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

16-22 November 1915: 3rd London General Hospital – women, supplies and transport

The November edition of the 3rd London General Hospital Gazette includes an editorial on “Our New Orderlies”, a long-talked of experiment which had been introduced a few days before publication, and which had met with “a certain amount of criticism and even covert hostility”. This experiment was the introduction of female orderlies, previously considered a male job and one which some were obviously reluctant to see taken over by women. The Hospital had been one of the first to foresee an upcoming shortage of both RAMC men and trained nurses, so had encouraged the recruitment of VADs when other institutions were less keen. The article praises VADs for freeing up specialist nurses to go elsewhere, and now for doing the same for orderlies. Some of the men who were under 19 when they first enlisted had been freed up to join the hospital ships, which were apparently coveted posts. Some were referring to the new orderlies as “the orderlettes”, with a cartoon in a later edition of the Gazette showing “Orderlettes” and “Orderlims”, but overall the work was appreciated.

The Gazette also contains hospital statistics, including from the kitchen and the linen stores. This was the main kitchen, there was also an officers’ ward kitchen, an infirmary kitchen, the nurses’ kitchen and kitchens for the orderlies and sergeants’ messes. The main kitchen cooked for the patients, for two diets – Special and Ordinary. Patients on an Ordinary Diet got meat such as roast beef, mutton, boiled beef and stewed steak. Special included roast and boiled chicken, fish, beef tea and chicken or mutton broths. In one day, the hospital got through 700lb of meat for ordinary diets, 100lb of fish, 100 chickens, 600lb of potatoes, 350lb of cabbage, 100lb carrots, 100lb turnips and 50lb of onions. On average, 50 gallons of milk were used each day. The Stewards’ Store issued still more food – 1000lb of bread passed through every day, as well as 100lb of oatmeal and 23lb of tea, and in a week they distributed 2 tons of potatoes and 400 siphons of soda water and lemonade. The article goes on to give details of the supplies that the laundry and other departments responsible for cleaning got through, and finishes with a check on the consumption of tobacco. In an average morning, 5500 cigarettes were given out and 92oz of pipe tobacco – the write wondered if this was enough to roll into “one fabulous fag [to] stretch from here to the trenches at the Front”, and hoped a reader might let him know.

3rd LGH - Night Arrival of Wounded Nov 1915One of the illustrations, by C R W Nevinson, shows the Night Arrival of Wounded, and is above an article on the homecoming of Prisoners of War to the hospital on October 7th. Patients came in through Clapham Junction and were transferred over to the hospital by car or ambulance, and on this occasion each of the men arrived was given a rose and helped in to one of the waiting cars. The giver of the rose was a Mrs Dent, with her husband Lancelot she had started a volunteer transport between the station and the hospital – covered by another article in the same Gazette. Stretcher bearers included men who had to stay at home for various reasons, and would now leave work to come and help with the unloading. In a year, the volunteers had moved 45,715 men – 13,452 of them on stretchers.

3rd London General Hospital Gazette available in the Heritage Service