avenue for women's energies was poultry farming.  That would prove an agreeable occupation, and it could be made a profitable one, the demand for fowls and eggs was so great.

Women, again, could act as tram conductors.  They would, she was sure, do better than inexperienced boys, for they had discretion as well as the ability to perform the work.  For young women who had been governesses, or in similar occupations, the railway services afforded similar openings where they could relieve men for other pressing work.  In the civil service, in the museums and libraries, and as shop assistants, they could be utilised to advantage.  With regard to shop assistants, she felt strongly that, unless a man was somehow related to the proprietor, every male assistant ought to be released for war service and his place taken by a lady, because a woman could sell goods equally as well as a man.

What was wanted was, not to enlist in service women already in employment, but to get hold of entirely new women to release men, either to join the colours, or to assist in the manufacture of munitions of war.  They claimed the equal wage with men as a right, and associated with the demand was the consideration that, if the same wages were paid, there would be no temptation on the part of the employer to retain the women for cheapness afterwards, instead of reinstating the men.

Mrs. Whitley observed that; whilst Lady Fisher-Smith was making suggestions of spheres in which women could help, she noticed that many smiled.  Certainly it would be amusing to see Lady Fisher-Smith hoeing turnips, and Mrs Ccr. Seed milking a cow.  If, however, they took the matter seriously, they would remember that, in the Allied countries, there was scarcely a man of the military age, except such as were incapacitated, who was not fighting for his country, or making munitions.

Sir Geo. Fisher-Smith, called upon for a few remarks, suggested women barbers as another calling.  A woman, he was sure, could cut his hair as well a man.  This movement to bring in women in these various occupations was not with the idea of doing men out of employment, but simply as an emergency.  His opinion was, and always had been, that the first duty of a woman was to look after some man, make him comfortable, and run his home in a proper way.  None of them wanted to take women away from their proper duty in life.  In a grave emergency, however, they could do good service in relieving men, and allowing them to be put to harder work, or to join the King’s army.

On the proposition of Lady Fisher-Smith, seconded by Mrs Whitley, a resolution was adopted expressing high appreciation of the King's and Lord Kitchener's examples in excluding intoxicants from their households, and commending it to all members of the Association.

[I think that people were beginning to realise by this time that the war was going to have a much greater effect on the country as a whole than the wars of the previous century.  But many of the women who were not "already in employment" and would be willing to do manual work were those who had lost their jobs as a result of the war - they were willing to take a job on offer, I'm sure, but the difficulty was often persuading employers to take them on. 

Lady Fisher-Smith was evidently a competent and thoughtful woman.  I hope that Sir George was joking in suggesting that her first duty was to look after him, make him comfortable and run his home, but I fear not.]    

Friday, 1 May 2015

Fashions for May

From The Illustrated London News, May 1st, 1915.


The new modes are now settled, and it becomes plain that, as usual, evolution and not revolution is the order of the day.  Talk about skirts to measure six or eight yards wide at the hem proves to have been absurd; but the wider shirt has come to stay.  For the present, only a moderate “flare” is to be adopted, and the fulness is mainly around the lower part of the skirt.  Transparent and almost weightless fabrics are in the highest favour.  Ninon, voile, chiffon — and, above all, silk crepe-de-Chine — are used for afternoon and evening gowns, and full accordion pleatings and gathered flouncings in such dainty fabrics fall lightly and artistically into their own folds.  Two and a half to three and a half yards for the foundation skirt over-hung by these dainty transparent fabrics is the utmost measure of circumference allowed in the best houses; while the fragile fabric itself, if pulled out of its folds for measurement, will naturally be considerably wider. .....

The Mode of the Moment - A Charming Hat in Black and Grey
[Although in both cases, the new full skirt is the main subject, the gowns described here are in  different league from the plain, simple dress shown in the cover of the Woman's Own of the same date.  The construction is more complicated, and the fabrics used are finer, more expensive and much less practical. These gowns could only be worn by someone whose only role was to look decorative.]    

May Fashions in Woman's Own

From Woman's Own, May 1st 1915.

[The new fashion for full skirts, and shorter than the narrow skirts previously worn, had evidently percolated through to the penny weeklies.  (Just what you should wear for winding a skein of yarn, to knit socks for soldiers.)  This example is evidently aiming for a Puritan look.]