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My reader H E, who is from the United States, commented on one of my Neil Ferguson posts and viewed the coronavirus crisis through the lens of history, specifically the First World War (1914-1918).

His is an excellent essay.

Emphases below are mine:

Your posts from the Spring were prescient concerning a sinister motive behind the government actions in response to the Corona virus.

You wrote that something ominous was afoot in the government-imposed lockdowns and the termination of civil liberties. At the time, I thought these were just over-reactions to the new virus, and that governments were seeking to err on the side of caution. But, you made the point that the actions taken by government officials were out of proportion to the threat, and that once civil liberties are lost, they rarely are returned.

It has become clear to me that the actions taken by governments to terminate civil liberties and lockdown their citizens are part of a internationally coordinated plan. In the US, it appears that the democrat party has successfully stolen the presidential election from Donald Trump. President-elect Biden has spoken about a ‘dark winter’, which I understand is some sort of code-phrase for the imposition of a dictatorship to counter an attack by a biological weapon.

I read a book years ago about the events in Europe in the run up to the First World War. The ethos on the continent among with middle classes was optimism and faith in progress. In the Spring of 1914, the mobilization for war didn’t threaten the optimism of the age because people thought that any war would be short, and it would done by Christmas.

The author noted that in 1919, a mere 5 years later, the genteel life of pre-war Europe had disappeared, replaced by despair. 16 to 20 million civilians and soldiers died in the war, which included trench warfare, poison gas, and aerial attacks on cities. In Russia, the Czar was deposed and Lenin and the Bolsheviks were in power. In Germany, the Kaiser abdicated and was replaced by the Weimar republic. The Austro-Hungarian empire dissolved into its constituent ethnic nationalities. There were communist uprisings in Russia (successful), and in Germany, Hungary, and Italy (unsuccessful).

To someone in the dark days of 1919, the conditions on the continent in the Spring of 1914 must have seemed unreal, like an idyllic dream.

I wonder if we will someday look back to the time prior to March 2020 in a way similar to how the people in 1919 looked back to the Spring of 1914. How it was to walk into a shop and buy goods, speak with other customers and the proprietor, and pay with cash. How it was to walk to the corner tavern and meet and speak with our neighbors there. How it was to go church on Sunday and assemble with other people to pray and sing hymns. How it was to travel by simply purchasing a ticket for a bus, train, or airplane. How it was to assemble to address political grievances, and then vote to elect candidates to represent our interests, and see those candidates implement the policies they promised.

I could not agree more.

I am grateful to H E for remembering my posts from early on in this crisis so many months ago.

I don’t enjoy being right about the handling of the coronavirus in the free world.

Meanwhile, China is laughing.

May we never forget the sacrifices that so many soldiers made for our freedom.

As John Maxwell Edmonds poignantly wrote in 1916:

When you go Home, tell them of us and say,
For your Tomorrow, we gave our Today

He also wrote this epitaph, used as the theme for the 1942 war film, Went the Day Well?

Went the day well?
We died and never knew.
But, well or ill,
Freedom, we died for you.

The British Army has issued a poignant video of a soldier from the Great War returning home today, only to be ignored. It has a happy ending:

It received much positive comment, thankfully.

One of those comments concerns the proper placement of a poppy on one’s lapel. I did not know the significance of the green leaf and where it should be positioned:

On Monday, November 11, at 11:00 a.m., let us pause for two minutes of silence:

Mr Young forgot the Canadian flag, but point taken about troops from the Commonwealth countries who fought alongside the British for freedom.

We will remember.

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(Forbidden Bible Verses will appear on Monday.)

As ever, we watched the Queen’s Christmas Message when it was broadcast at 3 p.m. on December 25:

The choir of King’s College Cambridge opened with a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem.

The Queen then discussed the first ever service of Nine Lessons and Carols held at King’s College Chapel, Cambridge. The service was 100 years old this Christmas Eve. The Revd Eric Milner White, who had served as a military chaplain in the Great War, devised the service as a means of conveying peace and goodwill so shortly after Armistice Day. As Her Majesty said, it:

spoke to the needs of the times.

She noted that the service, watched by millions around the world every year, begins with a chorister’s solo of the first verse of Once In Royal David’s City. The Queen’s Christmas Message ended with just such a solo. This video is well worth watching for the choral music alone — unsurpassed!

The Queen went on to speak of the great events of the past year, including the Royal Family, with its two weddings and two births that took place this year. She noted that the Prince of Wales celebrated his 70th birthday this year.

She had a spiritual message:

Through the many changes I have seen over the years, faith, family and friendship have been not only a constant for me but a source of personal comfort and reassurance.

The Queen also reflected on the number of Commonwealth nations, the strength of which:

‘lies in the bonds of affection it promotes’ and a ‘common desire to life in a better, more peaceful world’.

She also acknowledged the tireless work of the British Armed Forces stationed abroad at Christmas.

She concluded with a message about peace on Earth, which:

is “needed as much as ever” and also called for people treat others with respect, even in situations where there are “deeply held differences”.

I always look forward to hearing what the Queen has to say. This year’s message did not fail to impress.

November 11, 2018 marks the centenary of the end of the First World War.

Fittingly, it is Remembrance Sunday, commemorated in the UK and parts of the Commonwealth.

I have a number of Remembrance Day posts from previous years that readers might wish to peruse.

It is good that we still wear poppies, which come in for criticism every year, sadly. Alexander Owen, who served for 10 years in the Blues and Royals and now works at the Royal British Legion as Head of Armed Forces Engagement, recently wrote an article for The Independent‘s inews, excerpted below (emphases mine):

The ways that this generation changed our world are many and all-encompassing. War does not discriminate, and nor should the poppy.

The poppy has never been more inclusive, open and hopeful than in this Armistice Centenary Year. This November we should thank the entire generation of the First World War who served, sacrificed and changed our world, as this is the last chance to do so. But as a nation we must ensure that we follow the example they set 100 years ago and maintain the poppy as a symbol of hope and inclusivity. Wearing a poppy is a personal choice that must not be enforced. To do so would undermine its entire meaning.

It is sad that such an article even needs to be written. I also would have changed the word ‘should’ to ‘does’ in the first highlighted sentence.

That said, the Royal British Legion is helping to teach schoolchildren about the Great War, as it is also called, via a new book from author and playwright Michael Morpurgo:

Walter ‘Wally’ Randall, 103, is the nation’s oldest Poppy Appeal collector and has no intention of hanging up his collection tin just yet. The Royal British Legion reports:

He served in the service corps during World War Two before he later held the positions of both branch chairman and club chairman for the Leighton Buzzard Royal British Legion.

Wally is the proud recipient of a lifetime certificate for services to the local branch and has showed no signs of hanging up his collection tin yet.

He said: “I’m going to keep on selling poppies while I’ve still got the energy to do it. I’m lucky because I get to sit inside the entrance of Wilkos [a retail chain] in the warm.

He added: “My favourite thing about selling poppies is people’s generosity – when someone puts money in but says ‘I’ve already got a poppy’. It’s very gratifying.”

He appeared on morning television a few days ago:

A star-studded concert, the Festival of Remembrance, took place at Saturday night at the Royal Albert Hall:

Television adverts have appeared, thanking those who fought, died and innovated for their service, sacrifice and dedication:

The Duke of Cambridge offered this tribute:

Every One Remembered is an excellent site that has a photo montage of the British and Commonwealth men and women who died between 1914 and 1918.

Director Peter Jackson has taken painstaking time to colourise film from the Great War, which really reminds us of the truly personal — and deadly — story that it was:

There are also lesser known tragic stories, such as that of the Titanic newsboy:

A BT.com article, ‘May’s Armistice centenary tribute to First World War dead’s “immense sacrifices”‘, has a set of maps that shows how Europe’s national boundaries changed after 1918.

Prime Minister Theresa May was in France on Friday, November 9, to commemorate the war’s fallen with French President Emmanuel Macron. She also visited Belgium.

The article also highlights other ceremonies taking place this weekend in France and in London:

On Sunday, a bugle will sound at the French graveside of war poet Wilfred Owen, marking 100 years since his death on November 4 1918, just seven days shy of peace being declared.

Elizabeth Owen, the widow of his nephew Peter, will attend a ceremony in Ors, in the north of the country, where the instrument – which was taken from a dead German soldier – will be used to play The Last Post.

Meanwhile, at the Tower of London on Sunday evening, about 10,000 flames will be lit, in remembrance of those who fought and died in the war.

The light display installation, called Beyond the Deepening Shadow, will run each evening up to and including on Armistice Day.

The light installation at the Tower of London opened on Sunday, November 4. BT.com has more on the story, including photos:

Around 10,000 flames have filled the empty moat encircling the Tower of London to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War.

A ceremonial Beefeater guard began the lighting ceremony by bringing a flame down from the tower into the moat, which had been submerged in smoke.

Dozens of representatives from the armed forces and volunteers then used the flame to ignite thousands of other torches staked into or placed on the ground underneath the tower, bathing the barren moat in light …

It took around 45 minutes to light the flames, which then burn for roughly four hours.

The ceremony was accompanied by a specially commissioned sound installation featuring choral music, as well as words from war poet Mary Borden’s Sonnets To A Soldier.

The ceremony was “amazing”, according to Dick Harrold, governor of the Tower of London.

One hundred years after this horrific war ended — which saw the beginning of modern technical warfare — we seem to have forgotten the importance of war memorials, such as this one, which is being contested in the United States:

And we should think about what sort of children we have raised. Would they have been able to march to war, as 15- and 16-year-olds did a century ago — as volunteers?

In closing, there are two outcomes of the war that I remember reading about over the past four years, as each year from 2015 to 2018 in Britain has seen a number of documentaries, books and articles recalling what happened a century ago.

One result of the Great War was a generation of spinsters here in the UK and elsewhere. How heartbreaking it must have been not only for war widows but young women who lost their boyfriends and fiancés to brutal fighting on the front lines.

The second was a total transformation of house building here in the UK, as many traditional skills were no longer available because so many in those trades lost their lives on the battlefield.

We are currently redecorating our house, built at the turn of the last century. I look at the keyed lime plaster we are uncovering and say a prayer for those souls who so freely gave of their todays for our tomorrows. (Every man from the age of 15 to 50 was recorded under the Military Service Bill and, barring poor health, was potentially conscripted.)

Most certainly in our household we will remember.

May God bless ‘The Glorious Dead’, as inscribed on the Cenotaph in Whitehall, London.

May we be eternally grateful for all their sacrifices for our freedom a century on.

Although November 11 is Remembrance Day, November 12, 2017 is Remembrance Sunday in the UK, making this a poignant weekend of remembrance.

The following are tweets on #Remembrance.

Before I get to them, November 10, 2017 marked the centenary of Passchendaele. Historian Dan Snow explains the final days. This is worth listening to:

The Royal British Legion website summarises this horrific months-long battle:

Fought between July and November 1917, Passchendaele, also known as the Third Battle of Ypres, remains one of the most notorious battles of the First World War. In three-and-a-half months of fighting, an advance of less than five miles saw an estimated 550,000 Allied and German troops killed, wounded or lost.

Around 90,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers were missing; 50,000 buried without being identified, and 42,000 never recovered from the Belgian fields of Flanders that turned into an ocean of mud.

The 100th anniversary of Passchendaele provides an opportunity to view WW1 in a new way and commemorate the Service and sacrifice of those who lost their lives.

The Irish Times has more, beginning with this:

In October 1917 the Canadian commander-in-chief Sir Arthur Currie arrived in Flanders to be told that his men would have to take the village of Passchendaele.

Currie was aghast at what his orders meant. After four months of fighting in terrible conditions, Flanders was a stinking sty of a place, a hellhole of water-filled craters, withered tree stumps and an ocean of mud.

Unburied bodies were everywhere. When the ground did not yield, soldiers knew they were walking on the corpse of a man.

Friend and foe alike were repulsed by the ghastly conditions in which the British and their Commonwealth allies were locked into a death grip with the German defenders. One Canadian infantryman said none acquainted with their ultimate goal expected to come back alive. “Each and every man felt it was a sure death trap”.

Ireland was still British then:

The last day of Passchendaele took a terrible toll on the Irish too. The 1st battalion of the Royal Munster Fusiliers was part of the 1st Division and it was pressed into the attack in support of the Canadians.

The Munsters’ official history recorded the men walking in the pitch dark and the pouring rain to their starting positions. The soil had the consistency of glue and yet the men were forced to carry with them a full marching pack, rations for three days, 150 rounds of ammunitions, two Mills bombs and two water bottles.

“Never have troops gone into action carrying a heavier load under worse conditions,” the history concludes. “They pressed forward in mud-bespattered, bloodstained, sodden groups.”

The attack began at 6am on November 10th, 1917, in the most horrendous conditions imaginable. The men were quickly up to their waists in mud.

We connect the Great War with poppies, thanks to In Flanders Fields, about which I wrote last year. John McCrea fought in the Second Battle of Ypres.

Hence their significance then — and now:

People from one town in the North East of England got together to knit poppies this year. This is a great video:

One lady in Doncaster crocheted poppies:

Here is a moving photo from the Second World War. In the midst of battle, these brave men took time to worship:

Men of faith fought and died for freedom:

They came from all over the Commonwealth:

Some people just don’t understand — including the Labour Party leader:

Yet, those who forget — or never learn their — history are doomed to repeat it.

The sacrifices were imponderable:

Those brave men and women gave their tomorrow for our today:

Which is why so many remembrance ceremonies take place around the world this time every year:

In closing:

(Forbidden Bible Verses will appear tomorrow.)

poppy poppy flower flowerRemembrance Day — Armistice Day — falls on Friday, November 11 this year.

My posts from previous years explain the importance of this day:

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month

The tomb of the Unknown Warrior

A prayer for Remembrance Day

The march past the Cenotaph in 2015 (this year it will be on Sunday, November 13)

In Flanders Fields by Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae is arguably the best known poem to remember the dead from the Great War (1914-18).

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

The poppy became the symbol of the Great War for two reasons: the popularity of In Flanders Fields and the fact that this flower was the first to grow on the graves of the fallen soldiers.

The Great War website tells us that McCrae (pictured at right) began drafting the poem on May 2, 1915 during the secondMajor John McCrae week of the Second Battle of Ypres:

John McCrae, was serving as a Major and a military doctor and was second in command of the 1st Brigade Canadian Field Artillery. The field guns of his brigade’s batteries were in position on the west bank of the Ypres-Yser canal, about two kilometres to the north of Ypres. The brigade had arrived there in the early hours of 23 April.

It is believed that the death of his friend, Alexis Helmer, was the inspiration for McCrae’s poem ‘In Flanders Fields’. The exact details of when the first draft was written may never be known because there are various accounts by those who were with McCrae at that time.

McCrae’s contemporaries gave three different accounts. One said he wrote it after Helmer’s burial as a means of consolation. Another said that he wrote it the day after his friend’s burial and noticed the poppies springing up around the various graves. The third, offered by McCrae’s commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Morrison, suggested that he wrote it while waiting for the arrival of two groups of wounded men at the first aid post, giving him time to experiment with the poem’s metre.

Lieutenant Alexis Helmer (source: A Crown of Life)Lieutenant Alexis Helmer (pictured at left) was only 22 when he died. The Great War tells us:

Lieutenant Alexis Helmer was an officer in the 2nd Battery, 1st Brigade Canadian Field Artillery and had become good friends with John McCrae. On the morning of Sunday 2 May Alexis left his dugout and was killed instantly by a direct hit from an 8 inch German shell. What body parts could be found were later gathered into sandbags and laid in an army blanket for burial that evening.

He was popular among his comrades and well educated:

Before the outbreak of war he had graduated from McGill University with a degree in Civil Engineering. He was the son of Elizabeth I. Helmer of 122, Gilmour St., Ottawa, and the late Brigadier General R. A. Helmer.

A burial ground from the First Battle of Ypres in 1914 was nearby. Helmer was buried there. In the absence of a chaplain, McCrae conducted the graveside service himself, using the burial rite from the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer. His grave was marked by a wooden cross.

By the time the Second Battle of Ypres ended, the field was filled with graves of Canadian and French casualties. This burial ground is now known as Essex Farm Cemetery.

Unfortunately, Helmer’s grave — along with 54,896 others — was lost. The names of these valorous men are listed on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres. Helmer’s name appears on Panel 10.

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I hope we take time to keep silence at 11 a.m. on November 11 to remember not only the courageous men of the Great War but also those of the Second World War and subsequent wars.

We will remember.

poppy field

 

(Photo credits: All-free-download.com [poppies] and The Great War [photos of McCrae and Helmer])

File:British plan Somme 1 July 1916.pngFriday, July 1, 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Somme.

(Image credit: Wikipedia)

This historic battle lasted 141 days. A daily service of remembrance will be held at the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing in northern France at noon through to November 18. British readers who are interested in attending may register via the Royal British Legion site. Thiepval is the largest Commonwealth war memorial in the world.

Access to Thiepval will be restricted until July 9 for special ceremonies. On July 1, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Charles and Prince Harry will attend a commemorative service. The service will tell the story of the battle and will include special readings, hymns and music.

Nearby towns will also hold remembrance ceremonies as will cities and towns in the United Kingdom and Canada. Germans will commemorate the centenary at their cemetery in Fricourt.

The Battle of the Somme began at 7:30 a.m. July 1, 1916 is still regarded as the worst day in British military history. On that day alone, 57,470 men were killed or injured; 19,240 died. By the time the battle ended on November 18, more than one million men — British, French and German — had been wounded or killed.

30a Sammlung Eybl Großbritannien. Alfred Leete (1882–1933) Britons (Kitchener) wants you (Briten Kitchener braucht Euch). 1914 (Nachdruck), 74 x 50 cm. (Slg.Nr. 552).jpgAmong the British soldiers were the Pals battalions, comprised of friends, relatives and workmates who were allowed to fight together. They had enlisted on the appeal of the recruitment posters featuring Lord Kitchener.

Private Sidney Lewis was one of those young men. In fact, he was only a boy — aged 12 — when he signed up in 1915. He was tall and stocky for his age. He was sent to the Somme and fought for six weeks. His mother discovered where he had gone, sent his birth certificate to the War Office and demanded his return. Sidney Lewis was sent home in August 1916, a year after he had enlisted.

The oldest soldier was Lt Henry Webber who died on the battlefield on July 27, aged 67!

Captain Wilfred Percy Nevill, known as Billie, decided that a football would calm his troops’ nerves. When the artillery bombardment lifted on July 1, he and another officer kicked the balls into ‘no man’s land’ and followed them. A Royal British Legion leaflet from May 2016 explains:

As the Advance approached the German barbed wire, the troops hesitated and Nevill dashed forward to kick the ball on. He was killed instantly.

No man’s land was the area between a system of trenches and dugouts protected by barbed wire on the British and German sides of the Western Front.

Conditions were extremely harsh. Each infantryman carried an average of 30 kg of equipment during the first phase of the battle. The weather was cold, the trenches wet. Troops had to live among disease-carrying rats. An average of 893 men died every day from July 1 to November 18.

Incidentally, the first British tank — the Mark I — made its debut on September 15 at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette.

Filming also took place during the Battle of the Somme. A feature-length documentary of soldiers in action — The Battle of the Somme — was quickly put together and premiered in cinemas on August 21, 1916. Six weeks later, 20 million Britons had seen it.

This is footage taken on July 1:

Another outcome of the battle, possibly because of the documentary, was a narrative against the officer class. A Royal British Legion paper on the battle says that the film by Geoffrey Malins and John McDowell showed no officers, only soldiers (p. 11 of the PDF). Yet, officers were close to their men — more so than today — and often led the charge.

Over the course of the battle, the British took a strip of territory from the Germans that was 20 miles long and five miles deep.

The onset of winter with its wet, unforgiving weather finally put an end to combat. Troops on both sides had been poorly prepared and inadequately equipped.

The horrifying death toll brought the reality of war home for Britain.

The emblematic battle for the French is Verdun. For Australians and New Zealanders it is Gallipoli.

For the British it is the Battle of the Somme.

We will remember.

Two of my posts last week — here and here — discussed the role of British women in the Great War.

Today’s post concludes the series, which will be included on my Recipes/Health/History page.

Much of the information in this series is from Kate Adie’s Women of World War One, based on her book Fighting on the Home Front, and was shown on BBC2 on August 13, 2014.

Smokes for Soldiers

ww1 A fag afrter a Fight postcardCigarettes — ‘fags’ in the vernacular — were seen to be as important a ration for soldiers as food and medicine.

Lady Denman, so instrumental in furthering Britain’s Women’s Institutes and a suffragette, initiated one of the funds for Lord Kitchener’s programme called Smokes for Soldiers.

Some cigarette cards, which accompanied the packs, showed soldiers in rare moments of quiet contemplation. Those pictured here are from Tony Allen’s fascinating page, Cigarettes & Tobacco and WWI Soldiers.

ww1 Bamforth smokes song card set of three

Carrera’s Black Cat cigarettes had a series of women on their cards. These depicted ladies working in war effort occupations, among them mechanics, coal workers and game keepers. The backs of the cards had brief descriptions of their duties. These made the troops aware that women were doing their part in what was probably seen as being an unheard of and fascinating way. Adie said that the cards proved to be very popular.

Food production

As yesterday’s post on the Women’s Institutes showed, ensuring Britons had enough food was paramount.

The government had statistics showing that farmers’ wives were the most likely ‘to go insane’. Indeed, the WI was able to help them to get out and about, if only to their meetings.

Women working in agriculture now had a new-found purpose, ensuring they could alleviate food shortages.

A further effort was made with the government’s introduction of the Women’s Land Army. Twenty-three thousand young volunteers were sent around the country to till the land, pick fruit, milk cows and take on other responsibilities. Farmers objected that the women were wearing trousers. The government assured them that the workers were feminine and ladylike.

The Women’s Land Army also participated in the same activities during the Second World War, spearheaded by the aforementioned Lady Denman who was their honorary head, sponsored by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Shipbuilding and dock work

Another controversial workplace for women were docks and shipyards.

Not surprisingly, male workers were concerned that low wages for inexperienced women would push their own pay packets downward. Unions ensured that any work arrangements were to be for the duration of the war only.

Women worked at several shipyards, including A&P in Tyne and Wear. The work that men previously did was divided up among women which made the pay and employment conditions more acceptable to long-standing male employees.

Medicine

The Voluntary Aid Detachment was comprised of upper and upper middle class women volunteers who cared for soldiers returning from the Front. Downton Abbey explored this.

The late Lady Jane Grey was interviewed in 1986 and said that as a young Voluntary Aid Detachment member she watched a doctor extract a bullet from a wounded soldier.

Nurses were concerned that the volunteers might not be able to care for the soldiers properly and that their recovery might be compromised as a result. However, with the number of injured men returning, they grudgingly agreed that the volunteers were needed.

Where doctors were concerned, only a few hundred women were physicians at the beginning of the war. They treated only women and children.

Some medical school professors refused to have women in their classes. Kate Adie said that, where women were taught, no professor showed them diagrams of the male anatomy.

In Edinburgh, the pioneering doctor Elsie Inglis established the Scottish Women’s Hospitals for Foreign Service Committee, a suffragette-sponsored medical team that provided all-women units to treat the Allied wounded. They had sent teams to France, Serbia and Russia. When Inglis approached the Royal Army Medical Corps, saying the Committee could offer their services, a representative from the War Office responded:

My good lady, go home and sit still.

Instead, the French government took Inglis up on her offer. She and her physicians went to Serbia under their aegis.

Two other suffragette physicians, Dr Flora Murray (left) and Dr Louisa Garrett Anderson (right) had better luck inLouisa Anderson.jpg establishing the Endell Street Military Hospital in Covent Garden, London. Perhaps this is because Murray was Emmeline Pankhurst’s personal physician. Alternatively, it might be because the hospital was in London and not overseas. In any event, Endell Street opened in May 1915 and stayed open until August 1919.

The hospital, staffed entirely by women, treated 24,000 men and carried out 7,000 operations. A convoy of ambulances arrived every night with soldiers requiring triage and emergency treatment. One who was treated there said:

This hospital is a triumph for women.

The Great War showed everyone — from soldiers to the general public to the War Office — that women could indeed practise medicine every bit as well as men.

In 1917, both women were made CBEs — Commanders of the British Empire. Today, a home for the elderly, Dudley Court, has replaced the hospital in Endell Street. It, too, has a medical centre, but no doubt staffed by men and women.

The vote

By 1917, there was little women could not do — except vote.

In parliamentary debates, Winston Churchill, who was then a young MP, said that women’s interests were adequately represented by either their husbands or male family members.

However, with most men still fighting in Europe and elections looming, Prime Minister Lloyd George and MPs debated the subject again. On February 6, 1918, they approved the Representation of the People Act by an overwhelming majority: 385 – 55.

It was thought that had the measure not been approved, suffragette demonstrations and violence could continue and perhaps escalate. MPs feared that the Bolshevik revolution might drift to the UK.

The new act did not enfranchise every woman, although it did respond directly to what the suffragettes wanted. (Suffragists, on the other hand, wanted universal suffrage for all men and women.) This act granted the vote to all women over 30 who either owned property or who were married to a registered voter. Many women were still unable to vote, including former suffragettes and those who were working in the war effort.

In some ways, the act did more for men. Prior to that, many were also unable to vote, including the troops in the trenches. Afterward:

All males over 21 gained the vote in the constituency where they were resident. Males who had turned 19 during service in connection with the First World War could also vote even if they were under 21, although there was some confusion over whether they could do so after being discharged from service. The Representation of the People Act 1920 clarified this in the affirmative, albeit after the 1918 general election.

It should be noted that some men — e.g. those affiliated with universities and property owners who had two homes — had a plural vote. In the case of university affiliation, they could vote in both the consituency where they were studying and in their home one. A property owner could vote where he lived and also where he owned property. This was abolished in 1948 in another Representation of the People Act.

Universal women’s suffrage was granted in the 1928 Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act, which gave all women over 21 the right to vote. The suffragists’ cause was finally won.

Post-war women’s work

After the war ended, women employed outside the home feared for the future.

Men returning home from the war expected and got their jobs back.

Six thousand munitionettes marched on Parliament for the right to continued employment. However, the government sent the message that women should now return home to be good wives, mothers and homemakers. The government said their efforts were greatly appreciated, but that time had now ended.

The level of women working outside the home soon returned to pre-war numbers. Mary Macarthur, the women’s union leader, was disgusted. She died of cancer in 1921.

The Church

In matters ecclesiastical, the controversial pacifist Maude Royden, who became assistant preacher at the nonconformist City Temple (United Reformed Church) in 1917, was the first woman to preach from a Church of England pulpit. That event took place in 1921 at St Botolph’s Church in London.

In 1929, she started the official campaign for women’s ordination. In 1931, she was the first woman to earn a Doctor of Divinity degree. By then, she had already completed preaching tours around the world.

Conclusion

Although the suffragettes and women working in the war effort were not all saints, they were highly capable at a crucial time in history.

What the Great War demonstrated was women’s worth in the working — perhaps, especially, a man’s — world.

It would be difficult to put women back in their box afterwards.

It is also worth remembering that it also became necessary for women to earn a living. No other generation of women in recent history lost more fiancés and husbands than that one. Thousands of widows and spinsters needed to work to support themselves and their children. They had to man up.

And finally …

You can see IBT‘s collection of Getty photos (mustn’t copy!) of women — mostly British, some French — working in factories and as policewomen during the Great War. It’s a fascinating mix of posters and photographs.

Yesterday’s post began a series on British women working outside the home during the Great War.

You might wish to read it, if you have not already done so, for general background on their status.

Much of the information in this series is from Kate Adie’s Women of World War One, based on her book Fighting on the Home Front, and was shown on BBC2 on August 13, 2014.

Munitionettes – ‘canary women’

By 1915, women all over Britain were involved in some way in the war effort.

Those who had worked ‘in service’ — as domestic help — often found work in munitions factories. They were sometimes referred to as munitionettes.

Britain had a shortage of artillery shells, which came to light in the Shell Crisis scandal. Prime Minister Herbert Asquith appointed David Lloyd George as Minister of Munitions. According to Kate Adie, Lloyd George saw a place for women in munitions factories. From behind the scenes he helped Emmeline Pankhurst to organise a demonstration of women asking to help in this regard. On the day, he appeared afterwards to speak to the women. Shortly thereafter, work on artillery shells increased rapidly, with the ladies’ help.

Working with explosives was dangerous. Death was always a possibility. The Rotherwas Munitions Factory in Hereford had a number of huts, each with thick concrete-reinforced walls. In case one hut exploded, the others would remain standing. The documentary showed us that, even today, slender tapers of TNT are still carefully bundled together and tied by hand.

Other hazards of munitions factory work included reactions to the powder: swollen faces, skin rashes and, worst of all, yellow skin. It was impossible not to breathe it in, to wash it off or to expel it. In fact, when these women walked into towns or villages to run errands, people were amazed to see their yellow skin and clothes. As such, they became known as ‘canary women’.

Adie interviewed Gladys Sangster, who was born in 1917. Her mother worked in a munitions factory. She had inhaled so much powder whilst working that Gladys was born yellow.

That said, the munitionettes felt as if they had been ‘let out of the cage’. They were outside of the home — theirs or someone else’s. They were earning their own salaries, which, by the end of the war, was three times that of what they had been earning as domestic servants. Furthermore, they were forming their own friendships with other women and enjoying their independence.

However, the spectre of death was as much over their heads as it was for the men fighting in Flanders.

The Germans had targeted British munitions factories. The end of a 12-hour shift did not mean the end of danger for these woman who were frequently evacuated, day and night.

Football

Association and league football was eventually suspended during the Great War. Too many men were serving in Europe.

Factory women and those working elsewhere for the war effort started organising their own games locally, even though then, as now, football was considered to be harmful to female reproductive organs.

The government was keen to ensure women workers got plenty of food to keep them healthy. The Great War saw the creation of works canteens for this purpose. Women were delighted to eat a balanced meal at least once a day. For many, meat was a luxury, so they welcomed a regular portion of it with potatoes and vegetables.

The government was also eager to ensure the women got plenty of fresh air in their free time. Football was one way to keep the women active and refreshed. Cities and towns began organising female football teams. Sometimes, women played men. The men had to have their hands tied behind their backs so as not to have an unfair advantage. Male goalkeepers were allowed to have one hand free.

Bella Reay was a top goal scorer during the Great War. She scored well over 100 goals in one season. Adie spoke with her granddaughter who showed her Reay’s gold medal given to her after the Munition Girls Final.

Ladies football continued after the war until 1921, when the Football Association banned it, saying it was too dangerous.

Female police, toughness and night life

The Great War gave birth to the girls’ night out.

The general public were shocked to see groups of working women invading the previously male-dominated pubs in the evenings. It was immoral. Ladies didn’t do that sort of thing.

Furthermore, people commented on the toughness of the women. It’s not surprising, but I do wonder how it manifested itself later on through their children, especially daughters, and in their grandchildren.

Margaret Damer Dawson sought to resolve this moral panic. She was the step-daughter of Thomas de Grey, the 6th Baron Walsingham. She was very much involved with good causes concerning women, children and animals. During the early part of the war, she and Nina Boyle patrolled the streets of London helping Belgian women refugees who were in danger of becoming prostitutes. Boyle led a team of women volunteers. Dawson was her assistant. The group was known as Women Police Volunteers and operated by government permission. It gradually expanded its scope outside of London.

In 1915, Boyle left the Women Police Volunteers over a disagreement over an incident involving women workers in Grantham, Lincolnshire. Boyle did not wish to have curfews for adult women. Dawson did. This set the tone for the next few years, with Dawson’s new Women’s Police Service. The posts were unpaid and strictly volunteer.

Incidentally, policemen told their top brass that they had no desire to work alongside ‘copperettes’. Therefore, the male officers had their patrols and the women theirs.

The Women’s Police Service focussed on children in trouble and female factory workers. The women factory workers resented the women constables’ attempts to ‘keep them in line’.

However, at work, where there were male employees, conflict sometimes broke out between the sexes. Dawson’s constables were called into a few establishments for daily patrols and to quell any disputes between male and female employees. Adie says that a ‘class system’ of hierarchy was set up so that females deferred to their male superiors with no arguments.

Although this all sounds rather orderly and righteous, after the war ended, the government rejected requests from Dawson’s Women’s Police Service to join the newly-created teams of women constables, who were paid for their work. The government termed the volunteers ‘sour, middle-aged fanatics’.

Dawson, quite possibly, never recovered from the rejection. She died of a heart attack in 1920.

Next: More causes, more work — including medicine

It is difficult to detach developments on Britain’s home front during the Great War from women’s liberation.

With so many young men in the trenches, someone had to continue the work they were doing before conscription.

In 1914, the home front opened up. Women would never be the same again. The ensuing four years would demonstrate that women could be as active and as productive as men.

Last year — on August 13, 2014 — veteran BBC reporter Kate Adie made a one-hour documentary on this extraordinary period in history. It is called Kate Adie’s Women of World War One, based on her book Fighting on the Home Front, and was shown on BBC2. What follows is a summary of the programme, eye-opening in many respects.

Women’s status

At the beginning of the 20th century, women were few and far between in work outside the home. It was unimaginable that they would be doctors or lawyers. A woman had men to represent and serve her in all aspects of life.

Many men took Paul’s verses from 1 Corinthians 14 and applied them not only to public worship but also private life:

33 for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. 34 The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. 35 If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.

Of course, most Britons — men and women — were scandalised by women who dared to speak out, protest and put their lives in danger: the suffragettes, led by Emmeline Pankhurst.

It should be remembered that Pankhurst and her supporters wanted women votes only for a segment of the population. They did not want all women to vote, only those who were educated or who were property owners. Suffragists, on the other hand, wanted universal suffrage.

The home front opens

In August 1914, Pankhurst faced a dilemma. Would she and the suffragettes support the war effort — siding with the government they protested against — or pursue their campaign?

Pankhurst decided to suspend the campaign. She renamed their journal The Suffragette to Britannia with the slogan:

For king, for country, for freedom.

Meanwhile, the government needed thousands of men to enlist in the military. They created a campaign aimed at women, who, as moral arbiters, would encourage — shame, perhaps — their sons, brothers, sweethearts and husbands into uniform.

The popular music hall star Vesta Tilley decided to dress as a soldier as part of her act and sing a song encouraging sign-up. This was a shocking development, because women did not dress like men — ever. A tie? Trousers? Hair shoved under a cap and hidden? Unthinkable. It went against the biblical order of men’s and women’s roles. When Tilley premiered the new song at a Royal Command Performance, Queen Mary and many other women lowered their heads. They could not bear to look at her.

Yet, the press picked up on Tilley’s new act and, before long, everyone knew about it. Her audiences cheered. She continued dressing as a soldier and singing her war effort song.

By September 2014, 200,000 men had enlisted. Not all of the numbers were thanks to Tilley. Announcements in what we call the small ads in the back of newspapers also helped. Poster campaigns aimed at women as well as men were also influential.

Women from the aristocracy and landed gentry led the way in getting involved. The First Aid Nursing Yeomanry — FANY — was formed as was the Women’s Volunteer Reserve. Both groups had uniforms — jackets and skirts — but those in the Women’s Volunteer Reserve had to purchase their own. At a cost of £2 per uniform, it was a sum that only middle class women could afford.

Some of those women became ambulance drivers.

Women from the lower social classes volunteered to cook and clean.

The two Marys

Mary in tiara and gown wearing a choker necklace and a string of pearlsQueen Mary (left) started a needlework guild to encourage British women to knit warm clothes and accessories for the troops. These items included dressing gowns, pyjamas and hot water bottle covers.

The few women who were working in the textile and weaving industry objected.BCLM-Mary Macarthur 6b.jpg They belonged to the National Union of Women Workers, which safeguarded their employment and salaries. Mary Macarthur (right) headed the union and campaigned for equality in the workplace. She publicly objected to Queen Mary’s needlework guild as a threat to the union members.

Queen Mary wasted no time in summoning Macarthur to the palace. They had a long conversation. Both Marys were said to have ‘got on famously’ by the end of the meeting. They were both women of strong character and determination. Queen Mary asked Macarthur for more information on the plight of poor women forced to work. It wasn’t long before Queen Mary began visiting charities and hospitals for the poor. The press dubbed her the Charitable Bulldozer.

Tomorrow: women at work

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