Category Archives: WW1

Help the Soldiers! Ticket

Throughout the Great War fundraising went on across the country to raise money for charitable causes, including the armed forces. These events were often arranged by local stately homes under the patronage of a local member of the gentry. A small fee was charged for entry and a variety of entertainments, food and stalls were provided to entertain the public and raise money. Tonight we have a ticket from one of those fundraising events in September 1915: SKM_C284e17102416010 - CopyStanden Hall is just south of Clitheroe in Lancashire and was in the Great War, and indeed still is, the seat of the Aspinall family. Standen Hall is a large ‘H’ shaped Palladian style country house, updated in 1757: Standen Hall Clitheroe 1Many of the ‘great and good opened their houses up as a location for charitable fundraisers, as in the case of Colonel and Mrs Cornwallis of Ruthin Castel, as reported in the Daily Mail in September 1915:

Colonel and Mrs Cornwallis are lending the grounds of Ruthin Castle today for a fete which they have organised for the French, Italian and Polish relief funds.

Fetes and fundraisers often had an historic theme, emphasising patriotism and ‘Britishness’ in a time of war. An Elizabethan theme was chosen for a Red Cross Fete held in 1916:

The scene in the hall and gardens of the Middle Temple on July 13 and 14, when a fete is to be held for the Red Cross and Order of St John, will carry one back to the days of Queen Elizabeth, as the decorations and dresses of the waitresses at tea and the programme sellers will be carried out in the designs of that period.

Scenes from “Twelfth night” and also from “Much Ado about Nothing” in which Sir George Alexander and Miss Ellen Terry will appear are to be given. Lady Diana Manners, Miss Elizabeth Asquith and Miss Lloyd George will be amongst the many programme sellers; and Mrs Patrick Campbell will preside over the flower stall. The Temple Choir will sing old English glees and songs.

The Lord Chief Justice is the president of the fete and Sir Samuel Evans the Vice President of the fete.

Both of these newspaper articles show the importance placed on having a man of influence, or his wife, involved with fundraising. The press made a point of naming these influential people and it was seen as a good way of promoting events- the important personage adding legitimacy to the event. Equally for those being invited to take on this function it was an important part of how they and their peers saw their place in society. Aristocratic women of the era did not have traditional employment and thus had the spare time to organise worthy events and help run them, gaining social standing and prestige amongst their peers for their good works.

The charitable sector had a crucial role to play in the Great War, providing funds for many of the projects and equipment needed by soldiers, animals and refugees that the government was unable or unwilling to provide. Although other causes did benefit from fundraising, it seems that the public’s imagination was most animated by charities that focused on servicemen, animals in wartime and those displaced by the war such as the Belgian refugees. There seems to have been a large batch of these particular tickets found recently as they are for sale on eBay for a few pounds each.



Visit to Somerset Military Museum

Living in Yorkshire the Somerset Military Museum in Taunton is not somewhere I get to go very often, however owing to the need to visit family last weekend I found myself with an hour to spare whilst in Taunton so decided to revisit the museum. The museum has had a major facelift since I last went and I was eager to see the refreshed displays.

I was not disappointed as the museum is one of those rare things- a newly refurbished display that understands that what visitors actually want to see is artefacts! Display cases radiate out from the centre (which has a wonderful captured mountain gun) and they cover the various regiments of Somerset, with a definite emphasis on the Somerset Light Infantry. The other county regiments are there, but the focus is very much the SLI, which is fine with me as it was my grandfather’s regiment!

The displays cover much of what you would expect- uniforms, weapons, medals etc. A few of the more interesting artefacts include a couple of wooden grave markers from WW1, some truly impressive mess silver and a wonderfully engraved trench art waterbottle from the Great War. The display cases are densely packed with objects, but it never feels overwhelming and there is space to tell the stories of those behind the artefacts.

Finally I cannot end without mentioning that at the moment the glorious Lady Elizabeth Butler painting “Remnants of an Army”,  depicting the Retreat from Kabul in 1842 is on loan to the museum. This is one of the great pieces of military art and would be worth a trip to see alone without even considering the rest of this fantastic museum.

The Somerset Military Museum is part of the Museum of Somerset in Taunton Castle and is free to enter.

WW1 Royal Engineer’s Shovel

Weighing in at 5lbs the Royal Engineer’s shovel is a robust and efficient digging tool for work in the trenches. Introduced long before World War One it was to have a very long service life, seeing service until well after World War Two. The early shovels have become quite hard to find now so I was very pleased to pick up this example last week for just £5:imageUnfortunately this example has suffered a bit over the years and the manufacturer’s details are now very hard to read, however the date of 1918 is still clearly visible:imageAt some point I will sand back the rust and repaint the head of this shovel and it’s possible more of the markings will become visible then. The head of the shovel is broad and gently curved to make it easy to scoop up soil and rubble when digging field works:imageA rib is pressed down the back and centre of the shovel to add some rigidity to it:imageA five inch wide handle is fitted to the top, just the right size for the palm of the hand when moving the blade of the shovel in a scooping motion:imageThis large shovel is one of a number of tools issued for trench construction, as illustrated in this 1905 diagram from the Manual of Military Engineering:imageField works dug by hand were laborious and lengthy jobs as described in this period instruction:

Sequence for Digging Tasks

(a) A trench 3ft. 6ins wide at the top, 2ft. at the bottom, and 3 ft. deep is opened (I in the diagram). All the spoil is thrown forward to make the parapet which even so will not be 5ft. thick.

(b) The second stage (II in the diagram) is widened to 6ft. 6ins. at the top and 5ft. at the bottom and the parapet completed before any earth is used for the parados. It should never be deepened until it has been widened.

(c) Finally the passageway shown as III I the diagram is dug, the earth going on the parados.

(d) As soon as possible the fire step, and the rest of the trench should be reverted, and a drainage channel dug.SKM_C45817101108030Much of this digging would have been done with shovels such as this one and it was very nice to find one dated to WW1 for such a cheap price- it will sit very nicely with my WW2 dated example.

Trench Railway Postcard

This week’s postcard is a delightful colour painting of a trench railway from World War One:SKM_C45817100313480The conditions on the ground in France during World War One could be pretty horrendous, with heavy mud and poor roads making it difficult to bring up shells and supplies very quickly. Most rail heads were situated several miles from the front and what was needed was a way of transporting goods right up to the front quickly, safely and reliably. The answer was miniature light railways running on rails of just a two foot gauge. These railways were provided in pre-made track panels of approximately 16 feet and unskilled labour could quickly lay them on roads and smooth surfaces to form a railway network. Their lightweight and modular construction made them easy to repair and replace if hit by enemy shell fire.

These railways used a variety of motive power, but the most common were small petrol driven tractors:SKM_C45817100313480 - CopyBritain pioneered the use of petrol powered, 4-wheel synchromesh mechanical drive locomotives for daylight use within visual range of the front. In 1916 the War Office required “Petrol Trench Tractors” of 600-mm gauge that were capable of drawing 10 to 15 tons at 5 mi (8.0 km) per hour. Early tractors weighed 2 tons. Behind them they hauled a variety of rolling stock including bogie wagons and little side tipping hopper cars such as the ones seen here:SKM_C45817100313480 - Copy (3)Although stylised, it can be seen that these hoppers, when not needed for supplies, were also frequently used as a form of transport for the men to save exhausting them too much going into or out of the trench:SKM_C45817100313480 - Copy (2)The value of these trench railways was recognised at all levels and on 24th July 1916 Winston Churchill wrote:

The foundation of a good trench line is a system of light railways far more extensive and elaborate than anything we have at the present time. It is only by means of light railways that all the enormous varieties and quantities of trench stores necessary for the making of a solid line and keeping them in repair can be conveyed to the Front, such as pumping machinery, steel dugouts, revetting material; and all variety of trench stores can only be brought in sufficient quantities to the front by a very elaborate and extensive network of railways and light railways.

Unusually the back of the card in this case is as interesting as the front:SKM_C45817100313481This reveals that the postcard was one of a series produced by A M Davis and Company of London to raise money for National War Savings. There were twelve cards in the set, of which this is the fourth, and they are all emblazoned with slogans encouraging people to buy War Bonds.

Sergeants’ Mess Invitation

Sergeants and warrant officers in the British Army have their own mess, with its own strict rules about who can and can’t be invited to mess functions. Tonight we have a simple card invitation issued by the sergeants’ mess of the 9th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment:SKM_C45817100908140This card is printed on yellow card and has never been written out. The only 9th Battalion of the Regiment I can find served in the First World War so I believe this would date from that era.

The following rules on guests in a Sergeants’ mess come from the King’s Regiment but would be representative of most regiments:


  1. Members may invite qualified male guests to the Mess. They are entirely responsible for the conduct of their guests. Guests are not to be brought into the mess after 22:00
  2. On no account is any male person in the armed forces below the rank of Sergeant or equivalent to be introduced into the Mess as a guest.
  3. No civilian guests are to be permitted to enter the Mess without the consent of the Regimental Sergeant Major, or in his absence the Mess President
  4. The Regimental Sergeant Major and President only are permitted to authorise Mess Guests drinks.        


57. Ladies are at no time to be permitted to enter the bar or living accommodation but may be invited into the Mess at the following times: 

(a) Daily from 1830 hrs until the Mess closes.

(b) Sunday’s from 1200 hrs until 1400 hrs.

(c) On special occasions.


  1. Children are only permitted in the Mess on Sunday’s between the hours of 1200 hrs and 1400 hrs. They are not permitted in the bar, dining room and living accommodation.

All messes hold a variety of social occasions throughout the year, hosting the officers or the corporals at differing mess dinners. For these a formal invitation would be sent, the mess using its stock of invitations, such as this one, to make that request.

Military Hospital Postcard

During World War One there was a great need for more hospital beds to treat wounded soldiers, many schools and public buildings were requisitioned and turned into hospitals. Tonight’s postcard is of one of those buildings, the Langworthy Road Military Hospital in Salford, Manchester:SKM_C45817092908111The school was one of five in the area that were offered up for conversion into hospitals. At the time it had about 1100 pupils of all ages and these were moved to Sunday Schools in the area, having half days of teaching throughout the week to free up the building. Looking at our postcard we can see that a large sign has been added over one entrance listing it as a military hospital:SKM_C45817092908111 - CopyWhilst a flag pole in the grounds flies both the Union Flag and the Red Cross Flag indicating it is a hospital:SKM_C45817092908111 - Copy (2)The hospital had 154 beds for other ranks patients. One interesting story with a link to the Langworthy Road Military Hospital was related in the Salfordonline newsite as part of their 100th anniversary coverage of World War One:

It was January 1916 when Mr Thomas Howard, or Jackson as he often called himself, appeared at Salford Magistrates Court charged with larcency and acting under ‘false pretences’.

Howard was serving as a private in the 3rd Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers when he took it upon himself to use his acting skills and conmanship to prey on the vulnerable in his home town.

In the first case against him, the court heard from Richard Bowker, a tramguard by Salford Corporation. Howard approached the tram with his arm in a sling and his head tightly bandaged in white cotton: he was limping and telling anyone within earshot that he was a wounded soldier home on leave.

He asked the tramguard the best way to get to Bolton, it being late at night.

Mr Bowker, a sensitive chap by all accounts, took pity on the poor unfortunate and allowed Jackson to stay the night at his home, where he was fed and allowed to sleep on a couch downstairs.

The following morning Mr Bowker’s wife went downstairs to wake the war hero and Jackson was missing along with a shirt which had been hanging up in the kitchen.

The court then heard testimony from an unnamed barmaid from the Priory Hotel on West High Street in Pendleton.

She told how Howard had limped into the pub swathed in bandages, telling her that he was being treated at the nearby military hospital on Langworthy Road.

Her sympathy was aroused by the soldier telling her of his “great pain” in recovering from injuries suffered in France at the Battle of Loos.

She dutifully supplied him with free food and drinks in the pub, as they might for any other local lad who had laid down his life for his country. Howard then took from her a loan of four shillings – no doubt to treat his dear old mum – but was never seen again.

The final case against this shirker was the most serious of the lot.

A widow named Maude Perrill who lived at Gibson Street, Pendleton, fell for Howard’s somewhat dubious charms when he appeared to faint when passing her house, again swathed in bandages and crying out in ‘pain’.

Maude’s own teenage son had been killed at the Battle of Loos – the same that Howard pretended to have been injured in.

She let him into the house and gave him a tot or two of brandy which appeared to revive him.

Incredibly enough, Ms Perrill allowed the ‘wounded hero’ to stay at her house for nine weeks! He would leave her home every morning to allegedly have his bandages changed at the military hospital.

One morning, presumably when Howard had had his fill, she noticed that her son’s watch and gold chain were missing from the nightstand.

She called in the local police, including Detective Inspector Clarke, who would later support her in court.

His team found that Howard wasn’t receiving treatment at the military hospital on Langworthy Road – nor at the temporary hospital at Worsley Hall, as he had claimed.

Further enquiries revealed that he had also visited several shops in Pendleton ‘collecting’ bandages for the apparently short-stocked hospitals overrun with casualties.

It was never discovered whether he was using all of these donated gifts to dress his ‘injuries’ daily, or whether he simply sold them on the street – his record could indicate either, as it turned out.

Howard was eventually arrested in Salford wearing a dummy sling for his arm and soiled bandages.

At the time it was revealed that he was a deserter from his regiment and had a shocking miltary record for theft, among other petty and more serious crimes.

The army asked the court to deal with him on the larcency charges and they would deal with him for desertion.

The Magistrate ordered Howard to be remanded in custody for a week and agreed with the army’s wishes.

Sadly, there appears to be no record of what punishment this rascal received, but you can guarantee that he would receive a warm reception when he arrived back at the barracks of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers!

Indian Army Canteen Board Plate

A couple of weeks ago we looked at a knife and fork emblazoned with the crest of the Indian Amy Canteen Board. Since that post I have been very lucky to add a matching dinner plate to the collection :imageThis is a large plate, about 12″ across, with a black border around the edge, the only marking on it at all is the black transfer print of the Army Canteen Board’s logo:imageAs noted on the last post, this institution was liquidated in 1927. I am struggling to find exact details but it does seem to have come under criticism for wasting public money and left a large number of creditors in its wake when it was wound up. Indeed concerns had become so great that Earl Winterton in the British Parliament was forced to make a statement about its winding up in 1927:


asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether he can explain why the Government of India has decided to dissolve the Army Can teen Board; and what system it proposes to adopt in its place?


As regards the first part I would refer to the answer I gave the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Scurr) on the 7th June last, of 5 which I am sending the hon. Member a copy together with a copy of the Report mentioned therein. As regards the second part, I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a statement recently issued by the Government of India on the subject

Following is the statement:

As a result of inquiries the Government of India have decided to revert to the system of unit contractors existing before the Army Canteens Board (India) was constituted, and arrangements are now being made under which contractors will take over canteens from the Board in the Northern and Western Commands.

Certain conditions designed to ensure efficient service and to safeguard the interests of troops have been drawn up. These conditions have been accepted by a representative body of contractors and will be made applicable to all canteen contractors throughout India. They include a minimum rate of rebate, the furnishing by the contractor of all rooms in which he functions and inspection by canteen inspectors employed under orders of the Quartermaster-General, particularly with regard to the quality of foodstuffs supplied which will be subject to frequent analysis.

Following its demise the Indian Army Canteen Board fell into obscurity and I suspect that this is the first time a matching set of plate and cutlery have been put together since the late 1920s:imageThis little set has piqued my interest and I will now be on the look out for any more pieces that have somehow survived the last ninety years and arrived in the UK from the other side of the world to add to my little set.