Category Archives: Home Front

Entente Cordiale Pin Badge

To modern eyes commemorative souvenirs for diplomatic alliances seem a little odd. However in the First World War there was a steady stream of commemorative items for the alliance between the British and the French, the Entente Cordial. Previously we have looked at a small piece of commemorative china here for the triple entente, and tonight we have a small enamelled pin badge for the Entente Cordiale between Britain and France:imageThis badge not only reflects the partnership between the two countries, as witnessed by the flags, but would also have been popular amongst buyers as a symbol of personal friendship between two people, as the phrase had entered the general population as a popular term for friendship.

Relations between Britain and France had been fractious for many centuries, but with the signing of the Entente Cordiale in 1904 the British went through a phase of Francophilia with popular revues, exhibitions and talks celebrating the link between the two countries.

The Daily Mail published a prescient editorial on the Entente on April 17th 1914:

The British People and the Entente

The French public is right in attaching special significance to the official visit of the King and Queen to Paris next week. It is not merely the return of President Poincaré’s visit to London last year; it is also a direct and emphatic affirmation of the permanence of the Entente. Ten years have passed since the Anglo-French Agreement was concluded, and seven years since the understanding was completed by the Anglo-Russian Agreement. Ministries have changed; new questions have arisen; yet the Entente Cordiale and the Triple Entente remain the solid and abiding guarantee of European peace. Again and again in the immediate past the strength of the tie which unites Great Britain and France has been tested. It has never been found wanting, and three times at least- in 1905, 1908 and 1911- it has prevented the outbreak of European War.

Yet the remarkable letter which eminent French historian M. Lavisse has published in The Times suggests that educated Frenchmen are not altogether happy as to the attitude of the British people. M. Lavisse thinks that he perceives in this country “a dispersion, a pulverisation of public opinion… a sort of apathy, a disinclination to dwell upon unpleasant ideas, to foresee grave events, to entertain anxiety,” and believes that this attitude is weakening British policy on the Continent. Now it is no doubt true that for the moment British opinion is intensely preoccupied with internal questions. But that is a condition which would instantly vanish were any great emergency to arise, and we believe that the energy and unanimity of our people would be just as great tomorrow, in an hour of danger as of old. It would be a very real mistake to interpret our preoccupation, or dispersion of opinion’ as a sign of decadence. Neither morally nor physically is the present generation of Britons inferior to its ancestors…

Captured German Guns Postcard

On Monday 11th January 1915, The Daily Mail published a letter from a Violet Bryce that read:

Sir- I see an announcement that about 150 of the captured German guns, including field guns, machine guns, howitzers and mortars are at present stored at Woolwich and that the authorities intend distributing them through the country as marks of appreciation of local success in recruiting.

An exhibition of these trophies of war before distribution would attract an immense number of visitors, and if a moderate entrance fee were charged a very large sum of money might be collected for the benefit of our soldiers and sailors.

Miss Bryce was actually very prescient, and in October 1916 the same paper reported, arrangements are being made for some of the guns captured form the enemy to be exhibited at home.

Tonight we are looking at a postcard of some of those German artillery pieces, captured and on display for the public:SKM_C45817041112510This card was an official photograph by the Daily Mail and was presumably sold at the location where the guns were on display as a souvenir for visitors.

It seems the British government were slow off the mark in displaying captured guns, but once they had realised the public interest it became commonplace to show off this booty and indeed after the war many towns and villages were presented with examples. Most of these are sadly long gone, scrapped in WW2 for their metal. Guns were allocated based on the size of settlement- the bigger the settlement the larger the gun they were presented with. A 1922 publication recorded:

“The War Trophies Committee was formed in November, 1916, the terms of reference being “to deal with all questions in regard to the distribution of trophies and watch the interests of the Imperial War Museum.” ~

When a claim for a gun etc, had been substantiated, the unit in question was asked its views as to the destination of the trophy, with the proviso that it went to a Regimental Depot, a recognized public body, or museum; up to present some 3,595 guns, 15,044 machine guns, 75,824 small arms and 7,887 other trophies had been distributed.

Large numbers of applications were received for allotment from County Authorities, Mayors and Corporations of cities and towns, Urban and Parish Councils and other communities. The Committee decided that allotment of the trophies to which no claim had been substantiated, had to be recommended by the Lord Lieutenant of the County.

A small number still exist and after years of neglect are now being appreciated once more. This example of a German trench mortar at Honing in Norfolk has recently been restored:_85246254_85244222

Union Jack Club Postcard

This week’s postcard is a fine image of the Union Jack Club in London, probably taken just before WW1:SKM_C45817062012280 - Copy (2)The Union Jack Club had been formed in the aftermath of the Boer War- a Red Cross nurse Ethel McCaul had noted that whilst officers had their own clubs in London, enlisted men visiting the capital had to make do with inns and guest houses. £60,000 pounds was quickly raised and the foundation stone was laid by the Prince of Wales in 1904, the building opening by the end of 1904. This photograph was taken early in the club’s history, judging by the dress of those standing outside the main entrance who look Edwardian from the civilian dress and uniforms:SKM_C45817062012280 - Copy (2) - CopyThe main entrance is particularly impressive, with a statue of a knight (presumably St George) above a glazed toplight with the name of the club picked out in stained glass:SKM_C45817062012280 - Copy (3) - CopyThe building was made of red brick and had the name repeated above the ground floor windows:SKM_C45817062012280 - Copy (4) - CopyOther architectural details include a carving of St George slaying the dragon:SKM_C45817062012280 - Copy (5) - CopyAnd large domed towers on the roof:SKM_C45817062012280 - Copy (6) - CopyThe building had 208 bedrooms and extensive public rooms such as libraries and billiard rooms for use by NCOs and men. During the two world wars, membership was extended from British enlisted personnel to Empire personnel so Canadians, South Africans and Australians could all use the facilities. Families were also welcome, a separate block being available for them, as recalled by one man who stayed there after World War 2:

I remember staying at the Union Jack Club as a child in the late 1950’s. It was a family holiday to London, our first visit to the capital. My father had served in the forces in WW2, so we benefitted from the cheap but clean and suitable accommodation. Without access to the club my parents would not have been able to afford to take us to London ( from Yorkshire).

The building was heavily bombed in World War 2 and in 1971 was demolished to be replaced with a much larger concrete edifice, opened by the Queen in 1976.

This postcard was clearly produced for the club and sold for the use of its visitors, as witnessed by their logo on the back:SKM_C45817062012290The club is still in existence, offering cheap accommodation for serving and ex-service men and women in the heart of London.

Rest Centre Service Pin Badge

I am slowly building up a small collection of Home Front pin badges, tonight we have an example of one of the more common badges, a Rest Centre Service badge:The Rest Centre Service offered support to people’s and families bombed out of their homes, giving them shelter and helping them get their lives sorted after the trauma of enemy action. This little badge is stamped and then enamelled in white and blue with the letters ‘R’, ‘C’ and ‘S’ intertwined in the centre. The back has a simple pin fastening rather than a lapel button, reflecting the fact that many involved in this work were women where a pin was more appropriate for securing it to a dress:The Rest Centre Service did much valuable work, as described by William Reeks of Bethnal Green:

In the summer of 1940 I was an 18 year old working as a clerk for the London County Council in Bethnal Green, East London, and the only prospect I could see was waiting for my age group to be called up for military service. Our office was on stand-by for manning Rest Centres at a nearby school, which was equipped to receive bombed-out refugees if air raids on London started. Until the ” Blitz” in the autumn that meant sleeping in camp beds in the office on a rota basis, playing cards and deciding who was to be the cook.

Eventually on 20th October I was called to Rest Centre duty as bombed-out East Enders started arriving: for two months I worked 24 hours on and 24 hours off at Globe Road School in Stepney (empty as all the pupils had been evacuated to the country), tending to the needs of bombed-out families who trudged to the school with what they could salvage from their destroyed houses. The school, and many others had been stocked many months before with tea in chests, sugar in sacks, tinned food, blankets, mattresses etc. I remember the cheerfulness of the Cockneys, who quickly settled in and were soon even singing. Every morning we phoned J. Lyons caterers with the numbers of people and at lunchtime the desired number of hot meals arrived in an insulated van. The organisation and forethought was impressive and helped to alleviate the suffering of the refugees.

I mostly travelled the eight miles to and from my home by bicycle – with the disruption of public transport it was more reliable, though the rubble and broken glass everywhere meant frequent punctures. They were exciting times for young people, and I do not remember any down-heartedness or defeatism.

In December I enlisted in the Home Guard and left the Rest Centre Service to others, and resumed work in the office which enabled me to perform my Home Guard duties in the evenings and weekends.

In this Cecil Beaton photograph a young mother and her children wait in a rest centre in London after losing their home:

Blood Transfusion Card

Wartime often allows medical practitioners to experiment with new treatments, safe in the knowledge that their patients would die anyway so the usual ethics around a procedure can be suspended. This environment often leadsd to major leaps forward in medical procedures, the First World War being a case in point where the realities of the battlefield allowed pioneers to experiment with blood transfusions and for the first time safe and reliable methods of ensuring compatibility and delivery of transfused blood were developed.

By the Second World War the transfusion of blood was recognised as being essential to save lives on both the battlefield and in civilian hospitals dealing with casualties of bombing. Nationwide drives were made for people to donate blood, and tonight’s object is a little certificate issued to one of those donating:This little card is just a couple of inches high, made of blue card with a Royal Coat of Arms embossed in gold on the front. Inside is a space for the donor’s details:Here we can see he had blood in the ‘O’ group. Getting the correct blood type was essential to ensure the patient receiving blood was not accidentally killed by having the wrong type injected into him. Only certain blood groups are compatible with each other:

O can donate to O,A,B,AB and receive from O

A can donate to A,AB and receive from A,O

B can donate to B,AB and receive from B,O

AB can donate to AB and receive from AB,A,B,O

From this we can see that with ‘O’ type blood Mr Tennant would have been a particularly helpful donor.

Some advice to would be donors is printed on the card:Over the top of these a certificate is attached for each time the owner of the card makes a donation:This ensures blood is not donated too frequently which could be damaging to the donor’s own health. Blood was collected by trained nurses and other assistants in hospitals and other suitable locations:It was then carefully stored, with anti-coagulants to stop it from solidifying and in special conditions so it did not deteriorate before being distributed to those who needed it:

1915 Sentimental Postcard

This week’s postcard takes a sentimental tone, with this image from the First World War:The verse on the front of the card reads:

Together in Thought

I look into your eyes and say,

Though from you I must go away,

Yet with you, dear, my heart will stay,

Until we meet again some day.

The photograph is clearly a studio shot, complete with studio props as the soldier is actually wearing the 1888 style leather bandolier, which was largely obsolete by this period:The postcard was sent in 1915, as witnessed by the postmark on the rear:The message is not the clearest, being written in pencil and subject to a hundred years of wear, but as best I can make out it reads:

Aug 19th 1915

Dear Agnes

Just a line hoping you’re all well as its leave time at present, I am just packing up to go to Swindon. I am going on ahead to the advance party so I shall be travelling all night as it is at the other side of London. All the others are coming on Friday. I was hoping to see you on Saturday but it cannot be helped. Tell old Wilson he is going to be with us as soon as ???? Best wishes your Harry.

It is always nice to get a postcard which has been used and helps tie down an exact date. These sentimental cards were hugely popular, but are largely ignored by collectors today- I rather like them as they reflect the senders emotions and feelings towards their loved ones in a way that often does not come across from other images and accounts.

ARP Cigarette Cards (Part 3)

We come to our third and final post on the Will’s ARP cigarette cards, looking at another ten examples form this set. I have now managed to add a full set in the album to my collection so we may come back later and look at the other twenty cards in due course.

Card 31- The Service Respirator

This is the respirator designed for the fighting services. It will also be used by members of the civil Air Raid Precautions services who might have strenuous duties to perform in heavy gas concentrations. This respirator gives the same protection as the Civilian Respirator but for a longer period. It is designed so that the weight of the container portion is carried in the haversack on the chest, and the special face-piece allows heavy and accurate work to be performed without difficulty.skm_c45817021416010-copyCard 32- A Heavy Anti-Gas Suit

The illustration shows member of a decontamination squad in oilskin suits, rubber boots and respirators; a hood is also worn, but this is not shown in the picture. This equipment will give complete protection against the liquid or vapour of mustard or other persistent gases. It is essential to have squads of men trained to work in this equipment so that they can deal with and effectively neutralise any contamination which may have taken place. Owing to the fact that no air can get into the suits, men cannot work in them for very long periods of time.skm_c45817021416012-copy-6Card 33- Rubber Clothing

During an air raid the safety of the citizen may depend to considerable extent on his knowledge of how to behave. Splashings from the liquid liberated form certain gas bombs, or subsequent contact with it, produce a serious blistering of the skin. The Government provides each individual with a respirator which is complete protection for the eyes, throat and lungs. Prudent persons, if forced to go out of doors during raids, should provide themselves, in addition, with rubber or oilskin coats and hats, and rubber boots.skm_c45817021416010-copy-9

Card 34-Air Raid Wardens and Civilian Volunteer Despatch Rider

Air raid wardens are volunteers enrolled by the local authority. They are specially trained to advise their fellow citizens on Air Raid Precautions and to act as reporting agents of bomb damage. In the event of an air raid, they would be stationed at “warden’s posts”, perhaps a quarter of a mile apart, or less. The picture shows wardens handing reports to a volunteer despatch-rider. All wear steel helmets and Civilian Duty Respirators. The wardens are also wearing armlets. Note the shading device on the lamp of the motor cycle.skm_c45817021416012-copy-7Card 35- Volunteer Mobile Corps (Owner Drivers)

Patriotic owners of private cars throughout the country have offered their services and their cars free to local authorities engaged on schemes of Air Raid Precautions. Such action has materially helped in providing the necessary transport required for Air Raid Precautions services in many towns and urban districts. This picture shows the drivers of some fifty cars running to their vehicles during a practice alarm at a well-known seaside resort. From their place of assembly, these cars were driven to various strategic points in the town, including the Fire Stations and Police Stations, whence their services were utilized as required, in accordance with a pre-arranged plan.skm_c45817021416012-copy-5Card 36- A First Aid Party

The picture shows the four members of a first aid party running with a stretcher to a place where casualties have occurred. As gas has been used, they are wearing a light suit of protective clothing, with gum boots and Service Respirators. The scheme of Air Raid Precautions provides for the establishment of first aid posts in large numbers, so that they will be within easy access of any casualty. Such posts will be equipped to deal with minor injuries and casualties due to non-persistent gases.skm_c45817021416012-copyCard 37- Supply Depot for Respirators

This subject shows the examination of respirators at one of London’s Regional Supply Depots, of which there are now three in existence to serve the needs of the Metropolis. Ten similar Regional Supply Depots are being constructed in the provinces. Respirators, after being suitably packed for long storage at these Depots, are then to be moved to store centres. Each store centre is expected to house about 30,000 to 40,000 respirators, and its location is to be determined after consultation with local authorities. In the event of an emergency, respirators would be unpacked at the store centres, prepared for use, and issued to the public through distributing depots which would each handle about 4,000 respirators.skm_c45817021416012Card 38- Mobile Gas Vans

Home Office mobile gas vans, two of which are illustrated, are used for the testing of respirators and for the purpose of training men and women under the conditions of an actual gas attack. The vans are so built that a gas cloud can be put up in the body of the van; the white canopies at the back are airlocks to prevent the escape of the gas when the door of the van itself is opened. The picture shows a group undergoing training at Hendon Police College; the respirator in use is the service type.skm_c45817021416012-copy-copyCard 39- Civilian Anti-Gas School

The Civilian Anti-Gas Schools are provided by the Home Office. The first to be inaugurated is at Eastwood Park, Falfield, Glos., while there is another at The Hawkhills Easingwold, near York. The Schools train anti-gas instructors for the public service, for local authorities and others. Sixty students are taken at a time, and the course lasts two weeks. The picture shows postal workers undergoing training. Those on the left, wearing oilskin coats and Civilian Duty Respirators are women telephonists. The men on the right are being fitted with Service Respirators before going into the gas chamber.skm_c45817021416012-copy-8Card 40- Testing for Gas Contamination

The picture shows a member of a Decontamination Squad using an instrument for detecting if the ground has been contaminated with mustard gas. The instrument is painted at the end with a special paint which, when brought into contact with mustard gas, will turn a different colour. The man is shown wearing protective clothing and his Service Respirator, but as he is working after the raid is over, he is not wearing his steel helmet.skm_c45817021416010