Basque children arrive at Southampton aboard the liner, SS Habana, having been rescued from the horrors of the Spanish Civil War. May 25th, 1937.
I am extremely pleased to finally be publishing this article which I have been researching, on and off, for about a year now. Since the plight of migrant children continues to dominate European news headlines, it felt like the perfect time to crack-on and write-up my notes. Regardless of your political views about refugees, economic migrants or asylum seekers, this is a heart-warming, true story, fundamentally about humanitarianism.
The successful evacuation of 3,840 children to Britain from the war-torn Basque region of Spain in May, 1937 is an event in our nation’s history that we should justly be proud of. As the narrator states in the British Pathé film below: ‘Britain has always been a safe haven for exiles’. Perhaps we should all bear this phrase in mind when formulating an opinion about the plight of families fleeing war-torn countries.
British Pathe film from 1937, ‘Tragedy of Civil War – Basque Refugee children arrive in England’. Film shows the children arriving in Southampton as well as the temporary reception camp at Stoneham Farm, Eastleigh, near to the city centre. Uploaded to You Tube 13.4.2014.
At first, the British government did not want the Basque refugee children to come, intervention could be seen as an act of taking sides. The government wanted to maintain a neutral reaction to this conflict. The Archbishop of Canterbury at the time, William Cosmo Gordon Lang (1864-1945), also found himself in a difficult situation, he too had to adopt the Church of England’s neutral position whilst supporting humanitarian initiatives for the Spanish women and children.
Bombing Of Guernica In Spain, April, 1937. The event inspired Pablo Picasso’s 1937 painting, ‘Guernica’.
On 26th April, 1937, the non-militarised Basque town of Guernica was heavily bombed. This was one of the first aerial bombings by Nazi Germany’s Luftwaffe. The town was devastated and over 1,600 people killed. Archbishop Lang happened to be in the Basque region at the time, reporting back on the children’s harrowing plight. Public conscience was stirred and the British government were forced to back down.
‘Guernica’, a mural oil-painting on canvas by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), completed in June 1937, as a reaction to Nazi Germany’s bombing of the town. The painting is housed in Madrid’s Museo Reina Sofia.
Originally, the Home Office only gave permission for 2,000 children to be evacuated to Britain. However, since France had already given shelter to between 16,000 and 18,000 refugees, supporters argued that it was not unreasonable for Britain to ‘do her bit’ and take-in 4,000 children.
If England will not have them all, 2,000 will be landed at Bordeaux en route, and the rest will be brought to Southampton arriving Saturday. [22nd May, 1937).
(The Daily Echo, 18.5.1937)
The people of Southampton rose to the challenge as one might expect from a Port town with a long history of welcoming migrants fleeing persecution. The town needed to pool all of its human resources to pull-off a successful reception and create a suitable base camp for the children. The children only needed accommodation in Southampton for a couple of months, as the plan was to send them on to new foster homes and country houses throughout Britain until hostilities in Spain had ceased.
Volunteer helpers cleaning a house in preparation for the arrival of Spanish refugees, 1937.
Although the British Government now supported an evacuation, they made it perfectly clear that once on British soil, they would not be held responsible for the children’s welfare. Of course, such declarations just served to fuel the cause. Southampton’s citizens rallied and several days before the refugees were due to arrive, 1,000 of them gathered at the town’s Guildhall to pledge their help, support and donate money.
I found the following quotes from regional newspapers in a clippings folder at the Local Studies Centre of Southampton Central Library. They detail how local people rose to this challenge. Organisations, such as the Scouts, Guides, Boys Brigade, YMCA, Salvation Army and Quakers lent their support. Southampton’s school children collected eggs and the town’s local co-op donated food and clothes. An egg-storing depot was set-up at Messrs A. E. Turner’s store, London Road, Southampton. High-profile supporters of the evacuation were The Duchess of Atholl, the Cadbury and Rowntree families and King George VI.
Southampton’s response in personal service and in gifts has been magnificent, but there are still several urgent needs unfilled. One of these is a caravan or hut for the use of V.A.D. nurses and as a medical examination room.
(The Daily Echo, 18.5.1937)
Gifts of vegetables toys, clothes, etc, are, of course, warmly welcomed, and there is a caravan just outside [of the Stoneham transit camp, near Southampton] for the receipt of gifts. The generous spirit of local folk is above praise; hundreds have been working all hours of the night, and even if they go out of their way to engage a cook or collect a string of cars which turn out to be unwanted, they take it all most philosophically.
The spirit of the camp is admirable: one recognised many of Southampton’s leading spirits at work on humble jobs or helping in the shepherding of children: so long as they are useful they do not mind. Even trained nurses were cheerfully filling palliases with straw on Sunday, because that was the most urgent task. Incidentally, someone had the bright idea of turning Sunday afternoon’s curiosity to account, and went round with a tin bowl. He collected £5 in pennies.
(The Hampshire Advertiser and Southampton Times, 29.5.1937)
Three young orphans from Bilbao arrive at Southampton aboard the liner Habana. May 23rd, 1937.
On Thursday 20th May, 1937, the SS Habana sailed from Bilbao, France with approximately 3,840 children on board accompanied by 80 teachers, 120 helpers, 15 Catholic priests and 2 doctors. The ship was only meant to carry 800 and conditions on-board were very cramped. It was a tough voyage, many suffered sea-sickness, diarrhoea, particularly around the Bay of Biscay.
SS Habana arrived in British waters on Saturday 22nd May, lying-off of Fawley, where it awaited English health authorities to clear its passengers so that it could dock at Southampton Port. Early on Sunday 23rd May, SSHabana finally left her anchorage and docked at Berth 106, arriving just before 8am.
The children were given medical examinations then immigration officers took details of their names and parentage, fixing labels to their wrists before they were allowed to troop down the Habana’s gangway onto the safety of Southampton Docks. The children were helped by white-uniformed, Spanish, Red Cross nurses.
Once the children had disembarked onto Southampton Quay, they boarded a long line of Hants and Dorset Motor Services buses which the company had loaned for such purposes. Next stop was Southampton Corporation Baths on Western Esplanade, where a host of volunteers bathed them in disinfectant and gave each child a fresh set of clothes.
The above immigration procedures may seem a little draconian by modern standards but you have to remember that the living conditions these refugees had left behind were so grim, many of them had become malnourished and vulnerable to disease. All sensible precautions had to be taken to ensure no communicable diseases were inadvertently brought into Britain and worse still, spread throughout the transit camp at Stoneham Farm.
In one of the local newspaper reports, I found an account of life in the war torn Basque region, given by a 15 year old girl from the town of Azkoitia in the province of Gipuzkoa.
Nine months ago, I was living with my father and two brothers in Azkoitia, where my father was a magistrate. Now my father is in Bilbao, one of 300,000 refugees from the war zone. My brothers are fighting in the Basque Army against the Fascists. When the fighting began all around my home we had to evacuate the village. My father and I went to Guernica.
We lived there for eight months – mostly underground – until in one air raid the whole town was wiped out. What had a short time before been a pretty market town was reduced to a mass of flame and ruin. Incendiary bombs fell side by side with high explosives. Panic and bloodshed were rife. All the people in the houses next to that in which I was are now dead.
(Southern Daily Echo, 24.5.1937)
Another account was given by a couple of Roman Catholic priests who had accompanied the refugees to Britain. Benito Juan Sarakoetxea and Padre Gabriel Manterola told reporters at the Southern Daily Echo that the people’s diet had been very poor indeed, food was scarce. Daily rations consisted mainly of fish, black bread and water with some milk made available to children.
They also recalled how citizens were so afraid they were living in the safety of their cellars. In fact since 31st March, 1937, the children had been bombed every day except for three days, leaving many of them now in a heightened state of anxiety.
Southampton residents were asked not to visit the Docks or line the streets to greet the children. This was not an unfriendly gesture but instead one designed to ensure the children were not over-whelmed. Although, from some of the newspaper reports I have read, local children did cheer and wave as the buses transported the refugees to Stoneham Farm.
The temporary reception camp was located at Stoneham Farm, near Eastleigh, just outside of Southampton. A local farmer, G. H. Brown, lent a parcel of farmland to the cause. The site, run by volunteers, was efficiently organised with 400 bell tents and plenty of facilities although it did take a few days for the terrified youngsters to settle.
Traumatised Basque refugee child arrives at Stoneham Farm temporary transit camp, May, 1937.
In the period leading-up to the refugees arrival, local citizens rallied around to get the Stoneham land ready. Local plumbers laid water pipes, carpenters constructed simple structures and Dockers dug latrines. Depots for food, clothes and toys were set-up all over Hampshire, supported by cricket clubs, churches and women’s organisations.
Unsurprisingly, the refugee children were unused to a structured, daily routine. Many of them had, for quite a considerable amount of time, been running wild due to the horrific circumstances back home. There were some instances reported that whilst at Stoneham Farm camp, some children had been caught stealing from local orchards. Another incident detailed several boys having stolen communion wine from the temporary on-site church tent!
Refugees lining-up to receive their meal at Stoneham Farm transit camp, Eastleigh. May, 1937.
The children were well-fed at the camp, diet consisted mainly of scalded milk, bread, boiled meat and potatoes with peas and onions. Each child was given a daily amount of milk equivalent to 1 and 1/2 pints. There was also plenty of fruit and sweets (thanks to Rowntrees). Cadbury’s also sent down 12,000 chocolate, 12,000 bars. Meals were cooked by local people under supervision of a team of ex-army and navy cooks.
There were many daily activities to keep the children occupied including boxing (organised by ex-heavyweight champion, Joe Beckett), a cinema and Spanish/English lessons. Entertainment was organised by Spanish-speaking actor Neville Towne. The artist, Augustus John (1878-1961), visited the camp everyday and sketched the children. A tannoy system was also installed, to keep everyone updated with news from Spain. This was not always very well-received and on occasion very distressful.
Boxing practice at the Stoneham Camp. Professional boxer, Joe Beckett (1892-1965) looks on. May 29th, 1937.
Over the following months children were gradually sent to foster families and designated centres, which were also known as ‘Basque Colonies’. There were 94 Colonies set-up across Britain. The children were dispersed to country houses and private homes in: Manchester, Swindon, Scarborough, Cambridge, Brampton, Worthing, Tunbridge Wells, Worthing, Ipswich, Derby, Welwyn Garden City, Birkenhead, Watford, Thame, Watford, Richmond, Birmingham, Newbury and of course Southampton.
The refugees stayed in Britain for 2 years and when the war ended on 1st April, 1939, all, apart from 500 children were returned to Spain. Many children could not be returned as their families either no longer had a home or had been killed. Approximately 400 children settled permanently in Britain. The father of former Conservative MP-turned broadcaster, Michael Portillo, was a Basque refugee.
I was 14 at the time. I cried a lot in the boat on the way over. It wasn’t just me – many children were crying. It was because we knew what was going on with the war, especially in Bilbao. When we arrived in Southampton we were taken to be checked by a doctor, then we went to the campsite at Stoneham. There were so many children to sort out. Our group were sent to Caerleon in South Wales, between Cardiff and Newport. We had a lovely time there, we were very happy in Caerleon because we were one big family. There were 67 of us, and one Spanish lady who looked after us all – we called her our mother. We stayed there for 2 years until the Second World War started and the soldiers needed the rooms.
(Basque refugee, Maria-Louisa Cooper, 84, reminiscing at the 70th anniversary in 2007.)
There is a commemorative plaque, unveiled on the 70th anniversary in 2007, on the outside entrance of Southampton Central Library;
In light of this anniversary, I was recently browsing my bookshelves and came across a copy of Studies of Shakspere by Charles Knight (1851), I completely forgot I had this book. I am always thrilled when my collection manages to delight and surprise me. I have been buying secondhand books for over 30 years now. I began in my teenage years and, back then, could often be found in a dusty bookshop rather than partying hard at a disco (I grew-up in the 70s and 80s when discos were still ‘a thing’!)
I wouldn’t describe Studies of Shakspere as a ‘light read’ (yes, that is how ‘Shakespeare’ is spelt here, before you all rush to post a corrective comment below). It is a book to ‘dip in and out of’ which is the way I mostly like to engage with my books anyway.
During one of my bedtime browsing sessions, I came across the writings of Mrs Elizabeth Montagu nee Robinson (c.1718-1800). Quoted in Knight’s book, alongside other notable writers and critics of the Georgian era, Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), Martin Sherlock and David Hume (1711-1776), Elizabeth has a powerful voice. A female critic of Shakespeare? I was intrigued to find-out more.
English writer Mrs Elizabeth Montagu nee Robinson. Published by Payne. January, 1760.
Brilliant in diamonds, solid in judgement, critical in talk.
(Hester Thrale (1741-1821) writing to Fanny Burney (1752-1840) about Elizabeth Montagu)
Elizabeth was a Yorkshire-born social reformer, arts patron and leading light of the Blue Stockings Society. She wasn’t a great fan of marriage and didn’t harbour particularly strong romantic feelings for men. However, despite these opinions on romantic entanglements, men adored her. They were drawn to Elizabeth’s wit, intelligence, beauty and charisma.
Women were just as fascinated by Elizabeth. In her social circle of Age of Enlightenment luminaries, fellow writer, Hester Lynch Piozzi (1741-1821) gave Elizabeth the highest of charm ratings, 101 out of a possible 120. Mrs Piozzi also credits Irish intellectual, Elizabeth Vesey (1715-91), with adoring Elizabeth as much as she hated her own husband. This was, after all, also the age of the romantic friendship when women of a certain class could indulge intense, platonic, relationships with her own sex.
Hannah More (1745-1833) English religious writer and playwright, and member of the Blue Stocking circle of intelligent educated women, being introduced to Society by the Duchess of Gloucester. Wood engraving, 1753.
Elizabeth was a leader of the famous Blue Stockings Society. The Society, which started in the 1750s, was a very tight-circle of women who met in the London homes of fashionable hostesses such as Elizabeth Montagu, Elizabeth Vesey (c1715-1791) and Frances Boscawen (1719-1805).
In the 1770s, Elizabeth Montagu hosted salons in Hill Street, London, which became home to some of the best salons in London. Her salons attracted the biggest literary and creative names of the age: Samuel Johnson, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Edmund Burke, David Garrick and Horace Walpole.
The name ‘Blue Stocking’ was first used as an abusive term to insult the Puritans of Cromwell’s ‘Little Parliament’ in 1653. In Elizabeth’s time, it was used to describe botanist, Benjamin Stillingfleet’s (1702-71), who is thought to have turned-up to one of Elizabeth’s salons wearing blue woollen stockings. This style of stocking would normally have been worn by working men, gentlemen normally wore formal, white silk stockings
Elizabeth and her fellow Bluestockings were also important Arts Patrons, supporting a whole host of female authors: Elizabeth Carter; Hannah More; Frances Burney; Anna Barbauld; Sarah Fielding; Hester Chapone and Anna Williams. The Blue Stockings promoted friendship, philanthropy, education (particularly of women), arts patronage and creativity.
Prior to her marriage Elizabeth Montagu had many suitors, all of whom found their advances and declarations swiftly dismissed. The following extract is from Elizabeth Montagu, the Queen of the Bluestockings: Her Correspondence from 1720-1761 (2 Vols, London: John Murray, 1906) by Emily Climenson). Elizabeth writes to her sister Sarah Scott nee Robinson (1723-1795), about one such unlucky suitor, Mr Brockman of Beechborough:
Poor Mr B [Mr Brockman of Beechborough] really takes his misfortunes so to heart that he literally dying, indeed I hear he is very ill, which I am sorry for, but I have no balsam of heartsease for him, if he should die I will have him buried in Westminster Abbey next the woman that died of a prick of a finger, for it is quite as extraordinary, and he shall have his figure languishing in wax…..upon my word I compassionate his pains, and pity him, but as I am as compassionate, I am as cold too as Charity…. I am very sorry if the poor man is really what you think, unhappy; if his case is uneasy I am sure it is desperate; complaint I hope, is more the language, than misery the condition, of lovers.
To speak ingenuously you men use us oddly enough, you adore the pride, flatter the vanity, gratify the ill-nature, and obey the tyranny that insults you; then slight the love, despise the affection, and enslave the obedience that would make you happy: when frowning mistresses all are awful goddesses, when submissive wives, despicable mortals.
On another occasion, in 1742, Elizabeth wrote to Rev. William Friend expressing her characteristically strong opinions on marriage, flattery of the female sex, love, the superficiality of physical attraction and other matters of the heart.
Flattery has ever been the ladder to power, and I have detested its inverted effects of worshipping one into slavery, while it has pretended to adore one to deification. If ever I commit my happiness to the hands of any person, it must be one whose indulgence I can trust, for flattery I cannot believe.
I am sure I have faults, and am convinced a husband will find them, but wish he may forgive them; but vanity is apt to seek the admirer, rather than the friend, not considering that the passion of love may, but the effect of esteem can never, degenerate to dislike. I do not mean to exclude love, but I mean to guard against the fondness that arises from personal advantages….
I have known many men see all the cardinal virtues in a good complexion, and every ornament of a character in a pair of fine eyes, and they have married these perfections, which might perhaps shine and bloom a twelvemonth, and then alas! (Ibid.)
Despite her views, Elizabeth did wed. In 1742 she married Edward Montagu (1692-1776), grandson of the Ist Earl of Sandwich (1625-1672). It was a financially and socially advantageous union despite their 28 year age gap (Elizabeth was 22, Edward 50). For the most part, it was an amicable union that produced one son, John (b.1743), whom Elizabeth doted on. She was devastated when he died a year later. The couple had no more pregnancies or children.
Elizabeth kept a female companion who performed in the role of servant. By all accounts, the young woman was not happy in her ‘role’ and escaped, as soon as possible, into marriage. Some theories put forward have suggested that Elizabeth’s female companion was actually her only sister, Sarah Scott nee Robinson (1723-1795).
Sarah was a prolific writer, more so than her sister Elizabeth, publishing her works anonymously. Sarah’s most famous publication was her utopian novel A Description of Millenium Hall and the Country Adjacent (1762), closely followed by the sequel The History of Sir George Ellison (1766).
In 1751, Sarah married mathematician and tutor to the Prince of Wales, George Lewis Scott (1708-1780), a marriage Elizabeth disapproved of vehemently. Elizabeth felt so strongly about the marriage, that she became temporarily estranged from her sister. Elizabeth’s instincts were correct. George was a bit of scoundrel but details of what actually went wrong with the marriage are sketchy. It is thought the marriage was one of convenience. There were also rumours that he had attempted to poison Sarah. The couple separated in 1752.
Elizabeth had strong, well-informed, opinions on many topics but none more so than on the subject of literature. One of Elizabeth’s most celebrated publications was Essay on the Writings and Genius of Shakespeare (1769). It is this book which is quoted and referred to in my copy of Studies of Shakspere by Charles Knight (1851).
In her writing, Elizabeth confidently defends Shakespeare’s texts against French writer Voltaire’s (1694-1778) attacks. Elizabeth earned literary recognition for this essay and by 1785 it had run to 4 editions. Originally published anonymously, it was thought the book had been written by Joseph Warton (1722-1800) but by 1777, Elizabeth’s name appeared on the title page.
In the essay, she endorses Shakespeare’s writings as a vehicle to promote morality and educate the masses. She also declares, that although Shakespeare’s plays lack formal and classical structure, they do have a natural simplicity and truth of expression.
Below are a few extracts from Essay on the Writings and Genius of Shakespeare, quoted in Studies of Shakspere by Charles Knight (1851). Knight refers to Elizabeth’s attack upon Shakespeare as being rather a ‘maudlin defence’ (p.542) and its ‘half-patronising, half-vindicating tone is very well meant’ (p.543). In fact, Elizabeth praises Shakespeare’s genius for most of the essay, declaring him to be the ‘greatest poet’.
Elizabeth also wrote specifically on his characters, plots and quality of verse. The extract below makes reference to Shakespeare’s lack of formal education. Elizabeth does not hold back with her intellectual snobbery:
Our author [Shakespeare], by following minutely the chronicles of the times, has embarrassed his dramas with too great a number of persons and events. The hurly-burly of these plays recommended them to a rude, illiterate audience, who, as he says, loved a noise of targets. His poverty, and the low conditions of the stage (which at that time was not frequented by persons of rank), obliged him to this complaisance; and, unfortunately, he had not been tutored by any rules of art, or informed by acquaintance with just and regular dramas. (Ibid. p. 542)
Our author is too much addicted to the obscure bombast much affected by all sorts of writers in that age…There are many bombast speeches in the tragedy of ‘Macbeth’ and these are the lawful prize of the critic. (Ibid. p.542)
On Julius Caesar:
The quarrel between Brutus and Cassius does not, by any means, deserve the ridicule thrown upon it by the French critic [Voltaire]….but it rather retards than brings forward the catastrophe, and is useful only in setting Brutus in a good light. (Ibid. p542)
On William Shakespeare:
It has been demonstrated with great ingenuity and candour that he was destitute of learning: the age was rude and void of taste; but what had a still more pernicious influence on his works was, that the court and the universities, the statesmen and scholars, affected a scientific jargon. An obscurity of expression was thought the veil of wisdom and knowledge; and that mist, common to the morn and eve of literature, which in fact proves it is not at its high meridian, was affectedly thrown over the writings, and even the conversation of the learned, who often preferred images distorted or magnified, to a simple exposition of their thoughts.
Shakspeare is never more worthy of the true critic’s censure than in those instances in which he complies with this false pomp of manner. It was pardonable in a man of his rank not be more polite and delicate than his contemporaries; but we cannot so easily excuse such superiority of talents for stooping to say affectation. (Ibid. pp. 542-3)
Elizabeth Montagu’s house in Portman Square, London, c1800
In 1777, Elizabeth began work on Montagu House in Portman Square, London and moved there in 1781. Suring this decade her salons became increasingly more opulent attracting an even wider circle of literary luminaries. She called the mansion in Portman Square her ‘temple to virtue and friendship’. Samuel Johnson called her the ‘Queen of the Blues’.
Elizabeth died in Montagu House on 25th August, 1800. She left most of her property and money to her nephew, Matthew Montagu, 4th Baron Rokeby (1762-1831). He published a collection of his aunt’s letters in 1809, The Letters of Mrs Elizabeth Montagu, with Some of the Letters of her Correspondents.
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.
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.
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)
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)
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).
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.
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.
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.
An X-ray of LadyElizabeth 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.
“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:
‘Joshua Reynolds: Experiments in Paint’ continues until 7th June, 2015. Exhibition opening hours are Monday-Sunday 10am-5pm, entry is free. Join the discussion about the exhibition on Twitter @WallaceMuseum #JoshuaReynolds or Facebook (www.facebook.com/WallaceCollection);
Together with Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788), Reynolds established the Royal Academy of Arts in 1768. Reynolds was the RA’s first president until his death in 1792. On the RA’s website there a number of videos and further information about Reynolds’s time there. ‘On the Reynolds trail in the RA archive’ by Amy Macpherson (25.2.15): https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/article/joshua-reynolds-academy-archive ;
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!
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.
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)
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.
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);
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)
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.
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)
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.
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)
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.
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 short ‘stills’ film I made showcasing the Georgian Christmas event at Chawton House Library, Hampshire (13.12.14).
Although Chawton House, Hampshire, is not a Georgian property (it was built between c.1583 and c.1665), it is still the perfect setting to step back in time and experience Christmas during the long eighteenth century.
The Georgian period started in 1714 and ended in 1830. In 1797, Jane Austen’s (1775-1817) third eldest brother, Edward Austen Knight (1768-1852), took control of the Chawton estate after inheriting it from his childless relatives, Catherine and Thomas Knight.
Edward’s new situation, as a gentleman of considerable wealth, enabled him to take care of his mother and two unmarried sisters (Jane and Cassandra). In 1809, he moved the three of them into Chawton Cottage, located only a short walk from his estate in the nearby village. Whilst living in Chawton, Jane had four of her novels published:
Edward did not live at Chawton House but instead spent most of his time at his other estate, Godmersham, Kent, letting out his property at Chawton to gentlemen tenants. His brother Frank also borrowed the house at one time. Jane’s mother and her sister are both buried at St. Nicholas Church, situated in the grounds of Chawton House. Jane died in 1817 in Winchester and is buried in the north aisle of the Cathedral nave.
During the eighteenth century, the Knight Family kept a handwritten cook book (Knight Family Cookbook), not uncommon for a household of Chawton’s size. However, what is unique is that the Knight’s cookbook has survived in good condition. The cook book was compiled on behalf Thomas Knight for his sister, when he died, the manuscript passed to Edward.
The Georgian period as a whole has got an awful lot going for it. The clothing is fabulous, the attitudes are interesting, the Enlightenment is in full swing and people are questioning philosophical, medical and culinary viewpoints, left, right and centre. As for the food, especially the feasting food, you cannot beat it. I would say that the flavours, tastes and textures of Georgian cooking are probably the best. Some of the combinations are just knockouts.
Dr Gray also treated us to food samples recreated from recipes she had transcribed from The Knight Family Cookbook. A delicious spread of sweet treats, cinnamon cakes, ginger cakes, mincemeat pies (with cow tongue!) and Twelfth Cake. There is an excellent interview with Dr Gray about the allure of Georgian festive fare on the Chawton House Library blog. Click here.
In Georgian England, Christmas lasted much longer than it does today. It began on 6th December (St. Nicholas’ Day) and ended with Twelfth Night (6th January, feast of the Epiphany). This month long season became a time of balls, dinner parties, dancing, playing parlour games, singing carols and, of course, feasting.
The upper echelons of society engaged in acts of philanthropy not only towards the poor but also their own servants. On St. Stephen’s Day (26th December), Christmas boxes filled with cake, money and clothing were donated, the modern name, ‘Boxing Day’, originates from this tradition. Dr Gray explained that festivities among the poorer sections of society were rather bawdy, drunken affairs. They would consume lots of boiled meats and puddings, that had been cooked in the household cauldron, normally used for washing laundry!
During the Georgian era, dining was an exciting experience. According to Dr Gray:
No children were present at the dining table, mealtimes were very much an adult affair. It was a ‘choose your own dining adventure’, the most exciting method of dining. The table would be laid à la française [all dishes served at the same time] with between five and twenty dishes for each course. The second course usually consisted of roast meats (game, beef, sirloin and game) from the landowner’s own estate. Another Georgian delicacy was brawn, made from a stewed pig’s head.
Plum pudding [plumb pudden] was treated like modern-day chutney. It goes very well with beef. Georgian plum puddings had a stiffer structure than we are now used to, it held its shape and could be sliced. If you fry slices of Georgian plum pudding, pair with slices of beef and cover in gravy it is delicious. Mincepies were not all sweet like they are now, one third of the filling was actual meat, for example calf or cow tongue.
Service à la française dated back to the Middle Ages and continued until the nineteenth century when it was gradually replaced by service à la russe, a succession of courses, each one cleared away before the next, we still use this style today. The rules of Georgian dining table etiquette were very strict:
When dinner is announced the mistress request the lady first in rank, to shew the way to the rest.., she then asks the second in precedence to follow, and after all the ladies are passed, she brings up the rear herself…The master of the house does the same with the gentlemen…The mistress of the table sits at the upper end (with) those of superior rank next to her, right and left, those next in rank following, then the gentlemen, and master at the lower end….
Soup is generally the first thing served, and should be stirred from the bottom….Where there are several dishes at table, the mistress of the house carves that which is before her, and desires her husband, or person at the bottom of the table, to carve the joint or bird before him…
Eating quick or very slow at meals is characteristic of the vulgar; the first infers poverty, that you have not had a meal for sometime; the last … that you dislike your entertainment. So again eating your soup with your nose in the plate, is vulgar, it has the appearance of being used to hard work, and having, of course, an unsteady hand….Smelling to the meat whilst on the fork, before you put it in your mouth…To be well received you must always be circumspect at table, where it is exceedingly rude to scratch any part of your body, to spit, to blow your nose (if you can’t avoid it turn your head), to lean elbows on the table, etc.., etc.., to leave the table before grace is said.
(The Honours of the Table, or Rules for Behaviour during meals by John Trusler (1791))
Greenery featured heavily at Christmas in the Georgian house and represented the strength of life through cold winter months. Greenery included, holly, evergreen, kissing boughs of holly, ivy and rosemary, foliage was dressed with spices, apples, oranges, candles, and ribbons, all of which would be put-up on Christmas Eve. Kissing boughs would only be hung in the servants’ quarter.
Yule logs were the centrepiece of Georgian Christmas decorations. The largest log on the estate would be chosen, one big enough to burn throughout Christmas Day. The log was so large it stick out of the fire hearth into the room and was wrapped in hazel twigs. A small piece of the log would be kept to light the following year’s Yule log.
Twelfth Night was an extremely important feasting opportunity in the Georgian calendar. Wassail and Twelfth Cake were traditionally consumed on this day. Hidden inside a Twelfth Cake would be a dried pea or bean, whoever found these pulses would be King or Queen of the household for the day, even if the finder happened to be a servant! Twelfth Cake went out of fashion in the Victorian era and replaced by the Christmas Cake. It is still tradition in France to eat a flaky cake known as agalette des rois (kings’ tart) on Twelfth Night (see image below).
(From The Knight Family Cookbook (Both recipes below transcribed by Dr Annie Gray)
‘I have already halved the amounts in the original recipe, which calls for a cake tin half a yard.’
Ingredients: 5pt. flour, 1/2 lb sugar, 1/4 oz mace, 1 1/2 nutmegs, pinch cloves, cinnamon, 4 lb currants, 1 lb raisins, 7 1/2 fl. oz. cream, 1 1/4 lb butter (melted into the cream), scant pint of warm water, with a tsp of sugar in it and 6 tsp dried yeast, 10 very small eggs (pullet’s eggs are ideal. Otherwise use 6 medium eggs). Half a jack of brandy (a jack is 2 1/2 fl oz), 1/2 lb peel.
Method: Mix all of the dry ingredients, and then mix separately the cream, melted butter and water/yeast mixture. Leave the liquid for about 30 minutes to activate the yeast (the liquid should be no more than blood-warm). Whisk the eggs. Now add all of the liquid and eggs to the dry mix and mix very well. Don’t use a standard mixer unless it is a catering model, or it will blow up! Use your hand (even using a wooden spoon is unwise, as you’ll get blisters). Layer about a third of the mix into your cake tin, then put in a layer of half the peel. Top with another third of the mix, and then the rest of the peel, and the rest of the mix. Slash the top with sharp knife. Tie several layers of brown paper around the tin and stand it on a few more. If the cake browns too quickly, you’ll need to stick a couple of layers on top as well. Cook in a moderate oven for an undisclosed amount of time.
Ingredients: 3/4 lb caster sugar, 1/2 oz ground cinnamon, a nutmeg (ground or 2 tsp ready ground), 1/2 lb unsalted butter, 2 egg yolks, 1/2 an egg white, 1/2 tsp rosewater, 2-3 tbsp. water (in reserve in case the pastry is too dry), 1 1/2lb flour.
Method: Mix the sugar, spice and butter and leave to rest for up to an hour. Break up the mix, which should form a loose but dry ball and gently mix in the eggs. Add the flour gradually, mixing until you have a malleable dough, which can be rolled out and cut into biscuits with a cutter (or wine glass, as the original recipe suggests). Prick each with a fork a few times. You may need to add the water if your dough is too dry and crumbly. Half of the amount here makes around 50 biscuits.
All players, except one, sit in a circle. In the middle of the circle the remaining person sits. It is their task to Hunt the Slipper. The players in the circle pass the slipper between them and behind their backs very quickly and everyone mimics the action of passing the slipper so that the person in the middle of the circle is unable to find it easily.
Earlier this Summer, I received an exciting invitation to attend a ‘pop-up’ exhibition of preparatory works for the Romsey War Horse Memorial Project by award-winning sculptor, Amy Goodman. The exhibition was located at Ranvilles Farm, near Romsey, Hampshire, now a private residence but during World War One was situated close to the Veterinary Hospital of The Romsey Remount Depot. Some of the stabling still exists today, including an original window.
In 1915, a Remount Camp was opened on the summit of Pauncefoot Hill close to Ranvilles Farm. The Camp had reading rooms, a library, a canteen, a YMCA and a hospital. According to local historian, Phoebe Merrick:
Before it closed in 1919, 120,000 horses passed through the Romsey Depot. At any one time there were at least 2,100 men caring for up to 5,000 horses on this hilltop a mile outside Romsey. The Romsey Camp, which covered over fifty acres, consisted of a Headquarters area, a Veterinary Hospital, and ten Squadrons, each of which cared for horses and mules as needed. When trained, the horses were shipped from Southampton to France.
(The Romsey War Horse Memorial Project, leaflet written by Phoebe Merrick, 2014)
To commemorate the men and animals of the Romsey Remount Depot, a life-sized statue has been commissioned. Amy Goodman, now Artist in residence at Winchester University, designed the Memorial featuring a horse and trooper, which will be unveiled in Romsey War Memorial Park, April 2015. This date will be the centenary of when the Romsey Remount Depot opened.
At the time of writing this article, the clay model had been completed and encased in a polyurethane mould. It is now in Newbury being prepared to be cast in bronze-resin by Ryman & Leader Sculpture Casting. The total cost of the statue will be £55,000 and a further £20,000 is needed for the plinth and setting. Thanks to a sterling fundraising effort by local people, £40,000 has been raised to-date.
Amy Goodman has also created nine bronze and fifteen bronze-resin copies of the sculpture. The sale of this limited edition maquette will provide much-needed funds for The War Horse Memorial Project, approximately a third of the total sales will go directly into the War Horse Memorial fund. On Saturday 13th September, at the Romsey Show, The War Horse project will be on display, complete with pictures of Romsey Remount Depot and a souvenir booklet about war horses in World War One.
For more information about the role of horses in World War One, including background about Swaythling, the other local Remount Depot, near to Romsey, please see my earlier article, ‘Front Line Post and War Horses’;
For further information about Sculptor Amy Goodman, click here;
For further information about the Romsey War Horse Statue Fund Raising Project, including history of the Romsey Remount Depot, click here;
At King John’s House (Romsey’s Heritage and Vistor Centre), the exhibition ‘Romsey Remount Camp Reloaded’ continues until the 28th October, click here;
Renowned watercolour Artist, Rex Trayhorne, RMS (Royal Miniature Society) is also supporting the Romsey War Horse Fund Raising Project. A beautiful greetings card featuring a view from Pauncefoot Hill, Romsey is being sold in support of the project. For Rex Trayhorne’s website, click here.
‘Animals in War; WW1 Tribute’, published on You Tube, 8.11.12 by War Archives. ‘Using Pathé’s World War One footage, this tribute film thanks the forgotten army of World War One. Millions of animals gave their lives. They were selected for their variety of natural skills and instincts and they displayed unwavering courage even when exposed to extreme conditions.’
Eighty years ago, on the 25th July, French perfumier François Coty (born Joseph Marie François Spoturno) died in Louveciennes, France. Coty, a charismatic entrepreneur, transformed the French beauty industry with his bold strategy of creating attractively packaged products, at a range of price points, aimed at the mass market. Coty promised to:
Give a woman the best product to be made, market it in the perfect flask, beautiful in its simplicity yet impeccable in its taste, ask a reasonable price for it, and you will witness the birth of a business the size of which the world has never seen.
Born on 3rd May, 1874, Ajaccio, Corsica, Coty claimed to be a descendant of Napoleon Bonaparte’s aunt, Isabelle. Orphaned at the age of seven, Coty was sent to live with his great-grandmother, Marie Josephe Sporturno and after her death, his grandmother, Anna Maria Belone Sportuno, who lived in Marseille. His childhood was blighted by poverty which gave him the impetus to make a better life for himself as an adult. He achieved this ambition and went on to become France’s first billionaire. By 1928, he was the 5th richest person in the world.
In 1900, Coty married Yvonne Alexandrine Le Baron and they had two children together, Roland Alphée (b. 1901) and Christiane (b. 1903). However, Coty loved women and showered them with expensive gifts. He had many mistresses as well as illegitimate children, including five with one of his former shopgirls, Henriette Daude. Coty became a celebrity but also found himself the topic of gossip columns.
He often travelled with a large entourage, the Hotel Astoria in Paris was a particular favourite of his. He would take over an entire floor when staying there and liked to have his mistresses stay with him too. Despite his seemingly flamboyant public life, Coty was actually something of a recluse and didn’t like crowds. He enjoyed the finer things in life and money afforded him the opportunity of amassing a large collection of cars, art, property and racehorses.
In 1929, Yvonne, tired of his extra-marital activities, divorced Coty and married inventor and industrialist, Leon Cotnareanu. Yvonne’s substantial divorce settlement, as well as the Wall Street Crash of 1929, resulted in a period of economic hardship for Coty. Yvonne was eventually granted ownership of a sizeable chunk of Coty’s perfume and newspaper empire (Figaro and L’Ami du Peuple). She subsequently sold Coty Inc. to Pfizer in 1963 and in 1992 they sold it on to German company Joh.A.Benckiser GmbH.
Les Grands Magasins du Louvre, a department store in Paris, France, 1955. The store where it all began for Coty. (Photo by R. Gates/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
Coty The Perfumier
Coty studied with François Antoine Léon Chiris (1839-1900) at his factories in Grasse, France. In 1904, Coty returned to Paris and took his first fragrance, La Rose Jacqueminot, (developed whilst training in Grasse), to department stores and boutiques.
The story goes, that Coty took a small vial of La Rose Jacqueminot to Les Grands Magasins du Louvre, whilst there he collided with a woman and the vial broke. A number of customers in the vicinity were so enamoured with the fragrance that they wanted to purchase a bottle. The store immediately gave Coty a featured window display as well as an initial order for sixty thousand francs to supply the fragrance. La Rose Jacqueminot was an instant hit, selling-out straightaway.
In 1904, aged just twenty-nine, Coty founded his company in Paris (which is now Coty Inc., based in New York City) and in 1908/9, he transformed a Parisian residential villa into a vast industrial complex which became known as ‘Perfume City’ (La cité des Parfums). Perfume City had nine thousand employees and manufactured nearly a hundred thousand bottles of scent a day. Business boomed, resulting in subsidiaries opening-up in New York and London.
Coty Cosmetic Display at Marshall Field & Company, Chicago, Illinois, June 4, 1941. (Photo by Hedrich Blessing Collection/Chicago History Museum/Getty Images)
Coty’s policy of creating attractive packaging for his products meant he employed the best artisans of the time to help achieve his vision. This included glass designer René Jules Lalique (1860-1945) and the Glassworks of Baccarat. Lalique designed stunning perfume bottles for Coty’s early and very popular fragrances, L’Effleurt (1908), Ambre Antique and L’Origan. The labels on the bottles were printed on a gold background and had raised lettering designed to give the overall packaging ‘a touch of luxury’. During his lifetime, Coty launched thirty fragrances and at the peak of his career had a turnover of ten million bottles of perfume a year.
In the 1920s, Coty purchased gardens in France and Italy, planting in them orange blossom and jasmine thus avoiding having to purchase these essences from suppliers in Grasse. In taking control of this aspect of his business, he saved a fortune and profit margins increased.
Coty Cosmetic Display at Marshall Field & Company, Chicago, Illinois, May 23, 1942. (Photo by Hedrich Blessing Collection/Chicago History Museum/Getty Images).
Coty’s Business Booms in World War One
In 1914, Coty joined the Nineteenth Infantry Regiment of Ajaccio but unfortunately was medically discharged in December, 1914, due to an astigmatism in his left eye. This condition eventually resulted in the loss of his sight in that eye in 1920. It is thought that the astigmatism may have been caused by a thrombosis of a central vein in the retina.
Despite being unable to serve his country in a military capacity, Coty contributed toward the war effort in other ways. He financed the transporting of wounded soldiers to his residence at Le Château D’Artigny which he had turned into a military hospital. Coty’s delivery vans were used to transfer wounded soldiers from the train station at Saint-Pierre-des-Corps to the Chateau. Coty’s mother-in-law, Virginie Dubois Le Baron, ran the hospital because she was unable to cross the Atlantic during wartime.
In January, 1917, Coty developed Le Jouet de France. This welfare initiative employed war wounded in a newly created atelier in L’ile de Puteaux, amongst Coty’s factories. Coty continued to develop his business interests despite the war. In 1917, Maison Coty launched a twenty-eight page catalogue showcasing their product range which included: cologne; toothpaste; soaps; sachets; powders; brilliantines; lotions and powders.
In 1917, Coty released one of his most famous fragrances, Chypre de Coty which had basenotes of sandalwood, bergamot, oakmoss, iris amber and jasmine. Coty described it as: ‘a perfume of amber froth emanating at certain hours from the woods and the forests.’ The ‘forests’ that Coty referred to were those from his Corsican childhood. Chypre inspired Guerlain’s Mitsouko and Chanel’s Pour Monsieur but was discontinued in the 1960’s then re-launched in 1986. Other perfumes launched during World War One included: Jacinthe (1914); Lilas Pourpre (1914); La Violette Ambrée (1914) and L’Oeillet France (1914).
However, it was at the end of World War One that business really boomed. On 6th April, 1917, America declared war on Germany. In October, 1917, the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) began active service on the Western Front. On 2nd June, 1918, General John J. Pershing (1860-1948), supreme commander of the AEF in France, attended the Supreme War Council in Versailles. US servicemen and civilians soon began to pour into France, particularly around Paris, at one point in time there were two million Americans, a large number of whom did not leave France until August, 1919.
Nicknamed ‘The Doughboys’, this influx of Americans boosted the local economy. Restaurants, shops and hotels were, once again, thriving. Coty installed displays of his products in hotel foyers which complimented his fully stocked stores in Paris, Nice and Bordeaux. He had cornered the market in beautifully packaged, affordable beauty at a time when currency was scarce. Demand for his products was high. Soldiers returning home in 1919, took back with them perfume, toiletries and metal compacts (a particular favourite!) as gifts for their wives and girlfriends. A majority of beauty products brought at this time, came from Coty’s stores. Women fell in love with Coty and demand for the brand overseas was high. This post-war sales boom made Coty, France’s first billionaire.
During this period, Coty Inc. had a store in New York at 714 Fifth Avenue which was decorated by Lalique. Benjamin Levy was Coty’s Sole Agent in New York, overseeing expansion of his business interests Stateside. At the beginning of World War One, Coty Inc. sold thirty thousand metal compacts a day in America, after the war this figure rose to ninety thousand.
Coty’s Property Portfolio
In 1906, Coty brought Georges Haussmann’s (1809-1891) home, Château de Longchamp near the Bois de Boulogne. Longchamp was remodelled by Coty who installed a laboratory where his fragrances, bottles, packaging and advertisements were designed. Lalique designed a glass dome at the property and Gustave Eiffel (1832-1923) designed a stone tower there.
On 30th July, 1912, Coty continued to expand his perfume empire and purchased Le Château D’Artigny (now a luxury hotel) located near Tours, in the Loire Valley. He pulled down the existing structure and built a castle in the eighteenth century style, set in twenty-five hectares of parkland. Bespoke kitchens were installed with copper sinks and white marble work surfaces, there was also a pastry room in pink and green marble.
One of Coty’s most famous acquisitions was Pavillon de Louveciennes which once belonged to the mistress of Louis XV France (1710-1774), Madame du Barry (1743-1793). Coty brought the property in 1923 and added five bedrooms in the attic area, a perfume laboratory in the basement, kitchens and a swimming pool. Coty spent the end of his life at Louveciennes, where he died on 25th July, 1934, following complications after an aneurysm as well as a bout of pneumonia.
The Parish Church of St. Katherine in the New Forest village of Exbury, contains a stunning memorial dedicated to two local brothers who lost their lives in World War One, John and Alfred Forster. Their parents, Lord and Lady Forster of Lepe, commissioned sculptor Cecil Thomas to design the monument. During the war, Cecil had been a patient at the same hospital in London as Alfred. Over a four month period, the two young men became firm friends.
The monument is housed in a Chapel extension, built 1927/8, which is also dedicated to other Exbury parishioners who lost their lives during the war:
George Dobson (Private) 11th Bn. Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby Regt.) – Died 27th September 1916;
William Warn (Able Seaman) Merchant Marine Reserve, H.M. Yacht Goissa – Died 25th April 1916;
Frederick John Toms (Private) 10th Bn. Hampshire Regt. – Died 7th September 1915;
Edwin Wellstead (Private) 2nd Bn. Hampshire Regt. – Died 13th August 1915;
George Toms (Able Seaman) HMS Narborough R.N. – Died 12th January 1915;
Cyril John Fairweather (2nd Lieut.) 4th Bn. Hampshire Regt. – Died 22nd March 1918;
John Forster (2nd Lieut.) 2nd Bn. Kings Rifle Corps – Died 14th September, 1914, aged 21;
Alfred Henry Forster (Lieut) 2nd Dragoons (Royal Scots Greys) – Died 10th March 1919, aged 21.
The Forster Family
In 1890, Lord Henry Forster – 1st Baron Forster GCMG PC DI (1866-1936) married the Hon. Rachel Cecil Douglas-Scott-Montagu GBE (1868-1962). Lady Forster was the daughter of 1st Baron Montagu of Beaulieu, Hampshire. The Forsters originally lived at Southend Hall, Bromley until 1914 when Lord Forster found the new, noisy trams unbearable and decided to move away. He leased his home to Brittania Film Company on 17th August, 1914 and it became a thriving film studio.
In addition to John and Alfred, the Forsters had two daughters. Emily Rachel (1897-1979), who married Captain George Henry Lane-Fox Pitt-Rivers (1890-1966), the grandson of Archaeologist, Augustus Henry Lane-Fox Pitt-Rivers (1827-1900) and founder of Pitt Rivers Museum at the University of Oxford. Emily became a stage and screen actress using the name, Mary Hinton. There is a memorial plaque dedicated to her in St. Katherine’s Church. Emily also had a sister, Dorothy Charlotte Forster (1891-1983).
One of Emily’s three sons, Michael (1917-1999), gained notoriety in the 1950s when he was put on trial charged with homosexual offences. He was found guilty and sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment. Michael later became instrumental in the 1967 decriminalisation of homosexuality.
Image above from 7th June 1965. Hungarian born actress Eva Bartok (1927-1998) pictured with Mary Hinton (left) in a scene from the London play ‘Paint Myself Black’ at the New Theatre.
Lord Forster was an ambitious gentleman who enjoyed a long and successful political career both as a Conservative M.P. and later as 7th Governor-General of Australia (1920-25). Following the general election in 1892 he became M.P. for Sevenoaks. In 1901, he took-up office as Deputy Lieutenant of Kent then 1902-05, he was Junior Lord of the Treasury. Between 1902 and 1911, he was the Conservative whip.
During World War One, Lord Forster was assigned to the War Office. Between 1915 and 1919 he acted as their Financial Secretary. In 1918-19, he represented Bromley in the House of Commons and in 1919, was given a peerage, 1st Baron Forster of Lepe in the County of Southampton. Lord Forster became Governor-General of Australia on 7th October, 1920, a post he held until 1925 when he moved back to England. Lord and Lady Forster resided at Exbury House, near Southampton, until Lord Forster’s death in 1936, aged seventy.
Because the Forsters had no surviving sons, the barony became extinct upon Lord Forster’s death. Sadly, this was an all too common occurrence for many aristocratic families after the war who were left with no male heir(s) to inherit either property or title.
John Forster – (1893-1914)
John Forster was born on 13th May, 1893. Educated at Eton, John was commissioned in September, 1913 and served as 2nd Lieutenant in the 2nd battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps. On 14th September, 1914, at 3am, John’s battalion advanced in thick mist and driving rain to attack the ridge above the River Aisne (Chemin des Dames), the first Battle of The Aisne. When they reached the crest, they were unable to continue further and found themselves pinned down by enemy fire coming from the occupied sugar factory at the crossroads above Troyon.
Alfred Henry was born on 7th February, 1898. Educated at Winchester College (1911-1915), then RMC Sandhurst. He was commissioned in the 2nd Dragoons Guards (Royal Scots Greys) on 19th July, 1916. The following February he went to France and was promoted to Lieutenant on 19th January, 1918. On 17th October, 1918, Alfred fell, seriously wounded, near Le Cateau. He was transferred to Gerstley-Hoare Hospital for Officers at 53 Cadogan Square, Belgravia, London, where he spent five months.
The Gerstley-Hoare Hospital was set-up by Louise Hoare, cousin of politician Samuel Hoare (1880-1959). Louise had joined the British Red Cross as a V.A.D. and together with her wealthy friend, Mrs Adele Gerstley, established the Hospital in January, 1916. It was a Class A Hospital with twenty-five beds, there were three trained nurses, five full-time and twenty part-time V.A.D.s. Mrs Gerstley was the administrator and Miss Hoare the Commandant.
Gerstley-Hoare Hospital was affiliated with Queen Alexandra’s Military Hospital at Millbank, London and admitted casualties direct from the front rather than via a military hospital, as would normally be the case. The Hospital closed in April, 1919 and during just over three years of service, treated five hundred and fifty servicemen only two of whom died, Alfred was one of them. He died of his wounds on 10th March, 1919.
During his time at Gerstley-Hoare, Alfred met the sculptor Cecil Thomas (1885-1976), also a patient, the two became great friends. Alfred is buried at St. Katherine’s Church. Cecil designed the stunning tomb dedicated to Alfred which is in the Church’s Memorial Chapel. Such is the quality of the bronze figure that it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1924. The Chapel’s Hanging Lamp, presented by Miss Amy Fergusson, was also designed by Cecil. A model of the tomb is in the V&A, London.
Cecil Walter Thomas OBE FRBS (1885-1976)
Cecil was born 3rd March, 1885 at 24 Hedley Road, Shepherds Bush, London. His father had a gem engraving business in London and Cecil began his training there followed by Central School of Arts and Crafts, Heatherley School of Fine Art and then the Slade. Cecil enjoyed a long and very successful career as a sculptor, medallist, gem sculptor and seal engraver. In 1948, he designed a Seal for the British Transport Commission. Together with artist, Edgar Fuller, Cecil produced the reverse designs for the sixpence, two shillings and half crown. He also received commissions from Faberge.
Cecil designed a sculpture of Rev. Dr Philip Thomas Byard ‘Tubby’ Clayton CH, MC, DD. (1885-1972) a World War One Chaplain who, together with Rev. Neville Stuart Talbot (1879-1943), founded Talbot House. Located in Poperinge, Belgium, Talbot House (better known as Toc H, see images above and below), provided soldiers, fighting on the front lines around Ypres, with a tranquil haven for relaxation and private reflection. Soldiers of all ranks were welcomed. Cecil’s effigy of Rev. Clayton is in All Hallows By The Tower in the City of London where Clayton was vicar from 1922 until his retirement in 1952.
British Pathe ‘D-Day Landings’ (1944) from classic series ‘A Day That Shook The World’. Uploaded to You Tube 13.4.2014.
When the Allied forces landed in Normandy, France on 6th June, 1944, it marked the beginning of the end of World War Two. D-Day (codename OVERLORD) was one of the greatest amphibious assaults of modern history and Hampshire was the nerve centre of military operations. Large numbers of troops embarked from ports along Hampshire’s coastline and the county’s various industries were crucial to the invasion’s successful outcome.
Hampshire was important because of its robust travel infrastructure which consisted of a comprehensive network of railways, established Sea Ports and developed industries. It was the perfect strategic location to centre a majority of the Country’s preparations for D-Day. Without access to all of these facilities, available within easy reach of the coast, the choice of Normandy as a location for the invasion of Europe would not have been possible.
This article tells Hampshire’s unique D-Day story, in the words of those who experienced it first-hand. Once the county’s best-kept secret it can now be re-told. These individuals made a vital contribution towards changing the course of world history forever and their stories must never be forgotten.
FORT SOUTHWICK – Portsmouth
Preparations had begun in Hampshire several years before 1944. An extensive network of tunnels were excavated by Welsh and Belgian miners of the Pioneer Corps underneath Fort Southwick, Portsdown Hill near Portsmouth. Completed in 1942, the UGHQ at Fort Southwick became known as Portsmouth Naval Headquarters and had been fitted with all the latest telecommunications equipment. There were no lifts down to the tunnels. Staff had to negotiate, perhaps two or three times a day, the ‘dreaded steps’ to UGHQ, all one hundred and seventy-nine of them, if you used the eastern entrances.
Naval Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Naval Expeditionary Force, Admiral Sir Bertram Home Ramsay (1883-1945), coordinated Operation Overlord’s naval plans (codename NEPTUNE) at Fort Southwick from his office in nearby Southwick House. Southwick House, or Southwick Park as it was known back then, was HQ for the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF).
Diana Evans, a twenty-one year old Wren Switchboard Operator at Fort Southwick, recalls:
You could see all the ships beginning to line-up [for D-Day], and all these lanes [around Portsmouth] were full-up with tanks and people and men sleeping everywhere…they were coming in as a blessed battalion and they were all sleeping under tents and on the side of the road, wherever they could get. And then, all of a sudden, they were gone.
(Diana Evans, oral history, recorded 25.11.1997, transcript in D-Day Museum Archive, Index Key 5339A)
Marian Boothroyd (nee Heywood), a WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force) Plotter, remembers that:
Special passes were issued to enable our entry to the “Underworld” which lay below many, many steps…The Plotting Room had several cameras located at strategic points around the Plotting Table in order to record the sequence of the plots. On one wall was a gigantic map which was used for plotting aircraft. There were two balconies, one for the Controller and Officers in charge and one at a higher level for the Teller and the Commander and his staff, who often put in an appearance, especially when allied shipping was being attacked.
After a few days I was fortunate to be offered the job as “Teller”. I loved it! I had direct telephone contact with “Sugar King” [The HQ for General Eisenhower] and also the Admiralty where Mr Churchill was located. It was all so top secret, that small wonder I had been taken to “Sugar King” in a car which had all the windows completely blacked out.
The invasion force was plotted twice. On the first occasion, inclement weather prevented the force from proceeding but on the second attempt the multitude of ships set forth and the Plotting Table was saturated with the massive number of vessels which were taking part in the invasion of Normandy. At the end of this shift I had lost my voice. However, when the Commander complimented me on my work I was able to glow with pride…Plotting work continued until July 1944 and then we were posted to the radar station in Dunkirk, Kent.
(Marian Boothroyd (nee Haywood), oral history transcript from D-Day Museum Archive, Index Key 750.1999/DD 1999.52.2)
Joan Faint, another Plotter with the WAAF, recalls:
On D-Day I must have been in a shelter because I remember being in a strange place when we were woken-up about 1.30am and told to report as quickly as possible. We couldn’t understand what the urgency was about when we went on duty but as time went on we couldn’t believe what was happening. The plotting table was saturated with ships of all sizes. The Wrens working behind us became very excited as the names of the ships were registered. They seemed to know someone on lots of the ships. It must have been a worrying time for them as we gradually realised what was happening.
We worked extremely long hours with short breaks. We didn’t feel tired at the time and certainly didn’t want to leave the plotting table. At the end of our stay we all received a letter of thanks from the Commander-in-Chief.
Wren Telephone Operator (Second Officer WRNS), Pat Blandford, found working underground difficult to adjust to at first. In some of the oral histories I read, given by former staff of UGHQ, several mention feeling ‘sick’ and ‘claustrophobic’ in the tunnels. These conditions were soon overcome as everyone adjusted to their surroundings and simply got on with the job in hand. Pat remembers:
There were large rooms with Plotting tables, and small tunnel-shaped rooms equipped with Teleprinters and Switchboards. Offices with desks and filing cabinets; a Galley and Wardroom, Dormitories and Wash-rooms….Early in the morning of 6th June, our waiting was ended. Officers of the three Services were standing around in groups and the strain showed on their faces. I had been on duty for 48 hours, with just short naps. and felt very tired.
Suddenly, one of my young Wrens shouted, “Maam, Maam, something is coming through”. The red light on the panel glowed brightly….I rushed to the position and listened. There it was – the long-awaited code word which meant so much. They were through at last. A cheer went-up and many young girls shed a tear. Maybe, a boyfriend was over there – it was a very emotional moment – one which I shall never forget.
(Pat Blandford, interview recorded April, 1991, oral history transcript in the D-Day Museum Archive, Index Key 2001.687/DD 2000.5.2)
Diana Evans, Switchboard Operator (Combined Operations with the WAAFs) with the WRNS at Fort Southwick recalls:
We used to live down there for twenty-four hours when we were, sort of, on shift. You got time-off, obviously, and you’d get a couple of days off, but we used to sleep down there…. Then, one day, someone discovered we had nits! … But you don’t wonder when you are [down there] twenty-four hours, [sharing the] same blankets and bedding. Goodness knows what was down there…. We had to go for ultra-violet treatment, because they thought that [living] underground was not all that good for all these girls… [We got] undressed and sat in front of a big lamp. No suntan…The things you could get down there, if you weren’t careful, were verrucas, and I think possibly that was caused by the coin matting…We had to ask what the day was like outside [when we were working down in the tunnels].
I never went into the Plotting Rooms. We were very busy because we were connected-up to Southwick House. Well we had lines to everywhere. We had all the Air Force bombing places, and everywhere you could think of…All calls were scrambled…We had Post-Office engineers there twenty-four hours… There were also WRNS, WAAF Army Officers, Sergeants. Each Officer looked after two or three girls.
(Diana Evans, oral history, recorded 25.11.1997, transcript in D-Day Museum Archive, Index Key 5339A)
‘Eisenhower in Britain’ (1944). British Pathe film. Published on You Tube 13.4.2014.
SOUTHWICK PARK (HMS DRYAD)
In contrast to the difficult working conditions at Fort Southwick, SHAEF HQ at Southwick Park was a far more pleasant location with its spacious grounds, lake and dense wooded areas (deforested in the 1970s). The house itself became the nerve centre of Operation Overlord. On the ground floor were offices of the Naval Staff Officers, Operation, Navigation, Landing Craft and Weather personnel together with their respective personal assistants. Also located on this floor was the famous Map Room.
Col(Retd) Jeremy T. Green OBE, Regimental Secretary, RHQ RMP at the Defence School of Policing and Guarding (DSPG) introduces us to the famous Map Room at Southwick House. Interviewed by Emma, Editor of Come Step Back in Time. Uploaded to You Tube 4.6.2014.
On the first floor were the offices of General Field Marshal Montgomery (1887-1976), Captain Moore (Admiral Ramsay’s Secretary), Admiral Ramsay, General Eisenhower, Admiral Sir Maurice James Mansergh (1896-1966), Commander Powell, Staff Officers, Plans/Operations and Wren Baker. At its height, across all of the advanced command posts, of which Southwick was one, SHAEF consisted of six thousand staff and seven hundred and fifty officers.
Wren Jean Gordon, who was on the secretarial staff at Southwick Park, remembers a painting in the main Operation Room (OR), that had been created by a Wren Messenger. It was an allegorical design of Neptune with ships, winds and the sea. The painting was put under glass on the table at which the Admirals sat, in the “Command Area” of the OR. (Jean Gordon, oral history, transcript in D-Day Museum Archive, Index Key H.670.1990.5)
Another Wren, Jeanne Law, worked on Admiral Ramsay’s staff at Southwick having previously worked for him at ANCXF HQ, Norfolk House, London before moving with his elite team down to Hampshire on 26th April, 1944. When war began, Jeanne went to work at the Postal and Telegraph Centreship in London, censoring mail from Canadian Soldiers. She eventually became a Wren ‘White Paper Candidate’ which, after passing WRNS Board, meant she was put on a three month accelerated pathway to becoming a Wren Officer. After an initial period of training, she became a qualified WRNS writer.
During her interview at Norfolk House she recalls her first glimpse of what the job she was going for might entail:
We were shown into a room up on the naval floor, which was the third floor, and there were several officers there and there was one Wren Officer, who did the interviewing. We sat opposite her and I noticed that on the wall hanging behind her, there was a map of Normandy and on her desk she had closed the filed which was in front of her, which I read upside down, which said ‘Landing Craft’. So I realised what we were doing there then.
(Jeanne Law, oral history, interview recorded 27.2.1997. Transcript held in D-Day Museum Archive, Index Key PORMG: 5333A)
Jeanne recalls being told by Admiral George Creasy (1895-1972) that whilst they were stationed at Southwick, not to walk in groups of more than two or three in case the enemy became suspicious of a large gathering. Staff at Southwick were not allowed to keep private diaries, take photographs or make personal telephone calls to the outside. So as not to alert local tradespeople that a large influx of staff had congregated at Southwick, additional food rations had not been ordered. Jeanne remembers living off of bread, margarine and peanut butter for quite some time after arriving. In one day she consumed eleven slices!
There are very few photographs/illustrations of Southwick Park in operation from 1944, save for a few official group photographs of the Commanders and other selected military personnel who worked alongside. There is a picture of the Map Room at Southwick painted in June, 1944 by Official War Artist Barnett Freedman (1901-1958). This painting is a rare and fascinating glimpse of the staff who worked in the room during D-Day. The whole operation at Southwick was conducted at the highest level of secrecy, staff had to sign an additional Official Secrets Act called BIGOT. This was codename for a security level beyond Top Secret.
Jeanne recalls what daily life was like at Southwick in 1944:
Our quarters were in a brick bungalow type building to the South West of the main house. We slept in the usual double berthed bunks with an ‘Ablution Block’ of lavatories and wash-basins attached to the building. There was an air-raid shelter nearby…Our steel cabinets and office equipment which we had packed-up ourselves after normal duty before leaving London [Norfolk House], arrived with us and was placed in Nissen Huts erected alongside the main house on the north eastern side on part of the driveway. Next to us was the Meteorological Hut with the “Weather Men”. The rest of the operational staff were in offices in Southwick House itself.
Montgomery was in his caravan in the woods behind us. Tedder [Arthur – 1890-1967] was somewhere else, I don’t know where he was, but he used to arrive in a white sports car, I was rather impressed. Well the Admiral and his staff and I think most of the officers were in Southwick House itself and we were working in a Nissen hut.
[Eisenhower] was quite shy really and he said, ‘good morning’ and he fled up the stairs, three at a time, a very fit man. We did see him quite often. On the day before D-Day, when they had just made their decision, we had been to get our pay, which was fifteen shillings and a soap coupon, and we were walking back when I heard the guard come to attention, and I said, ‘something’s happening let’s wait a minute’, and out of the door came Eisenhower and Ramsay and Tedder and Lee Mallory, and they saw us gorping at them, and Eisenhower gave us the thumbs up sign and we knew it was on.
Very early on the morning of D-Day, we hardly slept, and one of the girls in our room was a plotter and she came back just after midnight and she said, ‘I have plotted the first ship’.
I recall after the invasion we were allowed into Portsmouth and we borrowed awful old bicycles and I remember I used to bicycle into Fareham to have dinner.
(Jeanne Law, oral history, interview recorded 27.2.1997. Transcript held in D-Day Museum Archive, Index Key PORMG: 5333A)
All troops and Army personnel were fully briefed by SHAEF four days prior to D-Day. All units were instructed to be sealed-off completely from the public and guarded by barbed wire as well as the military police. Only senior Officers knew the exact locations for invasion in Normandy. In order to ensure secrecy was maintained right up until the point of embarkation, troops were just briefed on the manoeuvres and told false locations. It was also at this briefing that the men were given their invasion currency and printed beach instructions.
Following D-Day, staff at Southwick found themselves with quite a bit of free-time. However, in the immediate aftermath of June 6th, were far too exhausted to take advantage of movement restrictions being lifted. Many staff fell asleep at their desks having worked for days on end with little or no sleep. Jean remembers witnessing colleagues sleeping in the grounds, on the lawn or outside their Nissen Huts. Jeanne also recalls that the staff were given a bit of leave after D-Day and when she returned she discovered that Admiral Creasy had been taken off in an ambulance with exhaustion.
After a period of recuperation, staff did begin to explore their location. Wrens could often be seen cycling into Southwick village, sailing on the lake, going to the cinema in Portsmouth or picnicking on Hayling Island. Southwick’s Golden Lion pub was a favourite haunt of SHAEF HQ’s servicemen and women. The front bar was known as the ‘Blue Room’ and officially adopted as the Officers’ Mess.
‘Ready for The Day’ (1944). Showing preparations across Southern England in readiness for D-Day. Published by British Pathe on You Tube 13.4.2014.
HAMPSHIRE PREPARES – THE KHAKI INVASION
In early 1944, Prime Minster Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965), General Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) and US President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) all met to discuss in detail the plans for D-Day. General Eisenhower had arrived in Britain earlier in the same year, on the 15th January.
‘Ike Visits Monty’ (1944). Published by British Pathe on You Tube 13.4.2014.
It was essential that a dress rehearsal took place approximately one month before the main event. This operation was codenamed FABIUS. A full-scale exercise which took place at the end of April, beginning of May. The aim was to test all aspects of the land, sea and air forces ability to implement both Overlord and NEPTUNE (codename for naval plans).
Hampshire played a vital role in Operation Fabius. British and Canadian assault forces departed from Southampton and Portsmouth to mount a mock invasion on Littlehampton, Bracklesham Bay (Forces S and J) and Hampshire’s Hayling Island (Force G). American units (Forces O and U) attacked Slapton Sands in Devon, in several phases, as part of the ill-fated Exercise Tiger in which many men died when German E-Boats sank two tank landing crafts (LCTs) and damaged a third.
Estimates for the number of men dead or missing at Slapton Sands, range from seven hundred and forty-nine to nearly a thousand. A final death toll has never been given for several reasons including the fact that the whole tragic incident was shrouded in secrecy for years afterwards. Surviving servicemen who took part in Exercise Tiger were threatened with Court Martial if they discussed what happened on that fateful Friday, 28th April. If events had become public knowledge then morale amongst servicemen would have been severely compromised at such a crucial stage during the preparations for D-Day.
In addition to the various military components and logistics, the contribution made towards D-Day preparations by the Home Front, not just in Hampshire but right across Britain and America, should not be underestimated. In order to equip an Allied force of this magnitude a comprehensive production programme had to be put in place.
Conscription for women was brought into force in Britain. In order to be exempted from conscription, a woman had to now prove that her husband’s war work or her children would be adversely affected by her absence. It was no longer possible to give domestic responsibilities as a reason for exemption.
Fuel was rationed and raw materials amassed on an unprecedented scale. Aluminium saucepans were collected for smelting down into aircraft components and iron railings were removed from outside public buildings and private residences. Evidence of ‘stubs’ left following the mass removal of railings can still in many towns, villages and cities today.
From April, 1944, onwards, American, British and Canadian military personnel poured into Hampshire along with army contingents from Poland, Czechoslovakia, France, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, Greece, Australia, Rhodesia, South Africa and New Zealand. Troops were recalled from theatres of war in North Africa, Sicily and Italy.
By D-Day, over one and a half million American troops alone had arrived in Britain armed with their rifles, nylons and Hershey bars much to the sheer joy of local young ladies as well as small children. At Southampton’s Royal Pier Pavilion, American GIs were a familiar sight and at the Guildhall, Glenn Miller and his Orchestra played several dates to keep the troops entertained whilst waiting upon final orders for D-Day to come through.
American Army’s field kitchens provided their troops with a constant supply of apple pie, clam chowder and hamburgers, a familiar sight particularly at encampments on Southampton Common and in the New Forest. For local people who had been used to a diet controlled by rationing, this must have been quite an enviable spectacle.
At Warsash, near Southampton, there was one instance where American Army caterers chucked surplus food stuffs into the Hamble River. Large hams, meats and cheeses were simply thrown away as the date for embarkation drew nearer. Locals made a dash to River in order to claim their bounty. Customs’ officers from Southampton turned a blind-eye. The British remarked that the Americans were: ‘overfed, overpaid, over-sexed and over-here.’ To which their Atlantic cousins retorted that the Brits were: ‘underfed, underpaid, undersexed and under Eisenhower.’
Hoards of trucks, tanks and jeeps could be seen parked-up on Hampshire roadsides particularly in the southern half of the county. Bridges had to be strengthened and roads widened to accommodate heavy-duty traffic. Fields were soon full of army supplies and munitions. Sleepy rural idylls were turned into giant army encampments and country lanes became military car parks. Red-bricked estate boundary walls were covered in white-painted numerals to indicate where tanks and jeeps should be parked.
Local pubs were filled with military personnel and it wasn’t unusual for families to adopt the tank parked outside their house. Troops enjoyed good local hospitality many being invited indoors to join the family at mealtimes. Kitchen tables were often used by Officers to spread their maps out on.
Soldiers could be seen sleeping in hedgerows, on the roadside or by their vehicles. Following their initial arrival in Hampshire, troops would bide their time playing cards, writing letters and sharing friendly exchanges with the locals. Many other troops lived in temporary camps, mostly in wooded areas such as the New Forest or Forest of Bere. Both of these locations were close to embarkation points.
Men stationed in camps had reasonable facilities including showers, film-screenings areas and basic outdoor facilities to play sports such as softball, football, volleyball and table tennis. Southampton’s main parks and the Common became densely populated military camps and later marshalling areas prior to embarkation. The atmosphere, full of heightened expectation, must have been palpable.
Canadian soldiers stationed in a remote part of the New Forest before D-Day, would gather for regular church services at a site were there is now a permanent memorial to the fallen. Men of the 3rd Canadian Division RCASC (the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps) erected a cross on 14th April, 1944 were they all gathered for worship. The cross can still be seen today. Men of the 3rd Canadian Division and 2nd Armoured Brigade landed on Juno Beach, June 6th, 1944, suffering fourteen fatal casualties on that day. There were further losses in the weeks and months that followed.
On Friday, 2nd June, 1944, Winston Churchill arrived at a tiny railway station in the Hampshire hamlet of Droxford, not far from Southwick. Churchill was accompanied by members of the War Cabinet and overseas leaders (Charles de Gaulle, President William Lyon McKenzie King and Jan Smuts). Operation Overlord’s Commanders, based at Southwick, met with these political giants for one last conference before final orders to proceed were issued.
Droxford was chosen for two reasons. Firstly, it was close to Southwick and secondly, the station was near to a railway tunnel, should there be an air raid, the train could back into the tunnel and obtain safe shelter. The overseas leaders also visited troop encampments and inspected vessels anchored on the Solent. Accompanying this illustrious team were a number of smartly dressed secretaries and personal aides. Everyone lived on the train from Friday 2nd until Sunday 4th June. A local farmer, living opposite the station, delivered fresh milk every morning and was escorted along the track to the train by an armed guard.
In the months prior to D-Day, airstrips across Hampshire witnessed an increase in traffic. Sites at Needs Ore Point, Beaulieu, Holmsley South, Ibsley, Lymington and Stoney Cross became fully operational. Portsmouth-based aircraft manufacturer, Airspeed Limited, built the famous Horsa gliders. These gliders were unique in that they had a higher percentage of timber used in their construction than traditional military aeroplanes. Both the control column and wheel on a Horsa were made of wood.
During the D-Day, sixty-eight Horsa gliders, carrying men of the 6th Airborne Division, along with four giant Hamilcars loaded with heavy equipment, headed for their landing zone. Forty-seven Horsas and two Hamilcars reached their destination. As daylight took hold, another two hundred and fifty gliders, most of which were Horsas, delivered seven thousand five hundred men directly into the battle zone.
On 31st May, 1944, troops were moved from their temporary encampments to begin boarding their landing crafts and ships. Communications and general entente cordiale with the locals was forbidden from this point onward. Along the South Coast there were a total of twenty-four embarkation points all with troop marshalling areas close by.
There were four embarkation points in Portsmouth and three in Gosport. The Eastern Docks of Southampton were used for docking the larger ships and the Western Docks sheltered landing crafts. Southampton Town Quay had three separate embarkation points for troops boarding landing crafts. Both the Isle of Wight and Hythe Ferry Terminals, as well as the Ocean Cruise Terminals, were used to full capacity.
Civilians living close to ports did not have the same degree of interaction with troops, following their initial arrival in the county, as they did in rural communities. On 31st March, 1944, a Regulated Area (No. 2) Order was issued whereby a ten mile wide coastal strip of land from the wash to Lands End meant that the movement of civilians was restricted, closed in fact to all visitors. In the city of Southampton, no-one was allowed to enter or leave the city without a permit. The only exception was for residents living on the Isle of Wight.
A subsequent Direction (no.26) was issued on 19th April, 1944 and remained in force until 14th June, 1944. Southampton Docks were covered in camouflage and smoke screens which was meant to ensure that dockside activity was obscured from enemy reconnaissance. However, there are reports of local citizens travelling on the top of double-decker buses in the city who were able to see soldiers making their tanks waterproof.
On the night of 5th June, local people were woken by the sound of thousands of aircraft flying overhead. The invasion of Normandy had begun. When civilians awoke on the morning of 6th June all military vehicles and personnel had vanished overnight.
However, on 13th June, 1944, D-Day+7, Hitler attempted to have the last word when he ordered the launch of the first V1 flying bombs (Doodlebugs), London being the first target. Several days later, on 15th June, two hundred and forty-four V1’s were fired at the capital and fifty at Southampton. One month later on the 15th July, 1944, a V1 fell on Newcomen Road, Portsmouth, killing fifteen and injuring eighty-two.
Group Captain Sir J. Martin Stagg RAF (1900-1975) – D-Day & The Weather
Col(Retd) Jeremy J. Green OBE, Regimental Secretary RHQ RMP (at Defence School of Policing and Guarding (DSPG)) explains in detail the significance of the weather and D-Day. Interview by Emma, Editor of Come Step Back in Time. Uploaded to You Tube 2.6.2014.
In the above Podcast, Emma, Editor of Come Step Back in Time uses Stagg’s diary entries to piece together the facts behind the decision by Eisenhower to delay invasion by twenty-four hours based upon Stagg and his team’s detailed weather forecasts in June, 1944.
Extracts Below from Group Captain J. M. Stagg RAF – ‘Report on the Meteorological Implications in the Selection of the Day for the Allied Invasion of France, 6th June, 1944’
I(a) For such a complex operation as a landing on a heavily fortified coast, it is not an easy matter to determine one set of meteorological conditions which would be ideal from the points of view of all arms concerned. The ideal conditions would change with each stage of operation; in the hours immediately preceding and following the actual hour of first landing, the conditions would vary almost from hour to hour.
Probably the only firm prerequisite is the restriction on the strength (and in part on the direction) of the surface wind with its immediate effect on the waves and surf on the landing beaches.
Hence, from the viewpoint of naval operations alone, the ideal conditions would be little or no wind within the actual sphere of operations and no swell-producing wind for the whole period covering the time of sailing of the assault forces to their landings on the beaches.
Visibility, as affected vertically by cloud and horizontally on the surface by fog, mist/haze, is one of the most important factors for the Air and Naval aspects of the operation.
There are other factors; for example, the condition of the ground in the operational area as regards softness (mudiness) for the movement of heavy vehicles both tracked and untracked. This factor is taken into account in the planning stages but in certain circumstances may also be important in deciding the day of assault.
(i) Surface winds should not exceed Force 3 (8-12 mph) on shore or Force 4 (13-18 mph) off-shore in the assault area during the days D to D plus 2. Winds might be Force 5 in the open sea but only for limited periods.
(ii) In the days preceding D-Day, there should be no prolonged periods of high winds of such direction and in such Atlantic areas as to produce any substantial swell in the Channel.
(iii) Visibility, not less than 3 miles.
Air Force Requirements
(i) Airbourne transport:
a) Cloud ceiling at least 2,500 feet along the route to and over the target area.
b) Visibility at least 3 miles.
(ii) Heavy Bombers:
a) Not more than 5/10 cloud cover below 5,000 feet and cloud ceiling not lower than 11,000 feet over the target area.
(iii) Medium and Fighter Bombers:
a) Cloud ceiling not less than 4,500 feet, visibility not less than 3 miles over the target area.
(iv) Fighter and Fighter Bombers:
a) Cloud base not less than 1,000 feet.
(v) Base areas:
a) Cloud not below 1,000 feet and visibility not below a mile except for heavy bombers for which there is the additional stipulation that low cloud tops must be less than 5,000 feet high and there should be only fragmentary middle cloud.
i) Airborne Troop Landings:
a) For paratroops, the surface wind over the target area should not exceed 20 mph in the target area and should not be gusty; and for gliders the surface wind should not be over 30-35 mph.
b) The intensity of the ground illumination should be less than half moon at 30 degrees altitude or the equivalent in diffuse twilight.
ii) Ground Forces:
The ground should be sufficiently dry to allow movement of heavy vehicles off made-up roads.
Actual Weather Conditions According to Stagg For 5th & 6th June, 1944
June, 5th, 1944 – 10/10 cloud over the assault area at 0600 hours and had been so during the night;
June 6th, 1944, 0100 – Wind W. Force 3 Cloud 7/10-10/10 3,000-5,000 ft; 0400 – Wind WNW Force 3, cloud 4/10-6/10, 3,000ft, 05.45 – Beachhead clear with 6/10 low, cloud inland, 0800 – Wind WNW Force 3-4, cloud 7/10-9/10.
Late afternoon clouds broke and cleared over the Channel. 1700 – Wind WNW Force 4 (Force 5 at times) cloud clear over Channel but 6/10-9/10 over beachhead and further inland. Clear area over the Seine estuary (N. value for airborne, glider flight). 1800 – Cloud, Cherbourg 4/10-6/10, 3,000-5,000 ft, Havre 1/10-2/10, 2,000-3,000 ft.
‘Factory-made Invasion Harbour’ (1944). Fascinating film by British Pathe about the Mulberry Harbours including lots of original footage. Uploaded onto You Tube 13.4.2014
Mulberry & Gooseberry Harbours & PLUTO
Thought to be one of the greatest feats of engineering in the twentieth century, the Mulberry and Gooseberry harbours were a crucial part of Operation Overlord and Neptune. These pre-fabricated harbours provided shelter and enabled troop reinforcements, as well as all of their equipment, to be landed in France following the initial invasion of the Normandy beaches.
These artificial harbours, both the size of Dover, were operational from D-Day+10 until, and after, Cherbourg was liberated. They were made to last for ninety days. There were two Mulberry harbours, Mulberry A and Mulberry B, one at Arromanches for the British forces and another at Utah beach, for the Americans. Unfortunately, Mulberry A was put out of use on D-Day+15 (21st June) following several days of severe storms in Normandy.
The harbours and associated structures were constructed and stored at various sites in Southern Hampshire:
Lepe (Stone Point), Stokes Bay (Gosport) and Hayling Island – all beach locations and chosen for their small tidal range;
No. 5 Dry Dock, adjacent wet berths and the Inner Dock, Southampton (twelve of the largest caissons were built here);
Beaulieu. Some of the smaller caissons were built here in April/May, 1944;
No. 7 Dry Dock, Southampton. The steel Bombardons were constructed here.
Construction of the various components began in December, 1943, although planning had started a long while beforehand. The whole project was, like all other aspects of Operation Overlord, highly secretive. Every component had a separate codename. At is peak, there were forty-five thousand men working on the project, drawn from a nationwide workforce at a time when labour was in short supply. The workers were a mix of Irishmen, conscripted local teenagers and middle-aged men who were employed as scaffolders, steel benders and steel erectors. The harbours consisted of:
deep water shipping, floating, breakwaters for the larger ships (BOMBARDON);
floating pierhead units;
temporary in-shore breakwaters (made-up of sunken blockshops known as the GOOSEBERRY harbours);
steel floats (BEETLES) which were used to rest the articulated steel sections that formed the roadways;
SPUDS. These were vertical steel columns that supported the steel pontoons;
permanent in-shore breakwaters;
RHINOS. Pontoons fitted with two outboard motors. Each pontoon had its own tug;
reinforced concrete caissons (PHEONIXES) – these were sunk in situ to support the pierheads and floating roadways. They provided the main breakwater or harbour wall and two hundred and thirteen of them were built.
Lepe (Stone Point), near Exbury, Hampshire was both a construction site and embarkation point for six thousand troops on D-Day itself. The site was established within a very short space of time. Wilson Lovatt & Son were the firm chosen to manage this site with technical assistance provided by Messrs Holloway Brothers (London) Limited. Seven hundred men worked on construction of the Mulberry Harbours at Lepe. Letters have survived (Cadland Estate archives) that show some of the labourers were caught stealing chickens, poaching and vandalising a bathing hut on the nearby Cadland House estate.
Archaeological remains of the former construction site at Lepe can still be seen today (more of which has revealed itself following the Valentine’s Day storms earlier this year). Some of the above ground archaeology includes:
On the northern half of the site a long, raised, concrete and brick platform where the PHEONIX caissons were assembled;
On the southern half of the site at platform end are slipways and winch-house foundations used to launch the casissons sideways into the sea at high tide;
There are remains of concrete hardstandings and beach hardening mats (which look like giant bars of chocolate);
Jetties used for the embarkation of the troops and vehicles;
Two bollards on the hardstanding were used to secure vessels during the loading.
Editor of Come Step Back in Time discussing the importance of the Mulberry Harbours and explores the site at Lepe (Stone Point), near Exbury. In the background behind Emma, you can see the two ‘Dolphin’ iron structures. These are the remains of jetties used to load vessels.
D-Day Beach Landing (1944). Original footage showing British troops landing in Normandy. British Pathe War Archives. Uploaded to You Tube 21.12.11.
D-DAY HEROES- IN THEIR OWN WORDS
This is the opportunity which we have long-awaited and which must be seized and pursued with relentless determination. Let no one underestimate the magnitude of the task. I count on every man to do his utmost to ensure the success of the great enterprise which is the climax of the European War.
(Special Order of The Day issued to each Officer and man, June 1944 by B.H. Ramsay, Admiral Allied Naval Commander-in-Chief Expeditionary Force)
To all soldiers, sailors and airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force. You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed Peoples of Europe and security for ourselves in a free world. The free men of the world are marching together for victory.
(Special Order of The Day issued to each Officer and man, June 1944 by General Eisenhower)
There were five assault beaches involved in the Normandy landings. Utah, Omaha (American) and Gold, Juno and Sword (British and Canadian). Juno beach was original to be called ‘Jelly’ but it was thought inappropriate to send any man to die on a beach called ‘Jelly’.
Conditions aboard LCTs were appalling. A heavy weather swell on the ten-mile Channel crossing to Normandy resulted in men suffering from dreadful seasickness. The anti-sickness tablets issued were not really that effective. Cold, wet, tired, dizzy with nausea and weighed down with heavy kit, men descended into four feet deep water.
In several oral history testimonies by D-Day veterans, men describe being hit by an overwhelming stench of cordite, fuel fumes and smoke upon embarkation in Normandy. Many state the moment you stepped off of the landing craft into the water, it was a fight for your life, the hardest ten yards you will ever have to travel. Survivors were also left with terrible deafness from the continuous artillery bombardments.
On landing, each man was handed two anti-seasickness tablets, a small collapsible cooker with methylated spirit blocks and forty-eight hours worth of dehydrated food…As each LCT was fully loaded it took up its position in the armada and then as D-Day was postponed for twenty-four hours we rode-out the storm off of the Isle of Wight. The two tablets did not work.
(Mr R.R. Ridley, Royal Artillery, Sword Beach. Oral history transcript held in the D-Day Museum Archive)
Naval personnel were shouting ‘Get ashore’… over the ship’s side, still dizzy from seasickness, and into water 4ft deep, each one let out a gasp as the water swirled around, and we struggled for sure. It was the hardest ten yards I ever did, but we all got ashore.
(Eric Broadhead, Durham Light Infantry, Landing on Gold Beach. Oral history transcript held in the D-Day Museum Archive)
Being only 5ft 7, I was in water up to my chest…I stepped into a crater and went under. My buddy next to me grabbed my pack straps and just dragged me along until my feet found bottom again…I was carrying 40lbs of special equipment that would have kept me anchored to the bottom.. Hitting the beach was an experience I would never want to repeat. I was just nineteen years old, very scared and seasick again. My only clear thought was to get on solid land as quick as possible.
(Mr T. C. Campbell, US 1st Engineer Special Brigade, Utah Beach. Oral history transcript held in the D-Day Museum Archive)
Instead of our regular packs we had been issued assault jackets, a sort of vest-like garment…In the various pockets we stored K-rations, a quarter pound of dynamite with fuses, hand grenades, smoke grenades, medical kit (a syringe, morphine)…We had two slings of ammo belts slung across our shoulders. On our backs we carried an entrenching tool, a bayonet and poncho…As assistant to the flame thrower, I carried his rifle and pack…Altogether, our equipment weighed about 70lbs.
(John Barnes, US 116th Infantry Regiment, Omaha Beach. Oral history transcript held in the D-Day Museum Archive)
On approaching the beach there was a craft going in right alongside of us, LCVPs (Landing Craft, Vehicle and Personnel) which is a smaller craft which holds thirty troops, and some them hit floating landmines and so forth, and you know, they exploded and you would see a guy flying through the air with his rifle and everything, but there’s nothing you can do about that. You can’t stop and help those people.
(Henry Martin USN, on board LCT 586, Omaha Beach. Oral history transcript held in the D-Day Museum Archive)
By midnight on the 6th June, all initial assault forces, with the exception of those on OMAHA beach, had gained a majority of their objectives. One hundred and thirty thousand men had landed from the sea and twenty-three thousand troops had landed from the air. Eleven thousand Allied troops were either killed, injured or missing. The Allies met with mixed resistance from the Germans but the 21st Panzer Division did manage to initially keep hold of Caen and its neighbouring airfields.
On D-Day and during the Battle for Normandy, more than forty thousand Allied soldiers and over two hundred thousand Axis soldiers died.
Normandy veteran and life-long Portsmouth resident John Jenkins, who served in the Pioneer Corps, recalls his experiences of D-Day. Filmed at the D-Day Museum, Portsmouth. Uploaded to You Tube by the D-Day Museum 4.2.2014.
Brown, Mike, A Child’s War: Growing-Up On The Home Front 1939-45, Sutton Publishing, (2001)
Burton, Lesley, D-Day: Our Great Enterprise, Gosport Society, (1984)
Christie RN (Retd.), Lt. G. History of Fort Southwick: 1942-1974 (c.1970s)
Davies, Ken, New Forest Airfields, A Niche Publication (1992)
Doughty, Martin, (Ed.) Hampshire and D-Day, Southgate Publishers Ltd (1994
Fleming, Pat, (Ed.) D-Day: 50th Anniversary of The Normandy Landings. The Official Guide to Anniversary Events, Southern Newspapers PLC, (1993)
Frankland, Claire et al, Southampton Blitz: The Unofficial Story, Oral History Team, Southampton City Council (1990)
Leete, John In Time of War: Hampshire, Sutton Publishing, (2006)
Middleton, D. H., Airspeed: The Company and Its Aeroplanes, Terence Dalton Ltd (1982)
Peckham, Ingrid, et al (Eds.) Southampton and D-Day, Southampton City Council (1994)
Pomeroy, Stephen (Ed.) Women At War, Portsmouth WEA Local History Group (2010)
Podcast – Stagg’s Diaries and Reports. Copies of weather forecasts for Operation Neptune and Overlord, including the diary of Group Captain J. M. Stagg, RAF, and his report are available to view at the D-Day Museum Archive. Index Key: PORMG: 1990.745. Originals are held in The National Archives (AIR 37.1124A).
D-Day Museum Archive. Numerous documents consulted. Most of the extracts used in the above article include an Index Key reference as part of their citation. If you wish to consult a particular oral history I have mentioned, it would be helpful to the Archive if you could include the Index Key when making your enquiry.
Further Resources & Special Thanks
D-Day Museum & D-Day Museum Archive. A special thank-you to Andrew Whitmarsh from the D-Day Museum for advising me so thoroughly during my research for this article. The quality of material kept in the D-Day Museum Archive is exceptional. After an initial consultation, Andrew prepared for me a comprehensive bundle of papers which I found invaluable. I would urge anyone researching this topic to consult the D-Day Museum’s Archivefirst. For details on how to access the collection, Click Here;
Southwick House, Southwick Park, Hampshire (Defence School of Policing and Guarding (DSPG). I would like to thank the DSPG staff at Southwick House for hosting such a successful filming day and also for sharing their extensive knowledge of the location’s historic connections with D-Day. In particular, Col(Retd) Jeremy T. Green OBE, Regimental Secretary at RHQ RMP. Public visits to the house and its famous Map Room are strictly by appointment only. However, please do not let this put you off as it is fairly easy to organise a visit. There is also a Royal Military Police Museum adjacent to the main house as well as a Royal Navy Police Museum and a Royal Air Force Police Museum. For further information about the site and details of how to arrange a visit, Click Here.Please note that you will be required to bring Photo ID along with you on your visit as the site is still an operational military base;
Portsmouth History Centre, Portsmouth Central Library. I would like to thank the extremely helpful and knowledgeable staff who work at the Portsmouth History Centre. The Centre is an excellent resource for local history of both the Portsmouth area and also Southern Hampshire. For access details and opening times please, Click Here. Please note that you will be required to bring with you Photo ID as well as something with your name and address on, such as a utility bill. You can also use the collection if you have a CARN card.
A soldier writing a letter in a World War One military hospital. (Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)
During World War One, temporary military hospitals were set-up at key locations throughout Britain with a vast number established near to coastal ports. Their strategic positioning, ensured that journey times to and from the Western Front, for injured as well as rehabilitated soldiers, were kept to a minimum. Heritage properties, civic buildings, hotels, country estates and boarding houses were requisitioned by the War Office and transformed into fully equipped medical facilities for treating wounded service personnel. Some of the larger, private residences, served as convalescent homes.
c.1915: Patients in the garden at Mr and Mrs Martin Ranger’s hospital for wounded servicemen. Unknown location but likely to be a private residence in Britain. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
When war broke-out in 1914, the tiny village of Brockenhurst in the New Forest, with its two thousand inhabitants, became an important hospital centre. This village location was chosen due to an abundance of country houses and large dwellings in the surrounding area. These properties provided suitable accommodation to be converted into medical centres. Brockenhurst railway station also offered excellent links to the Port of Southampton which, in August 1914, had been designated No.1 Military Embarkation Port. Wounded soldiers wheeled on luggage trolleys from Brockenhurst station to the local hospital(s) was a common sight throughout the war.
Interior view of an ambulance train ward car with three tiers of bunk beds. Ambulance trains were used during World War One in France and Belgium to transport wounded or sick soldiers to hospital. This train was on display in several stations in Lancashire and Yorkshire before being taken to the Western Front. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
Another interior view of the same train. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
In World War One, both Balmer Lawn and Forest Park hotelswere fitted out as military hospitals. Initially, these buildings were part of The Lady Hardinge Hospital for Wounded Indian Soldiers but later became sections of the No.1 New Zealand General Hospital. When the latter was operational, Balmer Lawn was used for Officers only. In 1915, Brockenhurst was officially designated by the War Office as a key hospital centre. Both King George V (1865-1836) and Queen Mary (1867-1953) visited Brockenhurst during the war. They were the first monarchs to have visited the New Forest since George III (1738-1820).
Lady Hardinge (1868-1914) was the wife of the then Viceroy of India, Charles Hardinge (1858-1944). Lady Hardinge had died suddenly of shock in a London nursing home, July 1914, a week after an operation to remove a malignant tumour. Further tragedy struck Lord Hardinge when in December 1914 his eldest son, Edd, died of wounds received whilst fighting in France.
21st August, 1933: L to R: Lord Hardinge of Penshurst, his son Major the Hon A Hardinge and Viscount Hardinge watching a cricket match held at Penshurst Castle, Kent. (Photo by H. F. Davis/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
The Order of St. John of Jerusalem gave £10,000 to The Lady Hardinge hospital towards the cost of purchasing specialist equipment. In addition to the main hospital buildings, there were also a series of huts erected in the hotel grounds. Some of these temporary structures were used as Officers Quarters. Both Balmer Lawn and Forest Park sections combined, could accommodate two thousand five hundred Indian soldiers when it first opened.
The land on which Balmer Lawn and Forest Park stand, was donated to the war effort by Mrs Morant of Brockenhurst Park. Brockenhurst Manor Golf Club, on Sway Road, which opened in September 1915, was also created on land owned by the Morant Trustees. The Club and grounds were used in the war by military and convalescing officers. In March 1918, a large parcel of land from the golf course was donated by the Trustees for use by the Canadian Forestry Corps so that they could grow their own vegetables. A majority of this land was turned-over to soil to help the war effort and support food rationing.
Who were the Morant family? The Morants moved to Brockenhurst from Jamaica in 1759 and Edward Morant (1730-91) purchased a number of parcels of land in the village. In 1769, he brought Brockenhurst Park for the sum of £6,400. Edward continued to purchase more local land as well as property and in 1771 he brought the nearby Roydon Manor which still exists today.
Each successive generation of the Morant family acquired more and more land, by the time World War One began they owned nearly all of the parish. The family’s income came via ownership of a number of West Indian Estates including one of Jamaica’s largest sugar plantations. Port Morant, Morant Bay and Morant Lighthouse, in Jamaica, are all named after the family.
The town of Morant, Morant Bay, Jamaica, c1880. (Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)
Brockenhurst Park and Morant Manor, the adjoining country house, were close to St. Nicholas Church and not far from Brockenhurst station. The grounds were stunning thanks to extensive landscaping which began in 1865 when ornamental lakes and topiary gardens were created. In 1898, a fish pond, fishing house, rookery, pheasantry, dairy, menagerie, dog kennels, boat and engine houses were added. In 1910, an aviary was installed. The gardens were well-known and written about in Country Life, Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932) visited the estate on several occasions.
When the third John Morant (1825-99) remodelled the main house in 1857, he did so to designs by Thomas Henry Wyatt (1807-1880) which were in the French Chateau style. A few years before World War One, the 1911 Census shows a substantial number of staff were employed to look after the Morant family and their estate. It was a grand Edwardian country house of Downton Abbey proportions. During World War One soldiers were allowed into the grounds and the house was used as a convalescent home, probably for Officers only.
The house was finally demolished in 1958 and a new building erected on the same site, designed by Harry Gordon. Some of the Park’s features still remain, for example, an avenue of trees, the Italianate lake, topiary, some statuary and a very elaborate French-style gatehouse. The estate is no longer owned by the family and is now in private ownership. Old photographs of the original estate and house can be found here.
There are a number of photographs in existence showing the grounds of Morant Manor during the war. These were taken by Sir Rex de Charembac Nan Kivell (1843-1977), a New Zealand born art collector, who was on staff at the No.1. New Zealand General Hospital from 1916-1919. Kivell enlisted, under the name ‘Reginald Nankivell’, into the New Zealand Expeditionary Force on 31st May, 1916 and was underage when he joined-up. He never saw action, although his collection does include many images of overseas military campaigns.
Nan Kivell’s extensive collection features many photographs of wartime Brockenhurst including portraits of local villagers as well as a snapshot of life in the military hospitals and convalescent homes there. His collection is now owned by the National Library of Australia (Nan Kivell Collection) and you can browse selected images, here. There is a rather splendid photograph of the Italianate lake at Morant gardens in Brockenhurst Park.
c.1916: British nurses making surgical dressings, filling them with pine dust, during World War One. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
On the Lyndhurst Road, which is the main artery into the village, there once stood Morant Hall also called New Forest Hall. During the war it was transformed into yet another medical facility. Whilst the Indian soldiers were being treated in Brockenhurst, Morant Hall was known as Meerut Indian General Hospital. When the New Zealand troops arrived, in 1916, the Hall became a British Red Cross Auxiliary facility (also known as a Convalescent Depot) called Morant War Hospital.
The Hall was managed by a committee of local citizens and could provide accommodation for up to one hundred and twenty patients. Local children also got involved and were sent to collect sphagnum moss and cotton grass for wound dressings, natural materials that could be found in the forest.
In the 1920s, the grounds and tennis courts behind Morant Hall, became the site of prestigious tournaments, warm-ups for Wimbledon. Brockenhurst Tennis Week was an important fixture in society’s social calendar. There is a rather stunning set of images, taken in the 1920s, of one of these Tennis Weeks and it can be viewed here.
c.1915: Injured Indian soldiers of the British Army at the Brighton Pavilion, converted into a military hospital. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
In its early years, The Lady Hardinge Hospital in Brockenhurst treated soldiers from the Indian Army Corps (3rd Lahore and 7th Meerut). During this time, the short road that linked Balmer Lawn and Forest Park hotels, was renamed Meerut Road in honour of the Corps and is still called thus today. By November 11, 1914, the hospital had treated more than a thousand Indian Soldiers. Protocol dictated that British nurses were not normally allowed to attend Indian Soldiers in any military hospital either at home or abroad. However, because The Lady Hardinge Hospital was funded by a private charity, an exception was made.
In 1915, the hospital’s Matron was Miss Edith McCall Anderson R.R.C, she was aided by nurses Miss I. Frodsham, Miss Ryland-Smith, her assistants and seventeen Sisters who all spoke Hindustani. One Sister looked after two wards and there were twenty-four patients to a ward along with two English orderlies and native servants. The Sisters’ quarters were spacious and comfortable. Matron had her own sitting-room.
In early March of the same year, a contingent of male and female dignitaries arrived to tour and inspect The Lady Hardinge Hospital. The party included the Duchess of Bedford, Duchess of Somerset, Earl and Countess of Clarenden amongst many other philanthropic aristocrats. Everyone was met at Brockenhurst railway station by a number of motor cars provided by Dr Child, then President of the Automobile Association, to transport VIPs a short distance to the hospital complex.
A report of the visit appeared in The British Journal of Nursing (BJN), March 6th, 1915, an extract of which is printed below:
..There are twenty wards in all, of twenty-four beds, with the usual annexes, and single wards for native officers, who looked very smart as well as warm in the beautiful dressing-gowns sent by Lady Rothschild, of dark blue cloth with red facings, and one noticed a new use for the knitted scarves, which were ingeniously worn in more than one instance as turbans…beds had quilts of Turkey twill.
The wards had wooden floors, perhaps not the most hygienic. Upon arrival at a military hospital, all patients would have their clothes removed and disinfected, many soldiers were riddled with lice and other parasites. The patients’ clothing was then stored in the Pack Stores until, and if, the patient was discharged.
Medical facilities at The Lady Hardinge Hospital complex included a theatre block, two operating theatres, sterilizing room, preparation room, anaesthetic room and an x-ray room. Convalescing patients could relax in the recreation room which was carpeted and had divans with bright green velvet bolsters and low tables which the men could prepare their tobacco, play cards or chess on.
Following an escalation in hostilities, overcrowding soon became a problem at The Lady Hardinge with many patients forced to sleep on mattresses on the floor. Conditions were uncomfortable, many soldiers reported that there was a lack of food and inadequate heating. The Indian soldiers also found it difficult to adjust to the cold, damp British climate. Patient Sepoy Ranga Singh, wrote a letter from the hospital complaining about conditions there:
There is no fireplace. We are not given milk…It is very cold. We have to call the nurses “mother” and the European soldiers “Orderly Sahib” – if we do not we are reported. The five Brighton hospitals are good. The others are not good. We are not given soup. We get nothing.
(Reprinted in Mark Harrison, Disease, Discipline and Dissent: The Indian Army in France and England, 1914-1915. in: Roger Cooter, Harrison Mark, Sturdy Steve, eds Medicine and Modern Warfare (Rodopi B.V., Amsterdam, 1999) p. 192)
Despite patient Sepoy Singh’s unhappy experience at the Lady Hardinge, clearly efforts were made to cater for the various dietary requirements of both Hindu, Sikh and Muslim patients. According to the BJN‘s 1915 report, beside every bed there was a locker. Muslim patients were given a ‘lotah’ (drinking vessel) made out of aluminium and Hindus a ‘lotah’ in brass.
Muslim patients were served their meals on white china with a dark blue surround and Hindu patients had white china with a blue border. There were two kitchens one catering for Sikhs and Muslims, the other for Hindus. Their complex dietary requirements meant that a system of coloured discs were hung over each bed to help the servers at mealtimes. The numbered system operated as follows:
Chicken soup/mutton soup and milk;
Non-meat, sugar instead of meat;
Rice diet and meat;
Chapatis, unleavened cakes, made of unadulterated wheat flour, with meat.
It is likely that some housekeeping standards did slip from time-to-time. The overstretched staff would have struggled to keep-up with increased numbers of wounded soldiers being admitted. In 1915, in an attempt to alleviate the problem of overcrowding, a combination of tented and galvanised accommodation units were erected to the south of Brockenhurst, at Tile Barn, a ridge overlooking both village and forest, a short distance from the station. Tile Barn’s complex of temporary, metal structures was nicknamed “Tin Town” by locals and provided five hundred extra beds. The site at Tile Barn is now an outdoor adventure centre for adults and children. The Indian Army Corps finally left Brockenhurst, for Egypt, in November, 1915.
A wounded soldier in a London hospital reads a magazine with a Red Cross nurse by his bedside. 20th July 1918. (Photo by A. R. Coster/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
In 1916, the New Zealand authorities took over administration of The Lady Hardinge Hospital from the War Office. The site at Brockenhurst became the No.1 New Zealand General Hospital incorporating a specialist centre for orthopaedic injuries. Tin Town remained but expanded with the addition of further huts for staff and stores. Balmer Lawn and Forest Park became minor medical sections.
By August 1917, the site also had a specialist neurological section under the supervision of Captain Marshall MacDonald. This department treated patients with neurasthenia (a non-somatic illness) and shell shock. Below is a letter written in May, 1917, by a New Zealand serviceman at No.1 New Zealand General Hospital:
You will have read in the papers that the New Zealanders were in the thick of the fighting on the Somme in the middle of September, and since that time we have been exceedingly busy. Prior to that thirty-six of our orderlies had been sent over to France; one has since been killed and several wounded. Our admissions have been heavier even than they were in Cairo, and a very large number of the cases were serious. The operating theatre at each section deals with as many as half a dozen —and even more— cases each day. We are badly understaffed in nearly all departments, and patients -when well enough – are occasionally attached temporarily. Just now the orderlies we have, seem to be quite a good lot of men, and include a few parsons and men who held good positions in civilian life.
The hospital here is divided into three sections. The first is headquarters, which used to be occupied by the Lady Hardinge Hospital for wounded Indians. Here over six hundred patients are accommodated. It is built of hutments, and it is possible to reach all parts without going out-of-doors. There is additional accommodation for the staff and for stores. This section is known as “Tin Town,” and its occupants as “Tin Hats.”
The other two sections are hotels, one at either end of the village of Brockenhurst, and on the edge of the New Forest. Each accommodates between two hundred and three hundred patients. Both are very fine buildings, and are as well equipped in every way as the central section. Besides these three, there are five auxiliary hospitals, each taking from twenty to sixty patients. They are sent there as soon as they are well enough to require light dressings. The names of these five are: Morant War Hospital, at Brockenhurst; ‘Home Mead,’ at Lymington; ‘Hill House,’ at Lyndhurst; ‘Thorney Hill,’ at Bransgore; and Lady Normanton’s, at Ringwood. “There has recently been added a convalescent home for officers at “Avon Tyrrell,” Lady Manners’ House. At all of these places New Zealanders receive the best of attention, and all those mentioned are within a radius of fifteen miles, from Brockenhurst.
New Zealand soldiers aiding the war effort during their convalescence in Britain World War One. (Press Illustrating Service/FPG/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
One Australian nurse that worked at the Hospital was Staff Nurse Blanche (Alice) Atkinson. Blanche had trained in Adelaide and was a member of Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNSR). She arrived in London on 22nd July, 1915 and soon found herself stationed at Brockenhurst. The following year, she was so overworked that she caught double-pneumonia and had a breakdown. Unfortunately, this led to her being invalided out of QAIMNSR and sent back to Adelaide to convalesce. She also caught Tuberculosis and died on the 9th December, 1916, aged thirty-eight. She was awarded the Royal Red Cross Medal for her ‘devotion to service’ by King George V.
Below is an extract from a letter written in November, 1916, by a New Zealand serviceman, Corporal Oswald de Witt Vaughan, who served in the Wellington Infantry, 3rd Regiment Battalion and was injured at the Somme. He is writing to his father, Reverend Charles Vaughan in Kingston, Tasmania. Corporal Vaughan’s words provide a first-hand account of a wounded soldier’s journey from the battlefield to Brockenhurst. Corporal Vaughan did recover from his initial injuries and returned to the Western Front only to be tragically killed in action less than a year later, on 4th October, 1917, at Ypres, Belgium.
Short (silent) film clip of ‘trench cooking’ in World Ward One, British Pathé .
The cooks had orders to have breakfast ready early, and turning out betimes myself on account of the cold. I found a good fire going and tea and porridge on the boil. A few of us were standing round the fire, which they had built on the side of the trench, when, without warning, the whole business blew-up and the dixies [cooking pots] and their valuable contents were scattered far and wide. The cook got a bad hit in the leg, and I felt a heavy smack in the left side, about the lower ribs, which threw me to the ground for a time.
I picked myself up, and found I was smothered in porridge, a gruesome spectacle. I thought at first it was only a severe blow from something blunt, but as I began to turn a bit faint, and found difficulty in breathing, some of my mates turned their attention to me, and found a small wound just above the lower midribs.
They had me up, and helped me down to the first-aid station, and from there I progressed to the advanced dressing station…I finally reached the [36th] Casualty Clearing Station at Heilly, about ten miles back from Albert…I stayed there till Sunday morning, the 17th….they put us on an ambulance train….we travelled all day, very slowly for a good part of the journey on account of the heavy traffic, finally reaching the coast, early in the morning of the 18th. Leaving here again on the 20th we motored to Havre, about eighteen miles, and embarked on a hospital ship, leaving that night, about 10.3opm.
Reached Southampton early next morning after a good trip, and went by train to Brockenhurst, only about thirty minutes’ run on the L.P.S.W railway. The No. 1 New Zealand General Hospital is established here, and staffed entirely by New Zealand doctors and nurses, with a few Australian nurses attached. There are three sections, Forest Park, Balmer Lawn and Tin Town. I was in the first named, which is just outside the village; it was very comfortable and the food excellent. They shifted me from that placeto this place [Thorney Hill Auxiliary Hospital, Bransgore] on the 26th to make room for cases coming in.
April 1915: Playing a record on the gramophone to while away the time whilst recuperating in hospital. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
Short (silent) film clip showing Australian and New Zealand soldiers return back home country in 1919, British Pathé.
(The Mercury, 21.11.1916)
Between 1914 and the end of January 1919, when the No.1 New Zealand General Hospital closed, three thousand Indian soldiers and twenty-one thousand and four New Zealand soldiers had been treated at the various medical facilities across the village. Any Indian soldiers that died whilst at Brockenhurst were of course cremated in-line with their religious beliefs. However, cremation was a relatively new practice in Britain at that time and had only been legal since 1902. A suitable site to perform the cremations was found nearby, Perry Wood.
Ninety-three New Zealand soldiers died whilst receiving treatment in Brockenhurst. The cause of death of a majority of these New Zealand soldiers was either battle wounds or sickness. The soldiers are buried in the cemetery adjacent to St. Nicholas Church, close to the former site of Tin Town at Tile Barn. Every head-stone tells its own story.
Short film about Private Potene Tuhuro, one of the New Zealand soldiers buried at St. Nicholas Church cemetery, Brockenhurst, New Forest. Video published by Hampshire Museums 30.10.13
The imposing memorial cross, at the back of the plot, was erected in 1927. Every year, on the nearest Sunday to Anzac Day, representatives of the New Zealand High Commission and members of the New Zealand Forces attend a service at the cemetery.
There are additional head-stones of servicemen from other countries in the Commonwealth including South Africa. During World War One, South Africa was still part of the Commonwealth until apartheid came into force in 1948. The country did not re-enter the Union until 1994. Here is a summary of, both military and civilian, burials at the cemetery, all from World War One:
93 New Zealand soldiers;
1 Australian soldier (Australian Infantry, 22nd Battalion);
1 Canadian soldier (Canadian Forestry Corps);
3 unknown Belgian civilians (who worked nearby at Sopley Forestry camp);
3 members of the Indian Expeditionary Forces;
3 British soldiers;
1 South African (Royal Flying Corps).
When war broke-out in 1914, Brockenhurst was a tiny village of two thousand inhabitants. In 1918, the village had lost seventy-eight of its own men. Private Leonard Baden House, whose parents lived at Carey’s Cottages in the village, died on 24th November, 1918, aged eighteen. He had been a member of the Hampshire Regiment.
Another well-established local family, the Bowden-Smiths, who lived at Careys Manor in the village (now a luxury hotel), lost their youngest son, Lieutenant Commander Victor James Bowden-Smith RN (1887-1918). Victor was killed by an accidental explosion whilst recovering a German Torpedo which had gone adrift in the North Sea near Runswick on 22nd August, 1918, he was aged thirty-one.
The Bowden-Smiths had lived in the village since the eighteenth century. Victor’s father was Reverend Frederick Hermann Bowden-Smith and died less than a year after his son on 7th February, 1919. Reverend Bowden-Smith had been the Rector of Weston Patrick near Basingstoke, Hampshire.
The nearby town of Lyndhurst lost sixty-eight men and the hamlet of East Boldre lost seventeen. No village in the New Forest escaped without tragedy.
A Contemporary Conversation looks at the period 1914 to 1918 and also considers the urgent subject of war today. World War One inflicted suffering on all sides, and while our account of this is non-partisan, the focus is on New Zealanders’ experience of the war. This is told through diaries, letters, and other documents drawn from the collections of the Alexander Turnbull Library and Archives New Zealand. These often poignant first-hand accounts provide a sense of what it was like to endure the vicissitudes of war.
Peter wrote to say that he was working on a case content refresh for the exhibition. One of the items on display is a register belonging to Archives New Zealand that records the deaths of New Zealand servicemen in England, some of whom are buried at The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) Cemetery, St. Nicholas Church, Brockenhurst.
Peter came across this article and contacted me asking whether I would grant permission to the Library for them to include a selection of my photographs, featured here, alongside the register. I am delighted to confirm that I have now sent the photographs to Peter and these will indeed be on display in the exhibition very soon.
In the meantime, Peter has kindly provided me with a selection of images featuring this exhibition which I am thrilled to share with you here.
More information about ‘World War One: A Contemporary Conversation’ can be found here.
More information about the National Library of New Zealand can be found here.
The National Library of New Zealand have also produced a series of guides for anyone wishing to research aspects of World War One using their Library as well as The Alexander Turnbull Library. Both institutions have significant collections relating to all aspects of New Zealand and New Zealanders during World War One. For more information on this click here.
************* NEWS UPDATE ENDS **************
For The Fallen
By Laurence Binyon (1917)
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.
Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.
But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
Later on this Spring, a new six-part drama production The Crimson Field (previously known as The Ark) will be aired on BBC One. Written by Sarah Phelps (Great Expectations, Eastenders) and directed by David Evans (Downton Abbey, One Night), Richard Clark (Doctor Who, Life On Mars) and Thaddeus O’Sullivan (Silent Witness, Single-Handed).
Set in a field hospital on the coast of France during The Great War, The Crimson Field, features a team of doctors, nurses and women volunteers (Voluntary Aid Detachments – VADs) battling against the odds to save the lives of men wounded in the trenches. The hospital becomes a frontier between battlefield and home front where class and gender frictions are rife amongst a group of men and women thrown together under extraordinary circumstances.
Actress Oona Chaplin, who plays VAD Kitty Trevelyan, comments:
‘The War To End All Wars’ – unfortunately that wasn’t the case. We keep fighting each other and committing horrific acts of violence. Although the technology of war may be different, the people have hardly changed, which Sarah Phelps has captured here so beautifully. In The Crimson Field we follow men and women on their journey of survival, their struggle with meaning and love, and the small victories that mean so much.
Actress Hermione Norris, who plays the field hospital’s Matron, Grace Carter, adds:
The emotional and psychological impact World War One had on a generation and beyond has always held a deep fascination for me. Sarah Phelps has crafted a compelling script with rich and complex characters who really explore the depth and impact of love and loss in this heroic, yet tragic period in British history. It’s a privilege to be involved in this BBC production 100 years on, bringing the drama of World War One into the hearts and minds of this generation. ‘Lest we forget.’
In the firm belief that prevention of distress is better than its relief, and that employment is better than charity, I have inaugurated the Queen’s “Work for Women Fund”. Its object is to provide employment for as many as possible of the women in this country who have been thrown out of work by the war. Mary R.
(Queen Mary’s Message to the Women of Great Britain, August 1914)
World War One was a time of unprecedented change in the roles of women in society. Before the outbreak of war, opportunities for women to obtain paid work were limited, apart from obvious roles in domestic service. Approximately four hundred thousand domestic servants left their jobs in order to take-up roles as part of the war effort. Once war had been declared, in August 1914, wider employment opportunities slowly materialised, attracting thousands of women to volunteer their services.
Trade unions agreed that, for the duration of the war, women could be employed in roles previously occupied by men. This agreement was known as ‘Dilution’ but came with the strict understanding that once war was over, women would leave their jobs thus creating re-employment for returning servicemen. However, many firms went on to retain their female workers after 1918. A shortage of able-bodied men returning from war necessitated this course of action.
Production at Hampshire-based metal works Taskers, thrived during World War One and many of its employees served in the armed forces. Women were recruited to Taskers in large numbers to fill the workforce gap and some were retained after war had ended. A number of men, who had previously worked at Taskers, died or were seriously injured in the conflict. The Managing Director’s son, Henry, was shot dead. A former apprentice who worked at Taskers during this turbulent time, recalls:
Some who returned to work suffered or were handicapped as a result of being gassed or injured in some other way. ‘Sab’ Hallett was invalided out and came here to work as a turner in the erecting shop. He had been gassed. Our Managing Director had lost his oldest son Henry shot, but his second son Cyril returned from the Navy to the firm here at the end of 1919.
Girls and women workers were brought into the firm and apart from Shell work were employed working shaping machines, painting and in the saw mill and carpenter’s shop. I well remember the fun getting the two in the carpenter’s shop to know how to handle the woodwork tools….It was generally felt that our cause was a righteous one, and that our mates on the front-lines in France would expect us to be really behind them. After the Armistice many of our girl and women war workers remained working at Tasker’s works and were called ‘The Hangers On’.
According to historians, Neil Storey and Molly Housego:
Many ladies had taken over the vacancies to carry out simple clerking and shop work in local businesses, factory work (such as boot making or tinned foods) and light agricultural work (such as fruit picking or helping with the grain harvest) since August 1914…On 17 March 1915 the Board of Trade issued an appeal to women to register for ‘war service’ work at their local Labour Exchange…After the first week of the announcement over twenty-thousand registrations were received the take-up by employers was slow…
Following the introduction of the Military Service Act and conscription in 1916, the window of opportunity for women seeking employment changed dramatically. Initially, the Act specified that all single men aged eighteen to forty-one years old were liable for military service unless they were widowed with children or ministers of a religion. By the Summer of 1916, conscription was extended to married men and eventually the age bracket extended to fifty-one. This meant that by 1918, more than a million women were employed in previously male-orientated occupations:
Far more women were taken onto the national workforce in 1916 after the introduction of conscription saw thousands more men leave their places of work to serve in the forces. More women were becoming drivers of horse-drawn delivery carts as well as motorised vehicles and vans. Many upper-class women could already drive, and a number of them owned their own cars drove for the Royal Automobile Club Owner-Drivers’ War Service Corps.
The VADs (Voluntary Aid Detachments) played a significant part in the war effort. Formed in 1909, in every country, with the aim of providing assistance during time of war. Both men and women could join a detachment to undertake a variety of roles such as cooks, kitchen-maids, clerks, house-maids, ward-maids, laundresses, motor-drivers and of course nurses. When war broke-out, the British Red Cross and the Order of St. John formed the Joint War Committee in order to pool both monetary and human resources. Members of both were organised into Voluntary Aid Detachments. The term ‘VAD’ later come to be used when referring to both an individual member as well as an entire detachment:
There is not, and never has been, any reasonable doubt as to what constitutes a fully trained nurse…In every large hospital there is a matron, and there are sisters, staff nurses and probationers. The matron and sisters are addressed by their titles, but staff nurses and probationers are alike addressed as ‘Nurse’. A probationer of only one day’s standing would consequently be called, for example, ‘Nurse Jones’…It was, therefore, in accordance with the usual practice that a VAD member engaged in the nursing department of any hospital should be called ‘Nurse’.
All VADs were trained in basic first-aid and others would then go on to specialise and receive further training in nursing, cookery or hygiene and sanitation. All VADs had to pay for their own training, food, sleeping accommodation and uniform, which for a nurse cost £1 19s 2 1/2d. It was not surprising then that many VADs came from middle and upper-class families who had plenty of free time on their hands, financial resources and could work for free.
The iconic 1915 VADs recruitment poster was so successful that it was the only one ever needed and by 1918 there were twenty-three thousand nurses and eighteen thousand nursing orderlies that had joined a detachment. At end of the war, ninety thousand people had joined the VADs. When peace returned the British Red Cross and the Order of St. John became two separate voluntary aid societies once again but the VAD scheme continued until the 1930s.
VADs could and would turn their hand to almost anything, earning the female contingent the nickname, ‘very adaptable dames’. However, according to historian and former nurse, Yvonne McEwen, (speaking on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour, 17th February, 2014), there are a number of myths surrounding the role of VADs in World War One. The nursing VADs did not replace the professional nursing corps (Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service – QAIMNS) but assisted them in their daily duties both on the front-line and in military hospitals across Britain. The QA nurses were highly trained, unmarried women over the age of thirty who had chosen the nursing profession as a career for life. However, as the war progressed demand for trained nursing staff grew and recruitment restrictions, such as age limits, were relaxed. Even these changes did not attract the numbers of professional trainees required and VADs became even more vital to the war effort, taking-on increased duties. All nurses faced harsh working and living conditions in the various theatres of war:
By 1915, the role of the VAD had actually moved in to military hospitals both at home and on the fighting front. Having said that, VADs never, ever worked in Casualty Clearing Stations which is another mythology…Base hospitals were relatively comfortable but as the war escalated the bombing raids became more and more frequent. It is interesting that 1917-18 is when the highest rates of death [amongst nurses] occurred because of the shelling and bombing of hospitals and clearing hospitals.
For those who worked on the front-line and of course it was not just on the Western Front, we had nurses working in Mesopotamia, Germany and East Africa. It was a global war and nurses were deployed in a global war. In the Gallipoli campaign, the nurses slept on rocks on blankets because there was no accommodation to put them in. In fact there was no proper accommodation for anybody when they first arrived, no tents erected for the sick and wounded, everyone was sleeping on blankets or mattresses on rocks and gradually over the months on the island, tented hospitals were constructed.
Yvonne is also keen to point-out, that nurses from Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and America all worked alongside British nurses. Her research has also revealed that in both World Wars, a total of one thousand seven hundred nurses were killed on active duty. The first nurse died in November 1914. However, this total is expected to rise as further fatalities, from both wars, come to light. For the purposes of these statistics, there is no distinction being made between professional and volunteer nurses both are equal upon death. Yvonne is campaigning for a nurses war memorial to be erected in their honour. You can read more about this appeal on The New Cavendish Club website.
I got a very septic hand, because the VADs didn’t wear rubber gloves…and if you got the slightest prick it always went septic.
During World War One, auxiliary hospitals and convalescent homes were created right across Britain to treat sick and injured military personnel from the front-lines. Large private estates and houses were also transformed into hospitals. By 1918, in Hampshire alone there were fifty-nine such facilities and VADs were the lifeblood of these establishments. One of the most important military hospitals on the mainland was the former Royal Victoria Hospital, Netley, Hampshire.
Built in 1856 and opened in March, 1863, this once imposing red brick complex provided the very best medical care to wounded service personnel throughout World War One. In addition to the impressive medical facilities, there was a theatre, extensive gardens, comprehensive range of outdoor activities and endless craft activities for servicemen undergoing rehabilitation. In 1966, the army demolished all the buildings save for The Royal Chapel which still survives and houses a heritage centre, gift shop and exhibition about the history of the former military hospital.
Silent film, from a series of five made in 1917. Each one features a range of ‘War Neuroses’, including the horrific effects of shell shock. Filmed mainly at The Royal Victoria Hospital, Netley. Warning, this film contains images that some viewers may find upsetting. (Uploaded by the Wellcome Library to You Tube, 2.11.2009. For more information about their educational catalogue, click here.)
The Royal Victoria Hospital was located by the shores of Southampton Water. There was once a steel and wood pier connecting the hospital to Southampton Water. Troop ships and hospital ships could unload their wounded before docking in Southampton. However, the water levels by the pier were too shallow to accommodate some of the bigger ships and as the war progressed these vessels only came into Southampton Docks, where the wounded would be transferred to either ambulances or trains for their onward journey.
The hospital was serviced by a railway which in World War One brought a succession of ambulance trains directly there from Southampton Docks. It was said that a soldier could be injured in France on a Friday and be on a ward at the hospital by Monday. Following the Battle of the Somme (1.7.1916), one hundred and fifty-one ambulance trains transported thirty thousand casualties from Southampton Docks to mainland hospitals. A majority of the casualties ended-up at the Royal Victoria. In total one thousand two hundred and twenty ambulance trains arrived at the hospital throughout the duration of the war.
A short while after war broke-out, the War Office requested that a further five hundred bed, Hutted Hospital, be erected on a terrace behind the main building. Netley’s Hutted Hospital consisted of three separate hospitals, the Red Cross, the Irish and the Welsh. One of the conditions of erecting these temporary structures was that, if required, they could be easily dismantled and moved to France. Due to the high numbers of casualties coming through Netley as war escalated, huts were increased in number to accommodate a total of one thousand patients. The Hutted Hospital had a staff of three hundred and fifty including many VADs. Despite their temporary nature, the Hutted Hospital complex contained some very modern facilities, including x-ray equipment, electrical equipment and whirlpool baths.
We young nurses on night duty used to sneak off to the soldiers’ wards. They loved us coming down…I think it cheered them a lot…They’d say ‘Give us a kiss, lassie’. We didn’t think it was wrong at all.
Of course you felt like crying, you had a heart, you had feelings.