21-27 December 1915: Christmas at the 3rd London General Hospital

The December edition of the 3rd London General Hospital Gazette was produced with some Christmas cheer in mind, as it includes a poem “For a War Christmas” and a Timetable of the 25th.  A full report of Christmas at the hospital does not appear until February, as both the December and January editions were sent to the printers before Christmas.

The February edition even carries an explanation of why the January one did not have an account of Christmas

…a cautious scribe is shy of effervescing over events which, at the moment of writing, have not yet taken place… It would have been sae enough to compose an “intelligent anticipation” in the past tense, asserting that Yuletide had been a stunning success – and the risk of fire, earthquake, or Zep bombs preventing the consummation of the prophecy was one which would have deterred no modern journalist from so congenial an exercise of smartness.

It also has a write up from the Matron, describing Christmas at the hospital. On Christmas Eve, all the nurses went round all the wards with Chinese lanterns, singing Christmas carols.  The Ladies’ Committee of the hospital had spent the weeks beforehand gathering presents to make Christmas stockings for all the men, which the nurses put on the ends of their beds for the morning and had what the Matron describes as “the greatest joy at Christmas… watching the men wake up and find them in the morning.”  Buttonholes were given out on Christmas day by Matron and Mrs Bruce Porter, the Australian men got wattle (better known as acacia) in theirs.  Dinner was served in each ward, with turkey, plum pudding and crackers.  Queen Amelie of Portugal, who was a nurse, came in specially to have dinner with her patients – even getting a special cheer at the concert party which was given later.  HRH Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll, attended the afternoon tea part of the day with a special message from the King to the men – conveying his pride in them and wishes for a speedy recovery.  Afternoon tea also included a cinema showing, as it had been recently gifted by a Mr Nichols, an American who was a friend of the Commanding Officer.  It was all very different from the timetable of the 25th in a German Military Hospital which appeared in December’s Gazette, written up in sarcastic fashion by a returned Prisoner of War.Timetable of the 25th POW Hospital

The other reference to Christmas in December’s Gazette was a poem by H M Nightingale, “For a War Christmas”. Helen Nightingale appears to have been a nurse at the hospital, she frequently wrote poetry which appeared in the Gazette referring to nursing and caring for the men, as well as on the war in general:

For a War Christmas poem 1915

14-20 December 1915: Preparing for Christmas

The majority of the newspapers which Wandsworth Heritage Service hold are on microfilm, we have a few early hard copy papers from the late 19th century and a set from the 1930s-1950s, but very little in between. Some recent moves in our stores revealed that we have a bound copy of the “Streatham News and Wandsworth Chronicle” from 1915 – the majority of the stories in it relate to Streatham or are duplicated in other local newspapers, so its late discovery doesn’t mean too big an omission for this blog, but if has given us a chance to look at some of the adverts preparing the borough for Christmas 1915.

George Pratt & Co advertOn the front page is an advert encouraging shoppers to buy presents now if they want them to get to the Front in time for Christmas. A range of clothing was available – for Officers and for “Tommies”, although the advert does rather suggest that Officers were top priority. The absolutely storm proof “Dexter ‘Dug-Out’ Coat” with an oil silk lining sounds both appealing for the trenches and rather more expensive than many soldiers might have been able to afford.

George Rogers AdvertFurther down the same page, an advert for George Roger’s “The Wool Emporium” encourages knitters to think about mufflers and mittens for the troop – and emphasises how troops are worse off with the phrase “You feel cold – remember your relative or friend in the trenches”. Khaki and Navy wool were both on good value offers.

Streatham Empire

Pre-Christmas entertainment was available at one of the local cinemas. The Streatham Empire had several films showing, including advertising a Special Xmas Programme which featured The Little Matchseller and Puss in Boots amongst other. The Grey Ladies Orchestra was accompanying these between 6.30pm and 10.30pm.

Francis & Sons AdvertFor those thinking about preparing Christmas dinner, Francis & Sons on Streatham High Road, Brixton High Road and Balham High Road were offering a range of fare. There were turkeys, geese and capons, as well as “fine and ripe” Stilton. If anyone knows why SunnieVallee tea would be in lead-packet, then please do let us know – it was selling for 3s6d, which was over a shilling more than the Fine Ceylon tea. For dessert, there was an advert for Bird’s custard, transforming even a plain pudding “into a delicious treat”.Bird's Custard

Finally, why worry about Christmas shopping? Just buy everyone a book, from Bacon’s Library:

Books are the Best Gifts