Posted in Aviation History, Film, History, Literature, Review, World War One

Featured Author: Kerrie Logan Hollihan – In The Field and The Trenches

Author Kerrie Logan Hollihan. ©Fred Logan
Author Kerrie Logan Hollihan. ©Fred Logan

I was delighted when Ohio-based author, Kerrie Hollihan, contacted me to ask if I would like to review her latest book, In The Fields and the Trenches: The Famous and The Forgotten on The Battlefields of World War One. Published last month by Chicago Review Press, In the Fields and the Trenches is Kerrie’s 6th YA non-fiction work for this excellent publishing house. I have previously reviewed several YA non-fiction books from Chicago Review Press, both by author Kathryn J. Atwood Women Heroes of World War 1 and Code Name Pauline.

Kerrie’s new book is a collection of 18 biographies of young men and women who bravely and selflessly decided, to ‘do their bit’ on the frontline in World War One. Several individuals, featured in In The Fields and the Trenches, went on after the war to become well-known in a variety of occupations from writer to president to film star (J. R. R. Tolkien; Ernest Hemingway; Harry Truman and Buster Keaton). Others were from high-profile families such as The Young Roosevelts or Irène Curie, daughter of Marie and Pierre Curie.

Book Cover

In the Fields and the Trenches is divided into 12 chapters, each short biography is clearly written and very well-researched:

  • The Cowboy: Fred Libby (American);
  • The Daughter: Irène Curie (French);
  • The Wordsmith: J. R. R. Tolkien (South African);
  • The Student: Walter Koessler (German);
  • The Aviatrix: Katherine Stinson (American)*;
  • The Family: The Young Roosevelts (American);
  • The Red Cap: Henry Lincoln Johnson (American);
  • The Pitcher: Christy Mathewson (American);
  • The Showgirl: Elsie Janis (American)*;
  • The Kid: Ernest Hemingway (American);
  • The Captain: Harry Truman (American);
  • The Comedian: Buster Keaton (American).

*Biographies feature later in this article.

Walter Koessler (1891-1966). A German architectural student who was called-up to fight for his country in World War One. Walter served in the German Officer Corps. He brought along his camera to capture many aspects of a soldier’s life on the frontline as well as in the trenches. After the war, he arranged all his photographs in an album ‘Walter Koessler 1914-1918’. This photograph was taken during Walter’s first months as a German Officer. He is pictured here with his motorbike. ©Dean Putney.

Although In The Field and the Trenches is aimed at the YA market, I highly recommend it to anyone interested in reading a fresh perspective on World War One. Hidden histories of extraordinary young people many of whose stories may have been forgotten forever if it wasn’t for writers like Kerrie. The book also includes a very helpful World War One Timeline to contextualize some of the events featured in the biographies.

I notice Kerrie dedicated this book to her grandfather, the inscription reads: ‘Frederick Urban Logan – US Army soldier and bugler in France 1918-19’. World War One is obviously a period in history that has a particularly strong personal connection to Kerrie.

One of Walter Koessler’s photographs. Soldiers washing and doing their laundry in livestock troughs during World War One. ©Dean Putney.

Kerrie writes the mini-bios with skill and clarity, managing to avoid the usual fax-pas of sentimentalizing content. In my view, a common error some authors make when writing historical non-fiction for a YA audience. I have always said, never underestimate the young, they know more than we sometimes give them credit for! Just stick to the facts, young active minds will be able to bring the stories to life for themselves. In her ‘Preface’, Kerrie writes:

Wars are fought by young people, and young people fighting wars make history – in ways great and small…They fought in battles, flew warplanes, killed the enemy, nursed the wounded, and fell in love. One died in combat. The rest came home, their lives forever changed.

Some of them had famous names, but most did not. Some had distinguished themselves in battle and returned as war heroes, while others would reach their prime as writers, businesspeople, scientists, and film stars. One became president of the United States. Another died penniless, estranged from his family.

These men and women lived a century ago. They felt altogether modern, and indeed, for the time they lived, they were. They encountered heroes, cowards, comics, and villains. They learned about human nature – power, greed, death, love, hate, courage, and fear. Like women and men of any age, they came away from a devastating experience with mixed feelings of despair, joy, hatred, loss, and hope. Their stories plainly show how they shared with us the tough journey that we call life.

(In The Field and the Trenches: The Famous and The Forgotten on The Battlefields of World War One by Kerrie Logan Hollihan, Chicago Review Press, 2016.Preface: pp. xv-xvi)

Photograph of the trenches in Winter by Walter Koessler. ©Dean Putney.

I have chosen 2 of my favourite biographies, from In The Field and the Trenches, to share with you here. The Aviatrix – Katherine Stinson and The Showgirl – Elsie Janis.

Katherine Stinson (1891-1977)

In Spring 1912, she became only the 4th American woman to earn a pilot’s license. Early in her flying career she made good money ($1,000 to $2,000 per week) performing acrobatic flying displays using her fabric-winged biplane. An extremely dangerous way for anyone to earn a living let alone a 5ft 5, young woman weighing only 100lbs! She took great pride and care maintaining her own plane and hired only the best mechanicians (known nowadays as mechanics).

When World War One started, she wanted to work as a pilot for the American Expeditionary Force (AEF). She applied twice and was turned-down on both occasions. In 1916, she decided to take her biplane on an ocean liner and sail to Asia performing display shows. In 1918, she went to work for the US Post Office as a pilot. In May, 1918 she flew to raise money to pay for Liberty Bonds to help with the overseas war effort:

The army might have forbidden her to fly in France, but the US government knew that a flying schoolgirl could appeal to Americans’ hearts and open their pocketbooks. Put to work as an airborne publicity stunt, Katherine flew from town to town on a campaign to sell Liberty Bonds to help pay for the war. She also raised $2 million for the American Red Cross, and she ended that fundraising journey by landing on a white cross in front of the Washington Monument.

(Ibid. p.58)

In July, 1918, she piloted the 1st airmail flight in western Canada, from Calgary to Edmonton. However, she still wanted to ‘do her bit’ in France. If she wasn’t allowed to be a pilot, then she would offer her services as an ambulance driver for the Red Cross. She joined the ambulance corps in August, 1918 and was soon sent to France.

After the war, she got permission to work as a pilot and fly mail between Paris and General Pershing’s army headquarters. Unfortunately at that time, the Spanish Flu pandemic was sweeping across Europe and North America. She succumbed to the virus and ended-up in a Paris Hospital. As it turned out, during the war she had, unbeknown to her, also contracted tuberculosis and her health was now ailing. She spent years convalescing.

Whilst in a sanatorium in Santa Fe, New Mexico, she met Miguel Antonio Otero Jr, who had been a pilot in World War One. They married in 1927. She went on to become an architect.

5-2 EA-10-3181-4
Poster celebrating Katherine Stinson’s success in flying the 1st sack of Airmail in Western Canada in 1918. ©City of Edmonton Archives (Alberta, Canada)

Elsie Janis (1889-1956)

She first set foot on stage when at just 2 and 1/2, dancing in church socials. A child star from the get-go, she could sing, dance and act. Her mother, Janice Bierbower, was a typical stage mum who managed her daughter’s career, travelling everywhere with her. A professional stage career took her all the way from Broadway to Europe and back again.

In 1917, aged 28, she was in London with her mother, their maid and her Pekingese, Mousme. Despite not having permission from the US government to visit Europe, she decided to make the journey anyway. Afterall, she was a big star and surely no-one would refuse her entry?

She travelled with her mother to Bordeaux, France, arriving without official approval but helped by the YMCA. She immediately began rehearsing with a pianist and gave concerts to the troops. She became the sweetheart of the AEF. Kerrie writes:

Elsie was a trooper and performed up to nine shows in one day. She entertained on makeshift stages and tabletops, and she felt just as comfortable taking her show into hospital wards. She always opened her act with that same question, “Are we downhearted?” Bold, brash, and talented, she sang, danced, did a few imitations, and cracked jokes for the troops.

(Ibid. p.115)

Not everything went well whilst they were in France. She refused to wear a uniform and one occasion in Provins, on her way to entertain 2,000 US troops at Chaumont, both her and her mother were arrested on suspicion of spying. This incident could have been avoided had she worn military attire. French officials examined the pair’s paperwork and after much fuss, eventually allowed them both to proceed.

Being in France must have been heart-breaking for her. In 1916, her British boyfriend, actor and singer, Basil Hallam Radford (b.1889) had been killed during the Battle of the Somme. He was a member of the Royal Flying Corps.

After World War One, she continued her career on stage and the silver screen, Women in War (1940) was her last film. When her mother died she married Gilbert Wilson, moving to Hollywood in 1936. For her contribution to the motion picture industry, she has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Elsie Janis and 'her boys', dressed as World War One veterans from the US, Britain and France. In 1920, Elsie reprised her wartime experiences in a show. Image courtesy of Kerrie Hollihan. Author's own collection.
Elsie Janis and ‘her boys’, dressed as World War One veterans from the US, Britain and France. In 1920, Elsie reprised her wartime experiences in a show. Image courtesy of Kerrie Hollihan. Author’s own collection.

There are many ways to connect with Kerrie and her writing:

  • Follow Kerrie on Twitter (@Kerriehollihan);
  • Visit Kerrie’s website;
  • Visit ‘Hands on Books’ blog. Kerrie, together with fellow authors Brandon Marie Miller and Mary Kay Carson. Between them, these 3 have over 50 published books to their names. Their blog features the ‘world of nature, and history’s makers and shakers’ and ‘share insights and stories about writing non-fiction for young people’.;

Copies of In The Fields and the Trenches as well as any of Kerrie’s other publications, can be purchased:



Posted in History, World War One, World War Two

Featured Author: John Broom – Voices Of Faith From The First World War

Author John Broom. ©Dawn Broom
Author John Broom. ©Dawn Broom

I met author and academic, John Broom, in 2014, when our paths crossed in the history blogosphere. John had just launched  Faith In Wartime and we exchanged ideas on getting started with blogging. He is now an established history blogger. Faith In Wartime has gone from strength-to-strength with a fast-growing readership.

John graduated in History from the University of Sheffield in 1991 and has pursued a career in teaching, firstly in History, and latterly as a Specialist Teacher in Autism. In 2006, the inheritance of a collection of papers and memorabilia, written between 1940 and 1946 by his late father who served in the Desert Rats, sparked in John, a passion to discover the links between twentieth-century warfare and religion.

After completing an MA in Local and Regional History with the Open University, John decided to study for a PhD at the University of Durham.  He has also conducted research on behalf of the Bible Society for their First World War website.  John’s PhD research explores connections between the Second World War and Christian culture in Britain. He plans to complete his PhD in 2017.


In 2015, Pen & Sword Military published John’s first book, Fight the Good Fight: Voices of Faith from the First World War (ISBN: 9781473854154 – Price: £19.99 / $39.95). When John approached me to ask whether I would like a copy to review, of course I was delighted to accept.

Fight the Good Fight is a fascinating read and very well-written indeed. The book is a detailed study of a usually hidden aspect of wartime social history, the topic of Christian faith.  Fight the Good Fight has been meticulously researched and includes a wealth of previously unpublished material.

There is a forward by Dan Jarvis OBE MP, Labour Spokesman of First World War Commemoration:

I am pleased to commend this book of case studies of Christians from all walk of life, of many different denominations and displaying a wide spectrum of political views. It includes accounts from the Western Front, the home front and from the prisons of Britain that held conscientious objectors and those on the Continent that held prisoners of war and spies.

These stories help us to understand better an aspect of the rationale behind the response of so many to the challenge of global warfare, and further increase our admiration for the depth of belief and of personal character that so many were called to show.

(Fight the Good Fight: Voices of Faith from the First World War by John Broom, 2015, pp. x-xi)

Fight the Good Fight demonstrates the variety of ways in which people of different denominations; Anglican, Catholic and Nonconformists, interpreted the war as combatants, civilians, chaplains and conscientious objectors. The book will interest anyone who is fascinated by the social history of World War One, regardless of their religious persuasion.

Whilst a toxic mixture of nationalism and militarism tore Europe and the wider world apart from 1914 to 1919, there was one factor that united millions of people across all nations: that of a Christian faith. People interpreted this faith in many different ways.  Soldiers marched off to war with ringing endorsements from bishops that they were fighting a Godly crusade, others preached in churches and tribunals hearing that war was fundamentally against the teachings of Christ.

Esslemont Adams. Image courtesy of University of Leeds Special Collections.
John Esslemont Adams (1965-1935) was an Army Chaplain who served on the Western Front in World War One.  Image courtesy of University of Leeds Special Collections.

Whether, Church of England or Nonconformist, Catholic or Presbyterian, German Lutheran or the American Church of Christ in Christian Union, men and women across the globe conceptualised their war through the prism of their belief in a Christian God.

Fight The Good Fight brings together individual and family case studies, some of well-known personalities, others whose story has become neglected through the decades. Although divided by nation, social class, political outlook and denomination, they were united in their desire to Fight the Good Fight.

Chavasse Memorial
The Liverpool VC Memorial, depicting Noel Chavasse and a stretcher bearer attending a wounded soldier. The statue was unveiled in 2008 and is now permanently located in Abercomby Square at the University of Liverpool. ©Dawn Broom 2015

Fight The Good Fight is divided into 6 sections containing 21 biographies and 2 case-studies:

  • Christian Britain in 1914 (John Reith, David Jones, J.V. Salisbury, Joseph Garvey, Lewis Valentine and Philip Bryant);
  • Three Chaplains and an Army Scripture Reader (Father Francis Gleeson, John Esslemont Adams, Russell Barry and Harry Wisbey);
  • Women in War (Lilian Hayman, Maude Royden, The Hon. Mrs Edith Lyttleton Gell and Edith Cavell);
  • Christians from Other Nations (Louise Thuliez, Martin Niemöller, Pastor Pieter-Jozef Dergent and Alvin York);
  • Conscientious Objection in the First World War (Francis Meynell, Howard Marten, Laurence Cadbury and Corder Catchpool);
  • Families in War (The Chavasse Family and The Brocklesby Family).

I have selected the biographies of Lilian Hayman and Pastor Pieter-Jozef ‘Jef’ Dergent to share with you in this article. I found their stories particularly interesting, moving and harrowing in equal measure. It also transpired that their stories were interconnected (although Lilian and Jef never met!). Both were united by the strength of their own faith and sense of religious duty, heightened by a backdrop of global conflict.

Lillian Hayman. Image courtesy of Norman Ching.
Lilian Hayman. Image courtesy of Norman Ching.

Lilian Hayman (1865-1944)

Lilian Hayman’s story appears in the ‘Women in War’ section.  Lilian was a Bristol-born surgeon’s wife who ran a boys’ Bible class in Brighton and then from her home in Bournemouth, Dorset (from about1912). In the Imperial War Museum’s Department of Documents there are more than 100 letters written to Lilian by some of her ex-pupils who were now serving in the armed forces.

Lilian wrote regularly to the young men who had attended her Bible study classes and often sent them parcels containing home comforts.  Lilian even sent one pupil (Tony Hewitt) a game of snakes and ladders. Another former pupil, Philip T. Bryant, had a particularly close bond with Lilian. Philip served on HMS Queen Elizabeth and according to John Broom:

His letters to her [Lilian] show a continuing devotion, describing himself as ‘your sincere young friend’. He wrote, ‘Forgive me if I chatter too much but I forgot myself in talking to you as you understand so much.’ He received letters from his mother and Mrs Hayman only, and emphasised the latter’s importance in his life: ‘I will always bless you for the way you have helped me to keep on the very Narrow Path we have to tread.’

(Fight The Good Fight by John Broom, 2015, p.90)

Lilian continued to teach her Bible classes until her death in 1944, aged 80.

Pastor Dergent. John Broom's own collection.
Pastor Pieter-Jozef ‘Jef’ Dergent. John Broom’s own collection.

Pastor Pieter-Jozef ‘Jef’ Dergent (1870-1914)

Pieter-Jozef ‘Jef’ Dergent’s biography appears in the section, ‘Christians From Other Nations’. He was a rural Catholic priest from the Leuven region of Belgium. Born in Geel, 1870 and consecrated as a priest in August 1893. Before the outbreak of World War One, he was working at Gelrode, near the town of Aarschot. John Broom describes this period in Jef’s life:

He was considered by his parishioners as a man of the people, who took care of children and the infirm. He set-up a Gregorian singing choir and was holding harvest time rehearsals in the church.

(Ibid. p.137)

When German troops invaded Aarschot on 19th August, 1914 there followed immediately a series of brutal attacks on local civilians. On the Leuven-Aarschot road, 75 were shot dead and another 29 were killed in the town including the mayor. Gelrode was also occupied on the same day and Jef’s church was used as a prison. John explains:

Priests were considered by the Germans to be dangerous partisans, capable of inspiring resistance from the Belgian people. Four priests hid in a well for 3 days and then left Aarschot in disguise on the night of 23 August. The dean of the town was held prisoner as a partisan.

(Ibid. p.137)

When the Germans searched Jef’s house, old gun cartridges had been found in a storage room. Jef was kept under arrest in a room in his house and then released on 20 August. However, he was now under suspicion of subversion.

(Ibid. p.138)

Following his release, Jef made the courageous decision to take 3 wounded men, by cart, to Aarschot where the Damien Institute, former home to the Fathers of the Sacred Hearts, had been converted into a Red Cross field hospital.  Jef and his driver set-out at 8am on 26th August,  safely depositing their wounded at the hospital later that morning. One of the fathers asked Jef to stay but he refused, wishing to return instead to his parishioners in Gelrode. A decision that would place his life in grave danger.

Whilst crossing the Market Square in Aarschot, Jef and his driver were arrested. Both were imprisoned in City Hall until 5pm the next day.  Afterwards, Jef was kept outside the town’s church where inside, there were 3,000 prisoners. Jef was subjected to violent physical attacks by the Germans as they tried to get him to renounce his faith. He was stoned, beaten, bound and prisoners were encouraged to urinate on him.

Jef was then moved to a nearby house, Blykershuis, 200 yards from the church. Behind the property, he was killed with 2 rifle shots and thrown into the river Denier. His naked body was found two days later by Red Cross volunteers, 5 kilometres from Aarschot. Identification had only been possible because of a watch discovered inside his tunic that was discovered floating near the body.

The British and American press widely reported Jef’s murder. His death and the circumstances that led to it, saw him elevated to the status of martyr. The exact cause of Jef’s death was not confirmed until1948 when his body was exhumed in order to carry-out forensic tests. It was revealed that he had indeed been shot twice, in the head and through his vertebra. Following a special ceremony in Gelrode churchyard on 4th September, 1949, Jef was reinterred.

Lilian Hayman used Jef’s example of self-sacrifice and unwaivering commitment to his faith as a lesson to her boys’ Bible class in Bournemouth on 28th January, 1915. Lilian compared his betrayal with that of Jesus by Judas Iscariot. (Ibid p.140).

  • Fight The Good Fight can be ordered online from the publishers, Pen and Sword. Click here;
  • Fight The Good Fight can also be brought directly from John Broom, personally inscribed and signed. Contact John via e-mail:;
  • John’s 2nd book, Fight The Good Fight: Voices of Faith From The Second World War, will be published by Pen and Sword on 30th April, 2016. Pre-order your copy now. Click here;
  • John blogs regularly at Faith In Wartime. Click here;
  • Read a selection of articles written by John for The Bible Society. Click here;
  • Follow John on Twitter – @johnbroom1970;
  • Listen to John on BBC Radio Solent (October, 2014) discussing the Stratton War Memorial located in Stratton, near Dorchester, Dorset.

Huntriss Memorial Window. ©Dawn Broom 2015
Huntriss Memorial Window. ©Dawn Broom 2015


Posted in Activity, Aviation History, Bringing Alive The Past, Event, History, History of Medicine, Literature, Maritime History, Motoring History, Review, Vintage, World War One

The Lost Generation: The Young Person’s Guide To World War I by Martyn Barr (2014) – Review

©Martyn Barr – Out Of The Box Publishing Ltd
©Martyn Barr – Out Of The Box Publishing Ltd

The Lost Generation: The Young Person’s Guide to World War I (2014), by award-winning Kent author, Martyn Barr, is the latest educational publication from Out of The Box Publishing. Martyn, a PR and design consultant, established Out of The Box Publishing Ltd in 2009, to produce and market his own books which, since then have included:

Extracts from The Lost Generation.
Extracts from The Lost Generation. ©Martyn Barr – Out of The Box Publishing Ltd

The Lost Generation is a beautifully illustrated and thoroughly researched softback publication which tells the story of World War One from a British perspective. Although the guide is aimed at young students (Key Stages 3 & 4), it also offers an excellent introduction, to such a complex period in world history, for the budding adult historian wanting to ‘dip their toe’ into this topic.

Regular readers of Come Step Back in Time will know that so far this year I have written many articles on World War One. I wish I had discovered The Lost Generation earlier, it would have saved me a lot of time (although never wasted!) ploughing through numerous academic tomes on the subject. What I really needed in the beginning was a straightforward introduction to inspire me continue on my research journey. The guide covers the war’s origins, as played out in a far-flung corner of Europe, right through to its bloody and bitter conclusion.

At a wallet-friendly price of £5.99 (including Free second class postage), The Lost Generation is an essential addition to your history bookshelf.  Fifty pence from every copy sold will be donated by Martyn to The Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal.

Extracts from The Lost Generation. ©Martyn Barr - Out of The Box Publishing Ltd
Extracts from The Lost Generation. ©Martyn Barr – Out of The Box Publishing Ltd

Inside The Lost Generation, are 62 pages, over 70 photographs/illustrations and a fold-out map on the back cover – ‘Taking Sides: A Europe Divided’ – illustrating a fractured Europe divided into allied powers, central powers and neutral countries.  The text is well-written and the layout is user-friendly. Some of the World War One topics Martyn covers include:

  • Motives for war;
  • Assassination of the Archduke and Archduchess, Franz Ferdinand and his wife, in Sarajevo;
  • Home front propaganda;
  • White feather campaign;
  • Pals battalions;
  • The ‘Old Contemptibles’;
  • Key Battles on the Western Front (Mons, Marne, Ypres, Passchendaele, Neuve Chapelle, Loos, Verdun, Somme, Jutland, Camrai, Amiens);
  • The Gallipoli campaign and siege of Kut-al-Amara;
  • Life in the trenches;
  • Women at war;
  • War horses and animals on the frontline;
  • Prisoners of war;
  • Aviation;
  • The postal service;
  • Poetry;
  • Medicine.
Extracts from The Lost Generation. ©Martyn Barr - Out of The Box Publishing Ltd
Extracts from The Lost Generation. ©Martyn Barr – Out of The Box Publishing Ltd

Writing about The Lost Generation, Martyn comments:

A century has now passed since the outbreak of ‘the war to end all wars’ in 1914. The fertile fields of France and Belgium, where millions died, are no longer muddy, pock-marked quagmires. Nearby, row after row of white headstones mark the spot where men (and often boys) made the ultimate sacrifice… a practice repeated in many other countries across the globe.

Providing a guide to the First World War for today’s generation has been a challenge. The Lost Generation offers an overview of the war as it progressed, as well as a series of features that help flesh out the story. It has not been possible to cover every single battle and event, but I’ve tried to include the most significant from Britain’s perspective.

(p. 4, Teachers’ Resource Guide by Martyn Barr, 2014, Out of The Box Publishing Limited)

Interview With Martyn Barr

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Martyn about his work as an author:

Why did you decide to write The Lost Generation?

Although I am not an expert on this topic, I have always been interested in World War One and because 2014 is the 100th anniversary of its outbreak, it seemed like the right time to publish a book on this topic. It felt like a big responsibility at times, tackling such a complex topic. I wanted to write a guide, told from the British perspective which had depth and challenged the reader but didn’t go into a huge amount of detail.

I am not a teacher or a historian. I am an author with a background in writing and design. I understand how important book design is in publishing. Design layout in a book impacts upon the reader experience, it needs to be cohesive and engaging.”

Although The Lost Generation is aimed at the younger student of history, do you think it also has wider appeal?

Yes, very much so. I always consider my readership carefully. I ask myself ‘what would they want to see inside a history book about World War One’? Modern generations of youngsters do not want to read lots and lots of text, they prefer snippets. I also wanted to produce a publication that appealed to both teenagers and adults.”

Do you offer on-line resources for teachers to accompany your publications?

“Yes we do. Supporting educational material is available to teachers after they have purchased their publication(s). We then provide password details so that they can access the relevant Resource Guide on-line. Material included in these guides is cross-curricular.”

Tell me a little bit more about your unique concept of corporate sponsorship to facilitate the publication process?

Many of our publications are sponsored by companies. As part of their package, we provide each sponsor with 500 copies of the book they have helped to publish. It is entirely up to the company concerned what they choose to do with these publications. In the case of The Lost Generation, which was sponsored by Fenwick Limited, they have decided to distribute their copies, for free, to local schools in Kent.”

Reviews – The Lost Generation

Fenwick Limited chose to sponsor The Lost Generation to mark Group Trading Director Hugo Fenwick’s term as High Sheriff of Kent, 2014. He says:

I was pleased to lend my support to this project to ensure that the current generation recognises the huge sacrifices made by their forebears 100 years ago to secure their freedom. The government has pledged to fund an educational programme to create an enduring legacy and I think this book supports that admirably.

Martyn presents a brutally honest account of the First World War, and has pitched it perfectly for a teenage audience. He has managed to achieve this without dumbing down the material in any way, so I’m sure adults will enjoy reading it too.

The Lost Generation has been well-received by both the general public and historians alike. Dr Will Butler from the University of Kent at Canterbury, who also fact-checked the book prior to publication, comments:

This book is a valuable guide for a youth audience, or anyone approaching this subject for the first time. It is richly illustrated, covers a significant amount of detail, and avoids those well-trodden myths of the First World War, to provide a concise history of the topic.

Amber Rudd MP for Hastings and Rye writes:

A detailed and well-written book and resource to mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War. Martyn has succeeded in producing a fitting tribute to all those who bravely gave their lives for our freedom.

Extracts from The Lost Generation. ©Martyn Barr - Out of The Box Publishing Ltd
Extracts from The Lost Generation. ©Martyn Barr – Out of The Box Publishing Ltd

Teachers’ Resource Guide – The Lost Generation

Martyn has written a Teachers’ Resource Guide to accompany The Lost Generation. Packed full of useful support material. Upon purchase of The Lost Generation, password details to access the on-line guide can be found on p.51, it is the last word that appears on that page. Generous educational discounts are also offered to schools and colleges, depending on quantities purchased. Details of these offers together with details of how to purchase individual copiesclick here.

Canterbury Cathedral In Times Past: Remembering WWI

Remembering World War I will be at the centre of this year’s event; examples from the rich collections at the Cathedral Archives will be on display to tell the story of life in the Cathedral City between 1914-1918. The exhibition will feature manuscripts, photographs and patient records illustrating the Voluntary Aid Detachment hospitals; a series of documents relating to the War Work Dept; letters from soldiers from the front; the diary of a cavalry officer and WWI pilot; artefacts relating to HMS Kent; details of how the casualties of the war were remembered, and the construction of the memorials in the Cathedral and in the City. Activities for children will include making a remembrance poppy and lavender bag.

(Canterbury Cathedral Website, published 18.8.2014)

On the evening of Tuesday 7th October, Martyn will be signing copies of The Lost Generation, at Canterbury Cathedral as part of their ‘Canterbury Cathedral in Times Past: Remembering WWI’. This free public event begins at 5.30pm with Evensong sung by the Cathedral Choir and at 6.30pm various activities and displays begin inside the Cathedral. The event ends at 8.40pm.

Canterbury Cathedral holds these open evenings annually but this year’s event commemorates World War One. Visitors will also be able to try their hand at a number of skilled crafts including applying gold leaf, carving stone, and brass rubbing. Free guided and audio tours will be on offer and there will be visits to the private chapels, the Bell Tower, the organ loft, and the choir practice room. For further information about this event, click here.

Author Martyn Barr ©Tim Stubbings
Martyn Barr in the Cloisters at Canterbury Cathedral. ©Tim Stubbings
Posted in Country House, Decorative Arts, Historical Hair and Make-up, History, History of Medicine, Horticultural History, Vintage Retail, World War One, World War Two

Perfumes, Compacts & Powders – François Coty & The Doughboys: Stories From The Great War Part 10

Advertisement for Coty, Christmas, 1935.
Advertisement for Coty beauty products, Christmas, 1935. From my own collection.

Coty’s Personal Life

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.

Advertisement for Coty from 1961. From my own collection.
Advertisement for Coty from 1961. From my own collection.

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  • 2nd August 1963: L’ Aimant talc and toilet water by Coty. Harrods, London. (Photo by Chaloner Woods/Getty Images).
L'Aimant by Coty. This is one of my favourite fragrances. I always use L'Aimant powder. L'Aimant, launched in 1927 was one of the last fragrances Coty had been involved in creating.
L’Aimant by Coty. This is one of my favourite fragrances. I always use L’Aimant powder. L’Aimant, launched in 1927 was one of the last fragrances Coty had been involved in creating and has basenotes of rose, vanilla, citrus, musk and jasmine. He created L’Aimant in response to Chanel No. 5 which was released in 1921.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • Coty Cosmetic Display at Marshall Field & Company, Chicago, Illinois, April 14, 1942. (Photo by Hedrich Blessing Collection/Chicago History Museum/Getty Images)

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  • 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.

All bathrooms had marble wash basins and there was a two-storey linen room containing a staggering hundred and forty cupboards made of citron wood or Macassar ebony inlaid with mother-of- pearl. The Château floors were multi-coloured marble. There were ballrooms and a domed ceiling, in what was once Coty’s first-floor office. The dome is decorated with a large fresco featuring members of his friends, family, dignitaries and artisans (as well as Coty’s mistresses!) and painted by French-born American artist, Charles Hoffbauer (1875-1957).  The property was completed in 1929.

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.

Advertisement for Coty's 'Air Spun' Face Powder (1950).
Advertisement for Coty’s ‘Air Spun’ Face Powder (1950).  One of the brand’s most popular products, launched in 1934. Coty collaborated with costume designer Leon Bakst to create the box’s design. From my own collection.



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  • Paris, France: Coty perfume shopfront, September 1929. (Photo by Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images).
Posted in Activity, Bringing Alive The Past, Event, Film, History, History of Medicine, Maritime History, TV Programme, Vintage, World War One

Folkestone 1914 & 2014 – Time Bleeds: Stories From The Great War Part 9

Film poster for Time Bleeds (2013).  Experimental documentary by Kent-based Viola Films. Directed by Samuel Supple and Produced by Debra McGee. Image courtesy of Viola Films.
Film poster for Time Bleeds (2013). Experimental documentary by Kent-based Viola Films. Shot on location in and around Folkestone.  Directed by Samuel Supple and Produced by Debra McGee. Image courtesy of Viola Films.

  • Emma, the Editor of Come Step Back in Time, reads ‘A Letter From Folkestone by Miss Moneypenny’, written in August 1914 and reprinted in the Sydney Morning Herald (30.9.1914) – A snapshot of life on the home front in Folkestone, at the beginning of World War One.

Monday 4th August, 2014, marked the Centenary of the outbreak of World War One. A hundred years ago the coastal town of Folkestone became one of Britain’s most important front-line locations. A gateway to France and the Western Front, eight million troops passing through there during the war.

The new Memorial Arch, Folkestone. Monday 4th August, 2014. ©Come Step Back in Time.
The new Memorial Arch, Folkestone. Monday 4th August, 2014. ©Come Step Back in Time.

In undying memory of the many million officers and other ranks, both men and women forming The Naval, Military, Air and Red Cross Services of the King’s Imperial and Colonial Forces who crossed the seas in 1914-1919 to defend The Freedom of The World (dedication taken from the Harbour Canteen books).

(Inscription on one of the memorial plaques close to Folkestone’s Memorial Arch)

I visited Folkestone on Monday to witness the day’s commemorative events which had been organised by Folkestone-based educational charity, Step Short. His Royal Highness Prince Harry unveiled a steel Memorial Arch on The Leas, alongside Folkestone’s seafront, as well as laying a wreath at the nearby war memorial.

©Come Step Back in Time.
©Come Step Back in Time.
Monday 4th August, 2014. Memorial Arch, Folkestone. ©Come Step Back in Time.
Monday 4th August, 2014. Memorial Arch, Folkestone. ©Come Step Back in Time.

WW1 At Home Remembers: World War One At Home – BBC (2014)

©Come Step Back in Time.
©Come Step Back in Time.
One of the Hurst Green Shires which was part of the BBC World War One At Home pop-up event in Folkestone Harbour car-park, Monday 4th August, 2014. ©Come Step Back in Time.
One of the Hurst Green Shires who took part in the BBC World War One At Home pop-up event in Folkestone Harbour car-park, Monday 4th August, 2014. ©Come Step Back in Time.

In the car park of Folkestone Harbour, a tented complex formed part of BBC World War One At Home’s Live Event.  For more information about this BBC initiative, which is currently touring the UK until the end of September, CLICK HERE. I took the opportunity of visiting the Imperial War Museum’s (IWM) cabin which is also part of this BBC heritage pop-up. The IWM’s ‘Lives of The First World War’ project is an excellent idea, allowing members of the public to research life stories of those who served in Britain and the Commonwealth on both the home and fighting fronts. These individual stories can be from your own family or somebody you wish to research and be remembered. The researcher then has the opportunity to contribute their findings to the project’s vast on-line public database.

I took the opportunity on Monday to visit the Imperial War Museums pop-up genealogy tent to research my great, great grandfather who served as a Corporal in the Royal Engineers during World War One. ©Come Step Back in Time.
On Monday, I took the opportunity to visit the Imperial War Museum’s pop-up genealogy cabin, to research my great grandfather who served as a Corporal in the Royal Engineers during World War One. ©Come Step Back in Time.

My great grandfather was a Corporal in the Royal Engineers during World War One and I had hit a bit of a block with my research. On Monday, access to public records was free to search in the IWM’s mobile exhibit and I was able to view my ancestor’s medal record as well as obtain his correct service number. I am looking forward to moving my research to the next level. For more information about this interactive IWM project, CLICK HERE.

The firing squad scene.
The firing squad scene, Time Bleeds (2013). Image courtesy of Viola Films.

On Monday, I also met-up with Kent director, Samuel Supple, whose World War One experimental documentary, Time Bleeds (2013), was filmed on location in and around Folkestone using a cast of local people. The film was shown on giant screens throughout the town as part of the day’s events.

©Come Step Back in Time.
©Come Step Back in Time.
BBC live Q & A panel in Folkestone Harbour, Monday 4th August, 2014. ©Come Step Back in Time.
BBC live Q & A panel, hosted by Clare Reeves, in Folkestone Harbour, Monday 4th August, 2014. ©Come Step Back in Time.

Samuel also participated in a series of live panel Q & A’s organised by BBC Radio Kent in conjunction with BBC World War One At Home. Afterwards he took me on a tour of Folkestone  pointing out various locations that had provided him with inspiration to create Time Bleeds. Mr Supple certainly knows his World War One local history!

This property (now private flats) was once a British Red Cross Auxilary Hospital. Manor House Hospital is situated on The Leas, Folkestone.
In World War One, this property (now private flats), on The Leas, Folkestone, was a British Red Cross Auxilary facility. It was known as Manor House Hospital. Photograph taken Monday 4th August, 2014. ©Come Step Back in Time.

During World War One, the above property situated on The Leas, Folkestone and now private flats, was Manor House Hospital. Samuel told me that it was a chance conversation with a librarian about a former VAD at Manor House, that begin his creative journey to Time Bleeds. An extraordinary diary/scrapbook belonging to VAD, Dorothy Earnshaw, has survived and can be viewed on-line HERE.

When Samuel looked at the album, several years ago, he was struck by the level of detail contained in the document. This artefact provides us with an insight into the intense emotional bond that exists between carer and patient as well as being a snapshot of life in a home front hospital during wartime.  Samuel remarked: ‘The album reminded me of how we use Facebook and social media today to record our daily lives, leaving comments for our friends and loved ones. Documenting our thoughts, hopes and activities. There is a convergence of time and in that moment the idea came to me for Time Bleeds.’

The Silver Screen Cinema, Folkestone. Some exterior scenes for Time Bleeds were shot here. ©Come Step Back in Time.
The Silver Screen Cinema, Folkestone. Some exterior scenes for Time Bleeds were shot here. ©Come Step Back in Time.

Time Bleeds is an experimental documentary inspired by real-life wartime events in Folkestone and the aim of the project was to reconnect its participants with their own World War One heritage. Samuel also drew inspiration from contemporary works such as ‘The War Game’ (1965) by Peter Watkins and ‘Self Made’ (2010) by Gillian WearingTime Bleeds is a collection of interwoven stories drawn from either personal archives or local public records and explores the questions:  “What if we forget?”; “What happens if these stories are lost forever?” and “What would happen if 1914 Folkestone became Folkestone in 2013 – would time bleed?”

A 16 year old boy
A 16 year old boy bids farewell to his mother at Folkestone Harbour Station, 1914. Scene from Time Bleeds (2013). Image courtesy of Viola Films.

Time certainly did appear to ‘bleed’ on Monday in Folkestone. Khaki clad living history groups mingled with royalty, civic dignitaries, war veterans and members of the general public wearing rain coats and clutching umbrellas. A heady mix of uniforms and casual attire, time had merged, for just one historic, but important, day.

After World War One. Peace returns to The Leas, Folkestone in the 1920s. It is once again a thriving seaside resort.
After World War One. Peace returns to The Leas, Folkestone. In the 1920s, it is once  again a thriving seaside resort.
Monday 4th August, 2014. The Leas, Folkestone. ©Come Step Back in Time.
Monday 4th August, 2014. The Leas, Folkestone. ©Come Step Back in Time.

  • Listen to Director, Samuel Supple, discussing Time Bleeds in 2013, with BBC Radio Kent host, Dominic King.
Still from Time Bleeds
Folkestone harbour. Still from Time Bleeds (2013). Image courtesy of Viola Films.
Director of Time Bleeds, Samuel Supple, revisits some the film's locations on Monday 4th August, 2014. ©Come Step Back in Time.
Director of Time Bleeds, Samuel Supple, revisits some of the film’s locations on Monday 4th August, 2014. ©Come Step Back in Time.

I have myself become very interested in Folkestone’s many fascinating home front and military World War One stories. Regular readers may remember an article I wrote earlier this year about the infamous White Feather Campaign (featured in Time Bleeds) which began in Folkestone. A notorious and controversial wartime Campaign, the brainchild of conscriptionist Admiral Charles Cooper Penrose-Fitzgerald (1841-1921). On 30th August, 1914, Penrose-Fitzgerald galvanized into action thirty women in Folkestone, many of whom were holidaying there, encouraging them to hand-out white feathers to men not in uniform.

Monday 4th August, 2014. Folkestone Harbour. ©Come Step Back in Time.
Monday 4th August, 2014. Folkestone Harbour. ©Come Step Back in Time.

The importance of Folkestone as a centre of military intelligence in World War One is another topic that has dominated my reading this year. I assisted with research on BBC Inside Out documentary, The Spies Who Loved Folkestone presented by writer Anthony Horowitz whose Alex Rider series of spy novels have captivated a whole generation. This drama documentary was Produced by Samuel Supple.

Because of its location, Folkestone was an ideal target for German spies. The town provided a point of entry and departure to Britain. Not long after war was declared in 1914, Germany lost its entire network of spies in Britain and was keen to re-establish its espionage infrastructure. If you were caught and convicted of spying, death by bullet in The Tower of London was the most likely outcome.

Spy-mania in Folkestone, as well as across the rest of Britain, was rife. Local newspapers were full of stories of suspected spies. Local Kent hoteliers, Mr and Mrs Wampach, (proprietors of Wampach Hotel, 33, Castle Hill Avenue, Folkestone), were victims of persecution. Their hotel was requisitioned for war service between 1914 and 1918 and the couple were subsequently treated unjustly by the authorities. The Wampachs were actually from Luxemburg and had themselves lost a son (Cyril Constant Julian) in the war. The distrust of non-British subjects was not just a national obsession, it became one’s patriotic duty to ‘weed-out the aliens’, otherwise you could find yourself the subject of suspicion.

Security, particularly in ports such as Folkestone, was extremely tight. The area was populated with Civil Police, custom officers, Aliens officers, Embarkation officers and Military Police. If you travelled by car from Folkestone to London in 1914, you would liable to be stopped by Special Constables no less than twenty-four times during your seventy mile journey. The arteries of subterfuge were well and truly blocked (or so the authorities thought!).

The British Intelligence Services were established in 1909. During World War One, Folkestone was full of British counter-intelligence officers. The town became HQ of a tripartite bureau, including French and Belgian intelligence officers and was under the control of Colonel George Kynaston Cockerill (1867-1957). The British section was based at 9, Marine Parade, and headed-up by the notorious renegade spy, Captain (later Major) Cecil Aylmer Cameron (1883-1924).

Spy-mania found a fertile soil in unbalanced brains. A girl of sixteen would confess to her mistress that she had fallen into the toils of a master-spy, who would beckon to her through the kitchen window with gestures that could not be disobeyed, and she would go out for the night, returning with a wonder story of gags and blindfolding, of a black motor-car and a locked room in a distant suburb, and the discovery of a soldier’s gloves in her box, did nothing to shake her story.

(‘Truth About German Spies: How They Came To England’, The World’s News, 12.7.1919)

  • BBC Radio 4’s major new drama series, Home Front, began transmission on Monday 4th August, 12 noon. This is by far BBC radio’s most ambitious production to date. The show’s Editor is Jessica Dromgoole. There are six hundred episodes, across fifteen seasons and these will continue to air until 2018. Although the stories are fictional, they are rooted in historical truth. The first season is set in World War One Folkestone. CLICK HERE;
  • For more information about Folkestone in World War One, see Step Short’s website;
  • For more information about Viola Films, CLICK HERE;
  • For more information about BBC’s World War One At Home initiative, CLICK HERE.
©Come Step Back in Time.
Folkestone’s Road of Remembrance, in World War One it was called The Slope Road. ©Come Step Back in Time.
©Come Step Back in Time
©Come Step Back in Time
©Come Step Back in Time
©Come Step Back in Time
©Come Step Back in Time
©Come Step Back in Time

The Day

By Henry Chappell

YOU boasted the Day, and you toasted the Day,
And now the Day has come.
Blasphemer, braggart and coward all,
Little you reck of the numbing ball,
The blasting shell, or the “white arm’s” fall,
As they speed poor humans home.

You spied for the Day, you lied for the Day,
And woke the Day’s red spleen.
Monster, who asked God’s aid Divine,
Then strewed His seas with the ghastly mine;
Not all the waters of the Rhine
Can wash thy foul hands clean.

You dreamed for the Day, you schemed for the Day;
Watch how the Day will go,
Slayer of age and youth and prime,
(Defenceless slain for never a crime),
Thou art steeped in blood as a hog in slime,
False friend and cowardly foe.

You have sown for the Day, you have grown for the Day;
Yours is the harvest red.
Can you hear the groans and the awful cries?
Can you see the heap of slain that lies,
And sightless turned to the flame-split skies
The glassy eyes of the dead?

You have wronged for the Day, you have longed for the Day
That lit the awful flame.
‘Tis nothing to you that hill and plain
Yield sheaves of dead men amid the grain;
That widows mourn for their loved ones slain,
And mothers curse thy name.

But after the Day there’s a price to pay
For the sleepers under the sod,
And He you have mocked for many a day —
Listen, and hear what He has to say:
What can you say to God?

  • Henry Chappell (1874-1937), known as the ‘Bath Railway Poet’, found fame after the above propaganda poem, about suspected German atrocities during the war, was published in the Daily Express, 22nd August, 1914. The poem was subsequently published in an anthology of his work in 1918, The Day and Other Poems.

    One of the many crocheted poppies that decorated Folkestone's Road of Remembrance (called The Slope Road in World War One). August, 2014. ©Come Step Back in Time.
    One of the many crocheted poppies that decorated Folkestone’s Road of Remembrance.  4th August, 2014. ©Come Step Back in Time.

Posted in Archaeology, Decorative Arts, History, Maritime History, Museum, World War One, World War Two

Gun Shells Into Vases & Rat Skins Into Wallets – The Art of Souveniring: Stories From The Great War Part 7

A silent film by British Pathe, ‘A Good Use For Zeppelins’, World War One. Published on You Tube, 13.4.2014. The remains of a zeppelin made into souvenirs, usually napkin rings, for the benefit of the War Seals Foundation. In 1916, the British War Office donated aluminium from another zeppelin to be made into souvenirs to be sold to benefit employees of the London and North-Western Railway who had been wounded in the war.

Collecting souvenirs was often a risky business. There are many contemporary accounts of soldiers taking foolhardy risks in order to acquire that unusual trophy, the danger itself probably adding to the value of the piece. So commonplace was it for a soldier to be killed or wounded while ‘souveniring, that it was often reported almost nonchalantly.

(Saunders, N. J., Trench Art: A Brief History and Guide 1914-1939, Pen & Sword Military, 2011, p.122)

The inspiration for this article came from a visit to my family at Easter. I noticed a couple of German artillery shells on the mantelpiece filled with yellow Chrysanthemums. A novel use for  ‘spent ammunition’, I thought. Naturally, the historian in me was keen to find-out more.

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Women filling shells with shrapnel at the Krupp works, Germany, c.1916.

The outer shells of both vases are decorated in relief depicting scenes from history including Hannibal crossing the Alps. My relative knew very few details about provenance and backstory of these objects which were given to her by a friend.

Detail of German shell cases, now turned into vases, belonging to one of my family members. Date-stamped on bottom, 1916. ©Come Step Back In Time.
Detail of German shell cases, now turned into vases, belonging to one of my relatives. Headstamp on bottom shows year to be 1916. ©Come Step Back In Time.

My relative told me that the shells were produced in a German munitions factory in World War One. The headstamp is inscribed: ‘Patronenfabrik Karlsruhe and Fried Krupp A.G.’.  Krupp A.G. were founded in 1811 and during World War One manufactured munitions, heavy guns (16.5 inch howitzer known as “Big Bertha”, only four of these were made), barbed wire, stainless steel and eighty-four U-boats for the German Navy. The latter were built at Friedrich Krupp Germaniawerft, a shipbuilding company in the harbour at Kiel. After World War One, Krupp supplied steel teeth and jaws for wounded veterans. Krupp A.G. remained the world’s leading steelmakers and arms manufacturers until the end of World War Two. The Krupp dynasty were also plagued by a number of high-profile scandals in the twentieth century but I will leave you to Google these for yourself!

The base of one of the shell case vases. The inscription confirms that that the shell was manufactured by Fried Krupp A.G., 1916 at the Cartridge Factory Karlsruhe, Germany. The two 'flaming bomb' symbols are found on all cartridge castings made by Patronenfabrik Karlsruge for the Army and Navy in World War One.  ©Come Step Back In Time.
Base of shell casing. The inscription confirms that the shell was manufactured by Fried Krupp A.G., 1916 at the Cartridge Factory Karlsruhe, Germany. The two ‘flaming bomb’ symbols are found on all cartridge casings made by Patronenfabrik Karlsruhe for the Army and Navy during World War One. ©Come Step Back In Time.

Designs on the shell casings have been created by a technique known as ‘acid-etching’ and this example was likely to have been produced at Bezalel School of Arts in Jerusalem in the 1920s. Unfortunately, some of the detail has been lost due to years of over-polishing, which is a great shame but a common problem with these brass objects.

©Come Step Back In Time.
©Come Step Back In Time.
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October,1914. The gun-finishing workshop in the Krupp armament factory at Essen, where the great ‘coal-box’ siege-guns were made. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
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The Krupp gun factory number 1, Essen, Germany, 1917. Krupp supplied the German army’s heavy artillery pieces during World War One. A photograph from Der Grosse Krieg in Bildern. (Photo by Art Media/Print Collector/Getty Images).

Researching the subject of ‘souveniring’ and Trench Art, of which these shell cases are  particularly fine examples, has been fascinating. There is a lot written about this topic. Trench Art (sometimes called Soldier Art) is the collective term used to refer to war souvenirs that have been re-fashioned into everyday items or works of art. These objects represent a remembrance of war. Archaeologist, Nicholas Saunders, points-out:

Trench Art in the home was a way of linking the desolated individual with the wider community of bereaved, through shared displays of objects and also ensured that memories were always just a glance away. For the bereaved, placing a metal letter-opener, bullet-crucifix, or pair of polished shells on the mantelpiece, in the hallway or on a bedside dresser – perhaps next to a photograph of the deceased – was a constant reminder of the loved one.

(Saunders, N. J., Trench Art: A Brief History and Guide 1914-1939, Pen & Sword Military, 2011, p.129)

During World War One, these items were often used as ‘currency’, by soldiers and civilians, to purchase food and other sundries. It is important to note here that most Trench Art was created away from the trenches, contrary to what the name suggests. During quieter periods of non-action, it is true that some soldiers did make objects out of ballistic detritus but most items were made by POWs and convalescing soldiers (as handicraft therapy). Civilians with an artistic eye also produced Trench Art. These attractive mementos were sold to make extra cash or raise funds for war-related charitable causes.  Regimental badges were turned into ‘sweetheart jewellery’ which soldiers gave to their wives or girlfriends back home.  After the war, battlefield tourists would purchase a piece of Trench Art as a souvenir of their visit.

Prisoners of war on both sides of the conflict produced an amazing variety of artifacts made for sale to soldiers or civilians in areas near the camps in which they were interned. Some camps held artistic exhibitions in which these handicrafts were offered for sale to the public. British civilians in Ruhleben, a camp outside Berlin, produced a number of objects made by melting down silver coins. They also made inventive use of available materials such as rat skins to make leather wallets. Many of these items were sent home as souvenirs to their families in Britain. German prisoners in Britain created flower vases and napkin rings using mutton and beef bones from their rations, while Turkish prisoners made realistic snakes and other objects from beads. Russian prisoners made use of their woodworking skills to produce carved cigarette boxes and other items. Members of the Royal Naval Division interned in Holland crafted a variety of wooden boxes and picture frames. When brass and aluminum were made available to prisoners, many of them made souvenir shell vases, match box covers or letter openers to sell to their captors or to nearby civilians.

….time has obscured the provenance of many of these pieces forever. As they are dredged from basements and attics, relics of a long forgotten war, and sold or consigned to second hand or antique shops or sold at estate sales, objects are forced to speak for themselves. Some pieces, with specific names, units, battles and dates are eloquent. . .most have drifted far from their original moorings.

(Kimball, J. A., Trench Art of the Great War and Related Souvenirs, [1989] 2005, accessed on-line 13.4.14)

Lovely examples of Trench Art on display in the World War One Gallery at the Royal Marines Museum, Southsea, Hampshire. (Left) Paper knives made from .303 bullets and shell cases. (Right) Pen made by Royal Marine in 1916 from two .303 rifle bullets. Another example of Trench Art, World War One. Two shell cases on display at Corfe Museum, Dorset. ©Come Step Back In Time.
Lovely examples of Trench Art on display in the World War One Gallery at the Royal Marines Museum, Southsea, Hampshire. (Left) Paper knives made from .303 bullets and shell cases. (Right) Pen made by Royal Marine in 1916 from two .303 rifle bullets. ©Come Step Back In Time.
Another example of Trench Art, World War One. Two shell cases, commemorating the battles of Ypres and Somme, on display at Corfe Museum, Dorset. ©Come Step Back In Time.
Further examples of Trench Art, World War One. Two shell cases, commemorating the battles of Ypres and Somme, on display at Corfe Museum, Dorset. ©Come Step Back In Time.

I had no idea how widespread the practice of ‘souveniring’ was during World War One. Shrapnel, buttons, helmets, gun cartridges, bullets and shells were some of the more traditional items procured from the battlefield. Fine examples of Trench Art can be found in Museums across the world, antique stores and on-line auction sites. However, many of these objects can be found in a domestic setting, often handed down between generations or exchanged as gifts amongst friends. But sadly, as Jane Kimball points-out above, objects such as the vases belonging to my relative, have now become detached from their owners and therefore much of their original sentimental value has been lost.

One of the most famous soldiers who dabbled in the art of  ‘souveniring’ was Liverpudlian John “Barney” Hines (1873-1958). His story is extraordinary, in northern France he has become a bit of a legend amongst the region’s treasure-hunters where ploughed fields still expel ‘iron harvest’ a century later. Hines began his military career serving in the Royal Navy and then joined the King’s Liverpool Regiment. His first campaign was the Second Boer War (1899-1902) where he unfortunately contracted malaria.

When World War One broke-out, Hines had only just emigrated to Australia. He volunteered for the Australian Imperial Force in August, 1915. Early 1916, he was discharged as being medically unfit. However, as the war progressed and the need for men increased, recruitment rules, particularly in relation to medical fitness, were relaxed. In August, 1916, Hines took the opportunity to re-enlist and was sent to the Western Front in May, 1917 where he remained until June, 1918. Unfortunately, his health continued to hamper his active service which eventually resulted in another medical discharge, this time due to problems with his haemorrhoids.

Apart from his ongoing health problems, Hines had a number of character traits that made him a less than ideal ‘poster-boy’ for the forces. Hines was illiterate and prone to periods of erratic behaviour, he also enjoyed a drop or two of the ‘good old amber nectar’ even trading some of his treasured souvenirs for alcohol and more seriously, a stolen horse for a bottle of whiskey. On another occasion, he supposedly ‘found’ suitcases, full of French Francs, in a bank. Another incident involved a grandfather clock which he had purloined and brought back to his trench, much to the frustrations of his colleagues. The clock didn’t remain for long, its chimes attracted enemy attention so his fellow soldiers blew it to bits. His military records show that he was court martialed no less than nine times for drunkenness and a further entry shows he went AWOL after a bout of stealing.

However, having said all of that, Hines was actually a competent soldier. On one occasion, June, 1917, he captured sixty Germans by throwing hand grenades into their pillbox at the Battle of  Messines. A heroic deed that most soldiers would receive a recommendation for military honours. However, due to his behaviour between these periods of fighting, one action certainly cancelling out the other, his brave efforts were overlooked. He was never decorated during his military career. Hines ended his days, in abject poverty, sleeping rough on the outskirts of Sydney until he eventually died in January, 1958, aged eighty-four.

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John ‘Barney’ Hines  known as ‘Wild Eye’ or ‘the Souvenir King’. This photograph, taken by Frank Hurley, propelled John Hines into the limelight when it was published. Hurley took the photograph in France on the morning of 27th September, 1917, after the Battle of  Polygon Wood. Hines is pictured surrounded by ‘souvenirs’ he collected during the fighting, including various German weapons and personal effects. This photograph is from an album called ‘Official Australian War Photographs’, produced by the Australian War Records Section which was established by the British government in 1917. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)