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.]