Category Archives: WW1

WW1 Telephone Magnetos

When used in telephony, magnetos are small hand cranked devices that are used to produce a small electric charge. These are used to send a current down the line to ring a bell at the opposite end to inform people that there is a call for them. By rotating an armature inside a set of horse shoe magnets an AC charge of between 50 and 100 volts. These magnetos could be housed inside the telephone itself, or as a separate unit. Tonight we are looking at a pair of telephone magnetos from the First World War:imageAlthough one of these cases magnetos is dated 1918, I cannot find a /|\ mark on either one so it is impossible to say if they are military or civilian in origin; they are however interesting objects from a century ago and worthy of closer inspection. The smaller of the two magnetos is a free standing unit, with rubber feet, a hinged lid secured with a small screw and a large winding handle on the side:imageInside the case is a set of magnets and a large brass cog wheel which is part of the gearing used to spin the armature and generate current:imageThe second magnetos is designed to be mounted on a wall or bulkhead and has a backing plate with a series of brass reinforced screw holes for attaching it vertically:imageTwo large brass screw terminals are fitted to the top of the box to attach the telephone wires to:imageThe front of the box is hinged and this was originally lockable, with a small lock escutcheon visible:imageNext to this is the date 1918 and the maker’s mark for ATM Co. The initials are repeated on the magneto inside the box:imageThese are the initials for the Automatic Telephone Exchange Company of Washington. This company had set up a factory in Liverpool in 1889 but quickly distanced itself from its American parent company. During World War One the company produced shells for the military but continued its core business, manufacturing telephone equipment for both the War Office and Admiralty, producing private exchanges for both. Whether this is one of the pieces of equipment bought by either the Admiralty or War Office is unclear, but I suspect it is likely as investment in 1918 was far more heavily skewed to the military than to civilian infrastructure projects but it is impossible to be certain.

Sailor and Daughter Postcard

This week’s photograph is a very charming World War One photograph of a sailor with a young girl, presumably his daughter:SKM_C30819031209080This card was posted in 1917 and it is hard to tell if it was a commercial image in the sentimental style of the day or a genuine portrait of a sailor and his daughter. I hope it is the latter, but of course it is impossible to say now. One item of interest however is the cap tally on the sailor’s cap worn by the girl:SKM_C30819031209080 - CopyThe name of the ship has been unpicked, just leaving the outline of the embroidery, whilst the initials ‘HMS’ remain. The reasoning behind this is unclear and again would be dependent on whether this is a genuine sailor’s issue cap or a photographer’s prop. If it is the latter then it has probably been unpicked to allow it to be used in portraits without any obvious connection to a vessel which could have proven awkward to the sitter. The alternative is that this is a wartime expedient for security issues, much like sailors in the Second World War had simple ‘H.M.S.’ cap tallies. If this is the case, which I suspect might be the real story, then the sailor becomes far more likely to be an actual sailor, the girl becomes his actual daughter and this is a sweet picture taken to send to relations- a far nicer story than a twee image taken just to sell postcards!

WW1 Fundraising Dog Coat

The British have long been renowned for willing supporting charities large and small and their love of animals, especially dogs. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries these two loves came together with the extensive use of dogs to raise money for various good causes. There were several quite famous dogs who walked around large railway stations with collection boxes on their backs raising money for welfare charities (indeed one can be seen on display, stuffed, in the National Railway Museum in York). It was therefore no surprise that during World War One dogs were often used to raise money for service charities and tonight we are looking at an example of a dog coat made during World War One for these fundraising activities.imageThe coat is clearly handmade, but of excellent manufacture. It is shaped to fit a large dog such as an Alsatian or Labrador, with straps to go around the chest, stomach and rump of the animal, all sewn to the reverse of the coat:imageAn iron buckle is fitted to one of each pair of straps, wrapped in red thread to make it more decorative:imageIt is the decoration on the coat however which is particularly interesting and which helps to date the coat to World War One. Four red crosses are sewn on, suggesting that it was this charity the dog was raising money for:imageEmbroidered on the front corners of the coat are the crossed flags of France and Zsarist Russsia:imageThis alone dates the coat to World War One. The opposite side has the British and Belgian flags:imageEach of these pairs of flags is accompanied with red white and blue rosettes, picking up the colours of Russia, France and Great Britain. Belgium is represented by a single black, orange and red rosette at the rear of the coat:imageOn September 16th 1914 the Daily Mail reported:

Two very successful collectors for the Red Cross Fund are the pair of pedigree greyhounds, Nell and Finn, which appear on the stage of the Garrick Theatre every evening in Mr Arthur Bourchier’s “Bluff King Hal.” The dogs appear outside the theatre every evening before the performance and help to the collection of money which goes to the purchase of materials that are made up by the ladies of the company for the wounded soldiers

Army Service Corps Cigarette Case

Today when we think of the Great War we tend to think almost exclusively of the fighting on the Western Front. This was certainly the main focus of fighting, but troops were deployed across the globe and tonight we have a delightful souvenir from those troops stationed in the Middle East. This cigarette case is exactly what you look for as a collector- it’s attractive, named, dated and even has the location engraved into it!imageThe case is made of brass that has been silver plated and in the bottom right hand corner there is an engraving of the cap badge of the Army Service Corps:imageThe lettering indicates that this case was owned by M/348444 George Armstrong of 1019 Company who were based in Mesopotamia and Persia and there is even a date of 1918. As a collector it doesn’t get much better than this! Sadly I have so far drawn a blank on the man himself, although I have discovered that 1019 Company were a mechanised transport company that was based in Basra in what is today Iraq in 1918, they were issued with Ford vans.

The case itself is quite small and is gently curved on the rear to fit snugly into a pocket, following the curves of the owner’s body so it is comfortable to use:imageInside a pair of elastic straps are fitted to hold the cigarettes in, surprisingly they are still supple and a little stretchy even after a century:imageThis is a delightful little object and hopefully the research will come together to help me tell George Armstrong’s story.

French Postcard Sent Back from the Western Front

This week’s postcard is a bit unusual as, whilst interesting, the image on the front rather falls outside the purview of this blog: it depicts a pair of French soldiers, an infantryman and a cavalryman:SKM_C284e18121008500 - CopyObviously French military history is not what this blog is interested in, so why is it included? The answer lies on the back where we can see that it was sent by a British soldier home to his wife in England:SKM_C284e18121008501He has written in pencil ‘On Active Service’ at the top:SKM_C284e18121008501 - Copy (2)And it has the stamps indicating that it has been checked by a censor for anything incriminating and that it has been handled by a field post office, the post mark dates it to 4th September 1915:SKM_C284e18121008501 - CopyLieutenant Harry Bundle explains the process of censoring soldiers’ mail:

Censoring is interesting at first but it rapidly becomes boring; no letter is allowed to leave without it having been read by an officer and franked by him on the envelope; fortunately my platoon do not write very long letters though they write very often. A typical letter starts like this. ‘My Dear Father and Mother, Ellen and Mary, I take pleasure in writing these few lines hoping that you are in the pink as it leaves me at present.’ Many of the men talk awful drivel about cannon balls flying around them, but as a general rule they are short and rather formal letters… The men always write very extravagantly after a spell in the front line – ‘All the ravines were full of dead Germans and Bulgars’, ‘It was absolute Hell!’, ‘I said more prayers then than at all of the Church parades I’ve attended’.”

The message itself is relatively banal, but the author does write to his other half with the best opener ‘Dear Wife’!SKM_C284e18121008501 - Copy (3)The message reads:

Dear Wife

Just a line. Hope you are well, give my love to all at home. Will write shortly. Hope you received the cheque okay.

Best Love Frank xxxx

The letter was sent to Mrs F Gregory of Sheffield:SKM_C284e18121008501 - Copy (4)Sadly, although following up on a few leads, I have been unable to determine who exactly this Frank Gregory was, hopefully he survived the war and was able to be reunited with his wife.

Postcard of Victoria Place, Hartlepool, after German Bombardment

A couple of weeks ago we looked at a postcard depicting the destruction of the Baptist chapel in Hartlepool, however it was not just public buildings that were damaged in this naval bombardment. Much civilian property was also destroyed and tonight’s postcard depicts the ruins of housing in Victoria Place Hartlepool:SKM_C284e18110611560 - CopyVictoria Place is on the headland at Hartlepool and this row of Victorian houses suffered heavy destruction at the hands of the German attackers. At 8.15 at the same time the Baptist chapel was being hit by shellfire, the houses of Victoria Place were hit and Salvation Army Adjutant William Gordon Avery was killed and buried beneath the rubble of the houses.

Censorship of newspapers had not yet been rigorously enforced, so the following day the Daily mail was able to run a detailed story outlining the attack on the town:

Hartlepool and West Hartlepool, two of the most thriving ports on the east coast, had today the unenviable distinction of being among the first English towns to suffer from a German bombardment.

They were attacked shortly after 8 a.m., and for forty minutes were subjected to a rain of heavy shells. Twenty-nine people were killed and 64 wounded, some very severely. Some damage was done to the town.

Official information is not to be obtained, and those who were manning the trenches and saw most of what occurred have been prohibited from giving any information, but the above figures are the nearest estimate I can make from careful inquiry in the two towns.

As near as can be made out, firing commenced at 8.04 a.m. and only ceased at 8.45. Various reports are current as to how many vessels took part in the bombardment, but the most careful sifting seems to indicate that there were certainly three warships, and possibly four.

Several shells landed in the battery at Hartlepool and one killed five men, but the guns were not put out of action and continued to fire until the enemy steamed away southwards.

The Hartlepools lie in a crescent-like formation, with old Hartlepool as the apex, and the German ships lay off this point and fired fan-wise, with the result that shells swept both towns for a distance of a couple of miles inland, striking most of the important buildings with the exception of the town hall and post office at West Hartlepool. The latter, however, was largely incapacitated from working by a large number of wires being down through the wrecking of telegraph poles or the actual cutting down of the wires themselves by exploding shells.

SEVEN “PALS” KILLED

There were many terrible tragedies, but three stand out pre-eminent. The seven soldiers killed were members of the Durham County “Pals” battalion. These seven were standing together on the front and a shell burst in the middle of them. Two other cases are those of civilians.

FAMILY OF EIGHT DEAD

A family resident in Dene-Street, whose name I have not been able to obtain, had a shell burst in their house, with the result that the father, mother and six children were killed instantly.

The third case was that of the Misses Kays, who live in the end house of Cliff-terrace, just behind the Lighthouse, at the point nearest to where the hostile vessels lay. The Misses Kays were aroused by the sound of firing. They let their maid servant out at the back and told her to run, and returning to their house went upstairs to gather some things. While they were in the bedroom a shell burst, carrying away the end of the house and killing both of them.

China Model of the Cenotaph

During the First World War there was a huge variety of commemorative china trinkets produced that reflected the war, some such as a tank and an artillery piece have been featured on the blog before. This obsession with collecting crested souvenir china trailed off slightly in the early 1920s but was still popular enough to warrant companies producing new designs that reflected peacetime. War memorials were an obvious choice of model and the Arcadian Company was quick to release a model of the Cenotaph in London:imageThis model is a fairly accurate depiction of Lutyens monument in the centre of London and is rendered in white glazed porcelain. The front of the model features a transfer print of the arms of the City of London:imageThe rear has an explanatory message describing what the model represents:imageWreaths that are carved in stone on the original, are picked out in green on this piece:imageThe design itself is hollow, and there is a large circular hole on the base, along with the Arcadian trade mark:imageThis design was one of the most popular in the Arcadian catalogue in the early 1920s and can be found with a large variety of town crests on the front, many with no connection to London and the Cenotaph at all. Some of these fit nicely onto the front of the model, others are clearly too large for the design and are wrapped awkwardly onto the sides of the monument. One of the most unusual uses for this design was as a souvenir of the British Empire Exhibition in 1924 when the design was offered with a special exhibition logo displayed on the front.

This reproduction of the cenotaph is made up of straight lines, the original however is designed so that the edges are ever so slightly curved, as the architect explains:

Sir Edward Lutyens, the designer of the Cenotaph, in an interview said, “The one thing I really like about the Cenotaph is that none of the architectural papers has realised how it was done. They have tried to bring out reproductions of it, and all of them have used straight lines instead of curves.”

With swift strokes he sketched the outline of the monument, and showed, by a cunning sweep in lines, how the curve preserved and even accumulated the majesty which the straight line destroyed.