Wednesday, 30 March 2016


From The Times, 29th March 1916.


Sir,-I began this letter to beg space to say that now the warm weather is upon us the season for sweaters had better come to an end--but was obliged to stop to clear my chimney of snow.  Still, these returns to winter cannot be more than transient, and so far (and so far only) as this small venture is concerned, kind knitters will be well advised to store their comforts till the autumn.  I ventured on this date last year to suggest that the knitting habit should not allowed to lie down.  I can foretell nor war nor weather, but again make the easy prophecy that anyone with a good store of sweaters in the autumn of this year will find a use for them.  It may be said that the trifling 18,000 your readers have sent me (17,787 - 13,191 other comforts, to be precise) won't go far in an Army counted by millions in three continents and a Navy omnipresent as the sea itself.  But they have, I am told, stopped a few gaps, through which the wind has whistled shrilly, in equipment probably without parallel.  Financially, the undertaking, owing to the kind help given; has been no burden whatever.

 A little venture of this sort is never long without its humours.  May I protest, with all the emphasis I can, that it is the field-glasses which go back to Lady Roberts at the end of the war and not the sweaters to me?  Also, will the lady in the train who charged me, not without asperity, "to send those things (the sweaters I was carrying home) to Mr. Pergamoid who writes for them to the papers" believe that they did get to the right place?  Sic exeunt iterum sweaters.   I carry off, for my guerdon the pleasantest recollection of the gibes, criticism, and kindness of countless unknown civilian friends, and, yet more highly prized, a bale of annotated receipts from all ranks of the Army.

Yours faithfully,
8, Kings Bench-walk, Inner Temple, E.C., Mar. 28.

[The latest appeal from John Penoyre for sweaters.  The previous one appeared in January.   He was also involved in an appeal for field-glasses, headed by Lady Roberts.  Field glasses (i.e. binoculars) for officers were in short supply, and officers had to provided their own.  The appeal asked the families of killed or wounded officers to lend their relative's field-glasses to the appeal for the duration of the war. 

As usual with John Penoyre's letters, some of the language is  obscure.  Google Translate turns the Latin into "So the sweaters go". "Guerdon" means "reward".]

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Parcels to the Front and Prisoners of War

From the Falkirk Herald, 25th March 1916.


It is gratifying to know that the scheme for the dispatch of parcels to our soldiers, under the supervision of the Falkirk and District Choral Union, has been largely taken advantage of this week.  The number of parcels handled was 166 (double the number of last week), and the combined weight was over half a ton.  These were despatched in 48 sacks to the various units.  The saving in postages to the senders amounts to £8 10s, and this alone ought to encourage those sending to their friends to take full advantage of the scheme.  Work parties are specially invited to send their parcels.


The committee of the East Stirlingshire Prisoners of War Fund are in the habit of sending supplies of socks to the prisoners of war in Germany belonging to East Stirlingshire.  Many people have given their services voluntarily in knitting these socks with supplies of wool furnished by the committee, and as a further quantity of socks will be required immediately, the hon. secretary, Mr Wm. J. Gibson, 96 West Bridge Street, Falkirk, will be glad to have the names and addresses of those who will be willing to help in this way. 

[Two examples of the activities going on around the country to support their local men.  I like all the statistics in the first one - they did like to quote precise figures for everything.  Many of the parcels would have been sent by friends and family to individual men, but the encouragement for work parties to send out their parcels by the same route suggests that Sir Edward Ward was not making much headway in Falkirk.  His plan was that comforts should be sent to a central depot and then distributed as needed, so that sending out parcels directly to units at the Front should not have been necessary.]    

Monday, 28 March 2016

A Work Party for Hospital Dressings

From the Aberdeen Express, 24th March 1916.



Towards the end of last year Miss Nicol, Roscobie, resolved to start a work party for making hospital dressings in affiliation with the Aberdeen depot for such work.  The idea was taken up with enthusiasm by a number of ladies and the money to provide the materials came in freely.

This work party has received a certificate of recognition, granted by the War Office, as from the 23rd February.  The workers have met twice a week at Roscobie, and the result up to the beginning of March is that 6690 articles, including splints, bandages, swabs, pneumonia jackets, and pillows have been sent to the Aberdeen depot.  Special consignments were sent to Dr Eden Brand, Banchory, who is with the 1st Highland Field Ambulance in France.

[I think that the 'certificate of recognition' from the War Office is part of Sir Edward Ward's scheme to co-ordinate the efforts of work parties.  There is no mention of the Red Cross, so presumably the 'Aberdeen depot' was supplying military hospitals and medical units run by the War Office.] 

Sunday, 27 March 2016

The Need for Socks

From the Chelmsford Chronicle, 24th March 1916.


The Hon. Mrs. Alwyne Greville, writing from the Essex County Red Cross and Essex Regt. Comfort Fund DepĂ´t, 84 High Street, Chelmsford, says that last month over 1,300 pairs of socks were sent out to the Front, and now she is requiring urgently 2,000 pairs for the 10th Batt., the 1/5th Essex, and the Divisional Ammunition Column.  Any socks sent to the above address will be most gratefully accepted.

From the Burnley News, 25th March 1916.


Several letters from members of the Accrington and Burnley Howitzer Brigade have been received this week, stating that as they wrote one of their batteries was going into action.  One of the writers states that the "Howitzer" men are badly in need of socks, and that there is scarcely a good pair of socks left in the whole brigade.  It is surely only necessary to mention this need, to secure that they receive all they want.  It is one of the glories of the war that our women folk of all ages have never wearied in making comforts for the boys fighting our battles.  

[These appeals for socks - and an earlier appeal published a few days previously in the Western Times - suggest that the need for socks was genuine, and not being catered for by the War Office.  Sir Edward Ward, who had been in charge of co-ordinating the supply of 'comforts' since October, doesn't seem to have caught up yet with it.]  

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Make work on the Land Fashionable

From the Brecon & Radnor Express, 23rd March 1916.


We notice that the War Agricultural Committees of Breconshire and Radnorshire have had under consideration the question of meeting the shortage of labour on the farms.  Particularly has the question of the employment of women claimed attention, and a scheme, mentioned in our columns some weeks ago, has been adopted.  We hope the movement will be thoroughly encouraged and whole-heartedly supported, for, this and co-operation, appears to us to be the most practicable means so far devised of meeting what is, undoubtedly, a very serious difficulty.

We note in the minds of some members of the committees a dubiety as to the success of the scheme.  This is only to be expected since the conditions of farming in Wales are very different to England.  Labour-saving machinery cannot be used to anything like the extent it is on the lighter soils of the wider plains across the border, whilst the size of the farm staffs—which in Wales are comparatively small—affords greater scope for the employment of women.  As we have previously said, the ordinary Welsh farmer in normal times engages only a small staff—in many cases a man or two, who in almost every instance will be found “skilled” men, and without which no farm of any pretension can very well be carried on.  The call of the Army is hitting farmers generally pretty hard, so far as labour goes, and they would do well to give every support to the scheme now adopted.

This is to enlist as many women as possible to help with farm work.  A Women's Committee, co-operating with the War Agricultural Committee, is appointed, and a canvass will be made in all the villages.  Meetings, to explain the scheme, will be held and addressed by women organisers who are specially versed in farm work.  Whatever prejudices farmers may, or may not have had against women labour must go by the board.  That the farms should be maintained and produce increased is the nation's interest and this after all, let it be remembered, is the first and last consideration at the present time.  Furthermore, a fair wage must be paid, for perhaps it was a shortcoming in this respect that helped to “send out the fashion.”

Farmers move slowly.  Lord Selborne told a deputation last week that they were warned last August that this “pinch” was coming, but they did absolutely nothing to meet it.  They made no efforts, he said, to train women.  They sat still.  According to Mr Bache they are evidently moving in Cardiganshire, for he tells us that he saw scores of women doing the work usually done by men on the farms in that county.  We have no doubt a lot of such work is now being done by farmers' wives and daughters in Breconshire and Radnorshire, but we agree with Mr W. S. Miller that more might be done by women.  Mr Miller thinks that it is largely a matter of “a false sentiment having got into people's heads that there is something degrading in field work.”  Mr Miller is not usually given to unconsidered views, and we may be sure that he has good ground for making the statement.  To what is the “false sentiment” due?  Here is a new subject for controversy in our correspondence column.  This is not the time nor the hour for false sentiment.  We feel sure it is only necessary to remind our women that their help on the land is needed to carry us through to victory to find a response equal to that already found in other branches of our country's business in which women are doing useful and efficient service.  Let work on the land be made the fashion by all means.

[This was a commentary article in the paper.  The overall tone seems to suggest that the problem is that women don't want to work on the land, so it needs to be made 'fashionable'.  The article also mentions some other relevant factors — that women land-workers were not paid a fair wage, that farmers were prejudiced against women workers, that the farmers had done nothing to train women — but the only action proposed is aimed at the women, and not the farmers.]     

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Women And House-Planning

From the Brecon & Radnor Express, 23rd March 1916.


Sir,—The South Wales Garden Cities and Town-Planning Association is conducting an inquiry into the planning and internal arrangement of dwellings from the women's point of view.  It is proposed, by personal inquiry amongst women all over the South Wales coalfield, to ascertain what are regarded by women as the principal faults of house-planning, and, also, to receive suggestions as to constructional materials and arrangements, the use of which would tend to reduce household labour.  In addition, various subjects relating to the improvement of home-life will be investigated—for example, co-operative house-keeping, hostels for single men, etc.  The results of the inquiry will be embodied in a report and published.

An Advisory Committee of women is being formed to assist in the inquiry, and a meeting of this committee will be held at the City Hall, Cardiff, on Saturday, April 1st.  I shall be glad to receive the names and addresses of women's organisations, or of individual women who will co-operate with the association in this inquiry, and to send them invitations to attend the meeting.

Yours, etc., EDGAR L. CHAPPELL
(Secretary, South Wales Garden Cities and Town-Planning Association).
18, Queen Street. Cardiff.
March 10th, 1916.

[It seems very enlightened for the time to think of asking women what they needed in the design of houses. Edgar Chappell was evidently a significant figure in South Wales - see here for an outline of his career.]

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Socks needed

From the Western Times, 18th March 1916.


More Supplies Wanted for the Devon Battalions


Will working parties and private helpers kindly note that the supply of socks at the Mayoress of Exeter's Depot has entirely run out?  Many bales of socks have lately been sent to the fighting fronts for Devonians, especially to the Devon Regiment Battalions, and letters of thanks from officers, which from time to time have been quoted in these columns have shown how much these woollens have been appreciated.  Socks, in fact, are welcomed at the Front more than all other articles of clothing.  Any man back from the trenches will tell one that.  It is essential therefore that the Depot's stock should replenished as soon as possible.

Here is a letter received yesterday from the respected and popular Exonian, Capt. G. D. Roberts, of the 8th Devons:
On our return from the trenches on --, I received your parcel containing the boxing gloves, four footballs and slippers.  They will all be most acceptable.  The boxing gloves have already been used, and I hope the footballs will be soon, when we get a little further back; at present we are too close to the guns to be able to indulge in such luxuries as a game of football.  I am putting the slippers on one side, and will issue them as required to men with sore or frost-bitten feet, to whom they will prove a God-send.  Thank you again very much indeed.  All the men of "D" Company join me in this expression of thanks.
[A surprising mixture of comforts.  I imagine that Captain Roberts had asked for the boxing gloves, footballs and slippers - it would have been very odd to send such a collection of things unsolicited.] 

Sunday, 20 March 2016

The War Economy: One Meat Meal a Day

From the Surrey Mirror, 17th March 1916.



Many housewives in their patriotic efforts to put into practice the recommendation of the War Savings Committee and indulge in only one meat meal per day, are finding themselves confronted by a serious difficulty.  It appears that the average servant cannot, or will not, make vegetable dishes interesting and palatable, either because she does not consider them a "really respectable meal," and has a personal liking for meat two or even three times a day, or because the "plain cook" likes plain dishes, which, as she understands them, mean dishes that require practically no trouble and little skill in the preparation, for example, a chop or a steak, but not a vegetarian entree or stew.  Breadcrumbs, once a year, at Christmas, she will make if the whole house stands still for the exciting adventure; but economical dishes requiring the daily making of breadcrumbs are anathema.  The plain joint and the plain boiled potato generally meet all her ideas and ideals, so far, at least, as the main course goes.

It will not do, however.  British prejudice in the matter of food is bound to be broken on the wheel of circumstance; there must come a radical change in our national diet, and in the transition stage the willing co-operation of our servants is essential.  Otherwise the home where the food revolution is likely to be effected with least trouble will be the maidless one.  The cook who is worth her salt, however, will soon discover that, although meatless dishes certainly require long and careful cooking, and with an old-fashioned and unreliable coal range are troublesome to prepare, with a dependable, easily-regulated, dirt and labour-saving gas cooker, especially if this invaluable kitchen adjunct be supplemented by a "hay-box," which economises in trouble and fuel, such difficulties quite disappear.

All sorts of pleasing meatless dishes can be prepared at very little cost by the enterprising cook.  Let me give a few examples here:—

Maccaroni and Apples.—Boil 4 ozs. thin maccaroni in boiling milk with 2 ozs. sugar, the grated rind of a lemon and a teaspoonful of powdered cinnamon.  Drain and put round a dish.  Have ready six stewed apples, cut into halves and quarters, heap in centre of dish and pour custard over.  
A nourishing soup, made from bones and scraps and eaten with plenty of "whole-meal" bread, combines with this dish to make a very good "meatless meal," as distinct from a strictly vegetarian diet.  Be it always remembered that the Government is preaching not vegetarianism, but economy in the use of meat, a fundamental fact housewives seem not yet fully to appreciate. Maccaroni, which forms the basis of a number of savoury dishes, to be a success must be thrown into boiling water, and directly it comes to the boil again moved on to the simmering burner, where it will take 25-35 minutes to cook.  If it is hot, but "off the boil," it will not spoil if left in the hay-box for an hour or more.

Colcannon is a useful dish for "using-up" purposes.  Take equal quantities of cold boiled potatoes and cold boiled cabbage.  Mash the potatoes, chop the cabbage, and mix both together; then place them in a frying-pan with some dripping.  Season and stir over the gas until the vegetables are hot and slightly browned.  Put the mixture into a greased pie-dish and bake for about half-an-hour.  Bits of bacon finely chopped or any other left-over meat add flavour to the dish.

Leftover potatoes are an ingredient of another useful dish, Lentil Sausages.  Boil 1lb. Egyptian lentils for about half-an-hour just covered with water, mash them when soft, add the mashed potatoes, and some chopped fried onions, and mix well.  Form into sausages, dip into white of egg or milk and fry.

Slices of stale bread and butter can be used to make the following Bread and Cheese Savoury.  Lay slices of buttered bread in a pie-dish with grated or sliced cheese (about 6ozs.) in between.  Beat up an egg in half-a-pint of milk, pour over the bread, and bake about an hour in a gas oven.

Sameness in a meatless diet must be avoided or disaster will follow; but it is wonderful what changes can be rung by flavouring vegetable food with any remains of meat, fish, or gravy that happens to be handy.  John Bull cannot be expected to become a pure vegetarian, nor is it desirable that he should.

The need for keeping bones and scraps for making stock is a truism among housewives; but it must be pointed out that soup is no longer to be looked upon as a kind of appetiser, but rather as an important item in the dietary.  It becomes a really nourishing food by the addition of thickenings, such as flour, oatmeal, rice, barley, potatoes, and bread, to meat and vegetable boilings from beans and peas, etc.  Forced meat balls or grated cheese enhance the flavour of soup; while where there are hungry children “baby dumplings" are a satisfying adjunct.  Soup of this nourishing nature is very useful, as we have seen, for the meat-less meal.

When this meatless meal should be taken is still a matter of debate.  A light lunch is perhaps the ideal; but for children the principal meal must be the mid-day one, and so to avoid two sets of heavy cooking the evening meal should be light.  Dishes of the kind suggested can be prepared when the bulk of the cooking is being done and re-heated later; while the hay-box comes in very well here.  If, then, the rule is that the meatless meal comes at night for the children's sake, the man of the family may have to go to a restaurant for a substantial mid-day dinner; but this will be cheaper than cooking two big meals at home--cheaper in fuel, food materials, time and energy.

[It surprised me to realise that for middle-class households, war-time economy in food at this point just meant having one meal a day without meat.  Breakfast was presumably the 'full English' breakfast, with bacon, egg, sausages, and so on (which now hardly exists outside hotels, restaurants and similar businesses).  And many people apparently had meat at two further meals in the day as well. 
The first paragraph shows that "servant problems" evidently cropped up in all sorts of ways - here, the cook not seeing eye-to-eye with her employer over reducing the consumption of meat.   Perhaps having servants to do all the hard work in a house wasn't as easy as it sounds.]

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Gifts to the Penoyre Red Cross Hospital

From the Brecon & Radnor Express, 23rd March 1916.


Sir,—We wish to thank very gratefully the following kind friends for gifts sent to the Hospital:-- Sheets, pillows and bolster cases, and towels, from Cefn Ladies' Working Party, sent by Miss Violet Jones, Cilsanws; scarves sent by the Misses Jones; eggs and apples from Mrs Jones, Tyfry, Llanfrynach; eggs from Mrs Cole-Hamilton, Llangattock Rectory; vegetables, Mrs Garnons Williams; eggs and vegetables, Cantref Parish, Mrs Saunders Jones; eggs, Mrs D. Williams; eggs, Mrs Davies, Groes; bread, eggs, jam, books, Miss Vaughan; potatoes, Mr D. Phillips; chicken, Mrs Vaughan; two chickens, Mrs T. Jones, Llwyncelyn; eggs and jam, Mrs Price Jones; milk and apples, Miss Griffith, Battle End; milk and eggs, Miss Morgan, Ynismoch; eggs, Miss Davies, Cwmwysg, collected in Sennybridge and Aberyskir district; eggs, Corporal Evanson; apples, 1½ lbs. butter, eggs, collected in the market by Miss Best.

Chickens are the greatest help for the sick and we are extra grateful to our friends who send them.

Mrs Graham Clarke very kindly came up and sang for us on Friday, and the patients and staff think it was very kind of her and Lady Pelly to come up on such an arctic day.

Yours, &c.,
March 13th.

[I partly included this letter because I had wondered what had happened to Miss deWinton, last heard of in February 1915, asking for socks to be knitted for the Brecon War Clothing Depot.  Being in charge of a hospital looks like a step up.  It seems that the hospital was having  to rely on charity to supply all the food for the patients, as well as medical supplies, perhaps, although it was presumably treating sick or wounded soldiers, and so I would have expected that it would get support from the War Office.] 

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Don't Forget Pears' Soap

From the Halifax Courier, 11th March 1916.

Text: Tommy's Postscript

The Censor always allows the postscript which so many letters from the Front now contain:--

 P.S. Don't forget more Pears' Soap in your next parcel.

Pears' Soap thoroughly cleanses and refreshes the skin and gives a feeling of exhilaration.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Extravagance in Dress

From the Halifax Courier, 11th March 1916.



The National Organising Committee for War Savings has already drawn attention to the use of motor cars for pleasure and to wasteful domestic establishments.  It now wishes to appeal against extravagance in women's dress.  Many women have already recognised that elaboration and variety in dress is bad form in the present crisis, but there is still a large section of the community, both amongst the rich and amongst the less well-to-do, who appear to make little or no difference in their habits.  New clothes should only be bought when absolutely necessary, and these should be durable and suitable for all occasions.  Luxurious forms of, for example, hats, boots, shoes, stockings, gloves, and veils should be avoided.  It is essential not only that money should be saved, but that labour employed in the clothing trades should be set free.  Moreover, expenditure on dress deferred till peace has been secured will serve a useful purpose during the time of trade dislocation which must follow.

[I don't know how successful these exhortations to avoid spending were.  In the Second World War, clothes were rationed, and styles were controlled to avoid waste of fabric - that suggests that just relying on patriotic feeling to avoid extravagance hadn't been entirely successful.]    

Friday, 11 March 2016

Women Working in Machine Shops

From the Halifax Courier, 11th March 1916.

Women in Machine Shops.

In a large number of factories, all the operations in the manufacture of the 18-pounder high explosive shell are being performed by women, each lathe controlled by one woman is so provided with stops and automatic cut-offs for diameter and length that the operation becomes almost automatic and one almost impossible to go wrong.  Hundreds (says Cassier's Magazine) are working in general engineering shops where centre-lathes are employed, with very little repetition, and, in addition, women are being employed on planing, shaping, grinding, milling, drilling, keyway cutting and on capstan lathes and a host of other machine operations.  In aircraft construction women are brazing and welding and covering aircraft wings, etc.

[I don't know whether the Halifax Courier in 1916 expected its readers to be familiar with engineering terms (a lot more familiar than I am - I had never met the word 'keyway' before).  Halifax was manufacturing town, but I think it was mainly such things as carpets and toffee rather than heavy engineering.  Or perhaps this was just intended to convey an impression of women doing complicated stuff.] 

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Women’s War Work in Huddersfield

From the Huddersfield Daily Examiner, 10th March 1916.



We are requested by the Mayoress of Huddersfield to give publicity to the details of the work done by the Ladies’ Committee for Soldiers and Sailors.  In the first monthly report since the reconstruction of the work the committee express indebtedness to the Mayor and Corporation for so kindly placing the furnished premises, 23, Ramsden Street, at their disposal.  With the exception of such minor expenses as stationery, postage, cleaning, and carriage on goods all the money subscribed goes directly to providing “necessary comforts” for soldiers and sailors.  During the past eighteen months 145,297 articles have been sent away in 626 consignments and 248 parcels to individuals.  It was a gratifying fact that only two consignments had been lost--one through theft and another through the carelessness of depot authorities in France.  Through the generosity of manufacturers in gifts of cloth they had been able to make 1,564 dressing gowns and 3,614 blankets, worth altogether £3,371.  Dressing gowns were now a special feature of the work, and none of the other goods sent out had brought forth quite so much unqualified praise as these had done.  Living amidst the cloth mills they looked upon this branch of the work as their special mission, and they would welcome any further gifts of cloth.  During the three months they had been affiliated with the Central Organisation in London 7,732 articles had been requisitioned from the Huddersfield depot.  Speaking of the difficulty experienced in delivering parcels, the committee cannot sufficiently thank Miss Sykes for having done this work.  As Miss Sykes could not continue it the Boy Scouts had willingly come to their assistance.  A recent emergency call from Clipstone Camp for “bomb bags” was answered by the despatch of 3,378 bags within five days.


In conclusion the Mayoress, in a communication to the people of Huddersfield, says: — “I feel it is only due to you who give so freely and work so hard for our fund that you should be informed from time to time of the progress of our work, and I cannot do better than quote extracts from the hon. secretary's last report given at the meeting in the Mayor's Reception Room on March 2nd.  (Then are given the details summarised above.)  These details will suffice to show you that after eighteen months our work still goes on with unabated enthusiasm, and I once more make an urgent appeal, not only for funds to carry out the work, but for personal service.  In conclusion may I emphasise the great demand for socks.  The need is now.  Every woman in our midst can knit, and we cannot in justice to ourselves and to the men at the front, whether they are our men or those of our brave Allies, turn a deaf ear or even a dilatory ear to their appeals.”

["Necessary comforts" is an odd phrase, though I have often thought that the things provided to men at the front as comforts sound more like necessities, and perhaps the Mayoress thought that too. 
People giving this kind of report on work done during the war did love to give precise counts of everything. 145,297 articles is an impressive total, though I doubt if that figure is accurate to the last bandage.  
I have no idea what bomb bags were - Clipstone Camp was a very large Army training camp near Mansfield.
A lot of similar reports and appeals from 'comforts' groups about this time were stressing the need for socks - although as far as I know, Sir Edward Ward was not asking for them officially.]