Featured Author (Part 1) – Kathryn J. Atwood: Women Heroes of World War I

Kathryn J. Atwood. Image courtesy of author, copyright with author's husband.

‘The women in my World War One and World War Two collective biographies were compelled into action by powerful conviction and they had the courage to follow their instincts in order to find a way to do what they thought needed to be done.’ ©Kathryn J. Atwood (2015)



A short while ago I was contacted by American writer, Kathryn J. Atwood, enquiring whether I would like a review copy of her latest work of non-fiction, Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics (June, 2014) published by Chicago Review Press. Kathryn has also written Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue (2011, Chicago Review Press) and Code Name Pauline: Memoirs of a World War II Special Agent co-authored with Pearl Witherington Cornioley (2013 – hardback, 2015 paperback, Chicago Review Press). I will be reviewing Code Name Pauline in a second article about Kathryn’s work.

Kathryn lives near Chicago, USA but is a self-confessed Anglophile with a particular interest in writing about remarkable women from history. In Women Heroes of World War I, Kathryn writes about the extraordinary feats of courage and selfless acts of heroism shown by daring girls and women from around the world (including the USA, UK, France, Russia, Belgium, Romania and Australia) during World War One.  Biographical profiles featured are brought to life through the use of engaging narrative, dialogue, direct quotes, document and diary excerpts.

Although Women Heroes of World War I is primarily aimed at the young adult market (12+) it will also appeal to the budding adult historian looking for a solid introduction to aspects of this complex period in world history. Parents of young adults will also enjoy reading this book.

The book is divided into four sections, ‘Resisters and Spies’, ‘Medical Personnel’, ‘Soldiers’ and ‘Journalists’. Women featured include: Edith Cavell; Louise Thuliez; Emilienne Moreau; Gabrielle Petit; Marthe Cnockaert; Louise de Bettignies; Elsie Inglies; Olive King; Helena Gleichen; Shirley Millard; Maria Bochkareva; Flora Sandes; Marina Yurlova; Ecaterina Teodoroiu; Mary Roberts Rinehart and Madeleine Zabriskie Doty.

Photograph of Nurse Edith Cavell taken in her garden, Brussels, 2015. Photograph and book in the Mary Evans Picture Library Collection ©Come Step Back In Time 2015

Photograph of Nurse Edith Cavell taken in her garden, Brussels, 2015 together with her beloved dogs. Her dog Jack was taken to the de Croy country estate in Belgium by Princess Mary de Croy after Edith’s death. Photograph and book from the Mary Evans Picture Library Collection ©Come Step Back In Time 2015

On 12th October this year, it will be the 100th anniversary of the death of British nurse Edith Cavell (1893-1916). When war broke-out in 1914, Edith went to Belgium and treated injured soldiers whether they were British, French or German. She even hid nearly 200 British, Belgian and French soldiers from the Germans by keeping them safe at the nursing school and clinic where she lived.

Edith also ran a secret ‘underground’ group that helped Allied soldiers escape capture by the Germans and receive a safe passage to neutral Holland. She hid her private diary by sewing it into a cushion to prevent the secret of the hidden soldiers from getting out. Edith’s activities were eventually uncovered. In Women Heroes of World War I, Kathryn Atwood describes Edith’s arrest:

On the afternoon of August 5, officers from the German secret police – Pinkhoff and Mayer – arrived at the clinic and, after a thorough search, found a letter from Edith’s mother in England that had been transmitted after the occupation of Brussels through the agency of the American Consul. It was not much, but they used it as grounds for arrest. After unleashing a lengthy tirade intended to terrify everyone within hearing, the police took Edith to Saint-Gilles prison, where she was kept in a tiny cell and interrogated on three separate occasions. When she admitted that she had used the clinic to hide healthy Allied soldiers, the Germans realized that Edith was eligible for the death sentence. Under the German penal code, “conducting soldiers to the enemy” was considered treasonous and a capital offense.

(Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics by Kathryn Atwood, 2014, published by Chicago Review , pp.30-1)

Ten weeks later, on October 7th, 1915, Edith was tried and sentenced to the death. In the early morning of October 12th, 1915, she was executed at the Belgian national shooting range, Tir National.

Although some of the stories in Women Heroes of World War I are well-known, like Edith Cavell and Gabrielle Petit’s for instance, many are not quite so familiar to us, for example:

  • 17-year-old Frenchwoman Emilienne Moreau (1898-1971) assisted the Allies as a guide and set- up a first-aid post in her home;
  • Russian peasant Maria Bochkareva (1889-1920) who joined the Imperial Russian Army by securing the personal permission of Tsar Nicholas II (1868-1918), was twice wounded in battle and decorated for bravery, and created and led the all-women combat unit the “Women’s Battalion of Death” on the eastern front;
  • American journalist Madeleine Zabriskie Doty (1877-1963) risked her life to travel twice to Germany during the war in order to report back the truth;
  • Surgeon Elsie Inglis (1864-1917) founded the Scottish Women’s Hospitals for Foreign Service and bravely stood up to the invading Germans while caring for sick and wounded in Serbia;
  • Flora Sandes (1876-1956) the only British woman to serve as a soldier in World War One. She enlisted in the Serbian army after working in the ambulance service that was the first volunteer unit to leave Britain. The Serbian army was one of the few in the world to accept women. She became a Corporal and then a Sergeant-Major.
Flora Sandes Collection.

The Flora Sandes Collection. ©Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics by Kathryn Atwood, 2014, published by Chicago Review Press.

Flora Sandes, c.. 1916. The Flora Sandes Collection.

Flora Sandes, c.. 1916. The Flora Sandes Collection. ©Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics by Kathryn Atwood, 2014, published by Chicago Review Press.

Kathryn’s research is impeccable, the text is written with care, precision and flare, carrying the reader along on an enthralling historical and biographical journey. Drawing upon original sources, for example, documents, personal diaries, photographs and direct quotes, providing a glimpse into the lives of this pioneering group of women, a number of whom had a relatively short lifespan.

Each chapter contains background information panels providing further detail on key historical events referred to within the text (see below). A clever idea to embed this information within each relevant chapter, saves research time whilst you are reading. At end of each chapter is a ‘Learn More’ resources section with useful websites and suggestions for further reading. Readers will also find a useful ‘Glossary’ at the back of the book.

©Kathryn Atwood (

Historical background panels are embedded in most chapters to enrich the reader experience. ©Kathryn Atwood (2014) Women Heroes of World War I published by Chicago Review Press

Interview With Kathryn J. Atwood – April 2015

What first inspired you to write about this incredible group of women?:

Actually, it was my editor at the Chicago Review Press, Lisa Reardon, who first suggested I write a sort of prequel to my first book, Women Heroes of World War II. I initially dragged my heels on the idea because the only heroines of World War One that initially came to my mind were nurses and while I was certain they’d been exceptional human beings, I didn’t want to write an entire book on women who played a single role.

But then one of our sons gave my husband an interesting Christmas gift:  Flyboys, a film about some American pilots who flew for the French during World War One before the U.S. became officially involved.  While it’s not exactly the Saving Private Ryan of World War One films, the excellent period details made me want to more thoroughly understand the war.

Then one night, after I’d initiated my search for women’s stories, I turned on the television to see Matthew Crawley [Downton Abbey] in that amazing replica of the Western Front. It was the first time I’d encountered Downton Abbey and it fuelled my determination to write the book. It also turned me into a Downton fan … although in my opinion that second season has remained by far the most compelling!

©Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics by Kathryn Atwood, 2014, published by Chicago Review Press.

©Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics by Kathryn Atwood, 2014, published by Chicago Review Press. Gabrielle Petit (1893-1916), a Belgium who spied for the British in World War One. She used the alias “Miss Legrand” but was captured by the Germans, imprisoned, stood trial and subsequently executed on 1st April, 1916 at the Tir National shooting range.

Whose story did you first discover?

I already knew the outline of Edith Cavell’s story but the second woman I decided to include was Gabrielle Petit. I discovered her through a query to the Ypres Great War Museum when one of their knowledgeable volunteers, Freddy Rottey, sent me a packet of English-language articles about Petit.

He admitted that most of it was hagiography, written shortly after the war, but reading between the exaggerated lines, I could tell there was a great story there. So I purchased more recently written French-language biographical materials and handed them to my Francophile husband for translation.

Why do you think so many of these stories have remained untold for so long?

Women’s history is like an iceberg: when a particular era has passed into history, all that’s showing above water, so to speak, are the roles that men played. Studying women’s roles lets one see what’s underwater, the entire mountain of ice, the entire time period.

And if the heroines of World War Two are hardly remembered, those of the first have been completely snowed under. World War Two is generally considered a more compelling study because of its element of good vs. evil. However, the World War One was fought and supported by young people of such noble aspirations and calibre, it’s not only shameful that their lives were  destroyed in such devastating numbers but that their stories are not more widely known. I hope my book might help remedy that situation!

Which individual’s story has touched/inspired you the most and why?

Gabrielle Petit. Her early life was so chaotic and difficult she tried to end it. But while working for British Intelligence during the war, her passionate nature found a focus which resulted in a patriotism, so winning it resonated for decades afterwards.

She was beloved and mourned by Belgians of various ethnicities who generally couldn’t agree on much else. She also directly inspired Belgian resistance during World War Two: so many flowers appeared at the foot of her statue in Brussels that the Germans posted a sentry there! And Brussels native Andree de Jongh, having grown up on stories of both Petit and Cavell, created an escape network that rescued hundreds of Allied airmen during World War Two.

What would you say are the key character qualities that all of the women you have written about have in common?

The women in my World War One and World War Two collective biographies were compelled into action by powerful conviction and they had the courage to follow their instincts in order to find a way to do what they thought needed to be done.

If you could invite 5 of the women you have written in Women Heroes of World War I to a dinner party, hosted by your good self, who would you choose and why?

For elegant conversation, initially reserved, perhaps, but eventually taking a fascinating turn, I would invite Edith Cavell, Louise de Bettignies, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Helena Gleichen, and Madeleine Zabriskie-Doty.  For a more animated, visceral conversation I’d choose Gabrielle Petit, Maria Bochkareva, Louise Thuliez, Elsie Inglis, and Olive King. I might decide to sit between the latter two as Olive King left the Scottish Women’s Hospitals, founded by Elsie Inglis, because she felt inhibited by the many regulations!

If all these women were alive now, what life lessons do you think they would impart to their female counterparts in 2015?

I find it quite astonishing that they enthusiastically supported the wartime causes of nations who were at that moment denying them equal rights and accepting their services simply because there was no one else to do the job! Perhaps they would have a collective message about seizing windows of opportunity and following one’s conscience.

What does history mean to you and why is it so important, do you think,  to keep the past alive for future generations, particularly young adults, to discover?

While technology and societal norms change, human nature doesn’t. That’s why “those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” A positive variation of that thought, and what I try to accomplish with my books is this: those who admire the heroes of the past just might become heroes themselves.

History is full of stories of people who made courageous choices in the midst of difficulty, who gave their time and effort – and sometimes their lives — for something higher than themselves. That’s inspiring no matter what one’s age but it’s particularly important for young people in search of something that matters.

Further Resources

©Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics by Kathryn Atwood, 2014, published by Chicago Review Press.

Back cover of Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics featuring a selection of review comments.

Celebrating Cunard’s 175th Anniversary: Memories Of Glamour On The High Seas

©Come Step Back In Time

Queen Mary 2, Sunday 3rd May, 2015, Southampton before sailing out into Southampton Water with her sister ships, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth. Queen Mary 2 has 2,000 bathrooms, 3,000 telephones, 280,000 square yards of fitted carpets and 5,000 stairs. ©Come Step Back In Time

  • Poster produced for Southern Railways (SR) to advertise the first sailing of Queen Mary, and tickets to the event from London train stations. The Queen Mary could accommodate 776 first-class, 784 tourist and 579 third-class passengers, together with 1101 officers and crew. She also won the Blue Riband of the Atlantic in 1936 and 1938, and served as a troop ship in World War Two. Artwork by Leslie Carr, who painted marine subjects and architectural and river scenes and designed posters for the SR, London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) and British Railways (BR). Dimensions: 1016 mm x 1270 mm. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)

Sunday 3rd May, 2015 – Sailing of The ‘3 Queens’ From Southampton, Hampshire

In 2015, one of the most famous names in shipping, Cunard, celebrates its 175th anniversary.  On Sunday, 3rd May, I joined the crowds of onlookers at Mayflower Park and Town Quay, Southampton (yes, I did have to make a dash between both locations to get the best images!), to witness the historic spectacle of Cunard’s ‘3 Queens’ sailing out into the Solent.

  •  A view of a restaurant aboard Queen Mary 2. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
©Come Step Back In Time

Queen Mary 2, Sunday 3rd May, 2015, Southampton.©Come Step Back In Time

©Come Step Back In Time

©Come Step Back In Time

Queen Mary 2 (2003) led her sister ships, Queen Victoria (2007) and Queen Elizabeth (2010), on a ‘thank-you’ procession down Southampton Water and into the Solent. Queen Elizabeth was heading for Hamburg, Queen Victoria to Guernsey and Queen Mary 2 to New York.

©Come Step Back In Time

Queen Mary 2, Sunday 3rd May, 2015, Southampton. ©Come Step Back In Time

Queen Elizabeth, Sunday 3rd May, 2015, Southampton. ©Come Step Back In Time

Queen Elizabeth, Sunday 3rd May, 2015, Southampton. ©Come Step Back In Time

©Come Step Back In Time

©Come Step Back In Time

Queen Victoria, Sunday 3rd May, 2015, sailing past Mayflower Park, Southampton to join Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria. ©Come Step Back In Time

Queen Victoria, Sunday 3rd May, 2015, sailing past Mayflower Park, Southampton to join Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth. ©Come Step Back In Time

Queen Mary 2 setting sail on Sunday 3rd May, 2015. ©Come Step Back In Time

Queen Mary 2 setting sail on Sunday 3rd May, 2015. ©Come Step Back In Time

Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth set sail, Sunday 3rd May, 2015. ©Come Step Back In Time

Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth set sail, Sunday 3rd May, 2015. ©Come Step Back In Time

The '3 Queens' sail off into Southampton Water on their respective voyages, Sunday 3rd May, 2015. ©Come Step Back In Time

Cunard’s distinctive red funnels belonging to the ‘3 Queens’ can be seen sailing off into Southampton Water on their respective voyages, Sunday 3rd May, 2015. ©Come Step Back In Time

Cunard’s Early History

  • Sir Samuel Cunard, founder of Cunard Line in 1839.

Cunard Line was formed in 1839 by Canadian born, Sir Samuel Cunard (1787-1865), who had answered an advertisement placed by the British Admiralty for bidders to operate a timetabled steamship service to carry the Royal Mail between Britain and the North American colonies. Sir Samuel was the son of a master carpenter and timber merchant who had fled the American Revolution (1765-1783) and settled in Halifax, Canada.

  • PS Britannia, 1840. Model (scale 1:48). She was built for the British and North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Co, which became the Cunard Steamship Co Ltd. Her 3 sister-ships, the Acadia, the Caledonia, and the Columbia were also built on the Clyde at the same time.  There was accommodation for a 150 passengers. Charles Dickens (1812-1870) crossed on the Britannia in 1842, which he recorded in his ‘American Notes’. (Photo by Science & Society Picture Library/SSPL/Getty Images)

Despite the considerable risks involved in tendering for this contract (no ship, no maritime experience, huge financial risks, stiff penalties for late delivery of mail etc.), Sir Samuel uprooted his family and moved to Britain. On July 4th, 1940, steamship Britannia left Liverpool, arriving in Halifax, Nova Scotia, 12 days and 10 hours later, averaging a speed of 8.5 knots. Three more ships joined the fleet and by the end of 1840, Cunard offered a scheduled weekly service across the Atlantic.

  • ‘175 Years. Forever Cunard – A Voyage Through History’ by Cunard. Uploaded to You Tube 12.1.15.

A Celebration of 175 Years of Cunard – Exhibition Southampton City Art Gallery

From 1st May until 5th September 2015, there is an exhibition of rarely seen images from the Cunard archive on display at Southampton City Art Gallery. Also featured will be iconic a portrait of the QE2 that was presented to the city by Cunard in 2008 following the ship’s last day in Southampton, her home port.

The exhibition also includes popular posters from the eras which were used by travel agents to sell ocean travel in the most attractive light. A dedicated ‘wall of fame’ will take visitors back to one of the most glamorous eras as they discover which Hollywood stars graced Cunard’s decks.

Southampton City Art Gallery is open Monday to Friday, 10am-3pm and on Saturdays 10am-5pm. Admission to the Gallery and this special exhibition is free. For further information, click here.

A list of free Cunard talks taking place at the Gallery over the coming months can be found here.

  • 4th September 1947, Southampton, actress Elizabeth Taylor is pictured on board Queen Mary with her two French Poodle dogs, ready to return to America after a short stay in London (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images)

Notable Cunard Liners

  • 15th April, 1912: Carpathia arrives to pick up survivors in lifeboats from the Titanic. Original Publication: The Graphic – pub. 1912 (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
  • CarpathiaLaunched 1902, maiden voyage 5th May, 1903, rescued 705 survivors from doomed liner Titanic, torpedoed southeast of Ireland and west of the Isles of Scilly by German submarine U-55, 17th July, 1918;

  • Passengers drinking in one of the bars on board the Mauretania as it draws into Fishguard, Pembroke. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

  • The Dining Saloon of the Mauretania c.1900. (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images)
  • Mauretania – Launched 1906, maiden voyage 17th November, 1907, Blue Riband, out of service 1934 and scrapped 1935;

  • Interior of the Grill Room aboard the Aquitania, c.1920. (Photo by Paul Popper/Popperfoto/Getty Images)
  • Aquitania – Launched 1913, maiden voyage 30th May, 1914, last surviving four-funnelled ocean liner, Blue Riband, served in both World Wars, scrapped in 1950;

  • c.1920: A line of women waving goodbye to the vessel Laconia as she leaves Liverpool. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
  • Laconia – Launched in 1921, maiden voyage 25th May, 1922, sunk by torpedo from German U-boat U-156 on 12th September, 1942. Aboard were 2,732,  crew, British and Polish soldiers, civilian passengers and Italian POWs.  The final survivor count varies, different sources estimate that there were somewhere between 1,104 and 1,500. Captain of the German U-boat, Werner Hartenstein (1908-1943), ordered his submarine to surface and go back for survivors, this extraordinary turn of events led to what is known as ‘The Laconia Incident.’

  • The luxurious wood-finished 1st class smoking saloon of the Laconia. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

  • The 2nd class saloon of the Laconia, with a painted ceiling and pillared colonnade. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

  • The observation saloon of the Queen Mary serves as the sleeping quarters for American soldiers, while the vessel carries out her duties as a troopship during World War Two. Original Publication: Picture Post – 1825 – Queen Mary troopship – unpub. (Photo by Haywood Magee/Getty Images)

  • The luxury dining room of the Queen Mary serves as a mess for American soldiers, while the vessel carries out her duties as a troopship during World War Two. Original Publication: Picture Post – 1825 – Queen Mary  troopship – unpub. (Photo by Haywood Magee/Getty Images)
  • Queen Mary – Launched 1934, maiden voyage 27th May, 1936, Blue Riband, served as a troopship in World War Two and after the war G.I. Brides were transported on her back to America, retired from service 9th December, 1967, now a hotel ship, restaurant and museum in Long Beach Harbour, California;

  • 10th July, 1947: The Queen Mary at Southampton after her refitting at the end of World War Two during which she was used as a troopship. (Photo by J. A. Hampton/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

  • ‘Queen Mary Crew Members’, interviews with crew members who served on the Queen Mary in her heyday. Uploaded to You Tube 22.9.14.

  • ‘Queen Mary War Brides’, former war bride, June Allen, recalls the thrill of coming to America on the Queen Mary. Uploaded to You Tube 22.9.14.
  • The cocktail bar and observation lounge of the Cunard White Star liner Queen Mary. The bar is made of Macassar ebony with a mural by Alfred R. Thomson behind. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
  • Dining-room aboard Queen Elizabeth in 1946. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
  • Queen Elizabeth – Launched 1938, pre-war maiden voyage 3rd March, 1940, in World War Two she served as a troopship and after the war G.I. Brides were transported on her back to America, her service career as a passenger liner began officially on her post-war maiden voyage, 16th October, 1946, she was retired in 1968, destroyed by fire in 1972;

  • Smoking room aboard the Queen Elizabeth, 1950. In this shot, some of the chairs have ropes securing them to the floor, presumably to stop them sliding about in rough seas. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)

Hollywood Glamour Aboard Cunard’s Luxury Liners

In 1997, I worked as a research assistant on Romancing Hollywood, a conference and exhibition at Millais Gallery, Southampton. The exhibition celebrated the glamour of Hollywood as it was perceived from the 1930s until the 1950s in Britain. Focussing mainly on Southampton, Romancing Hollywood, explored the ways in which glamour was not only received by local people via Hollywood but also created.

During the 1930s Southampton, as a gateway to the rest of the world, became a mecca for stars of stage and screen travelling on Cunard’s popular transatlantic route to New York. The exhibition concentrated on Cunard’s Queen Mary whose maiden voyage departed from Southampton on 27th May, 1936 and the Queen Elizabeth, launched in 1938.

I had the privilege of interviewing crew members who had worked on the original ‘Queens’, amongst other luxury transatlantic liners, during the golden-age of pre and post-war ocean travel. Here are a few extracts from those interviews that were published in the catalogue accompanying the exhibition (Romancing Hollywood by A. Massey, E. Stoffer, A. Forsyth and J. Bushnell,1997, ISBN 1 874011 62 1).  All interviewees described what life was like for the ordinary Cunard employee aboard these glamourous and luxurious ‘floating hotels’.

Jack Barker was born in 1919 and worked in a London Hotel as a Page Boy before going to work for Cunard in 1937 (Andania). After World War Two, Jack worked on the Queen Elizabeth (1938) for 16 years, rising to position of Head Waiter: ‘You would start the morning at half past six. Before the restaurant opened at eight o’clock for breakfast, you would have a scrub out to do, and you had to get into your uniform, which you had to buy yourself, and then breakfast went on till ten, and then after that you had to get your station ready for lunch, and you had to be in the restaurant by  half past twelve, you didn’t get any time off. You got used to it. I must have met hundreds of stars. Alfred Hitchcock, he just took a liking to me as a waiter.’

  • Crew members working in the engine room of the liner Queen Mary during a transatlantic crossing, 12th August, 1939. Original Publication : Picture Post – 198 – Atlantic Crossing – pub. 1939 (Photo by Kurt Hutton/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Ralph Clarke was born in 1929 and worked on the railway boats at Southampton Docks for 6 months prior to starting work as a Trimmer on board the Queen Mary (1936) in April 1948. He worked on board the Queen Elizabeth (1938) in the late 1940s for 3 trips after an accident on board the Queen Mary, to which he returned: ‘Everything was SO BIG, extraordinarily big for the first month I was virtually lost on the Queen Mary. It was a massive, great big, beautiful ship. Danny Kaye and his wife and two children came down and he would say ‘Hello everybody,’ and he gave a song, one or two chaps in the crew used to be able to play the piano. We had Bing Crosby, we then had Paul Robeson and Jack Dempsey the boxer and he used to come down and say, ‘If anyone feels like a spar with me you are welcome to do it? They used to mix, no matter how big a star, they used to talk to us as if we were human beings and they used to be great friends.’

  • 1948, Bellboys from the Queen Mary  being inspected by the chief steward prior to leaving Southampton for New York (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images)

John Dempsey was born in 1920 and first went to sea in 1934 on the Mauretania (1907) as a Bell Boy at the age of fourteen. While working on the Berengaria (formerly the SS Imperator but after being brought by Cunard, sailed under the name Berengaria), he volunteered to assist the masseur, Arthur Mason in the Turkish Bath. When he moved to the Queen Mary (1936), Arthur Mason requested that John rejoin him, which he did until the until the outbreak of war. John joined the Queen Elizabeth (1938) for its post-war maiden voyage and worked in the Turkish Bath as a masseur until 1960: ‘The majority of first class passengers, mostly the Jewish community, loved their Turkish bath and massage. The hours of the gentlemen were 7am to 10am and from 2pm to 7.30pm. These people were running around upstairs and in the smoking lounges and the observation bars and had to behave themselves to a certain extent. What they wanted was to take their clothes off and be normal. So they came to the Turkish bath, off with their clothes and, ‘Hey John, go and get me a pint of beer’. They used to tell stories and do drinks. They were letting their hair down, for about the one and half hours that they were there. These were film stars, all lovely people, great people. I had a Christmas party in the Turkish bath with Noel Coward. It was a Christmas trip and he said to us ‘Have you got any parties?’ Well all the ship had parties, a fellow called Tommy MacDonald and the ship’s dispenser. We were drinking and telling stories, and that was our party. Coward sent me a Christmas card another year.

  • Swimming Pool on-board the 2nd class of the Queen Mary. March the 3rd, 1936 (Photo by Imagno/Getty Images) [Swimming Pool der zweiten Klasse auf der ‘Queen Mary’, Southampton, England, Photographie, 3,3,1936]
  • Passengers on the Queen Mary eating dinner in the luxurious cabin class restaurant during her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York, May 1936. The radiating light on the map by Macdonald Gill at the far end of the room constantly pinpoints the vessel’s location. (Photo by Hudson/Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Terry Hargroves was born in 1928, after demob from the Air Force he worked on the Queen Mary. Terry started by washing dishes, working his way up over 14 years to a Bedroom Steward in first class: ‘I had a set of rooms, which usually depended on something called a section, which was a set of about 5, 6, or 10 rooms. You were responsible for keeping them clean, making of all the beds, and attending to the passengers that used them. You took the passengers on, took their luggage and sorted that out. You fetched and carried for them and you tried to look after them the best you could until they got off the other end. The passengers lived in the middle of the ship and crew lived at either end. Either end of the boat there was part of the boat tied up. On the back end of the boat there was an area where the ropes came in to tie the ship up and for the cargo. That big area was designated as the crews’ ‘Pig and Whistle’. They had a little bar, that was the crews’ pub. You found an empty beer barrel or you sat on the bollards or an empty beer crate. Every now and again Bob Hope or Tommy Cooper came down there. Quite a few people were persuaded to come down. The crew would decorate it with a few flags and couple of spotlights. I think Bob Hope said that he’d played in many theatres but he rarely played in a sewer.’

  • 12th August 1939: Staff on the Queen Mary pass the time during a transatlantic crossing in one  the ‘Pig And Whistle’. Original Publication: Picture Post – 198 – Atlantic Crossing – pub. 1939 (Photo by Kurt Hutton/Picture Post/Getty Images)
  • Bob Hope and Loretta Young were among a number of American film actors and actresses who arrived at Southampton on the Queen Mary for the Royal Command Film Performance in London on November, 1947. (Photo by Planet News Archive/SSPL/Getty Images)
  • A steward unpacking a passenger’s luggage while a stewardess arranges a vase of flowers on the Queen Mary, 1948. (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images)
  • Cabin class passengers enjoy a tea in the middle of the Atlantic on the promenade deck of the Queen Mary c.1939. Original Publication: Picture Post – 198 – Atlantic Crossing – pub. 1939 (Photo by Kurt Hutton/Getty Images)

Frank Makinson was born in 1925, he joined the Queen Mary (1936) in 1944 while serving as a troopship and stayed with her until 1967 for her last voyage to Long Beach. Frank continued to work in the pantry of both the Queen Elizabeth and QE2 until 1970: ‘We always supplied the in-between meals, sometimes we also had a night pantry which I was in for quite a while. When there was music and dancing going on, on the ships, we had to supply sandwiches and various things to these rooms where they had these sessions. I remember getting an order for cold meat from Victor Mature, and he stressed that he wanted a whole turkey sliced up. It was just about the time his Samson and Delilah [1950] picture was about, so I think he wanted to let everyone know that he was a big eater. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were on the Queen Elizabeth towards the end, that was when they had recently got back together, and she had a great big fancy ring. I didn’t see them, but I had dealings with regards to the stewardess, she used to want Stilton cheese for them. One of them liked a lot of the blue of the Stilton, and one liked a lot of the white. Just who was what, I don’t know.’

  • Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton on the QE2; c.1960; New York. (Photo by Art Zelin/Getty Images)
  • Cabin verandah grill on the Queen Mary – postcard from 1930s. (Photo by Apic/Getty Images)

John Minto was born in 1927, he joined Cunard in 1949 as a cabin steward aboard the Queen Mary (1936). He worked his way up to first-class waiter and ultimately became the Captain’s Tiger (waiter). John left the Queen Mary in 1955 and became Mayor of Southampton in 1978/9: People like the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and Winston Churchill used to go in the Verandah Grill, they used to go incognito and the cost of going in there for a meal was ten shillings which was fifty pence. In the Veranda Grill, everything was on tap. If you wanted oysters, you got oysters, if you wanted caviar, you got caviar. Each kitchen, each galley was divided into specific areas. You had the pastry, the soup and the grills. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor never came down to the main restaurant, they always went to the Verandah Grill. The thing that always struck me about them was the amount of luggage they had.’

  • Cabin bedroom on Queen Mary – postcard is from 1930s (Photo by Apic/Getty Images)
  • A bootblack cleans the passengers’ shoes on the Queen Elizabeth (1938), as she makes her way from Southampton to New York, May 1964. (Photo by Bert Hardy Advertising Archive/Getty Images)
  • 20th October 1964, American actress Carroll Baker, born 1931, on board the Queen Mary on her way to London for the premiere of her film ‘The Carpetbaggers’ (Photo by Paul Popper/Popperfoto/Getty Images

St. Barbe Museum, Lymington, Hampshire: ‘English Idyll: Paintings & Prints by Leslie Moffat Ward’ – Exhibition

'Near Worbarrow Bay' by Leslie Moffat Ward. Image courtesy of Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum, Bournemouth.

‘Near Worbarrow Bay’, Dorset (1930) by Leslie Moffat Ward. (Oil on canvas, 695 x 1010mm). Signed and dated. Image courtesy of Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum, Bournemouth.

According to academic and writer, Robert Macfarlane, British popular culture is currently in the grip of an obsession with the eerie nature of the English countryside.  Writing in The Guardian (10.4.15), Macfarlane observes that :

Among the shared landmarks of this [cultural] terrain are ruins, fields, pits, fringes, relics, buried objects, hilltops, falcons, demons and deep pasts….. suppressed forces pulse and flicker beneath the ground and within the air (capital, oil, energy, violence, state power, surveillance), waiting to erupt or to condense.

In music, literature, art, film and photography, as well as in new and hybrid forms and media, the English eerie is on the rise. A loose but substantial body of work is emerging that explores the English landscape in terms of its anomalies rather than its continuities, that is sceptical of comfortable notions of “dwelling” and “belonging”, and of the packagings of the past as “heritage”, and that locates itself within a spectred rather than a sceptred isle.

(‘The eeriness of the English countryside’, by Robert Macfarlane, The Guardian, 10.4.15)

'The Long Man on the Downs' Lithograph 1943 265 x 223mm Signed and dated 1943, numbered 13 Courtesy of private collector Stuart Southall

‘The Long Man on the Downs’ (1943) by Leslie Moffat Ward. (Lithograph, 265 x 223mm). Signed and dated 1943, numbered 13. Image courtesy of private collector Stuart Southall

Interpreting British landscape art ‘in terms of its anomalies rather than its continuities’ is an interesting perspective and one that I shall bear in mind as I revisit works by the often overlooked landscape artist, Leslie Moffat Ward (1888-1978). Ward’s art is the subject of a new exhibition, English Idyll, opening on Saturday, 25th April, at St. Barbe Museum & Art Gallery, Lymington, Hampshire and continuing until Saturday, 6th June.

'On Ballard Down' (1914) by Leslie Moffat Ward. (Etching and aquatint, 200 x 275mm). Signed and dated 1919, numbered 20.  Image courtesy of private collector Stuart Southall.

‘On Ballard Down’ (1914) by Leslie Moffat Ward. (Etching and aquatint, 200 x 275mm). Signed and dated 1919, numbered 20.
Image courtesy of private collector Stuart Southall.

Given the renewed interest in British landscape art, this retrospective of Ward’s work could not be more timely. English Idyll features paintings and prints by Ward, an acknowledged master of British landscape art. The exhibition will reveal a vanished England of bustling wharfs and ramshackle buildings. Ward’s evocative etchings, lithographs, linocuts and wood engravings capture a disappearing world of tranquil countryside and bustling waterways.

Ward was also an accomplished painter in oils and watercolour, capturing the chalk cliffs, ruins and architectural oddities of an England that would have been familiar to Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) or Charles Dickens (1812-1870). His monochrome prints reveal a mastery of atmosphere, light and shade.

Views of Poole Harbour and the Isle of Purbeck reflect his love of the Dorset landscape, but he travelled widely in search of pastoral subjects and took delight in the decaying buildings of Britain’s historic towns. His passion for working boats and industrial architecture took him to the Thames, Medway and Humber. He is perhaps little known outside Dorset, but this exhibition confirms his position as one of England’s most significant 20th century painter-printmakers.

Ward began his art training by winning a scholarship to the Drummond Road Art school in Bournemouth, a town he spent most of his life in. He lived at 22 Grants Avenue, Springbourne area), and taught at the Municipal College of Art; he was also a leading member of the Bournemouth Arts Club. Probably best known as a very fine etcher, he was elected a member of the Royal Society of Painter Etchers (RE) in 1936 and exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy.

Ward was a very tall austere character who often wore cloaks and flamboyant hats. He was also a good friend of artist Eustace Nash (1886-1969).  Both were often seen together in the Bournemouth and Poole area during the 1950’s and 60’s, between them they produced many drawings, paintings and etchings of the region.

English Idyll  will feature many rarely seen works on loan from private collections as well as paintings and prints from the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum in Bournemouth. It will be a treat for devotees of fine prints and lovers of the English landscape. Works by Ward are held in the Russell Cotes Art Gallery in Bournemouth and public galleries in Hastings, EastbourneSouthampton, Oldham, Cheltenham, The Victoria and Albert and the British Museum. A fully illustrated catalogue is available, sponsored by private collector of Ward’s work, Stuart Southall.

Knowle Church, Dorset by Leslie Moffat Ward. (Colour linocut, 288 x 186mm). Signed. Image courtesy of private collector Stuart Southall.

‘Knowle Church’, Dorset by Leslie Moffat Ward. (Colour linocut, 288 x 186mm). Signed. Image courtesy of private collector Stuart Southall.


V.E. Day 70th Anniversary – Memories From My Family’s Photo Album (Kent & Netherlands)

V. E. Day commemorative silk scarf. Private collection. ©Come Step Back In Time

V. E. Day commemorative silk scarf from 1945. Private collection. ©Come Step Back In Time


Germany surrendered on 7th May, 1945, and the next day was declared V.E. (Victory in Europe) Day, ending World War Two in Europe. However, for many servicemen and their families, May 1945 was not their war’s end. The Allies were still at war with Japan but on the 6th and 9th August, 1945, the United States dropped atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan surrendered, World War Two was officially at an end.

V.E. Day commemorative pins, 1945. Private collection. ©Come Step Back In Time

V.E. Day commemorative pins, 1945. Private collection. ©Come Step Back In Time

In 2015, Britain will be marking the 70th anniversary of V.E. Day Victory in Europe and from Friday 8th May 2015 there will be a three-day weekend of commemorative events across the country. At 3pm on 8th May, national two-minute silence will mark the moment Winston Churchill (1874-1965) broadcast to the nation the news that war was officially over. (Follow UK events on Twitter: @DefenceHQ – hashtag VEDAY70)

Private collection. ©Come Step Back In Time

Souvenir V.E. Day brochure, 1945. Private collection. ©Come Step Back In Time

Victory souvenir postcard, 1945. Private collections. ©Come Step Back In Time

Victory souvenir postcard, 1945. Private collection. ©Come Step Back In Time

One of the most poignant of these V.E. Day 70th events will be the lighting of a hundred beacons at various locations around Britain from Newcastle to Cornwall. In the skies above London, there will be an aerial display of Spitfire and Lancaster bomber planes, and cathedral bells will also ring-out across the country.

VE day party May 8th 1945. Cuckoo farm , Boxted , Colchester.  Victory in Europe day 8th May 1945. A celebration party at Cuckoo Farm near Colchester Essex England. party was held for the local community by the Joy family who owned the land . Mum in the middle of the picture would be waiting till August for VJ day and the end of the second world war. Colchester's new football stadium is at this location today. Image courtesy of Glenn Pattinson (Glenn's Flickr account is full of lovely heritage images, click here).

V.E. day party, May 8th 1945. Cuckoo farm , Boxted , Colchester, Essex. This celebration party was held at Cuckoo Farm (near Colchester Essex England).  The party was for the local community hosted by the Joy family who owned the land. Glenn Pattinson’s mother is in the middle of the picture, however, she would be waiting until August for V.J. day. However, for various reasons, her husband didn’t return home until February 1946. A lot of service people were kept in India after August 1945 because of the country’s internal religious and political problems.  The British Raj was coming to an end and there were increased social tensions. Colchester’s new football stadium is at this location today. Image courtesy of Glenn Pattinson (Glenn’s Flickr account is full of lovely heritage images, click here).

People are also being encouraged to organise street parties within their local community, similar to those organised 70 years ago. Although I am sure trestle and picnic tables will be employed in 2015 rather than dismantled Morrison shelters which were used in May, 1945! To help inspire you, I have curated a selection of ‘rationbook recipes’ from my own collection of 1940s cookery books. (Click here) I have also collated a Pinterest board packed full of inspiration to help you create a 1940s style look, for both men and women. (Click Here)

Souvenir invitation for a children's V.J. party, 1945. Private collection. ©Come Step Back In Time

Souvenir invitation for a children’s V.J. party, 1945. Private collection. ©Come Step Back In Time

My late grandmother with her sister on the beach at Hythe, Kent, in the late 1930s. ©Come Step Back In Time

My late grandmother with her sister enjoying a fun-filled Summer on the beach at Hythe, Kent, late 1930s. ©Come Step Back In Time

My late grandfather (left) with a friend at Hythe beach, Kent before World War Two. ©Come Step Back In Time

My late grandfather (left) with a friend at Hythe beach, Kent before World War Two. ©Come Step Back In Time



Family holiday, bungalow, opposite Hythe seafront, Kent. Photograph taken after World War Two. ©Come Step Back In Time

Grandmother in the porch at the bungalow in Hythe, Summer 1956. ©Come Step Back In Time

Grandmother in the porch at the bungalow in Hythe, Summer 1956. ©Come Step Back In Time

Before war was declared in 1939, my grandparents enjoyed carefree summers in Hythe, Kent at the family’s holiday home, a bungalow located on Dymchurch Road, directly opposite the seafront. The bungalow still exists today, with its original name, but is no longer in our family.

The lady standing-up is my great, great, grandmother.  Photograph is dated c.1911.

The lady standing-up is my great, great grandmother Verena Chads (Nee Jennings) who brought the Hythe bungalow in 1929. Photograph is dated c.1911. ©Come Step Back In Time

My great, great grandmother (pictured above, standing) Verena Jennings (b.1864) cut a formidable figure. She was an educated lady of independent means with a portfolio of properties across London. She married into the Chads dynasty, an illustrious naval family but later divorced her husband, an unusual step for a woman in Victorian England. Her ex-husband later took his own life for reasons which I feel it entirely inappropriate to discuss on a public forum such as this. However, she did receive a substantial divorce settlement and lived out the rest of her days enjoying a comfortable standard of living.

Verena Chads (Nee Jennings) a successful businesswoman, my great, great grandmother. ©Come Step Back In Time

Verena Chads (Nee Jennings) a successful businesswoman, my great, great grandmother. ©Come Step Back In Time

My great, great grandmother did not enjoy living in London during the Summer months and decided to purchase a holiday home on the Kent coast which she could live in from Easter until September.  She had always enjoyed trips to the seaside during her childhood. In 1929, now in her 65th year, she purchased a new bungalow that had just been built on a plot of land not far from Hythe Ranges, on the Dymchurch Road. The bungalow was the first to be built on that plot and was sold by local Hythe estate agents C. R. Child & Partners , the firm still exist today.  Incidentally, it was one of the first sales that this estate agent made in 1929, their inaugural year.

My late grandmother in 1930s (Verena Chads' granddaughter) in the garden of the Hythe bungalow. ©Come Step Back In Time

My late grandmother (centre) with her sister and friend enjoying Hythe beach in the 1930s. ©Come Step Back In Time

Great, great grandmother named the bungalow ‘Multum-in-parvo’ which is Latin for ‘much in little’. The bungalow remained in the family until the early 1970s. Every Easter she would come down to her Hythe seaside retreat. Compared to her usual standard of living in a large, smart central London townhouse with servants, conditions at the bungalow were primitive and servantless.

My late grandmother in 1930s (Verena Chads' granddaughter) in the garden of the Hythe bungalow. ©Come Step Back In Time

Verena Chads’ granddaughter, my grandmother (1930s) in the garden of the bungalow at Hythe. ©Come Step Back In Time

In 1929, the bungalow had a large garden, no sanitation, an outdoor toilet, no electricity or running water (rain water was collected in a vast metal container and boiled for daily use). Perishables were stored in a meat safe, which was corrugated with a grill on the front, as there was no refrigeration nor suitable marble-lined larder at the property. My mother tells me that apparently it became a family tradition, started by great, great grandmother, to take oysters and a pint of Guinness, most days at 11am.

  • Guinness advert. A print from the Illustrated London News, 12th December 1936. (Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)
My grandmother with her best friend in the garden at the Hythe bungalow. ©Come Step Back In Time

My grandmother with her best friend in the garden at the Hythe bungalow before World War Two. ©Come Step Back In Time

It was necessary to shop on a regular basis in order to eat fresh produce. A local farm in Palmarsh, close by the bungalow, provided the family with dairy products and the milkman called at the bungalow most days. A kitchen range was fitted after World War Two and in 1955, gas was connected to the property and finally in 1958, water and electricity. By the 1960s, basic mod cons had been installed.

1916 Swift motorcar similar to the one great, great grandmother brought for use whilst she was in Hythe. Image from my own private collection. ©Come Step Back In Time

1916 Swift motorcar similar to the one great, great grandmother brought for use whilst she was in Hythe. Image from my own private collection. ©Come Step Back In Time

The fishmonger and butcher also made home visits. Great, great grandmother grew quite friendly with the fishmonger which resulted in her hiring him as a chauffeur during the Summer months. She then brought a World War One Swift motorcar, although she didn’t drive herself, the fishmonger drove her around when she was at the bungalow. In exchange, she allowed him to drive the car for his own use from October until March. When she died, the fishmonger brought the Swift and continued to use it.

  • 4th June 1938: A little girl at London Waterloo Station makes enquiries for trains to the seaside during the Whitsun Holidays. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

Before World War Two, great, great grandmother used to journey down to Hythe from London Victoria on the East Kent Coach. She travelled with many of her possessions, including her beloved parrot. She would alight at Red Lion Square, Hythe and continued the rest of her short journey to the bungalow by train, alighting at Botolph’s Bridge, an unmanned halt close by. This halt opened in 1927 and closed just before World War Two in 1939, it didn’t re-open after the war. For a couple of years she travelled by train to Sandgate until it closed in 1931. The family also often made good use of Romney Hythe and Dymchurch light railway line (RH&DR) when visiting the bungalow.

  • August 1922: A family paddling in the sea at Dymchurch, 9 miles up the Kent coast from Hythe. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
My late grandmother on Hythe beach in the 1930s.

My late grandmother on Hythe beach in the 1930s. ©Come Step Back In Time

RH&DR opened for public use on 16th July, 1927, when the inaugural train travelled from Hythe to New Romney. The 8 miles between Hythe and New Romney was covered in double tracks. In 1927, St. Mary’s Bay had its own RH&DR station known as ‘Holiday Camp’ due to its location near to several holiday and boys camps, popular in the area at that time. St. Mary’s Bay was known (and still is!) for its lovely beaches, perfect for bathing.  In 1928, the RH&DR line was extended to Dungeness via Greatstone, creating a main line ride of 13.5 miles.

My great, great grandmother's copy of Hythe, Sandgate, Folkestone, Dymchurch, New Romney Guidebook, from 1927-8. Private collection. ©Come Step Back In Time

My great, great grandmother’s copy of Hythe, Sandgate, Folkestone, Dymchurch, New Romney Guidebook, from 1927-8. Private collection. ©Come Step Back In Time

Another reason that attracted my great, great grandmother to Hythe in 1929 was its obvious potential as a popular, smart, seaside resort. During the 1920s Hythe had begun to invest in its tourist infrastructure and in May, 1924, the ‘Bathing Establishment’ had been converted into a restaurant and tea room, The Pavillion. It was then leased by Mrs Farmer and a music and dancing licence was granted.

Hythe has had a long history as seaside resort, emerging first in the Georgian period. In the Hythe, Sandgate and Folkestone Guide (1816) it was stated:

In the immediate neighbourhood of Hythe there is a pleasant walk called Marine Grove, leading to the sea-side, and another denominated Sir William’s Wall, where both visitors and the inhabitants frequently form agreeable promenades (especially in the summer evenings), and to which the refreshing coolness of the sea-breezes are extremely inviting…..

(Hythe: A History by Martin Easdown & Linda Sage, 2004, p.69)

  • High Street, Hythe, Kent, 1890-1910. The High Street in Hythe contains the Smugglers Retreat (on the right) which was demolished in 1907. Popular belief has it that a light was lit in the projecting upper storey window to signal to smugglers off the coast that it was safe to land. (Photo by English Heritage/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

The arrival of Hythe as a respectable watering place really began in 1854, when the Corporation opened the Bathing Establishment behind the sea front in South Road at a cost of £2,000…They [the baths], catered for the craze amongst the wealthy that the bathing in, and drinking of, seawater could cure all their ills. Indoor baths had grown in popularity as a more comfortable alternative to sea bathing whilst, unsurprisingly, the drinking of seawater was in decline in 1860. However, the recommended daily does for any partakers was 1/2 pint of seawater mixed with milk, beef tea or port wine….The [bathing] machines were hauled to and from the sea over Hythe’s steeply shelving shingle beach either by horses or by using a winch.

(Ibid. pp.69-70)

Views of Hythe from My great, great grandmother's copy of Hythe, Sandgate, Folkestone, Dymchurch, New Romney Guidebook, from 1927-8. Family collection. ©Come Step Back In Time

Views of Hythe from My great, great grandmother’s copy of Hythe, Sandgate, Folkestone, Dymchurch, New Romney Guidebook, from 1927-8. Top: Military Canal, Middle: Esplanade, Bottom: Ladies’ Walk. Family collection. ©Come Step Back In Time

In 1938, Stade Court Hotel and Four Winds Restaurant opened on West Parade, Hythe. The buildings were designed in the fashionable 1930s Art Deco minimalist style popular at the time. Leisure facilities began to increase in town and on 26th May, 1930 the Grove Cinema showed the first talking picture. The cinema was nicknamed ‘The Shack’ on account of its appearance but closed on 1st March, 1958.

On 12th June, 1937 the Ritz Cinema opened on the corner of Prospect Road and East Street. Another Art deco modernist-style building which could hold 858 patrons. Canal Hall in Hythe was another popular tourist destination, this time for dancing, opening its doors also in the 1930s.

Hythe’s spectacular, Venetian Fête, was one of the highlights in the Summer season calendar (and still is!). The event takes place on Hythe’s Royal Military Canal. The first Venetian Fête took place on 27th August, 1890 on the suggestion of Hythe reporter Edward Palmer who thought a parade of illuminated boats on the Canal would be an excellent tourist attraction and a showcase for local trades.

  • 5th September 1935: The ancient pageantry of the Cinque Ports, Councillor E C Smith, mayor of Hythe, sets out in his barge to welcome visiting mayors during the Hythe Venetian Fête at the Royal Military Canal in Kent. (Photo by Horace Abrahams/Keystone/Getty Images)

The event continued every year until World War One when it stopped and restarted again in 1927. Unfortunately, in 1927, there were complaints from locals who were unhappy about the 8 hour closure of the canal banks during the procession. The event did not take place again for 3 years but in 1934 there was a big revival and the annual procession drew large local and national crowds. The last one before the outbreak of World War Two was on 30th August 1939.

My late grandmother and her niece on Hythe beach in the 1930s, before war broke-out in 1939. ©Come Step Back In Time

My late grandmother and her sister on Hythe beach in the 1930s, before war broke-out in 1939. ©Come Step Back In Time

  • British Pathe film showcasing women’s swimming costumes from 1939. Uploaded to You Tube, 13.4.14.
  • 22nd October 1938: Young Muriel Richards, just one of the children sent to Dymchurch in Kent in anticipation of the start of World War Two. The storm clouds are gathering in Europe and the Summer of 1939 was to be the last time my family holidayed in Hythe until 1946. The evacuee in this image wears a label round her neck for identification. Original Publication: Picture Post – Album Of A Teacher In The Crisis – pub. 1938 (Photo by Merlyn Severn/Picture Post/Getty Images)
My late grandmother in World War Two, with some splendid victory roll curls! ©Come Step Back In Time

My late grandmother in World War Two, with some splendid victory roll curls! ©Come Step Back In Time

  • 8th April 1940: Despite the war, painters brighten up the sea front at Folkestone in hope that there might be an influx of tourists during Summer season. Sadly, this frontline town struggled to attract the tourists as the war progressed. It wasn’t long before it became a militarised zone. (Photo by Arthur Tanner/Fox Photos/Getty Images)


On 3rd September, 1939, World War Two was declared. At the time 1,000 children were staying at St. Mary’s Bay Holiday Camp, near Dymchuch and had to be immediately evacuated. The Sands Motel in ‘The Bay’ had two large naval guns mounted on the front of it, pointing out to sea. The guns were disguised to appear like two adjoining houses having false roofs and wooden chimney pots. The defences along the sea wall were reinforced as iron scaffolding was erected and mines fixed to it. Both The Sands Motel and the children’s holiday camp took direct hits from enemy bombs.

  • 1940, Kent. With the threat of German invasion imminent, a Coastal Guards detachment on the cliffs between Dover and Folkestone, are given a demonstration in the use of petrol bombs (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images)

During World War Two, Britain’s coastline was vulnerable to enemy invasion, particularly in the south or east. As soon as war was declared, beaches were planted with mines, barbed wire and other obstacles. Access to front-line coastal towns like Dover and Folkestone were heavily restricted.

  • 1940, barbed wire defences on the coast of Folkestone and Dover (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images)

Due to the location of my family’s bungalow, directly opposite the seafront on Dymchurch Road and close to the Hythe Ranges, this meant that visiting the property during the war was very much restricted. Definitely no holidays (the beach was out of bounds anyway!), local people and property owners had to obtain a resident’s pass to both visit as well as travel back and forth to their homes. My mother recalls that some of these visits made by her grandmother to inspect the bungalow meant that she had to be accompanied by military personnel to do so.

The Hythe Ranges have been used for live firing for nearly 200 years, they are one of the oldest ranges in Britain and are still used by the military today. There are two Martello Towers on the site as well as a “Grand Redoubt” fortification at Dymchurch which was built in 1800 as a defence structure in case of an invasion by Napoleon (1769-1821). During World War Two, the Martello Towers in Hythe resumed their role as a defence structure. They were used as look-out posts and armed with anti-aircraft guns and searchlights.

The Hythe School of Musketry, founded in March 1853, now known as the Small Arms School Corps (SASC). In 1939, the SASC took over responsibility for defences in the area:

A sea mine and boom defence system was installed in Hythe Bay and a minefield land on the seaward side of Hythe Gasworks. The beach was defended with a gantry of scaffold poles with attached mines and six-inch gun emplacements were located on the Promenade. Ladies Walk Bridge was demolished as a defensive measure, and others were disabled. The Royal Military Canal was enmeshed in barbed wire.

  • ‘Toy Train Goes To War’ (1944). Short film featuring the RHDR before World War Two carrying holiday crowds and then refitted for its important role in wartime when, according to my mother, one of the cargoes it transported was ack-ack guns. Uploaded to You Tube 13.4.2014

One of the RHDR engines, Hercules, was converted into an armoured train using guns salvaged from crashed aircraft. As the threat of invasion loomed, the Small Arms School was largely exiled to Bisley. Hythe became a prohibited zone and could be entered only with a valid resident’s pass: The district south of the Royal Military Canal was cleared and declared strictly out of bounds.

(Hythe: A History by Martin Easdown & Linda Sage, 2004, p.115)

  • Troops stationed in the Hythe area have been provided with a novel leave train. Troops of the command travel to visit the cinema and join main line trains for home leave. (On the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Light Railway – Probably at New Romney, Kent) (Photo by Planet News Archive/SSPL/Getty Images)

Unsurprisingly, due to its frontline coastal position, Hythe suffered at the hands of the Luftwaffe. During World War Two, in total, there were 19 air raids; 2 bouts of shelling; 11 fallen doodlebugs; 20 civilians killed (3 by a bomb that fell on and completely destroyed the Arcade in the High Street, 4th October, 1940).  On 10th May, 1942, 2 people died when a bomb fell at the back of Trice’s refreshment rooms and on 21st August, 3 others perished when a bomb exploded in the air above Prospect Road and Bank Street. (Source: Ibid p. 115)

One of the worse instances of civilian fatalities took place on 15th August, 1944 when a doodlebug flattened numbers 1-5 Earlsfied Road, claiming 5 lives. In 1941, on the Hythe Ranges, close to our family’s holiday bungalow, 3 soldiers were killed by a bomb whilst practicing there. In April, 1944, all civilians (except those who lived there) were banned from sea by virtue of a 10 mile radius, this was enforced right along the coast of southern England. By the end of 1944, Hythe was a husk of its former self, battle scarred but nevertheless ready to rise again from the ashes and re-establish itself as a popular seaside resort once more.  During the war, many of its residents had boarded-up their homes and moved in land which created a ghost town in their wake.

  • Evacuee Barrie Peacop enjoys an ice cream as he sits on a mine washed up on the beach at Deal in Kent towards the end of World War Two. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)
In the Summer of 1946, my family were finally allowed to return to their holiday bungalow in Hythe. My mother was a toddler at the time and this was her first experience of the seaside. Top left she is pictured giving her favourite teddy bear a bath. Notice behind the garden boundary is covered in barbed wire, left over from wartime. The other 3 photographs show my mother on Hythe beach enjoying a splash around in the sea. ©Come Step Back In Time

In the Summer of 1946, my family were finally allowed to return to their holiday bungalow in Hythe. My mother was a toddler at the time and this was her first experience of the seaside. Top left she is pictured giving her favourite teddy bear a bath in the garden at the bungalow. Notice behind, the garden boundary is still covered in wartime barbed wire. The other 3 photographs show my mother on Hythe beach enjoying her first sea encounter. ©Come Step Back In Time


Hythe, like the rest of the country, celebrated V.E. Day on 8th May, 1945. A Victory Party was held for local children at the Old Jesson Club, St. Mary’s Bay. Hythe Town Band played as part of the area-wide celebrations, having been disbanded at the start of World War Two following call-up orders.

My family were not allowed to return to their holiday bungalow in Hythe until the Summer of 1946. When they did, it was quite a celebration by all accounts from the photographs I have seen in our archives. Summer 1945, my grandfather was still serving in Holland (more about him in a moment), therefore the Summer of 1946 was the first time all the family was able to come together and celebrate the end of the war. My mother recalls that everyone travelled down to Hythe in April 1946, this month also happened to my mother’s 2nd birthday!

Summer 1946, my grandparents are reunited and enjoyed a wonderful Summer at the bungalow in Hythe, celebrating the end of the war and all the family surviving safe and sound. ©Come Step Back In Time

Summer 1946, my grandparents are reunited and enjoyed a wonderful Summer at the bungalow in Hythe, celebrating the end of the war and all the family surviving safe and sound. ©Come Step Back In Time

The above photographs show my mother’s first experiences of the seaside and playing in the sand. However, she informs me that she was less than happy with her first ‘dip in the sea’. Apparently, a soldier and his friend were walking along Hythe beach and saw my mother and asked if they could take her into the sea for a splash. My grandmother agreed, my mother was scooped-up and as they splashed around a large wave engulfed them all. Mother was really upset, bawled her eyes and the shocked soldiers hastily placed her down on the sandy shore. She is still terrified of water today and has never liked swimming since, only learning to do so when she was in 60th decade!

My grandparents and my mother. All safely reunited after World War Two and having fun on the beach at Hythe. ©Come Step Back In Time

My grandparents and my mother. All safely reunited after World War Two and having fun on the beach at Hythe. ©Come Step Back In Time

In the garden at the bungalow, Summer 1946. My grandfather is in the centre.  ©Come Step Back In Time

In the garden at the bungalow, Summer 1946. My grandfather is in the centre. ©Come Step Back In Time

My mother recalls that despite being allowed back on the beach in Hythe after the war, there were still many dangers present in doing so. Unexploded ordnance, debris such as rusty barbed wire and lots of fire bombs were common sights. Civilians were not allowed to walk on the Hythe Ranges for quite some time after the war and for obvious reasons until the sight was made safe to the public.

  • 24th December 1945: A bomb disposal officer gently pulling a mine from the sea in Hythe, Kent. (Photo by Hamlin/Express/Getty Images)

In fact there was still barbed wire on parts of Hythe beach and by the bungalow well into the 1960s! Until 1971, just off the coast near Hythe, there was even a large piece of Mulberry Harbour wreckage that had broken-off in 1944. My mother tells me that this large piece of concrete and steel was the size of a small house.

  • 24th December 1945: A bomb disposal officer with a mine washed up on the beach at Hythe. (Photo by Hamlin/Express/Getty Images)

Mother remembers that as she and her siblings grew-up throughout the 1940s and 1950s, discarded fire bombs and gun cartridges on the beach at Hythe were still a hazard. My grandfather insisted that everyone remained vigilant when playing on the shingle and sand. The more popular resorts in Kent, such as at St. Mary’s Bay and a little further along in Folkestone and Ramsgate, were first to have their beaches cleared of these hazards. It took a while longer for Hythe to be made safe.

  • 13th November 1944: Authorised by the Town Council, the destruction of concrete tank barriers on the seafront at Ramsgate, Kent, finally begins. They are no longer necessary, and would only impede the return of the tourist trade. (Photo by Harry Todd/Fox Photos/Getty Images)

  • British Pathe film from 1964 featuring the bomb disposal unit operating along the Kent coastline, including Lydd, twelve miles along the coast from Hythe. They are clearing ordinance from World War Two.

  • 3rd August 1946: The Marquis Trio performing on the sands near Dymchurch, Kent. Original Publication: Picture Post – 4152 – A Girl Drops Out Of The Blue – pub. 1946 (Photo by Merlyn Severn/Picture Post/Getty Images)

My mother remembers that holidays at the bungalow after the war until the 1960s were no-frills affairs compared to today’s beach holiday. Buckets and spades, ice-cream and swimming in the sea were the main activities. For the first decade after the war, people were still suffering the effects of rationing, money was tight and it wasn’t until the latter half of the 1950s when people’s disposable income began to rise. But these early years after the war were a time of carefree Summers, freedom to explore.

  • August 1955: Holiday-makers on the beach at Dymchurch, Kent. (Photo by D. Peacock/Fox Photos/Getty Images)
My aunt and uncle standing in front of their dad's Ford Zephyr. Galleywood Common. 1955.

My aunt and uncle standing in front of their dad’s Ford Zephyr. Galleywood Common. 1955. ©Come Step Back In Time

In the mid 1950s my grandfather purchased a new, grey, Ford Consul 204E (MKII – 1956) which meant that getting to and from the bungalow at Hythe was now much easier. In addition, photographs in our albums from this point forward, show that Summer holidays based in Hythe now included day trips further afield to places such as Pevensey and Polegate in Sussex.

Family outing to Wannock Tea Gardens, Polegate, Sussex. 1955.

Family outing to Wannock Tea Gardens, Polegate, Sussex. 1955. ©Come Step Back In Time

My family at Pevensey Castle, East Sussex. 1955.  ©Come Step Back In Time

My grandmother, mother and great grandmother (Back, L-R) and my aunt and uncle (front) at Pevensey Castle, East Sussex. 1955. ©Come Step Back In Time

My mother describes this post-war period as a time of simple pleasures, children saving their pocket money and spending it on ice-cream and souvenirs. Her favourite purchase was a doll with a crinoline dress made out of sea shells. Afternoon teas were a treat, fish and chip suppers were the norm and if they wanted candy floss then a trip to Folkestone was necessary. In the 1950s and 1960s, seaside shows at either Hythe Summer Theatre in the Institute or Leas Cliff Hall Folkestone were also included as part of the treats enjoyed by my family.

  •  A scene from the film version of Dry Rot  showing L-R: John Chapman, Diana Calderwood, Brian Rix, John Slater, and Charles Coleman (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images)

One of my mother’s favourite theatre trips was to see the play Dry Rot by John R. Chapman (1927-2001). This popular 1954 comedy, about dishonest bookmakers, was part of the repertory theatre in residence which ran over eight weeks at Hythe Summer Theatre in the Institute.

Grandmother (right) with her friend Rita in the garden at the bungalow in Hythe. Summer 1955. ©Come Step Back In Time

Grandmother (right) with her friend in the garden at the bungalow in Hythe. Summer 1955. ©Come Step Back In Time

Daughter of family friend with Inky the poodle in the garden at the Hythe bungalow, Summer 1955. ©Come Step Back In Time

Daughter of family friend with Inky the poodle in the garden at the Hythe bungalow, Summer 1955. ©Come Step Back In Time

After the war, St. Mary’s Bay became popular again with tourists on account of its long sandy beach and The Sands Motel was often booked-up for the whole season. My mother loved visiting ‘The Bay’ to have an ice-cream and also remembers going to Dungeness sometimes too, she said they put an ice-cream kiosk in there after the war. In the 1950s and 1960s there were a number of holiday camps in ‘The Bay’, including Maddieson’s Golden Sands. A friend of my grandfather ran one of these holiday camps after leaving the army. Kent, particularly seaside towns, enjoyed a tourist boom until the 1960s when the advent of cheap foreign lure families away to foreign shores. Britain can never guarantee a rain-free Summer but the Continent could. Many seaside towns struggled to keep going, became shabby and fell into decline.

My family on Hythe beach, Kent in 1956. The annual holiday to Kent was a favourite of my mum. Even Inkie the poodle (bottom left) came too. I think Uncle Victor might have had a few nips of brandy on the journey down, since he has decided to wear a plastic bucket as a sunhat. ©Come Step Back In Time.

My family on Hythe beach, Kent in 1956. The annual holiday to Kent was a favourite of my mum. Even Inkie the poodle (bottom left) came too. I think Uncle Victor might have had a few nips of brandy on the journey down, since he has decided to wear a plastic bucket as a sunhat. Grandmother (front row, 2nd from left), great grandmother (front row, 3rd from left). Grandfather (back row, right-hand side). ©Come Step Back In Time.

  • 22nd August 1952: A boy dressed as Peter Pan surrounded by fairies floats down the Canal on a barge, one of the attractions at the Hythe Venetian Fête in Kent. (Photo by Stanley Sherman/Express/Getty Images)

During the war, no Venetian Fêtes took place in Hythe, the event restarted in 1946 but due to a lack of available materials to decorate floats there was no procession in 1947, it then took place annually between 1948 and 1954. My grandparents took my mother to the Venetian Fête in 1946 and each year from then on. The Fête would fall at the same time as my aunt’s birthday in August which made it an ideal family outing. From the latter half of the 1950s, it was then decided that because floats were expensive to decorate, Fêtes would take place bi-annually and this has remained the case ever since.

The Venetian Fête was always one of the highlights of my family’s Summer holiday. Even when the bungalow had been sold in the early 1970s, I remember still being taken to see the procession several times as a child on a day trip from our home in Battle and latterly Hastings. No carnival ever came close to the standard of floats that took part in Hythe’s Venetian Fête. In 2015, the Fête will take place on Wednesday, 19th August, 7pm start.

  • British Pathe film showcasing Hythe’s Venetian Fete (1960). Uploaded to You Tube 13.4.2014.

The RH&DR re-opened in 1946 between Hythe and New Romney and in 1947 the Dungeness section was opened by Laurel and Hardy. The New Romney to Dungeness extension was only a single as opposed to a double track because of the shortage of materials after the war.

  • Laurel and Hardy drive the inaugural train on the New Romney-Dungeness section of the line which had been closed since the start of the war, during the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway’s 21st birthday celebrations. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
  • c.1956: The size of the Hythe ticket office of the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Light Railway corresponds with that of the trains themselves. The line boasts the title ‘The World’s Smallest Public Railway’. (Photo by Three Lions/Getty Images)
My late grandfather, Sergeant Frederick Langley. I love this photograph because the crease across the middle is where my grandmother folded it in half and kept it on her person during the war. ©Come Step Back In Time (The Langley Family Archive)

My late grandfather, Sergeant Frederick Langley. I love this photograph because the crease across the middle is where my grandmother folded it in half and kept it on her person during the war. ©Come Step Back In Time (The Langley Family Archive)


My late grandfather, Frederick Arthur Langley, was born in 1916. When World War Two broke out in 1939, he joined the 29th (Kent) Searchlight Regiment, a volunteer air defence unit of Britain’s Territorial Army (TA), established in 1935. During World War Two the unit was part of the Royal Engineers.

Grandfather with some of his unit in the early stages of World War Two. Location unknown but likely to be Molash, Kent, c.1941.

My Grandfather (4th from left) with some of his unit in the early stages of World War Two, before he became a Sergeant. Location unknown but likely to be Molash, Kent, c.1941. ©Come Step Back In Time (The Langley Family Archive)

The regiment had its origins in a group of Independent Air Defence Companies of the Royal Engineers formed in the Home counties by the TA during 1924. My grandfather’s regiment was part of the 314th (Kent) Anti-Aircraft Searchlight Company which was based at Southborough and later Tonbridge, Kent.

My grandfather in camp, c.1941. Location possibly Molash, Kent. ©Come Step Back In Time (The Langley Family Archive)

My grandfather in camp, c.1941. Location possibly Molash, Kent. ©Come Step Back In Time (The Langley Family Archive)

My grandfather’s decision to join this particular regiment may have been influenced by his own father’s military service during World War One. My great grandfather, Arthur Langley, had been a Corporal in the Royal Engineers.

  • 27th March 1942: Anti-aircraft guns ready for action below the cliffs of Dover as warning is given of approaching enemy planes. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

The 29th Kent Anti-Aircraft command played a vital role in the Battle of Britain (10th July – 31st October, 1940) which was waged in the skies, particularly over southern England. The regiment’s searchlight skills also provided an important first-line of defence along the Kent coast during The Blitz (7th September, 1940 – 21st May, 1941).

  • 1942: Anti-aircraft gun pits in the walls along Dover’s coastline. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)
  • An array of army searchlights illuminate the night sky over London, in the hope of spotting enemy aircraft during World War Two.

In the Winter of 1944, it became evident that the German Luftwaffe was suffering from a severe shortage of pilots, aircraft and fuel meaning that aerial bombardment of Britain could pretty much be discounted. In January 1945, the War Office began to re-organise surplus anti-aircraft and coastal artillery regiments into infantry battalions, primarily for line of communication and occupation duties, thereby releasing trained infantry for frontline service.

In this re-organisation, my grandfather’s regiment became the 631st (Kent) Infantry Regiment, RA. On 22nd January, 1945, the 631st was attached to the 59th AA Bde, which became the 307th Engineer Infantry Brigade. After an initial period of re-training, the 631st was sent to North West Europe in April, 1945 to work under the 21st Army Group and SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force) commanded by General Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969).

On my grandparent's wedding day, 23rd March, 1940.  ©Come Step Back In Time (The Langley Family Archive)

On my grandparent’s wedding day, 23rd March, 1940. ©Come Step Back In Time (The Langley Family Archive)

My grandmother's wedding dress, beautiful thick, blue satin, made by her best friend. My mother and I are currently restoring this dress back to its former glory. ©Come Step Back In Time

My grandmother’s wedding dress, beautiful, thick blue satin, made by her best friend. My mother and I are currently restoring this dress back to its former glory. ©Come Step Back In Time

©Come Step Back In Time

©Come Step Back In Time


Nazi Germany invaded the Netherlands on 10th May, 1940 and the Dutch armed forces (apart from those in Zeeland) surrendered on 15th May. The country’s sovereign, Queen Wilhelmina (1880-1962) resided in Britain during the war and whilst in exile managed the Dutch government, which had also escaped there. It was thought the Netherlands would remain neutral in World War Two like it had done in World War One. Therefore an invasion by Germany and the suffering subsequently endured by many Dutch citizens, shocked everyone.

  • Foreign Royalty, pic: c.1943, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, (1880-1962) Queen from (1898-1948) making a wartime radio broadcast while in exile during World War Two(Photo by Paul Popper/Popperfoto/Getty Images)

In 1939 there were 140,000 Jewish citizens in the country, 25,000 of whom were German-Jewish refugees who had fled Germany during the 1930s. Two thirds of the Jewish community resided in Amsterdam.  In the Winter of 1940, all Jews had to be registered. On 1st May, 1942 all Jews were required to wear a yellow star. Only 40,00 Dutch Jews survived the war and 75% of the Dutch-Jewish population perished, one of the highest percentages out of all of the occupied countries in Western Europe.

During the war, approximately 400,000 people went into hiding in the Netherlands some of which were Jewish. One of the most famous of these ‘hidees’ was Annelies Marrie “Anne” Frank (1929-1945) a young Jewish girl from Germany. The Frank family moved from Germany to Amsterdam in 1933 when the Nazis gained control over Germany. In July 1942, the Franks went into hiding in some concealed rooms behind a bookcase in the building where Anne’s father worked.

After two years, the group was betrayed and transported to concentration camps. Anne and her sister Margot were eventually transferred to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where they died (probably of typhus) in February, 1945. Anne’s wartime diary, The Diary of a Young Girl, was published posthumously.

Less than 2% of the Dutch population sided with the Nazis. Immediately after occupation, democracy was abolished and parliament dissolved. The NSB party (Nationaal-Socialistische Beweging, the National Socialist Movement) a Dutch fascist and later national socialist political party were the only legal political party in the Netherlands during most of World War Two. Members of the NSB were rewarded for supporting the Nazis and as such kept positions of leadership during the occupation.

  • A Dutch poster from World War Two, depicting a WA man with the words ‘In dienst van ons volk, en gij? Wordt WA man’ (‘In the service of our people, and you? Become a WA man’), c.1943. The WA or Weerbaarheidsafdeling were the paramilitary wing of the Dutch Nazi party NSB, who worked in collaboration with the Germans to arrest Jews and Resistance members. Poster by Lou Manche. (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)

In 1943, the Dutch Resistance movement was strong whereas previously recruitment had been slow. In May, 1943, following the Nazi’s introduction of Arbeitseinsatz , every Dutch male aged between 18 and 45 was forced to work in German factories, particularly those bombed regularly by western Allies! Consequently, many eligible men went into hiding. Food was heavily rationed in the Netherlands and the resistance movement played a vital role in raiding distribution centres to obtain ration cards for those men in hiding. The LOLKP was the underground resistance movement organised for people in hiding.

  • Civilians and armed resistance fighters in a recently liberated Dutch city during World War Two force a traitor to walk the streets with a shameful sign around his neck which reads roughly ‘So we do with those who betray people in hiding,’ Breda, Netherlands, 1944. ‘People in hiding’ refers to Jews and Underground fighters trying to avoid the Nazis. (Photo by Horace Abrahams/Keystone Features/Getty Images)

Women were particularly important in the resistance movement, they tended to attract less suspicion. Membership consisted of citizens drawn from a wide range of occupations, religious backgrounds and political beliefs such as butchers, farmers, teachers and housewives.

Radios were confiscated by the Nazis who feared that the English radio broadcasters may give instructions to people of the Netherlands. Only 80% of all radios were ever handed in and many sets disappeared, hidden under floorboards, cupboards, cabinets etc. People became very resourceful and some created simple radio receivers ‘crystal receiver.

  • 1946  Audrey Hepburn as a teenager with her mother, Dutch Baroness Ella van Heemstra. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Actress Audrey Hepburn’s (1929-1993) experiences in the occupied Netherlands provide a fascinating insight in what life was like at that time. Her mother was a Dutch aristocrat, Baroness Ella van Heemstra (1900-1984) and her grandfather was Baron Aarnoudvan Heemstra, mayor of Arnhem, 1910-20.

Both Audrey’s parents belonged to the British Union of Fascists but her father was a Nazi sympathiser. When their marriage broke down in 1935, he moved to London and Audrey moved with her mother to Kent where she attended a small private school in Elham.

When war broke out Audrey and her mother moved back to the Netherlands to live in Arnhem as they believed, like many others, the country would remain neutral. In 1940, she used the name Edda van Heemstra in order to distance herself from an English sounding name. Her uncle was executed in 1942 in retaliation for an act of sabotage by the resistance movement. Her half-brother was deported to Berlin to work in a German labour camp and her other half-brother went into hiding to avoid the same fate.

Audrey attended the Arnhem Conservatory for the duration of the war but suffered malnutrition, anaemia, respiratory problems and edema, like many of her fellow Dutch citizens lack of available food had serious health implications. She supported the Dutch resistance and gave ballet performances in secret to collect money for the movement. Sometimes, she acted as a courier of messages and parcels for them, an extremely dangerous thing to do, if caught she would have been tortured and executed.

  • Resistance grafitti in a street in the Netherlands during the Dutch famine of the winter of 1944-45. The slogan reads ‘Eist Meer Brood’ (‘ask for more bread’). (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

During the Winter of 1944-45, famine spread throughout the Netherlands. The famine had been caused by a German blockade cutting-off food and fuel shipments from farm areas. Approximately 4.5 million people were affected and many survived only due to a network of soup kitchens. Food was so scarce that people even ate tulip bulbs and sugarbeets.

In her memoirs, Audrey recalls making flour to bake cakes and biscuits from ground down tulip bulbs. Following liberation in 1945, she became extremely ill after putting too much sugar on her porridge and eating an entire can of condensed milk. It is estimated that between 18,000 and 22,000 people died that Winter.

  • ‘Liberation of Amsterdam’ (1945) (there is no sound) by British Pathe. Allied troops parade the streets, greeted by delighted Dutch citizens after years of Nazi occupation during World War Two. Uploaded to You Tube 22.5.2013.


The liberation of the Netherlands began in September 1944. The Allies crossed the Rhine in March, 1945 and Canadian forces entered the Netherlands from the east, liberating the rest of the Nazi-occupied Dutch towns. The Netherlands was largely liberated by the First Canadian Army which included Canadian Forces, the British 1st Corps, 1st Polish Armoured Division alongside American, Belgian, Dutch and Czechoslovak troops.

The 307th Engineer Infantry Brigade, of which my grandfather’s unit was part of, arrived in Europe on 23rd April, 1945. My mother recalls her father saying that conditions travelling across Europe were extremely tough. Food rations were low and soldiers did not always have the right equipment. At one point, soldiers in my grandfather’s unit were so dehydrated that they had to drink water reserved for train engines. The cold was another difficulty he encountered, he had to chew raw ginger to keep warm.

On 5th May, Canadian General Charles Foulkes (1903-1969) and the German Commander-in-Chief Johannes Blaskowitz (1883-1948) reached an agreement on the capitulation of German forces in the Netherlands in Hotel de Wereld in Wageningen. The following day, the capitulation document was signed in the auditorium of Wageningen University, next door to the Hotel de Wereld.

  • c.1944: A newly liberated Dutch town. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

A chronological list of liberated Dutch towns:


14th  September: Maastricht, Gulpen, Meerssen

16th  September: Simpelveld liberated by the 803rd tank destroyer battalion

17th  September: Sint-Oedenrode, Veghel

18th  September: Eindhoven

19th  September: Veldhoven

20th  September: Nijmegen, Geldrop, Someren, Terneuzen

  • September 1944: Allied Sherman tanks crossing the newly-captured bridge at Nijmegen in Holland during their advance as part of ‘Operation Market Garden’. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

21st   September: Schijndel

22nd  September: Weert

24th  September: Deurne

26th  September: Mook

27th  September: Helmond, Oss (The battle of Overloon started on 30 September)

5th  October: Kerkrade

6th  October: Ossendrecht

18th  October: Venray

27th  October: Den Bosch, Tilburg, Bergen op Zoom

29th  October: Breda

  • Dutch Resistance fighters armed with captured German weapons smoke and talk to each other on the street during liberation, Breda, Netherlands, 1944. (Photo by Keystone Features/Getty Images)

30th  October: Tholen, Goes

1st  November: Vlissingen, Westkapelle

  • November 1944: Allied assault troops dash through the streets of Flushing (Vlissingen) in the Netherlands to clear out the remaining enemy snipers after the World War Two liberation of the town. (Photo by Worth/Keystone/Getty Images)

2nd  November: Wissenkerke, Zoutelande

6th  November: Middelburg

8th  November: Veere, Koudekerke

3rd  December: Blerick


1st  March: Roermond, Venlo

1st  April: Doetinchem, Borculo, Eibergen, Enschede

3rd  April: Hengelo

5th  April: Almelo

12th  April: Westerbork, Brummen, Deventer

13th  April: Assen, Diepenveen, Olst

14th  April: Arnhem, Zwolle

15th  April: Zutphen, Leeuwarden, Zoutkamp

16th  April: Groningen

17th  April: Apeldoorn

  • 21st September 1944: Dutch citizens cheering British Sherman tanks in Holland. (Photo by Jack Esten/PNA Rota/Getty Images)


Both Hengelo and Enschede are located in the Overijssel province of the Netherlands. Enschede was one of the first Dutch cities to be captured by the Nazis due to its close proximity to the German border. Enschede had a large Jewish population at the start of the occupation, approximately 1,300, only 500 of whom survived, many went into hiding on local farms with the help of resistance members.

In 1930, Hengelo had a Jewish population of 247 which increased to 360 in 1941 as a result of refugees fleeing from Germany. Jews had lived in Hengelo from the early 1800s onward and their community declared independent in 1830. The community was important in the development of the textile industry in the region.

In August 1941, the Hengelo Synagogue was vandalised by Nazis and members of the NSB. Fortunately, the building’s contents had already been removed and hidden in anticipation of such an attack. In September, 1941, Jews in Hengelo were rounded-up for deportation, this continued until the following summer. In 1951, there were only 86 Jews stilling living in the town.

On April 29th, 1943, workers in Hengelo walked out of their jobs in a protest strike. The Nazis announced that 300,000 Dutch army soldiers, previously captured in 1940 and subsequently released, were now to be recaptured and sent to German labour camps.  Hengelo’s town centre was completely bombed out during an Allied attack on the 6th and 7th October, 1944. The raid killed 200 people. After days of carnage, the strikes resulted in over 180 deaths, 400 casualties, and 900 prisoners of war being sent to concentration camps.

Hengelo Victory Parade 9th May, 1945. One of the photographs in my grandfather's collection, It shows his unit taking part in the event. Eric tells me that: 'The photo was taken in Burgemeester Jansenstraat. The street is there today but it has totally changed so you would not recognise it today.  The church in the far-side of the road was torn down in 1966. During the war civilian administration was located next to the church. Resistance fighters set fire to the administration building [after first being ransacked, then soaked with gasoline]so that the Nazis could not check whether someone had falsified ID cards, which had been issued by the resistance itself. A copy of all issued ID cards was kept at the administration office.'  ©Come Step Back In Time (The Langley Family Archive)

Hengelo Victory Parade 9th May, 1945. One of the photographs in my grandfather’s collection, it shows his unit taking part in the event. Eric tells me that: ‘The photo was taken in Burgemeester Jansenstraat. The street is there today but it has totally changed so you would not recognise it today. The church in the far-side of the road was torn down in 1966. During the war civilian administration was located next to the church. Resistance fighters set fire to the administration building [after first being ransacked, then soaked with gasoline] so that the Nazis could not check whether someone had falsified ID cards, which had been issued by the resistance itself. A copy of all issued ID cards was kept at the administration office.’
©Come Step Back In Time (The Langley Family Archive)


Last year I posted on my Twitter account (@emmahistorian) a selection of photographs from our family archive featuring my late grandfather. In 1945, he had, together with his unit, been part of the Allied liberation of Nazi-occupied Netherlands. He was stationed in Hengelo, a city in the eastern part of the Netherlands, in the province of Overijssel, from April 1945 for approximately six months.

During the liberation of Hengelo, local citizen Mrs. A. Wilmink (centre)enjoying the company of Allied soldiers . Image courtesy of Eric Heijink (http://www.secondworldwar.nl/hengelo-1940-1945.php)

During the liberation of Hengelo, local citizen Mrs. A. Wilmink (centre) enjoying the company of Allied soldiers . Image courtesy of Eric Heijink (http://www.secondworldwar.nl/hengelo-1940-1945.php)

These photographs and associated backstory caught the attention of Dutch historian, Eric Heijink (@ericheijink) (http://www.secondworldwar.nl/enschede/ Twitter: SecondWorld.nl (@operatiemanna). Eric has curated a major exhibition commemorating the liberation of Enschede, 70 years ago this month. The exhibition opens on 1st April at the Centrale Bibliotheek Enschede and continues until 9th May, 2015. There is also a second exhibition at Synagoge Enschede which opens on 1st April and continues until 26th April, 2015.

Poster for new exhibition in Enschede, commemorating 70th Anniversary of liberation from Nazi occupation in the region.

Poster for new exhibition in Enschede, commemorating 70th Anniversary of liberation from Nazi occupation in the region.

Opening of exhibition in Enschede, 1st April, 2015. Image courtesy of Eric Heijink (http://www.secondworldwar.nl/hengelo-1940-1945.php)

Opening of exhibition in Enschede, 1st April, 2015. Image courtesy of Eric Heijink (http://www.secondworldwar.nl/hengelo-1940-1945.php)

Exhibition commemorating 70 years since the liberation of Enschede region, the Netherlands.

Opening of new exhibition commemorating 70 years since the liberation of Enschede region, the Netherlands. Image courtesy of Eric Heijink (http://www.secondworldwar.nl/hengelo-1940-1945.php)

Image courtesy of Eric Heijink (http://www.secondworldwar.nl/hengelo-1940-1945.php)

Part of the new exhibition at Enschede Central Library until 9th May, 2015. Image courtesy of Eric Heijink (http://www.secondworldwar.nl/hengelo-1940-1945.php)

However, the story does not end here! One of the photographs to be included in the exhibition features a local family from Hengelo, the Schuits, who had befriended my grandfather in 1945, following the town’s liberation. Together with some of his fellow soldiers, grandfather visited the family regularly, resulting in the soldiers forming an affectionate bond with the Schuits.

The Schuit family from Hengelo. Dick and Henrik are the two young boys picture standing-up. ©Come Step Back In Time (The Langley Family Archive)

The Schuit family from Hengelo. Dick and Henrik are the two young boys picture standing-up. My grandfather took this photograph. ©Come Step Back In Time (The Langley Family Archive)

Inscription on back of Schuit family photograph taken by my grandfather. ©Come Step Back In Time (The Langley Family Archive)

Inscription on back of Schuit family photograph taken by my grandfather. ©Come Step Back In Time (The Langley Family Archive)

How do I know this? Well, conversations I have had with my family about these photographs and, more specifically, a lovely inscription written by the Schuits on the reverse of one of the photographs which reads:

To our best English friend Fred Langley in remembrance of his stay at Hengelo, Holland. Family H. J. Schuit.

I am extremely grateful to Eric’s detective work which has revealed that not only does the Schuit’s house still exist in Hengelo but both of the young brothers shown in the photograph are still alive! The eldest brother continues to live in the town. Eric made telephone contact with the youngest of the two brothers, Dick Schuit (79), who remembered my grandfather, “the Sergeant”.

My grandfather, Sergeant Frederick Langley. ©Come Step Back In Time (The Langley Family Archive)

My grandfather, Sergeant Frederick Langley. ©Come Step Back In Time (The Langley Family Archive)

Dick recalls that his parents came in contact with grandfather when trucks from his unit stopped outside their house, not long after Hengelo was liberated. The Schuit family invited him in for tea, together with several of his fellow soldiers, this tradition continued for quite a long time whilst the soldiers were stationed there. The Allies remained in Hengelo from the end of April, 1945, for approximately 6 months.

Allied soldiers by their camouflaged tank during Hengelo's liberation. Image courtesy of Eric Heijink (http://www.secondworldwar.nl/hengelo-1940-1945.php)

Allied soldiers by their camouflaged tank during Hengelo’s liberation. Image courtesy of Eric Heijink (http://www.secondworldwar.nl/hengelo-1940-1945.php)

The Schuit brothers, Henrik and Dick, recall another British soldier, Jerry Barnard, a driver with the Royal Engineers, also being one of these regular visitors. On one occasion, another British soldier, ‘Jeremy’, brought with him a pair of miniature toy soldiers which he had been brought in Brussels and he gave them to Henrik and Dick.

The Schuit family lived next door to the Hotel Lansink in Hengelo, this location had its advantages. The Hotel had been commandeered by the SS as a divisional HQ (2nd Class) which meant that during regular raids on local properties, the Schuits were pretty much left alone. This was just as well as they were hiding a cousin from the Dutch town of Zwolle. The cousin had been employed in Germany but he managed to flee and seek refuge with the Schuits.  He lived in hiding with the family for two months and survived the war.

Sherman tanks on the streets of Hengelo following liberation. Image courtesy of Eric Heijink (http://www.secondworldwar.nl/hengelo-1940-1945.php)

Sherman tanks on the streets of Hengelo following liberation. Image courtesy of Eric Heijink (http://www.secondworldwar.nl/hengelo-1940-1945.php)

The Schuit brothers remember the day Hengelo was liberated. British soldiers walking and others driving tanks down the nearby street of Julianalaan. There was one particular incident involving SS officers who were chased down the street by Allied soldiers as the men fled on bicycles. The soldiers caught-up with the officers (at gun point) and they duly surrendered.

Dick Schuit explained that the British soldiers were billeted in a nearby factory, officers were quartered in Hotel Lansink. Unfortunately, his family do not have any more photographs of my grandfather as it was very rare in 1945 for local people to own a camera. A majority of the photographs that exist from that time were taken by Allied soldiers. My mother has written to the Schuit family who are keen to re-established contact and we look forward to corresponding with the brothers, finding out more about my grandfather’s time in Hengelo as well as what life was like for the Schuits under Nazi occupation.

Allied soldiers enjoying the company of the local people of Hengelo following liberation. Image courtesy of Eric Heijink (http://www.secondworldwar.nl/hengelo-1940-1945.php)

Allied soldiers enjoying the company of the local people of Hengelo following liberation. Image courtesy of Eric Heijink (http://www.secondworldwar.nl/hengelo-1940-1945.php)

I was delighted to provide photographs from our family archive as well as background information about my grandfather for inclusion in the exhibition. It means a great deal to both myself and my family that he will be part of this event, a fitting tribute to a wonderful gentleman who served his country in World War Two. Grandfather was one of the lucky ones, he returned home, uninjured, to his family, after the war ended.

My grandfather's story featured in Hengelo's Weekblad newspaper (24.3.2015, p. 15 - www.hengelosweekblad.nl). Thanks to all the hard work by historian Eric Heijink!

My grandfather’s story featured in Hengelo’s Weekblad newspaper (24.3.2015, p. 15 – http://www.hengelosweekblad.nl). Thanks to all the hard detective work by historian Eric Heijink!


The BBC have also announced (17.3.15) an extensive season of programming across television, radio and online, and a major education project honouring Britain’s Greatest Generation. Some of the major television highlights include:

  • VE Day: Remembering Victory (BBC One – 1×90): Some of Britain’s best-loved figures from stage and screen recall the jubilation of that unforgettable day;
  • Britain’s Greatest Generation (BBC Two – 4×60): This major four-part series celebrates the last survivors of the Second World War, now in their nineties and hundreds, and their achievement in helping to win the war;
  • The BBC At War (BBC Two – 2×60): Debates about the BBC’s role were just as volatile in the 1940s as they are today. In this two-part series, Jonathan Dimbleby uncovers the story of how the BBC fought Hitler – and Whitehall – with a unique insight into one of the story’s leading players – his father, Richard Dimbleby;
  • Savage Peace (BBC Two – 1×60): Only at the war’s end was the true scale of human suffering and misery revealed, and so devastating was the scene that Europe was dubbed ‘The New Dark Continent’. This film will re-examine the aftermath of the War to ask if too much stress has been laid on an optimistic view of victory in Europe with celebratory images of VE day;
  • Fighting for King And Empire: Britain’s Caribbean Heroes (BBC Four – 1×60): In this programme, Caribbean veterans tell their extraordinary wartime stories in their own words. They also reveal how they have faced a lifelong struggle as they helped build Britain’s multicultural society – to be treated as equals by the British government and the British people;
  • World War Two: 1945 & The Wheelchair President (BBC Four – 1×90): David Reynolds re-examines the war leadership of American president Franklin Roosevelt. In this intimate new biography set against the epic of World War Two, Reynolds reveals how Roosevelt was burdened by secrets about his failing health and strained marriage that, if exposed, could have destroyed his presidency.
  • The cover of a Victory Special issue of Picture Post magazine depicting a mother and her two sons celebrating V.E. Day in Britain, at the end of World War Two, 8th May 1945 (published 19th May 1945). (Photo by Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Wallace Collection, London: ‘Joshua Reynolds: Experiments In Paint’ Exhibition

©Come Step Back In Time

©Come Step Back In Time

A room hung with pictures is a room hung with thoughts.” Joshua Reynolds (1784)

  • Engraving from 1873 featuring Joshua Reynolds.

It was a pleasure to receive an invitation to an exclusive Bloggers event at the Wallace Collection, London last Friday. This is the first event of its type organised by the museum and it was a great success. The occasion marked the opening of their new exhibition, ‘Joshua Reynolds: Experiments in Paint’, a free exhibition that continues until 7th June 2015.

©Come Step Back In Time

©Come Step Back In Time

The exhibition explores Joshua Reynolds’s (1723-1792) painting techniques, pictorial compositions and narratives through the display of twenty paintings, archival sources and x-ray images. Paintings Conservator for The Wallace Collection Reynolds Research Project, Alexandra Gent, gave us a comprehensive and fascinating insight into some of the surprise discoveries encountered whilst working on the collection’s Reynolds paintings over the last four years. There are twenty paintings on display in the exhibition, twelve of which are from The Wallace Collection, others are on loan from collections elsewhere in the UK, Europe and the USA.

©Come Step Back In Time

©Come Step Back In Time

With support from the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, TEFAF, the Hertford House Trust, various private donors, and Trusts and drawing on the research expertise of the National Gallery in London and the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, the exhibition spans most of Reynolds’s career and includes portraits, ‘fancy’ pictures (young children in a variety of guises) and history painting.

©Come Step Back In Time

©Come Step Back In Time

The exhibition has been curated by Dr Lucy Davis, Curator of Old Master Pictures at the Wallace Collection, Professor Mark Hallett, Director of Studies in British Art at the Paul Mellon Centre and Alexandra Gent. Ms Gent explains why this research project has been so fascinating as well as challenging:

One of the things about Reynolds, and the reason it was started as a research project, is that his painting technique is quite notorious amongst conservators as being tricky to deal with….So to have a really good understanding of the way the paintings had been made and constructed and what materials had been used was really important to make informed decisions about which paintings to treat. The paintings as a group hadn’t been restored for a very long time, a few of them had had minor treatments but none of them had really been cleaned since they’d entered the Wallace Collection in the mid-19th century.

Although Reynolds is notorious for using wax, we only found wax in small amounts on paintings. The Portrait of Miss Jane Bowles appears to have a varnish layer on it that is made from wax, and we think that this is original and really interesting to see Reynolds use as a varnish layer.

It’s been a real privilege to work on these paintings, they’re a really wonderful group of paintings by Reynolds.

(‘New Perspectives on Joshua Reynolds’ by Lorna Davies, The Portman, Spring, 2015, pp.18-19)

©Come Step Back In Time

©Come Step Back In Time

In 1755, Reynolds had a hundred and twenty sitters, in 1758 he had a hundred and fifty sitters. He charged some of the highest prices by any painter working in London at that time but still the commissions kept on coming. In 1760, he earned between £6,000 and £10,000 per annum, working seven days a week, eight hours a day. (Source: The 17th and 18th Centuries Dictionary of World Biography Vol.4, edited by Frank N. Magill, 2013, p.1161)

©Come Step Back In Time

©Come Step Back In Time


Mrs Abington as Miss Prue from William Congreve’s ‘Love For Love’ (c.1771-1772) Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection. ©Come Step Back In Time

Reynolds often produced multiple versions of his paintings, worked over a length of time, sometimes four years. It was not unusual for him to work on two similar pictures side-by-side. He also encouraged his subjects to perform roles that would reveal an aspect of their personality, actresses he depicted in character such as Mrs Abington as Miss Prue, (c.1771-1772). Mrs Frances Abington (1737-1815) with her coquettish gaze as Miss Prue, the silly, awkward country girl from William Congreve’s (1670-1729) comedy Love For Love (1695).

  • Engraving depicting Mrs Frances Abington c.1785. (Photo by Kean Collection/Getty Images)

X-ray Image And Infrared Reflectography Use In Painting Conservation

X-ray image: X-rays can penetrate through most parts of a painting but denser materials, such as lead containing pigments and iron tacks, obstruct them. An X-ray image records the areas where the X-rays have been obstructed and these areas appear lighter. These images are useful for revealing paint losses and changes to a painting. However, they can be difficult to interpret because they show all the layers of the painting superimposed.

Infrared reflectography: an imaging method used to ‘see through’ paint layers that are opaque to the human eye. Infrared light is electromagnetic radiation with longer wavelengths than those of visible light. Infrared radiation passes through the paint until it either reaches something that absorbs it or is reflected back to the camera. An infrared image can often reveal under-drawing.

Mrs Mary Robinson (1783-1784). Oil on canvas. The Wallace Collection. ©Come Step Back In Time

Mrs Mary Robinson (1783-1784). Oil on canvas. The Wallace Collection. ©Come Step Back In Time

Curation of ‘Experiments in Paint’ is excellent. Reynolds’s portraits are accompanied with detailed background to both painting and sitter. Those works on display that have been subjected to detailed conservation analysis are of particular interest.

Alexandra Gent explains conservation on The Strawberry Girl. ©Come Step Back In Time

Alexandra Gent explains conservation on The Strawberry Girl (1772-1773). ©Come Step Back In Time

For example, an X-ray of Reynolds’s slightly unnerving, The Strawberry Girl (1772-1773), revealed that it resembled the version of The Strawberry Girl reproduced in Thomas Watson’s 1774 mezzotint. Reynolds had reworked the figure, lowering the shoulders, painting a fringe of brown hair and developing a more oriental style of turban.

Infrared reflectography of the Wallace Collection’s version of The Strawberry Girl  also revealed under-drawing around the hands and in the folds of the drapery. The use of such under-drawing may indicate that the composition of this painting was transferred from an earlier version of The Strawberry Girl.

An X-ray of Mrs Abington as Miss Prue showed that Reynolds had originally intended her to wear a simple bonnet that would have been more in keeping with her role as Congreve’s Miss Prue. Instead the final painting showed her sporting an updo hairstyle fashionable at the time.

Lady Elizabeth Seymour-Conway (1781). Oil on canvas. The Wallace Collection. ©Come Step Back In Time

Lady Elizabeth Seymour-Conway (1781). Oil on canvas. The Wallace Collection. ©Come Step Back In Time

An X-ray of Lady Elizabeth Seymour-Conway (1754-1825) painted in 1781, revealed that Reynolds updated the sitter’s hairstyle just before the painting left the studio making it look much fuller, as was popular at the time of the work’s completion. The original hairstyle had been smoother and the curls at the neck are higher, similar to those adopted by the fashionable Waldegrave sisters painted by Reynolds between 1780 and 1781.

According to Alexandra Gent, Reynolds used five different sizes of canvas available to the Georgian painter: head; three-quarter length; half-length; full length and Bishop’s half-length (large enough to fit in his mitre!). A popular pose for Georgian sitters was ‘penseroso’, resting with chin in the hand, signalling to the viewer that the subject was refined and contemplative.

Mrs Jane Braddyll (1788) in 'penseroso' pose. ©Come Step Back In Time

Mrs Jane Braddyll (1788) in ‘penseroso’ pose. Oil on oak panel. Wallace Collection. ©Come Step Back In Time

Even a faded picture from Reynolds will be the finest thing you have.” Sir George Beaumont (1753-1827)

Events & Further Information

There is an extensive programme of educational and cultural events taking place at The Wallace Collection to compliment this new exhibition:

  • 1748, Sir Joshua Reynolds at his easel working on a portrait. He was elected the first President of the Royal Academy in 1768 and knighted in 1769. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

  • Manchester House, on the north side of Manchester Square, Marylebone, London, 1807. (Photo by Guildhall Library & Art Gallery/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

  • Fashion Designer, Vivienne Westwood, explaining why she is inspired by The Wallace Collection. Uploaded to You Tube 1.10.2009.

The Wallace Collection – Main Museum

The Wallace Collection, Hertford House, 2015. ©Come Step Back In Time

The Wallace Collection, Manchester House, 2015. ©Come Step Back In Time

I first discovered The Wallace Collection, by chance, in 2005 whilst working in Portman Square as a corporate researcher. In order to escape the caged existence of my office and reawaken my senses, I regularly took long walks, exploring the surrounding area. There is so much to see, all just a stone’s throw from the craziness of Oxford Street. Attractive squares and stunning architecture as well as more blue plaques than you can shake a stick at!

The grand, main staircase inside The Wallace Collection, 2015.  ©Come Step Back In Time

The grand, main staircase inside The Wallace Collection, 2015. ©Come Step Back In Time

When I visited the Wallace Collection for the first time, I remember being completely awestruck by the magnificent interior and extensive collection of French eighteenth century painting, furniture and porcelain. The good news is that in the last ten years admission charges have remained the same, absolutely FREE.

 ©Come Step Back In Time

©Come Step Back In Time

©Come Step Back In Time

©Come Step Back In Time

  • View of the north side of Manchester Square, Marylebone, London, 1813. Manchester House is on the left. (Photo by Guildhall Library & Art Gallery/Heritage Images/Getty Images)
©Come Step Back In Time

©Come Step Back In Time

©Come Step Back In Time

©Come Step Back In Time

The Wallace Collection is housed in Manchester House, a fine example of Georgian architecture built between 1776 and 1788 for the 4th Duke of Manchester (1737-1788). The original shell of the building was built by Samuel Adams in 1771. It wasn’t until the 4th Duke brought the leasehold in 1788 that substantial structural alterations were made by the architect Joshua Brown.

©Come Step Back In Time

©Come Step Back In Time

©Come Step Back In Time

©Come Step Back In Time

A few key dates in the history of Manchester House:

  • 1791-95 – house let as the Spanish Embassy;
  • 1797 – 2nd Marquess of Hertford (1743-1822) acquires the house’s lease;
  • 1836-51 – house let as the French Embassy;
  • 1800-1870 – 4th Marquess of Hertford (1800-1870) uses the house to store his private art collection;
  • 1871 – the 4th Marquess’ illegitimate son, Richard (1818-1890), moves back to London from Paris and brings with him a large portion of his private art collection;
  • 1897 – Lady Wallace bequeaths the collection to the British Nation. Lady Wallace (Amélie-Julie-Charlotte Castelnau (1819-97)), married Richard in 1871, she had been his mistress for many years. Upon his death in 1890 he bequeathed to her all his property;
  • the house opens to the public as a Museum on 22nd June, 1900 (closing during both World Wars);
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©Come Step Back In Time

  • Photographing at the Wallace Collection, London, 1908-1909. From Penrose’s Pictorial Annual 1908-1909, An Illustrated Review of the Graphic Arts, volume 14, edited by William Gamble and published by AW Penrose (London, 1908-1909). (Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)
©Come Step Back In Time

©Come Step Back In Time

©Come Step Back In Time

©Come Step Back In Time

The Wallace Collection is one of the most significant collections of European fine and decorative arts in the world and the greatest bequest of art ever left to the British Nation. The collection encompasses old master oil paintings from the fourteenth to the late nineteenth century including works by Titian, Velazquez, Rubens and Van Dyck, princely arms and armour, and one of the finest collections of French eighteenth century art in all media.

©Come Step Back In Time

©Come Step Back In Time

  • The Wallace Collection, Hertford House, London, 1926-1927. Illustration from Wonderful London, edited by Arthur St John Adcock, Volume I, published by Amalgamated Press, (London, 1926-1927). (Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)
©Come Step Back In Time

©Come Step Back In Time

©Come Step Back In Time

©Come Step Back In Time

Magnificent collection of eighteenth and nineteenth century snuff boxes in The Wallace Collection. ©Come Step Back In Time

Magnificent collection of eighteenth and nineteenth century snuff boxes in The Wallace Collection. ©Come Step Back In Time

The Curious Will of Mrs Margaret Thompson (1777) – The Joy of Snuff!

“Scotch snuff is the grand cordial of human nature”.

Recently, a member of my family passed on to me a copy of Chalfont St Peter Parish Magazine (February, 2015) which included a reproduction of one of the most interesting and amusing examples of an eighteenth Will that I have ever come across. The Will belonged to Mrs Margaret Thompson who died on 2nd April, 1777, at her house in Boyle Street, Burlington Gardens, Mayfair, London.

©Come Step Back In Time

©Come Step Back In Time

The Will was discovered in one of the old registers at St. James’s Church, Piccadilly. However, there is no record of the burial of Mrs Thompson in the Burial Register of St. James’s, for April, 1777. Upon arrival at the Wallace Collection last Friday, I made straight for their superb collection of eighteenth century snuff boxes. Mrs Thompson was clearly a lady who adored to indulge in the then fashionable trend of snuff-taking!

  • ‘The French Fireside’, eighteenth century, a young lady indulging in some recreational snuff-taking. From The Connoisseur magazine (February 1905). (Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)
©Come Step Back In Time

©Come Step Back In Time

Mrs Margaret Thompson’s will (1777):

I Margaret Thompson, etc, being of a sound mind, etc, do desire that when my soul is departed from this wicked world, my body and effects may be disposed of in the manner following, etc.

I also desire that all my handkerchiefs that I may have unwashed at the time of my decease, after they have been got together by my old and trust servant, Sarah Stewart, may be put by her, and her along, at the bottom of my coffin, which I desire may be made large enough for that purpose, together with such a quantity of the best Scotch snuff (in which she knoweth I always had the greatest delight) as will cover my deceased body; and this I desire, and more especially as it is usual to put flowers into the coffin of departed friends, and nothing can be so pleasant and refreshing to me, as that precious powder; but I strictly charge that no one be suffered to approach my body till the coffin is closed, and it necessary to carry me to my burial, which I order in the following manner:

Six men to be my bearers, who are well known to be great snuff-takers in the Parish of St James’s, Westminster; and instead of mourning, each to wear a snuff-coloured beaver, which I desire to be brought for that purpose, and given to them; Six Maidens of my old acquaintance to bear my pall, each to wear a proper hood, and to carry a box filled with the best Scotch snuff, to take for their refreshment as they go along. Before my corpse I desire that the minister may be invited to walk, and to take a certain quantity of snuff, not exceeding one pound, to whom also I bequeath five guineas on condition of his doing so. And I also desire my old and faithful servant, Sarah Stewart, to walk before the corpse to distribute every twenty yards a large handful of Scott snuff on the ground, and to the crowd who possibly may follow me to the burial place – on condition I bequeath her Twenty Pounds. And I also desire that at least two bushels of the said snuff may be distributed at the door of my house in Boyle Street.

I desire, also, that my funeral shall be at twelve o’clock at noon. And in addition to the various legacies I have left my friends in a former will, I desire that to each person there shall be given a pound of the best Scotch snuff, as it is the grand cordial of human nature.

In the eighteenth century, snuff was a tobacco product favoured by the upper classes, snorted directly from the back of the hand into the nostrils. Smoking pipes containing tobacco was associated with the lower and working classes. Queen Charlotte (1744-1818) earned the nickname ‘Snuffy Charlotte’ on account of her love of the brown stuff. She had an entire room at Windsor Castle devoted to her substantial stock of snuff.

©Come Step Back In Time

©Come Step Back In Time

Marie Antoinette (1755-1793) is purported to have enjoyed taking snuff so much that she had fifty-two gold snuff boxes in her wedding basket. Joshua Reynolds also indulged in large amounts of snuff, on a regular basis, according to fellow artist Joseph Farington (1747-1821):

January 16th, 1796: Steevens speaking of Sir Joshua Reynolds’ habit of taking snuff in great quantities, said, he not only carried a double box, with two sorts of snuff in it, but regaled himself out of every box that appeared at the table where he sat; and did his neighbour happen to have one, he absolutely fed upon him. When I expected to meet Sir Joshua in company added he always carried an additional allowance.

(The Farington Diary: July 13th, 1793 to August 24th, 1802, Volume 1 by Joseph Farington, p. 184)

  • Part of Shenstone’s poem, The Snuff Box, 1735, (1840). Facsimile of part of The Snuff Box. Illustration from Historical and Literary Curiosities consisting of Facsimilies of Original Documents, by Charles John Smith, (Henry G Bohn, London, 1840). (Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)
A sneaky self-portrait in The Wallace Collection. ©Come Step Back In Time

A sneaky self-portrait in The Wallace Collection. ©Come Step Back In Time

Votes For Women! Women’s Suffrage In Southampton & Portsmouth, Hampshire

  • Silent newsreel footage shot by British Pathe, early twentieth century, showing different Suffragette events in Britain. Uploaded to You Tube, 13.4.14.
  • A parasol parade selling The Suffragette newspaper, Brighton, Sussex, April 1914. From left to right: Miss Reid, Mrs Goodier, Miss Gye, Mrs Brandon, Miss Rae, Mrs Bouvier. Brighton and Hove was one of the first Women’s Social and Political Union branches, founded in May 1907. By June 1908 they had a banner ‘beautifully designed and embroidered by members with the arms of Brighton’. Parasol parades were a regular feature of the union’s sales drives to increase its newspaper circulation in the summer months. Umbrellas were used in the rainy season. (Photo by Museum of London/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

As part of BBC’s Taking Liberties season (programmes about democracy to mark the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta), Professor Amanda Vickery presents a three-part documentary series, Suffragettes Forever! The Story of Women and Power. Professor Vickery explores the three hundred year-long campaign by women for political and sex equality in Britain.

  • The Reverend Libby Lane smiles as she stands with the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu outside York Minster after she was consecrated as the eighth Bishop of Stockport on January 26, 2015 in York, England. The Church of England consecrated its first female bishop during a ceremony at York Minster. The Reverend Libby Lane, who has been the vicar of St Peter’s Hale and St Elizabeth’s Ashley, in Greater Manchester, was ordained as the new Bishop of Stockport in a two hour service led by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Sunday 8th March was International Women’s Day (IWD) an annual event that has been observed since the early 1900s, in America the first event took place on 28th February, 1909. IWD celebrates women’s accomplishments and promotes global equality and this year’s theme is ‘make it happen’ which aims to encourage and recognise women in their professional fields.

Sunday 8th March was also when Britain’s first female bishop, The Revered Libby Lane (48) preached her inaugural sermon as she was installed in her home diocese, Chester Cathedral. The Church of England formally adopted legislation last November to allow women to become bishops. Rev. Lane was consecrated as the eighth Bishop of Stockport at York Minster in January.

Early Women’s Suffrage

In 1847, the first leaflet advocating votes for women appeared in Britain. In 1867, civil servant John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), tried, unsuccessfully, to secure votes for women in the Second Reform Act. The 1867 Reform Act: 1) granted the vote to all householders in the boroughs as well as lodgers who paid rent of £10 a year or more; 2) reduced the property threshold in the counties and gave the vote to agricultural landowners and tenants with very small amounts of land.

Mill’s failure to secure women the vote, led to the founding of the National Society for Women’s Suffrage. In 1861 (published 1869), Mill wrote one of the earliest essays on sexual equality written by a male author, The Subjection of Women. Although, it is entirely possible that Mill’s wife, Harriet (1807-1858) co-wrote the essay.

In 1868, MP Richard Pankhurst (1834-1898) (husband of Emmeline from 1878 onwards), also tried to push forward votes for women. He drafted the Women’s Disabilities Removal Bill (the first women’s suffrage bill in England) and authored the bill which became the Married Women’s Property Act (1882). The latter gave wives absolute control over their property and earnings. In 1889, the Pankhursts formed the Women’s Franchise League.

A Few Key Miletones Of Women’s Suffrage In Britain

  • Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965) was appointed Home Secretary in 1910 and was part of Herbert Henry Asquith’s (1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith) (1852-1928) Liberal Government (1908-1916);
  • Conciliation bills were put before the House of Commons in 1910, 1911 and 1912. These bills would extend the right of women to vote in Great Britain and Ireland to around 1,000,500 wealthy, property-owning women;
  • The 1907 Qualification of Women Act enabled women to sit on county or borough councils and boards of guardians;
  • The first female MP was Constance Georgine Markievicz (1868-1927), a socialist and suffragette. In December 1918, she was elected to the British House of Commons but did not take-up her seat;
  • Medical Act 1876 (Russell Gurney Enabling Act) – enabled, for the first time, women to study and graduate in medicine. Dr Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910) was the first woman to receive her medical degree in America (1854) and the first woman on the UK Medical Register. Her sister Emily (1826-1910) was the third woman in America to get a medical degree. English physician Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (1836-1917) was the first woman to qualify in the UK as both a surgeon and a physician.
  • Marriage bars. From the late nineteenth century until the 1960s, married women were prohibited from certain occupations such as administrative roles in the Civil Service. The Sex Disqualification Removal Act, passed in 1919, banned married women from the teaching profession. Lower paid professions were not affected. During World War Two, the laws were relaxed because of the labour shortage.Marriage bars in teaching were removed in 1944;
  • The National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) – ‘the Suffragists’, founded in 1897 was a collection of local suffrage societies. This union was led by Millicent Fawcett (1847-1929), who believed in constitutional campaigning and non-violent methods of raising awareness of the suffrage cause. However, this softer approach was rather unsuccessful in drawing attention to their aims;
  • The Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) – ‘the Suffragettes’-  was the leading militant organisation campaigning for Women’s suffrage in Great Britain between 1903 (10th October) and 1917. Founded by Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928) she ran the organisations with her daughters Christabel (1880-1958) and Sylvia (1882-1960);
  • In 1908, the WSPU adopted the colour scheme of purple (dignity), white (purity) and green (hope). This colour scheme appeared on the organisations banners, flags, rosettes and badges. Non-militant suffragettes adopted red, white and green as their colour scheme;
  • The WSPU, under the editorship of Christabel Pankhurst, published an official publication The Suffragette (1912-1915). At one point it had a circulation of ten thousand copies. Previously, the WSPU published the periodical Votes for Women (1907-1912 and 1914-18, when the United Suffragists ran it);
  • Two suffragettes selling The Suffragette at the Henley Regatta.
  • In a photograph specially taken for the Suffragette paper, a woman sits engrossed in the Suffragette.
  • In the early twentieth century until World War One, approximately one thousand suffragettes were imprisoned in Great Britain;
  • Women in Great Britain over the age of 30, meeting certain property qualifications, were given the right to vote in 1918, and in 1928 suffrage was extended to all women over the age of 21. New Zealand was the first self-governing country to grant women the right to vote in 1893 when all women over the age of 21 were permitted to vote in parliamentary elections;
  • Social History, Suffragettes, c.1910, The Suffragettes campaign office in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, photographed by local photographer Harold H,Camborn (Photo by Bob Thomas/Popperfoto/Getty Images)

Women’s Suffrage In Southampton

I have recently been researching suffragettes and suffrage activities in Hampshire, in particular Southampton and Portsmouth. The first suffrage petition in Hampshire was sponsored by the Southampton MP, Russell Gurney (1804-1878), dated 13th May, 1869. The following year the town’s very first suffrage society was established. Founding members of the Southampton executive committee were: Rev. Edmund Kell, Mrs Edward Dixon, Miss Hart, Mrs Jemima Jane Sawyer. Mrs Sawyer was the society’s secretary and lived at Thanet House, Bevois (now Lodge Road).

On 27th February, 1871, Russell Gurney presented another women’s suffrage petition which recorded three hundred and seventy-four of the town’s residents supporting the petition. During the same year the first suffrage meeting was held in the town on the 8th April, a lecture by Millicent Fawcett was attended by two thousand people. Further suffrage meetings took place in 1873, 1876, 1878 and 1882 when crowds had increased sufficiently to hold  the meeting at Southampton’s Philharmonic Hall.

Between 1882 and 1902, there was very little suffrage activity in Southampton. (Source: The Women’s Suffrage Movement in Britain and Ireland: A Regional Survey by Elizabeth Crawford, pp. 163-170) Southampton had branches of both the NUWSS and WSPU but they were small in comparison to over parts of the country or indeed the county, for example Portsmouth.

The NUWSS was established in Southampton in 1905. They held meetings at the Bungalow Café (157, Above Bar, destroyed in World War Two by enemy bombing). During the 1910 election the society opened a shop at 3, Above Bar and in March the Actresses’ Franchise League staged three short suffrage plays, Cicely Hamilton’s Pot and Kettle , and How the Vote Was Won and The Apple by Inez Bensusan. (Source: The Women’s Suffrage Movement in Britain and Ireland: A Regional Survey by Elizabeth Crawford, p. 163)

Militant activities in Southampton did not begin in earnest until 1912 when:

 …some local suffragettes resort to what was by then the frequent militant practice of destroying letters by thrusting burning rags or pouring corrosive fluid into pillar-boxes. As early as 1907, however, the militants had begun to seize every opportunity of interrupting and trying to disrupt any meetings which members of the Government came down to address; as when in November a band of them had to be ejected from one at which Augustine Birrell the Secretary for Ireland was the principal speaker.

It was during the years 1911-1913, however, that militancy rose to its height in the country, and though the repercussions of this in Southampton were less violent than elsewhere, meetings addressed there by leading members of that wing were frequently marked by much heckling and rowdy interruptions. Throughout 1911, the question of women’s suffrage was kept prominently before the town by a succession of speakers from both wings.

(A History of Southampton 1700-1914, Vol III: Setbacks and Recoveries 1868-1914 (1975) by A. Temple Patterson, p. 137)

Emmeline Pankhurst’s Visit To Southampton In 1911

Emmeline Pankhurst visited Southampton on Saturday 4th February, 1911 and addressed a large audience at the Palace Theatre. She spoke for an hour without any interruption from the floor. Various speakers who supported the suffrage movement came down to Southampton for this event including: Mrs Philip Snowden, the Countess of Selborne, H. N. Brailsford, Frederick Pethick-Lawrence whose wife Emmeline was a leading, militant suffragette who together with her husband started the publication Votes for Women in 1907. In 1914, Flora McKinnon ‘General’ Drummond (1878-1949), a prominent leader of the WSPU, also addressed a large crowd in Southampton.


  • Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence (1867-1954), co-editor of Votes for Women, and business manager and Treasurer of the Women’s Social and Political Union, c1909. Before her involvement with the movement Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence had spent five years as a social reformer. In 1905 she founded the Esperance Girls’ Club and Social Settlement, and two years later the Maison Esperance, a cooperative dressmaking business which, unusually for the time, paid the workers a minimum wage of fifteen shillings a week for an eight-hour day, and gave them an annual holiday. She proved to be a remarkable fund-raiser and treasurer for the suffragettes, raising the equivalent of £3 million in five years. Arrested four times and serving over four months in prison, her last conviction (like her husband) was in 1912 for conspiracy to incite violence. She served only five weeks of her nine-month sentence and was released early, severely debilitated after her hunger strike and force-feeding. On their expulsion from the WSPU she and her husband continued to edit Votes for Women (thereafter the official newspaper of the WSPU would be The Suffragette.) They also founded the Votes for Women Fellowship, a new moderate militant organisation. Emmeline’s many publications include: The Need for Women MPs; Women as Persons or Property?; and The Meaning of the Woman’s Movement. (Photo by Museum of London/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

Southampton’s first woman mayor, Lucia Marion Foster Welch (nee Brown, c.1864-1940) was also a supporter of women’s suffrage and member of both the WSPU and the NUWSS. However, she did not condone the WSPU’s militant activities. Welch married twice, first to Philip Braham in 1884, with whom she had three children, and to Robert William Foster Welch in 1904.

Mrs Welch first came to Southampton in 1903 and was elected Conservative councillor for the city’s Newton area in 1918.When Emmeline Pankhurst visited Southampton in 1911, Welch invited friends and supporters of the WSPU to tea at her house, 61 Oxford Street, in order that they could meet the suffragette leader. Welch regularly provided hospitality for the NUWSS meetings.

  • 7th March 1913: A suffragette adding to messages written by others on a pavement in Kensington. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

I reviewed press coverage relating to Mrs Pankhurst’s Southampton visit in 1911 and include some extracts below from the Liberal supporting Southampton Times:

Mrs Pankhurst’s Visit: The Suffragettes have been busily engaged this week in advertising today’s meeting at the Palace Theatre. Handbills have been distributed in great quantities, and on Thursday the pavements were “chalked”. Yesterday members of the ‘Women’s Social and Political Union drove about the town in a motor car gaily decorated in the purple, white, and green colours of the Union, with placards announcing that Mrs Pankhurst’s meeting was at 3 o’clock this afternoon.

Votes for Women: The Women’s Social and Political Union held a very successful ‘at home’ last week in Southampton. The speaker was the Hon. Mrs Haverfield (hon. organiser for Paddington), Miss C. A. L. Marsh (organiser for Portsmouth and Southampton) opened with a short speech explaining the demand of the Union for votes for women on the same terms as men. Mrs Haverfield then dealt with the position of women in the industrial world, and explained the need of the vote to protect their interests. The speaker also pointed out that the laws were made without women being consulted at all, and she claimed that as legislation affected so much the lives of women and children, the women should be allowed to express their views through the ballot box. Several new members were made and collection was taken in aid of the local funds.

(Southampton Times and Hampshire Express, 4.2.1911)

Mrs Pankhurst’s visit: “The Privileges of Sex”. There was a large gathering at the Palace Theatre on Saturday afternoon when Mrs Pankhurst, leader of the “Votes for Women” movement, delivered an address on the auspices of the local branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union. The chair was occupied by Miss Marsh, the local organising secretary, who remarked that as so many people had an entirely wrong idea of what the suffragettes were fighting for, it would be as well if the aims were explained.

Briefly, they were asking that what qualified a man for the vote should also qualify a woman. As women were called upon to pay taxes, and were expected to obey the laws of the country, it was only fair that they should have a chance of saying how their money should be spent, and what laws should be made. Unfortunately, they could not get Government  to do a thing merely because its justice was proved. Had that been possible, the women would have had the vote long ago (applause).

Mrs Pankhurst, who was speaking for nearly an hour, received a very attentive hearing. If there were no striking outbursts of applause, she had the sympathy of her audience to the end, and there was an entire absence of interruptions. She explained the objects of the Union at length, and desired to disabuse the minds of those who believed that, because women had been driven to extremities by the continuous refusal of their demands, they were making extreme claims. She urged that their claims were not only very moderate, but that they were also absolutely just.

Women had been fighting for fifty years against “the terrible privilege of sex”. She admitted that some small advance had been made in the position of women, such as was talked of by those who opposed the extension of the franchise. There were advantages of education, and an advance was made under the Married Women’s Property Act. These, said their opponents, were secured without women having the vote but people who used arguments of that sort did not know that those improvements were the by-products of the work of the Suffrage Societies of those days.

If women had the vote, not one tithe of the energy which had been spent to secure those reformers would have been necessary. Parliamentary candidates were very considerate towards the people who had votes, and it was the need of the vote that urged some to fight. It was the weakest who had the hardest struggle in life, and the least they could do was to set women free to develop the power of self- protection and self-development by giving them the status of citizenship. (applause)

At the conclusions of her speech, Mrs Pankhurst was presented with a handsome bouquet by Miss Kennedy, who, with Miss Cumberland, represented Southampton on the last deputation to the Prime Minister. The Chairman expressed the hope that if it was necessary to send another deputation to the Prime Minister, a greater number of Southampton ladies would volunteer for militant action.

It was also announced that next month a visit would be paid to the town by Mr Hugh Franklin, who, to quote Miss Marsh’s words, “has just served six weeks” (imprisonment) because he wished to show Mr Churchill that the members of the Men’s Political Union were very much disgusted by the way in which the government treated the women at the recent deputation.

Questions were invited and the first point was, has women’s suffrage proved a success in those countries where it exists? Absolutely, replied Mrs Pankhurst. Has anything been gained by militant methods? was the next question and Mrs Pankhurst said that one result has been that the question had been put is such a position that politicians could not ignore it. The Commons now discussed the matter seriously.

Asked what prospect there was of the Government doing anything for women, Mrs Pankhurst said the prospect was very good, if the women of the country would keep the representatives “up to the mark”. The two local members were friends of the movement but they had done nothing for it.

Another question was: if the object of the Union is to obtain the vote on the same qualification as men, how do you propose to obviate the over-representation of property in parliament? The reply was that of the million and a quarter women who would obtain the vote under the proposed Conciliation Bill, over eighty per cent, were earning their own living and therefore the power of property would not be strengthened.

Another lad asked what good could accrue  to the thousands of factory girls if the vote was only given to propertied women, and Mrs Pankhurst said that the limited franchise for men had proved to be a good thing, and she did not see why a limited franchise should not do a great deal of good in improving the positions of women.

(Southampton Times and Hampshire Express (11.2.1911))

  • English suffragette Estelle Sylvia Pankhurst (1882 – 1960) stands on a platform to paint the front of the Women’s Social Defence League premises in Bow Road, East London, 11th October 1912. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Educational Reform For Women

Feminist, educational reformer and suffragist, Sarah Emily Davies (1830-1921) was born in Carlton Crescent, Southampton. The fourth child of the Rev. John Davies, D.D. rector of Gateshead who was working in Southampton as a locum vicar at the time of Emily’s birth. Although she had no formal education, Emily met John Frederick Denison Maurice (1805-1872) through her brother and as such was drawn into educational circles. When her father died she and her mother moved to London where she set about achieving her aim of higher education for women. (Source: Votes for Women: The Women’s Fight in Portsmouth by Sarah Peacock, 1983, p.22) Emily lived to cast her vote in the 1918 general election, aged 88, she died several years later in 1921.

  • ‘Food Values in our Restaurants’, 1917. The effect of university education for women on everyday life. A waitress, late of Girton College, Cambridge, is able to advise a surprised diner on the nutrition he will derive from his meal. Cartoon from Punch. (London, 14th February 1917). (Photo by Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images)

In 1869, Emily Davies co-founded Girton College, Cambridge University, along with Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon (1827-1891) and Lady Henrietta Maria Stanley Alderley (1807-1895). Originally, the college was located in Hitchin in Hertfordshire before later moving to Girton, near Cambridge. Newnham, Cambridge first admitted women in 1871, Somerville and Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford in 1879, and the Royal Holloway College, London in 1886.

  • Female students at the Royal Holloway College in Egham, Greater London, c.1887. Originally a women-only college, it became part of the University of London in 1900 and began to admit male students in 1945. (Photo by General Photographic Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

  • 13th June 1908: Suffragettes who are students at Royal Holloway College march to the Albert Hall for a protest meeting. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

In 1878, University of London (founded by Royal Charter on 28th November, 1836), was the first university in Britain to admit women to its degrees. In 1880, four women passed the BA examination and in 1881 two women obtained a BSc. By 1895, over ten per cent of the graduates were women and by 1900 the proportion had increased to thirty per cent. (Source: University of London)

  • c.1900: Female undergraduates at work in the laboratory at Girton College, Cambridge University.  (Photo by Reinhold Thiele/Thiele/Getty Images)

Florence Exten-Hann, a young socialist and feminist clerk from Southampton as well as WSPU member was one of the suffragettes known for her early morning pavement chalking activities. She joined the women’s section of the Shopworkers’ Union. Her father had been a member of the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) which was active between 1881 and 1911. SDF was Britain’s first, organised, socialist political party.

She was also a member of the Clarion Cycling Club (CCC) formed in 1895 which had its roots in socialism (Clarion was the name of Robert Blatchford’s socialist newspaper). The CCC encouraged working class people to enjoy the freedom of a bicycle. By the early 1900s there were over eight thousand members of the CCC in Britain and it still exists today (National Clarion CC) with other one thousand six hundred members in over thirty sections.

  • England / Social History, Colour illustration, Suffragettes, Three women confront the Minister in their fight for votes outside the Houses of Parliament, c.1910 (Photo by Bob Thomas/Popperfoto/Getty Images)

The Primrose League

Another Southampton resident who played an important role in the political emancipation of women was Colonel Frederick Gustavus Burnaby (1842-1885). In between his many globe-trotting adventures, Burnaby resided in Carlton Crescent. Burnaby along with Lord Randolph Churchill (1849-1895), Sir Henry Drummond Wolff (1830-1908), Sir John Eldon Gorst (1835-1916) and Percy Mitford established the Primrose League in 1883 following their first meeting at the Carlton Club, London.

Conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli’s (1804-1881) favourite flower was the primrose. This group of Disraeli admirers, led by Lord Churchill, set-up the Primrose League to promote Conservative aims and values. The League sought to encourage members of the working classes to be interested in Conservative politics by simplifying its manifesto in order to reach this target group.

  • Margaret Elizabeth Child-Villiers (1849 – 1945), Countess of Jersey, addresses a meeting of the Ladies’ Grand Council of the Primrose League at Princes Hall, Piccadilly, London, 1894. The Primrose League was founded in 1883 to promote Conservative principles in Britain. It was disbanded in 2004. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Foundation of the Primrose League was an important milestone in the history of women’s suffrage. The League was the first political organisation to give women the same status and responsibilities as men. Women could join in the various social events and community activities giving them an invaluable insight into political campaigning including canvassing at election time and supervision of voter registration.

A separate Ladies Branch and Grand Council were formed. The founder of the Ladies Grand Council was Lady Borthwick (later Lady Glenesk) and the first meeting of the committee took place at her house in Piccadilly in March, 1885. Lady Borthwick’s husband was owner of the Morning Post which merged with The Daily Telegraph in 1937.

However, in 1889, the organisation forbade members to take part in suffrage activities or to support the franchise for women. After women finally obtained the vote in 1918, membership dwindled. The Primrose League was wound-up in December 2004.

  • The arrest of suffragettes, left to right, Flora Drummond, Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughter Christabel, with James Jarvis reading the warrant at Clement’s Inn, London on 13th October, 1908. (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images)

Janie Terrero

One of Southampton’s militant suffragettes, Janie Terrero (1858-1944), lived at Fir Tree Lodge, Bannister Road from 1898 with her husband Manuel until they moved to Rockstone House, Pinner, Middlesex in 1913. Mrs Terrero become Hon. Secretary of the Pinner WSPU. Mrs Terrero had support from her husband who was himself a member of the Men’s Political  Union. Whilst living in Southampton Janie Terrero held drawing-room meetings for the society in 1905 and 1907.

In March 1912, Mrs Terrero took part in a series of window-smashing demonstrations in London to coincide with the reading of the Conciliation Bill in Parliament. The women damaged shop windows, using hammers or stones, in the West End, Knightsbridge, Kensington and Chelsea. Over two hundred women were arrested, including Terrero who was sentenced to four months in Holloway prison . Whilst incarcerated, she wrote her thoughts on the experience:

I was in close confinement for twelve days, was in two hunger strikes and was forcibly fed in April and again in June. To those who intend to be actively militant, I want to say this; you cannot imagine how strong you feel in prison. The Government may take your liberty from you and lock you up, but they cannot imprison your spirit. The only one thing the Government really fears is the hunger strike. They fear it not because of our pain and suffering, but because it damages their majorities. How strong that weapon made us feel. If they had only dared, they would have put us in a lethal chamber. Some people wonder at the courage of our women, but I believe physical courage is a common attribute, and I do not see why women should possess it in a lesser degree than men.

(Source: The Suffragette Handkerchief)

Whilst in Holloway Prison, Terrero worked a handkerchief, bordered with purple, white and green, containing sixty-six embroidered signatures and two sets of initials of suffragettes who joined demonstrations in London, March, 1912. The handkerchief was probably embroidered during the women’s limited exercise periods. Most of the women who signed the handkerchief had taken part in the March demonstrations (Source: The Suffragette Handkerchief). The handkerchief is part of the Priest House’s collection, West Hoathly, West Sussex.

  • May 1921: British suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst on her release from prison. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
  • ‘The Cat and Mouse Act’, 1914. Suffragette poster which graphically depicts the workings of the Prisoner’s Temporary Discharge for Ill-Health Act, known by the WSPU as the Cat and Mouse Act. During 1913 and 1914 the force-feeding of suffragettes on hunger-strike stopped. Instead, the weakened campaigners were released from prison on a special license but were liable to be re-arrested to complete their sentence when their health improved. The large, bloody-toothed cat represents the police, the prison authorities and the Home Secretary, Reginald McKenna, who was responsible for the Act. The ‘mouse’ is a small and injured suffragette. Intended to wear down the morale and resolve of the suffragettes, the Cat and Mouse Act failed in both theory and practice: when suffragettes were released they were nursed in suffragette nursing homes and then went into hiding, from where many of them continued to commit yet more militant ‘outrages’. (Photo by Museum of London/Heritage Images/Getty Images)
  • Suffragettes on a ‘poster parade’ selling the Suffragette, 31st July, 1914. The women carry newspaper satchels and flags, and wear sandwich boards advertising their newspaper the Suffragette. The cover of the issue they are selling shows a suffragette being force-fed. Suffragettes were regarded by many as a public enemy, therefore it is to their credit that they parade their allegiances so openly. This was the last full week that they were able to campaign before the outbreak of World War One. (Photo by Museum of London/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

Women’s Suffrage In Portsmouth

Although Southampton had a vibrant suffrage scene, a few miles down the road in Portsmouth, activities reached new political heights. The Southampton branch of the NUWSS worked in association with the Portsmouth Women’s Suffrage Society (1911-14), inviting local members of the WSPU to their meetings. On Portsmouth Socialist Network’s website, there is a timeline of the women’s fight in Portsmouth, click here.

The Portsmouth branch of the NUWSS seems to have been best organised. It even had its own headquarters by November 1913 at 2, Kent Road, Southsea. Fundraising was accomplished through jumble sales, sales of work and collections made at public meetings and in the streets. A young lad, Lancelot Surry, recalled a memorable cake and candy sale organised by the WSPU to which his mother sent a cake iced in purple, green and white. Sadly, no-one would buy it, so it was raffled.(Source: Hampshire Times, 7.11.1913 & Votes for Women: The Women’s Fight in Portsmouth by Sarah Peacock, 1983, pp.20-21)

Portsmouth is a naval town with a reputation for strong-minded, independent women used to surviving whilst their husbands were away at sea. During the Victorian and Edwardian eras, a large majority of the town’s women were employed in the dress, corset and tailoring trades, other popular professions included domestic service, public administration and teaching. The middle and working classes of Portsmouth found a strong collective voice in the women’s suffrage movement.  (Source: Votes for Women: The Women’s Fight in Portsmouth by Sarah Peacock, 1983)

The different strands of the movement for women’s suffrage came together in Portsmouth. Women had played a significant role in the economic life of the town throughout the nineteenth century. Between 1841 and 1901, as dress-makers, seamstresses and staymakers, they accounted for between 21 per cent and 33 per cent of the town’s industrial employment. There was of course a large available female labour force: the wives of dockyard workers, naval men and soldiers and foreign service.

When there were so many important questions before the country, a large proportion of which materially affected women’s interests. A wealthy woman who owned houses and land, who employed servants and work people was yet debarred, merely because of her sex, from having any say by way of a vote, in the political questions which were so vital to her interests.

(Source: Votes for Women: The Women’s Fight in Portsmouth by Sarah Peacock, 1983, pp. 4 & 6)

The first recorded act of militancy in Portsmouth in support of women’s suffrage was reported in June 1913 when Frederick Blessley, a ‘well-known speaker on behalf of “the cause” ‘ was charged with smashing a pane of glass worth 12s. 0d. in the Town Hall. The arson campaign continued throughout the summer, with only a brief respite during the holiday months of July and August. (Source: Votes for Women: The Women’s Fight in Portsmouth by Sarah Peacock, 1983, p.17)

  • Songsheet of ‘The March of the Women’, 1911. Songsheet in the suffragette colours of purple, green and white, showing women and children marching with the banner of the Women’s Social and Political Union, demanding votes for women. This anthem was written by Ethel Smyth (1858-1944) in 1911 and was dedicated to Emmeline Pankhurst, a leading campaigner in the suffragette movement. (Photo by Museum of London/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

Nora and Margaret O’Shea were two Portsmouth sisters who belonged to the local branch of the NUWSS. Margaret wrote the women’s suffrage song ‘Forward, Ever Forward’. The sisters’ interests were not confined to the suffrage campaign. They also devoted themselves to the welfare of animals, vegetarianism and the study of herbal remedies. Their hair, universally admired by their followers, owed its magnificence to the fact that they washed it in a solution of sage and other herbs grown in their garden. (Source:Votes for Women: The Women’s Fight in Portsmouth by Sarah Peacock, 1983, p. 8)

Forward, brave and dauntless

Daughters of this earth.

Let your dormant talents

Spring to glorious birth.


Children, toiling sisters,

Cry, and never rest;

Answer! We shall help you

Coming to our best.


Forward, fighting evils,

Deborahs, awake!

Up! And help your sisters

Victims at life’s stake.

(Margaret O’Shea’s women’s suffrage song, ‘Forward, Ever Forward’)

Not all of Portmouth’s women were supportive of the suffrage movement. The inaugural meeting of the Portsmouth branch of the Women’s National Anti-Suffrage League was held at Sandringham Hall on 9th February, 1909. The  granddaughter of the town’s most famous novelist, Charles Dickens (1812-1870), Mary Angela Dickens (1862-1948) was one of its founding members. Mary spoke in Dublin about the suffrage activities and commented that:

What was called the irresponsible vote – the vote of the man who does not know and does not care – was already sufficiently large. Woman, if she devotes her time to domestic work – what time had she for the study of Imperial politics?

(‘Opponents of the Cause’, The Irish Times, 17.10.2012)

…the whole of the Suffragist propaganda was based on the ignoring and defying of the fundamental differences fixed by Nature herself between the existence of men and women… for the nation women’s suffrage would mean a huge, increased, irresponsible vote, ultimate petticoat government, and a weakening of that respect for law and order which was the very bulwark of the State.

(Mary Angela Dickens quoted in The Hampshire Times, 27.1.1909)

The Portsmouth branch of the NUWSS in the person of their chairman, Mrs Julia Hawksley, challenged Miss Dickens to take part in an open debate upon the subject of women’s suffrage. The debate never took place since the Anti-Suffragists finally declined the invitation. (Source: Votes for Women: The Women’s Fight in Portsmouth by Sarah Peacock, 1983)

In 1918, forty-five thousand women in Portsmouth were entitled to vote and the town was the first in which women were called to vote. On the 18th November that year, Kate Edmund was elected Councillor in the town, by a majority of over six hundred votes.

  • Helena Bonham Carter takes part in filming of Suffragette at Parliament on April 11th, 2014 in London. This is the first time filming for a movie has been allowed in The Houses of Parliament. Suffragette is due for release September 2015 (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
  • Actors (L-R) Anne-Marie Duff, Carey Mulligan and Helena Bonham Carter take part in filming of the movie Suffragette at Parliament on April 11th, 2014 in London. This is the first time filming for a feature film has been allowed in The Houses of Parliament. Suffragette is due for release September 2015. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Snapshot of 1965 Britain

Me talking to BBC Inside Out (South East) presenter Natalie Graham about the 50th Anniversary of Winston Churchill's funeral. On location at Hever Castle, Kent. January 2015. Broadcast BBC One, Monday 26th January.

Me talking to BBC Inside Out (South East) presenter Natalie Graham on location at Hever Castle, Kent. Broadcast BBC One, Monday 26th January, 2015. (16 mins 10 secs in).

I was recently interviewed by BBC Inside Out  (26.1.15 – 16 mins 10 secs in) for a segment to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Winston Churchill’s (1874-1965) death. Inside Out explored what Kent meant to Churchill as well as how he affected the lives of local people who worked for and met him. Churchill brought Chartwell, Westerham, Kent in 1922, the house became his lifelong family home.

Filmed on location at Hever Castle, Kent, I spoke to presenter Natalie Graham about society in 1965 Britain as well as Churchill’s painting legacy. We also discussed his friendship with John Jacob Astor V (1886-1971), 1st Baron Astor of Hever, a fellow politician, neighbour and owner of Hever Castle, one of the many Kent locations Churchill depicted in his art. Churchill encouraged Astor to paint, even giving him an easel as a gift. The easel, along with a paint-box and some of Astor’s artworks are on public display at Hever.

Occasionally with media interviews, one’s content is cut to the core and context of contribution gets lost in the editing suite. This article puts forward some of the fascinating points discussed during my original interview which sadly did not make it into the final edit.  These omitted observations provide us with a fascinating glimpse into what society was like in Britain 50 years ago. Churchill’s death marked the end of the old guard and a turning point in the social history of modern Britain.

  • ‘Churchill’s Funeral: World In Remembrance’ (1965) by British Pathe. Uploaded to You Tube 13.4.2014.

On 30th January, 1965,  Sir Winston Churchill’s  State Funeral took place at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London. Churchill was the only commoner of the twentieth century to be given a State Funeral. Fifty years ago, many thousands of people, from banker to hippie, lined the city streets on a freezing cold Saturday. Millions more watched the event at home on their black and white television.  Viewing this event as a grainy image would have only added to the general atmosphere of sombre reflection displayed by the viewing public.

In January 1965, there were 17.3 million televisions in private domestic households in Britain (Source: BARB), the same year approximately 16 million licences were issued. Television ownership had significantly increased since the previous televised civic event, the Queen’s Coronation on 2nd June, 1953. In that year, 13 million television licences had been issued.

  • A family watch television in their sitting-room. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

It was estimated that 350 million people worldwide watched the live broadcast of Churchill’s funeral. In the United States, although there was live television coverage, it had no sound. Viewers had to wait for the videotape to be flown back to New York where it was immediately transmitted to the public in full.

Twenty-four hours before the funeral, London appeared rather subdued, although underground trains were still running, there were no visible signs of an impending civic event. Unlike today where barriers are erected, roads cordoned off and a heavy police presence is the norm. In January, 1965, everything continued as normal with only a few exceptions, flags were flown at half-mast and lights in Piccadilly Circus were turned out after the funeral, a similar gesture to when Churchill’s death had first been announced a week before.

  • The window of Boots the Chemist in Piccadilly Circus, London, with the London Pavilion opposite, 20th April 1965. (Photo by Bert Hardy Advertising Archive/Getty Images)

After the service, Churchill’s coffin was taken by barge (the Havengore) along the Thames from Tower Pier to Festival Pier then onto Waterloo Station. The coffin continued its journey by train to Churchill’s final resting place, the Parish Church at Bladon, Oxfordshire. The interment was a private, family, affair.

  • Churchill Funeral Train Memo. Pg 1, 1965. (Photo by National Railway Museum/SSPL/Getty Images)
  • People watch from their garden at Winston Churchill’s funeral train. 1965. (Photo by Science & Society Picture Library/SSPL/Getty Images)

The carriage that transported Churchill to Oxfordshire was a 1931, Southern Railway luggage van (n. 2464). It is now on display in the National Railway Museum, York to mark this 50th Anniversary. What interests me most about this carriage is, like Churchill, it had a long service history. During World War Two it transported vegetables and newspapers across the country. At the end of its life, this humble work horse was redeployed to perform one more public duty, perhaps the most important in its history, to deliver Churchill to his final destination on life’s journey.

  • Churchill’s coffin being loaded onto a train at Waterloo Station, London, before travelling to Blenheim Palace and Bladon after his State Funeral, London, 30th January 1965. The train was pulled by a Battle-of-Britain-Class locomotive named ‘Winston Churchill’. (Photo by Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

  • 28th January 1965: Two members of the Womens Voluntary Service serving free cups of tea to the crowds of people queuing to see Churchill lying in state at Westminster Hall in London. The sign reads: ‘You’ve got a long wait. Free Tea! Or give what you can’. (Photo by Philip Townsend/Express/Getty Images)

My stepfather, who was working in Westminster at the time, paid respects to Churchill at Westminster Hall during his lying in state period. Dad told me that he and his work colleagues were expected to visit Westminster Hall, it was their civic duty, despite the tedium of queuing for hours on end, “at least we were given free tea whilst we waited!”, he remarked.

Many thousands of people also made the pilgrimage to London to pay their respects to a man who was so instrumental in freeing Europe from Nazi tyranny. In sixties Britain, a new generation of young people were now able to enjoy the benefits of living in a free and liberal society thanks to the sacrifices made by their parents and grandparents during World War Two.

  • Photograph taken during the British Transport Films production ‘London’s Millions’, made in 1965. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)

My mother, a baby boomer, came of age in 1965. She remembers her family, neighbours and friends all watching the funeral on a black and white Bush television that had been purchased for the occasion. A number of the shops in her home town closed their shutters and a few shopkeepers put black crepe ribbons around their windows. Some employers also gave their staff the morning off of work to watch the funeral.

My mother in 'swinging London' c.1965. ©Come Step Back In Time

My mother in ‘swinging London’ c.1965. ©Come Step Back In Time

My mother recalls several older members of her parents’ generation wearing a black armband as a mark of respect, a tradition that had pretty much fallen out of favour with the public since George VI’s death in 1952 when this practice was commonplace.

My mum and family in Cambridge c.1965. ©Come Step Back In Time

My mum and family in Cambridge c.1965. ©Come Step Back In Time

Like so many who watched Churchill’s funeral on that wintry day in 1965, my mother particularly remembers the image of cranes along the Thames lowering their arms as the coffin, on board the Havengore, passed by. Although, this scene was orchestrated and paid for by the state rather than being a spontaneous heartfelt gesture from the ‘working man’. The dock workers who operated the cranes were actually paid to perform this manoeuvre. Some refused to do it as a point of political and personal principle.

  • ‘A Year In Our Time’ (1965) by British Pathe. Uploaded to You Tube 13.4.2014.

Churchill’s death marked the end of the old order and everything it represented, particularly Victorian conservatism. 1965 was the year that modern Britain began. Educational reforms gathered pace, new secondary modern comprehensives were created to provide a fairer system of learning for all. In hindsight, some educationalists acknowledge that the comprehensive system didn’t really work, it simply created a greater social divide within the secondary sector.

Labour MP Roy Jenkins (1920-2003) became Home Secretary in 1965. Jenkins immediately began to push forward with new legislation such as the abolition in Britain of capital punishment and theatre censorship, the decriminalisation of homosexuality, relaxing divorce law, suspension of birching and the legalisation of abortion.

The contraceptive pill first came to Britain from the United States in 1961 but until 1964 it was only available to married women for the sole purpose of regulating menstrual problems. In 1964/65 right through until the early 1970s ‘the pill’ revolutionised women’s (and men’s!) sexual freedom thanks to restrictions being lifted on the medical conditions for which the pill could be prescribed. Women could now take charge of their family planning, putting childbearing ‘on hold’ in order to pursue careers and educational opportunities if they should so wish. It wasn’t until 1974 that, controversially, ‘the pill’ became available to all women, for free, at family planning clinics.

  • ‘The Pill’, 1965. A photograph showing a factory line of women packing boxes containing the contraceptive pill, taken by Chris Barham in 1965 for the Daily Herald newspaper. 8 million birth control pills were produced weekly at G.D. Searle’s High Wycombe pharmaceutical firm. This particular brand has the trade name ‘Ovulen’. The contraceptive pill was first distributed in Europe in 1961- recommended solely for regulating menstrual disorders in married women. By the late 1960s, however, ‘the Pill’ had come to symbolise social change, sexual liberation and women’s fight for equal rights. This photograph has been selected from the Daily Herald Archive, a collection of over three million photographs. The archive holds work of international, national and local importance by both staff and agency photographers. (Photo by Daily Herald Archive/SSPL/Getty Images)
  • November 1965: Chelsea fashion designer and make-up manufacturer Mary Quant. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
  • 28th September 1965: US actress Raquel Welch in London, in front of a poster promoting her latest film ‘One Million Years BC’. (Photo by J. Wilds/Keystone/Getty Images)

  • ‘Matchbox Cars’ (1965) by British Pathe. Uploaded to You Tube 13.4.2014.

  • The Beatles go to Buckingham Palace to receive their MBEs, London, 1965. Film by British Pathe. Uploaded onto You Tube 13.4.2014.

In popular and consumer culture, 1965 was a landmark year. The Beatles film Help! debuted in London and The Sound of Music , directed by Robert Wise, was released. Mary Quant introduced the miniskirt from her shop Bazaar on the Kings Road in Chelsea, London. Sony marketed their ‘CV-2000’, the first home video tape recorder. Children’s toy ‘Spirograph’, developed by British engineer, Denys Fisher (1918-2002), was first sold.

  • Sony CV-2000 half-inch reel-to-reel videotape recorder. In 1965, Sony launched a domestic videorecorder, the CV2000, which would record a 30 minute monochrome 405-line tv programme on a reel of tape. It was very expensive (several thousand pounds in today’s terms) and complicated to use so it never caught on for home use. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images).
  • Pattern drawn by a member of the Science Museum Workshop staff using a Spirograph, a popular graphic toy that can be used to draw combinations of curves. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
  • 1965: A high street supermarket with shelves laden with tinned food. (Photo by Jackson/Central Press/Getty Image.

The 1960s was when supermarkets first appeared on British high streets. Customer self-service replacing shopkeepers in taupe overcoats (a la Arkwright) who individually selected and wrapped your purchases for you.  Asda opened its first supermarket in Castleford, Yorkshire in 1965. Some might say that the supermarket concept, which began in this decade, altered the retail landscape of our high streets forever.

  • New range of central heating boilers, 1965. In a studio photograph, a model adjusts her new Autostat 502 model central heating boiler from the Victory range of gas-fired domestic heating boilers. (Photo by Paul Walters Worldwide Photography Ltd./Heritage Images/Getty Images)
  • c.1965: A housewife places a plate on the ledge between the kitchen and the dining room while her husband sits at a table in the dining room, England. The woman stands behind a stove. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Popular restaurant group PizzaExpress, founded by Peter Boizot, opened its first restaurant in London’s Wardour Street in 1965. Boizot was inspired by a trip to Italy and brought back to London a pizza oven from Naples and a chef from Sicily. Also this year, Kentucky Fried Chicken opened an outlet in Preston’s Fishergate, the first American fast food chain to open in Britain.

  • Standing outside the fish and chip shop in two items from the Lee Cecil ‘Jetsetters’ collection are Jackie Bowyer, left, and Judy Gomm, right. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)
  • The scene outside Wandsworth prison the day after Ronald Biggs, one of the Great Train Robbers, escaped with three other prisoners. Biggs made his escape by jumping through a hole in the roof of the furniture van shown here, onto mattresses, and then out of the back of the van into a waiting car. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images).

On 7th January, 1965, identical twin brothers, Ronnie and Reggie Kray (1933-1995 & 2000) are arrested on suspicion of running a protection racket in London. On 8th July, Great Train Robber, Ronald ‘Ronnie’ Biggs (1929-2013), escaped from Wandsworth Prison having only served 15 months of his 30 year sentence. Biggs scaled the prison wall with a rope ladder and dropped down into a waiting removal van. He fled to Brussels by boat, then on to Paris where he had plastic surgery and obtained new identity papers. The following year Biggs arrived in Australia where he lived until 1970 when he fled once more, this time to Brazil, a country which did not have an extradition treaty with Britain. He didn’t return to Britain until 2001 where he was re-arrested and imprisoned but released on compassionate grounds, 6th August, 2009.

  • A search is carried out on Saddleworth Moor for missing children Keith Bennett (top right), Pauline Reade (bottom left) and John Kilbride (bottom right), October 1965. All three were the victims of Moors Murderers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The Moors murderers, Ian Brady (1938- ) and Myra Hindley (1942-2002) carried out their gruesome crimes between July, 1963 and October, 1965. Their victims were five children aged between 10 and 17 – Pauline Reade, John Kilbride, Keith Bennett, Lesley Ann Downey and Edward Evans—at least four of whom were sexually assaulted. The pair were arrested on the morning of 7th October, 1965.  Their trial was held over 14 days beginning on 19th April 1966, in front of Mr Justice Fenton Atkinson.

On 8th November, 1965, The Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act suspended capital punishment for murder in England, Scotland and Wales, for five years in the first instance, replacing it with a mandatory sentence for life imprisonment. When sentencing Brady and Hindley in 1966, the judge passed the only sentence that the law allowed: life imprisonment, the public were outraged.

  • 23rd December 1965: Blue Peter presenters Christopher Trace and Valerie Singleton with the programme’s dog, Honey. Blue Peter is a BBC children’s TV programme. (Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images)

  • ‘Pop Goes The Fashion’ (1965) British Pathe film. Uploaded to You Tube, 13.4.2014.
  • People/ Fashion, Couple walk hand in hand, the lady wearing white striped jacket and navy blue skirt, and the man a smart suit, Trafalgar Square, London, 1965 (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images)
  • Entertainment, Personalities, London, 29th June 1965, Five hopeful young women about to start rehearsals for West End roles in ‘Passion Flower Hotel’, L-R: Karin Fernald, Jean Muir, Jane Birkin, Francesca Annis and Pauline Collins (Photo by Bentley Archive/Popperfoto/Getty Images)
  • 14th February 1965: Pop singer, pirate radio station operator and would-be member of parliament, Screaming Lord Sutch (David Sutch) dancing at the Black Cat Club in Woolwich. (Photo by Pace/Getty Images)
  • 7th October 1965: Actress Britt Ekland sitting on the Mini her husband Peter Sellers (1925 – 1980) bought for her birthday, at the Radford Motor Company showroom, Hammersmith, London. (Photo by David Cairns/Express/Getty Images)

  • ‘Diane Westbury is Miss Great Britain’ (1965) film by British Pathe. Uploaded to You Tube 13.4.2014.

  • ‘Avengers Fashion Show in 1965 – “Dressed To Kill”‘ by British Pathe. Uploaded by Vintage Fashions Channel, You Tube, 9.9.2011.