Category Archives: Documents

1941 Diary-Calendar

Tonight’s object is a small diary-calendar from 1941. This little book is just 1”x 1.5” in size and features a photograph and quote from Antony Eden on the front about Dunkirk:imageThe back cover reveals that it was sold to raise money for a charity, the St John’s Guild for the Blind:imageThis charity had been formed in 1919 to help blind people in a Christian context and like most charities would have found itself being called upon to help more and more during wartime. Charities always struggled for cash, however in wartime with resources tighter and demands higher, this problem would have become more acute. Various fund raising schemes were popular in the 1940s including selling small tokens such as badges, flags or in this case a little diary. The cover is filled with a suitably stirring quote for the period and the flags of the services and the price of 2d made it easy for people of all walks of life to afford to purchase one.

The front page of the book indicates its purpose as a Diary Calendar for 1941:imageEach month has a double page spread, with a line for each day:imageThe centre of the book has excerpts from speeches from the King, Prime Minister:imageAnd other politicians of the day such as Hore-Belisha:imageThe back page includes a handy reminder of the holidays and saints’ days for the year ahead:imageThe small size of the book would have allowed it to be easily slipped into a wallet or purse, and with a small pencil stub gave the owner access to somewhere to jot down appointments whilst out and about without taking up much room. These little items of ephemera are not worth much today, but are actually quite scarce as most would have been thrown away after the year was up. This little book is a nice survivor and has been in my collection for many years now, I cannot recall where I got it or how much I paid but I suspect it won’t have cost me more than 50p.


Empire Day Certificate

Tonight we have a rather magnificent Empire Day Certificate from 1940:SKM_C284e18013015240 - Copy (4)Empire day was 25th May, Queen Victoria’s birthday, and was celebrated across the Empire as a way of bringing the different countries together and to remind children that they formed part of the British Empire, and that they might think with others in lands across the sea, what it meant to be sons and daughters of such a glorious Empire.”, and that “The strength of the Empire depended upon them, and they must never forget it.”

This theme is reflected in the certificate with small shields to represent each of the major commonwealths and dominions: SKM_C284e18013015240 - Copy (2)

SKM_C284e18013015240 - CopyNote that each shield depicts the flag of the era and is surmounted by an animal associated with that country.

The certificate was given to children who helped provide comforts to servicemen during the Second World War by the Overseas League: SKM_C284e18013015240 - Copy (3)Similar certificates had been produced in the Great War. Empire Day took on special significance in wartime and the King addressed his people across the globe:

It is not mere territorial conquest the enemy is seeking. It is the overthrow, complete and final, of the Empire and of everything for which it stands, and after that the conquest of the world

Empire Day was very much focussed around the young and was celebrated in schools as far away as Canada and New Zealand. George McFarlane recalls in his book ‘Behind the Rehetoric’:

Another highlight of the school year was Empire Day, 24th May, improbable as it may seem today. The tradition was for a couple of students to speak on a patriotic topic as a lead up to addresses by the Headmaster and the President of the Parents and Citizens Association. Empire Day 1939 is fixed in my mind as is my short speech, “Patriotic Literature of the British Empire”. Not only did I benefit from the experience of speaking from the stage but also from the discipline of doing some library research about such works as Spencer’s “The Fairie Queen”.

Another child of the war remembers:

On the last day at school before Empire day we had a parade, children dressed in the national costumes of the empire, well as close to them as it could be got, and proudly marched around the school hall in front of our parents, lots of flag waving and the national anthem sung with great gusto. 1440408759768Empire Day was renamed Commonwealth Day in the 1950s and the date has moved around a few times over the last seventy years. In 2018 Commonwealth Day is 12th March, sadly it is largely forgotten by most and it seems unlikely that many schools will celebrate it with the gusto of their forebears.

There’ll Always be an England Sheet Music

It has been a while since we looked at a piece of sheet music on the blog, and tonight we have one of the biggest hits of the Second World War, ‘There’ll Always be an England’:SKM_C284e18012211440This song was written in April 1939 by lyricist Ross Parker. Apparently his publisher rang him up and said that as the song ‘God bless America’ was doing very well in the states, perhaps he could write something similar for the UK? Parker sat down with his composing partner Hughie Charles and came up with ‘There’ll always be an England’. The song went down well and was chosen to be used as the finale of a film called ‘Discoveries’, a film based on a BBC talent-spotting show. The film needed a big patriotic finale and ‘There’ll always be an England’ was chosen as the piece of music to end the film with, sung by a ten-year old boy Glyn Davies with chorus, military band and hundreds of uniformed extras- as seen on the cover of the sheet music.

The film was released as war broke out and although the movie itself has largely been forgotten, the song was to become a hugely popular anthem of the war years. 200,000 copies of the sheet music were sold in the first two months of them war alone.

Its lasting popularity though was to come through one young female singer, Vera Lynn, who made it one of her two signature tunes and it is her version that will be forever associated with the Second World War. Ironically modern sensibilities have seen this track removed from a modern album of her greatest songs as it is no longer deemed politically correct to express pride in England as an entity!

The inside of the sheet music has the tune and words printed on it:SKM_C284e18012211450

SKM_C284e18012211451The words of the song read:

I give you a toast Ladies and gentlemen

I give you a toast Ladies and gentlemen

May this fair land we love so well

In Dignity and freedom dwell

While worlds may change and go awry

There’ll always be an England

While there’s a country lane

Wherever there’s a cottage small

Beside a field of grain

There’ll always be an England

While there’s a busy street

Wherever there’s a turning wheel

A million marching feet

Red, white and blue

What does it mean to you?

Surely you’re proud

Shout it loud

Britons awake!

The Empire too

We can depend on you

Freedom remains

These are the chains

Nothing can break

There’ll always be an England

And England shall be free

If England means as much to you

As England means to me

The song became a proud anthem of the war years, sung by men and women throughout the conflict. When HMS Barham was sunk, the survivors kept their spirits up singing the song whilst waiting rescue and despite modern sensibilities it will be forever associated with the war years.

Letter from Field Marshal Haig

For the average collector who does not have a huge budget, items with a direct link to famous military leaders do not come up very often. Normally these are the reserve of collectors with deep pockets, however occasionally items do appear with a direct link to a famous historical personage. Sometimes this is a little tangential, like this bag used by one of TE Lawrence’s officers, other times it is a more direct connection. Tonight we have an original letter sent by Field Marshal Haig:imageI added this letter to my collection completely by chance. I bought a regimental history of one of the battalions of the Duke of Wellington Regiment during the Great War for a few pounds on the market, in itself a very good find:imageIt was only when I examined the book closely that I found the above letter pasted into the inside cover. The letter reads:

Dear Colonel Howat

In reply to your letter of 6th inst: very much regret to say that my time is so fully taken up trying to help our ex-servicemen, that I am unable to write a foreword to your book.

With hearty wishes for the success of the History of the 1/4th Battalion Duke of Wellingtons Regt.

The letter is then signed ‘Haig. FM.’:imageI have no reason to doubt the authenticity of this letter, having compared it to other known letters from Haig the hand writing is consistent, and the letterhead for the note paper is for Fairfield House, St Peters-In-Thanet:imageThis was the address of Haig in 1920 and with the content of the letter relating directly to the book it all appears correct.

Field Marshall Douglas Haig was the commander of the British Expeditionary Force in France from Late 1915 until the end of the First World War. Following the end of the Great War Haig devoted himself to service charities, pushing for the amalgamation of charities and stopping a plan for a separate charity for officers, his efforts saw the foundation of the British Legion in June 1921. His Haig Fund and Haig Homes Charity continue to perform sterling work today.

It would be fair to say that following his death Haig has become a controversial figure. During his lifetime and at his funeral he was lauded as a great military commander, however during the 1960s this opinion was changed to portray him as a cold and unfeeling leader, unable to adapt to the new forms of war. This portrayal was most famously seen in the 1960s film ‘Oh What a Lovely War’ when he was played by Sir John Mills- the film saying as much about 1960s attitudes as about the Great War. Modern historiography is kinder to the Field Marshal, but the popular myth of him as a butcher remains in many quarters.Field_Marshall_Earl_Haig_(2)Regardless of Haig’s reputation, this letter is a wonderful find and something I feel very privileged to have in my collection; a real and tangible links to one of the most important men of the First World War.

War Savings Certificate Leaflet

During the First World War the British Government needed large reserves of money to fund the war effort. Initially traditional sources of revenue such as large international loans and the selling of bonds were used to raise capital, however the government realised that there was a huge reserve of income amongst the lower paid members of society. These people did not have the cash to invest large sums in bonds, but if enough people lent the government small sums on a regular basis this would add up to a large amount of capital. This method of fundraising would also encourage those who did not usually save to get into the habit of putting a small sum aside each week and would help people feel like they were contributing to the war effort. The ‘War Savings Certificate’ was born in 1916 and leaflets were prepared advising the public how it worked and what the rates of return were:SKM_C284e18010214450

SKM_C284e18010214460The rates of return were excellent for the period- a guaranteed £1 over 5 years for an investment of 15s 6d worked out at 29% return, and the government was seen as a safe place to deposit money. The scheme had a maximum deposit of £500 and was for the use of private investors only. The scale of the initiative can be seen on the base of this leaflet where the date, November 1916, and the size of the print run, 100 million copies, can be seen:SKM_C284e18010214460 - CopyThe size of the print run then would suggest that this leaflet should not be too hard for the collector to find today, indeed the trader I bought my copy from had a bundle of about fifty!

At wars end £207 million worth of war savings certificates had been sold and the scheme was to continue in operation for years after, but renamed ‘National Savings Certificates’. The original War Savings Certificates were sold from 1916 to 1920 and are still traded and valid today, albeit returning much lower levels of interest. We end with an example of the posters used to encourage the public to buy these certificates, this example used in Scotland during World War One:large_000000

YMCA Writing Paper

The YMCA, or ‘Young Man’s Christian Association’ was founded in 1843 and by the outbreak of the Second World War the organisation had been firmly established across much of the English speaking world. It had done sterling work during WW1 providing rest huts to British and Empire troops and this work was to continue into the Second World War with mobile canteens, libraries and spaces for troops to relax. Once essential service offered was free or subsidised writing paper and envelopes so men could write home to their loved ones and tonight we have a sheet of this notepaper:SKM_C284e18010309110This same service had been offered in World War One, where the organisation had spent £7 million on notepaper for over 200 million letters home. In the top left hand corner is the YMCA’s logo, with a banner indicating their association ‘with His Majesty’s forces’:SKM_C284e18010309110 - CopyThis design is far simpler than the letterheads used during World War One, which often included a picture or further text across the whole of the top of the paper. Spaces are provided for the serviceman to fill in his name, number, rank and address:SKM_C284e18010309110 - Copy (2)A small reminder is printed in the bottom advising the sender to write on both sides of the paper to save valuable resources:SKM_C284e18010309110 - Copy (3)It is hard to overestimate the good work charities such as energy YMCA performed in both world wars and one soldier, Arthur Allvey, wrote to his wife in 1944 expressing his gratitude for the organisation:

I am writing this letter in the writing room of the Y.M.C.A., which is provided with chairs and tables, and is very well heated by a gas fire. It’s far more comfortable writing one’s correspondence here than in the billet where we have no furniture. You know the Y.M.C.A. is the best thing we have and here everything possible is done for the comfort of service people. There are lounges and reading rooms as well as a canteen, also a hostel and a chapel. All the work is done voluntarily…

Royal Artillery Indian Christmas Card

Now we are all filled up on mince pies and mulled wine, we come to the last of our annual Christmas related objects, a third and final Christmas card (I hope you haven’t been too bored by all these!). This card is from a member of the Royal Artillery and shares a lot of design similarities with the example we looked at on Christmas Eve:SKM_C284e17120716040The card has the same basic design of a regimental crest on the front and a piece of ribbon in the regimental colours to secure all the parts together. Inside the card has a nice line drawing of a boar hunt in India:SKM_C284e17120716041This hunt, known as ‘pig sticking’ was hugely popular amongst officers in India before the partition. The following detailed description comes from a hunting website and explains the practice:

The modern sport is the direct descendant of bear spearing which was popular in Bengal until the beginning of the 19th century, when the bears had become so scarce that wild pigs were substituted as the quarry. The weapon used by the Bengalese was a short, heavy, broad-bladed javelin. British officers introduced the spear or lance and this has become the recognized method of hunting wild pigs in India. The season for hunting in northern India, the present headquarters of the sport, is from February to July. The best horses should be quick and not too big. Two kinds of weapon are used. The long, or underhand, spear, weighing from two to three pounds, has a light, tough bamboo shaft, from seven to eight feet long, armed with a small steel head of varying shape. This spear is held in the hand about two-thirds the distance from the point, with the knuckles turned down and the thumb along the shaft. The short, or jobbing, spear is from six to six and a half feet long, and somewhat heavier than the longer weapon. It is grasped near the butt, with the thumb up. Although easier to handle in the jungle, it permits the nearer approach of the boar and is therefore more dangerous to man and mount.

Having arrived at the bush-grown or marshland haunt of the pigs, the quarry is “reared,” i.e. chased out of its cover, by a long line of beaters, usually under the command of a mounted shikari. Sometimes dogs and guns loaded with small shot are used to induce an animal to break cover. The mounted sportsmen, placed on the edge of the cover, attack the pig as soon as it appears, the honour of “first spear,” or “spear of honour,” i.e. the thrust that first draws blood, being much coveted. As a startled or angry wild boar is a fast runner and a desperate fighter the pig-sticker must possess a good eye, a steady hand, a firm seat, a cool head and a courageous heart. For these reasons the military authorities encourage the sport, which is for the most part carried on by the tent clubs of the larger Indian station.

Robert Baden Powell gave what seems to be a most remarkable description to modern ears:

Try it before you judge. See how the horse enjoys it, see how the boar himself, mad with rage, rushes wholeheartedly into the scrap, see how you, with your temper thoroughly roused, enjoy the opportunity of wreaking it to the full. Yes, hog-hunting is a brutal sport—and yet I loved it, as I loved also the fine old fellow I fought against…Not only is pig-sticking the most exciting and enjoyable sport for both the man and horse as well, but I really believe that the boar enjoys it too.

The card was sent from Muttra, in the United Provinces:SKM_C284e17120716041 - Copy (2)Muttra was one of the main centres for the sport, as recounted by Francis Ingall in his great book ‘Last of the Bengal Lancers’:

Hog-hunting was a popular sport in the sub-continent in those days, but it was most enthusiastically pursued at Meerut, Muttra and Delhi. Generally speaking, only the male pig was considered eligible for the hunter’s spear. The wild-board of India can weigh well over three-hundred pounds; he has razor-sharp tushes about six-inches long, is incredibly speedy and agile, and knows no fear. Even the lordly tiger in his own jungle will turn away from a big tusker on the rampage. A quick flick of that massive head with its wicked tushes and man, horse or tiger lies bleeding and disembowelled in a pool of blood and guts.