Tonight marks four years since my first post on this blog. It has come a long way since those early days and some of the first posts seem rather amateurish now. I have thoroughly enjoyed writing the blog; I have met many fellow enthusiasts and collectors and the generosity of the collecting community in terms of research, time and indeed physical objects on occasion has been wonderful. I hope that I haven’t bored you too much over the years and that you have learnt something- I have certainly learnt a lot researching and writing these posts! I intend to keep writing for many more years to come and I keep picking up new and odd bits of kit…
A few weeks ago I picked up a photograph album and paperwork from a Major Stevenson in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps who was in India during the Second World War, based at Simla. Simla was the summer capital of India from 1863 onwards and during the hot weather the government and military of India operated from this mountain town. With a massive ex-pat community there was a bustling selection of leisure activities including sport and an amateur dramatics group. Major Stevenson was heavily involved in amateur dramatics during his time in India and tonight we have a few invitations he kept over the years.
In Anglo-Indian society invitation cards and calling cards were essential, woe betide the man who ignored them as he would find himself ostracised from the rest of his peers. Indeed it was often said that the cultural mores of British India were fifty years behind those of the UK, with the Anglo-Indians wishing to emphasise their ‘Britishness’ more than was ever felt necessary at home. For those interested in the social history of India I heartily recommend Charles Allen’s book ‘Plain Tales from the Raj’.
The first of these cards is inviting the then Captain Stevenson to a variety show to be held at the Kali Bari Hall in Simla on 16th December 1943 which had been organised by the GHQ (General Headquarters) Recreation Hall:The hall is still in Simla and is part of a Hindu temple complex in the town. It seems to have been used for a variety of different social events, this card was for another variety show, this time raising funds for famine victims:This would have been for the Bengal Famine which struck India in 1943 and killed 2.1 million people following a combination of pressures from the war and poor weather conditions. The government struggled to cope and it seems shows like this one were organised to help provide funds for charity workers to provide emergency food.
The final card in this little selection dates to 1946, just after the war and is an invite to Major Stevenson and his wife to a cast supper at the grand hotel organised by the Simla Amateur Dramatics Club:Major Stevenson seems to have been actively involved in amateur dramatics his whole life; he settled in Morley in West Yorkshire after the War and was a member of their local drama group for many years.