Calling all workers; a very different war

Calling all workers
Part of campaign to increase aircraft production during WWII               © IWM Art.IWM PST 14221

As we approach the 75 Year anniversary of Germany’s Surrender we find ourselves in strange times. Original plans for  VE Day Memorial Celebrations have been cancelled across the Country as our Government tells us we are at war once more. This time the enemy is invisible,  we are fighting on the Home Front, and our hospitals are  all too frequently the theatres of war. Once again community spirit is strong , connected in a primarily virtual world, people have come together to sing, to play, to offer advice for the garden and to organise tangible help for those in need.

For the first time in generations we have been subject to strict Government orders controlling our movements, the campaign slogan, has become the rallying cry of the daily briefings from Westminster.

Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives

If we are forced to venture out instructions are ever present as we are led through different working practices, enter medical establishments with trepidation, or warily face the food queues. Posters have been a key element of this campaign, stark, concise and emphatic in their message. They provide a swift insight into what is happening and what is expected of us, as we have moved through the last few weeks they have changed to reflect the latest requirements.

Similarly the posters of World War II provide an insight into the key campaigns throughout the six long years of war. Over 75 years later the success of the slogans is confirmed by our familiarity with them today.

Among the campaigns to promote the good health of the Country, botanists pharmacists and doctors worked alongside ministry officials on the Vegetable Drugs Committee to ensure the active ingredients for important medicines were available.

Herbs for war70 County Herb Committees were created along with 250 drying centres . Volunteers were recruited via institutions such as the Scouts, Girl Guides and the WI to forage for the required plants.

In May 1944 the Skegness Standard included a brief paragraph at the end of a WI report relaying information from the Lincolnshire County Herb Committee:

Stinging nettles are among the plants asked for in abundance this year to help Britain’s home produced medical supplies. Urgently needed are foxglove leaves and seeds for the heart. Autumn crocus seeds for rheumatism and deadly nightshade for the nerves.  


Humour was widely used to engage the public although this approach was understandably measured against the issue being addressed. The importance of moving children to safer rural areas, and allowing them to stay there, was approached with a mixture of encouragement and a suggestion of fear.

Children from the towns were moved to safety at the outbreak of war but, as the first few months remained quiet in the skies, problems were widely encountered as mothers sought the return of their children to the family home. Children from Grimsby began arriving in Skegness at the outbreak of hostilities, with over 300 arriving by bus on Friday 1st December 1939. Ladies of the WVS, councillors and other volunteers were on hand at the Tower Pavilion Distribution Centre to welcome the children and see them settled. In 1944 Alford councillors called for additional help at the school which was trying to cope with an additional 60 school meals due the accomodating evacuee children.

The evacuation of children from the towns and the blackout were among the earliest major changes to life on the homefront. Plans had been place for months with the local press reporting on Blackout preparations in April 1939. Alongside the report was confirmation that the evacuation census was virtually complete. Fifty six thousand from Leeds and 21,000 from Hull , mostly children, would be evacuated into the Lindsey area in the event of war.  A warning …

that isolated Lincolnshire villages could not regard themselves as being perfectly safe from the effects of air raids was given by Major James Henry Hadfield, of Alford, secretary of the North Lincolnshire branch of the Red Cross, this week. A great number of aerial battles would take place over Lincolnshire in war time because of the network of aerodromes, he said, and the probability would be that enemy bombers, en route for the densely populated areas, would, when attacked by fighter aircraft, discard their bombs in a hurry before reaching their objective. No one could foretell where a bomb might drop, and it was necessary, therefore that first-aid measures should be perfected both in the villages and in the towns.         Lincolnshire Standard and Boston Guardian – Sat. 15 April 1939


Art.IWMPST 14970

In the event the Blackout led to a large rise in accidents and personal injuries safety campaigns were extensive to encourage people to wear elements of white to help them to be seen.

The Punch Cartoonist Fougrasse designed The Blackout (below) free of charge for the Ministry of Information posters, he went on to do many more.

Time Flies was connected to the push for being productive in all areas of life. The Careless Talk Costs Lives poster is one of eight by the popular artist  related to the anti-gossip campaign for the ministry of information.

The British Government mobilised the civilian population for work desperately needed to support the war. The co-ordinated campaigns prescribed a way of life which lasted for many years beyond the war, elements of which remain ingrained within the fabric of our society today, allbeit diminishing down the generations. The Ministry of Information was created on 4th September 1939, the day following the outbreak of war, the control of information at home was a key responsibility, both in promoting campaigns and support for war work while suppressing news and censoring the press.

The civilian population must be kept fed and healthy in order to provide the labour for the huge war machine the Country had to become. Food rationing began in January of 1940, followed by clothing in June of 1941. Campaigns to Grow your Own , Dig for Victory and Make Do and Mend  were presented throughout Britain at a local level through institutions such as the Women’s Institute, the Scout Movement and local Horticultural Societies and gardening Clubs.

Funding the war effort was  the basis of more campaigns, the public were encouraged to save their money and buy war bonds to support the war, squandering cash on unrequired goods was frowned upon and recycling became the order of the day. At a local level the campaigns are reflected in snippets of news from the War years.

In 1939 Britain was reliant on food imports, the blockades of WW1 ensured that rationing was quickly introduced and families were encouraged to grow their own produce to supplement their diet with produce which was not on ration. Imported fruits and vegetables disappeared from the nation’s diet for some years. In December 1945 a Fyffe ship docked at Avonmouth with a consignment of 10 million bananas from Jamaica. They were the first bananas to reach Britain since 1940.

One relative who grew up in Skendleby recalls vividly her first sight of this strange fruit.  One of four children, all of the siblings were very reluctant  to try this new addition to their diet.

In January 1940 everyone received a ration book with coupons, including children. Sugar, meat and cheese purchases needed a coupon, other items worked on a points system that altered according to availability. Children and expectant mothers were a priority, from 1942 they received an increased milk ration. The provision of free milk to school children continued until 1971.

Local newspapers carried the declarations from the Ministry of Food explaining the food rationing system, registrations required with local butchers and grocers and, inevitably, the fines issued to both traders and housewives when the system had been abused. As the system was updated new information advertisements appeared.

In April 1940 the Skegness Standard reported on the Lindsey Federation of Women’s Institutes recent meeting in Louth: The produce guild had enrolled 175 members whose … first task  was to distribute the remarkably good collections of vegetable seeds purchased co-operatively the National Federation. They had had the help of Mr. Murray with their gardening, and he had drawn up a vegetable chart for them. In June it is proposed to hold several day conferences on ‘From Garden to Kitchen,’’ where they could learn in the morning how to grow their vegetables, and in the afternoon see how they could be cooked to the best advantage. Fruit preservation was perhaps the best side of the guild, which appeals to most members, and the County was prepared to arrange half-day schools in jam-making and fruit bottling or canning. Initially, to allow members to see the concrete results of this season’s work, a series of small produce exhibitions are to be held in September at some twelve different centres.                               Skegness Standard Wednesday 17th April 1940

Victory Garden Shows and competitions took place across the Lindsey district throughout the war years, as well as promoting the food campaign they raised also funds. In 1943 a series of shows across Lindsey raised over £5,700 for the Red Cross.

In June 1941 clothes rationing was introduced, manufacturing had been moved over to the production of weapons. The Make Do and Mend campaign was launched by the Board of Trade in 1942.  At a local level the WI picked up the baton for this campaign organising series of exhibitions on thrift craft. One such exhibition in Spilsby in 1944 was opened by Mrs P Godsmark who commended the thought, skill and ingenuity involved. The make and mend exhibits also received a special mention with dressmaking, renovations, gloves, slippers and household jobbery included.

The war on waste continued with a series of recycling campaigns. Rags were recycled for use in the creation of soldiers blankets and uniforms. Salvage campaigns for scrap metal large and small were also tremendously successful across the County.

In August 1940 the Lindsey Women’s Volunteer Services reported on their work in relation to the National Salvage Campaign to a correspondent from the Standard:

First all she said she was very pleased to be able to say that after one and a half years’ work there were now 3,300 members of the W.V.S. in Lindsey. She is full of admiration for not only the amount of work the women have done, but the way they stick to it, sometimes in the face of great difficulties. … Regarding salvage, the work has increased enormously in the last two months. For instance. W.V.S. has agreed to do all the collecting, sorting and baling of paper for the Caistor R.D.C. Quite recently the Horncastle Rural area was organised to assist the Council with their salvage scheme, and the W.V.S. Organiser  visited 70 villages and organised a salvage scheme in each one of them in under three weeks. The Sanitary Inspector is very pleased at the clean and tidy way in which the paper is coming in from the majority of the villages. In Skegness, the organiser had sets of pots and pans on the doorstep her office within ten minutes of  the radio broadcast, and within an hour she had an appeal on at one of the local cinemas from that afternoon. Another got permission to disply the wreckage of a German plane to explain to the public what the aluminium was needed forAll of this work is in addition to all the usual Civil Defence work —A.R.P., Hospital Services, Evacuation, and Transport. National Savings groups, canteens for the Forces, and many jobs that cannot be classified. For instance, apart from doing thousands of ration cards for the Food Controller, the women in one big coastal town have been disinfecting gas masks. Seventy women are working, and the greatest achievement was the disinfecting of 112 in one evening and the dismantling of 60 babies’ gas masks in the afternoon. Regarding the Civil Nursing Reserve,- 300 nursing auxiliaries have been interviewed by the W.V.S. Apart from endless work connected with evacuation all over the county, the Communal and Social Centre at ‘The Woodlands,” Woodhall Spa, has now been run by W.V.S. since September 11th. All the cooking, waiting, etc., has been entirely voluntary. W.V.S. have also been helping with the hostels for unbilletable children at Gainsborough and Linwood Rectory and Caistor.   

Skegness Standard -Wednesday 14th August 1940


The Salvage of Iron Railings for the War Effort               Copyright IWM HU57738

The National Salvage Campaigns included the scheduled requisition of iron railings across the Nation. Compensation of 25s / ton was available but people were urged to donate their railings to  the war effort. All railings were scheduled for removal unless their retenion was essential for reasons of safety; the enclosure of cattle or were deemed to be of historic or artistic merit. The last option provided the basis of an appeal for the owner but the local authority decision was final.  

In February of 1944 the Standard reported ” much dissatisfaction” in Alford regarding those railings which were not removed. The Parish Council was keen to underline that railings preventing cattle from accessing the poisonous yew trees and hedges were kept in place but the decisions were not theirs.

Along with details of the scheduled removals notices explained that the steel merchants and contractors were not benefiting from the metal removals.

In May of 1943 the Lincolnshire Standard and Boston Guradian reported that the Ministry of Work team had completed their scheduling in Lincolnshire.

As a result this comprehensive undertaking, some thousands tons of scrap metal have been scheduled, collected, trucked and dispatched to foundries to be transformed into ships, planes, tanks and guns. Although the locators’ task is over the work recovery of the scrap metal will continue in Lincolnshire for some weeks. [ they were still discussing the issues in Alford in 1944 ! ] In addition to the lifting of much heavy metal, and the dismantling of various buildings, there are still thousands of tons of light scrap and tins from destructor yards in different areas. The business of sorting, pressing and trucking this is difficult, and the percentage of tins collected in Lincolnshire has been abnormally high, three or four times higher than that usually encountered. Over 700 tons tins and light scrap have been removed from Lincoln destructor yard alone and a correspondingly heavy tonnage, also of tins and light scrap, have come from Caistor. Louth RDC, Alford Urban. Barton-on-Humber, Horncastle, Spilsby and Woodhall Spa. 

In addition to the salvage campaigns National Savings Campaigns were relentless …

Wanted for Sabotage (Art.IWM PST 3406) … Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

The Squanderbug was created by artist Phillip Boydell, an employee of the National Savings Committee. The Committee raised funds by urging the public to save their own money and invest it in the war effort. The cartoon bug appeared in press adverts and poster campaigns as a menace who encouraged shoppers to waste money rather than buy war savings certificates.

Alford frequently topped County tables for the various savings campaigns throughout the war.

In April 1940 the WI were counting up their collections for the War Finance Campaign, £63,000 was attributed to the Alford National Savings

In the War Weapons Week in June 1941 Alford raised a staggering £59,400 representing an average of £27 per person.

In 1942 they came top once again during Warship Week with a total of £31,427, raised by Whist Drives, Amateur Productions and Dances. In May 1944 the ” Salute the Soldier ” Campaign saw Alford receive the County Flag for their contribution of £6 16s 1d per head, in relation to £4 14s 5d for Market Rasen and £3 10s and 6d for Lincoln.


The pressure to feed the Country and protect shipping required more cultivation and women were encouraged to work on the land, enabling the men to join up. The Women’s Land Army was originally set up in 1917 but had disbanded at the end of the Great War. It was reformed in 1939 and volunteers were recruited, from December 1941 women could also be conscripted. As in the First World War the Land Girls undertook all aspects of work on the land and could be sent to any part of the Country.

In February 1943 The Standard reported on the the issues facing the Lincolnshire Farmers as discussed at the monthly NFU meeting. The labour shortage continued to be an issue;

The considerable help that had been given by school children was agreed, but it was felt that the boys from secondary schools might do more if the headmasters would permit it. Various instances were given of how readily offers of help had come from the masters of elementary senior schools, while too great stress was laid by the masters of secondary schools on the interference which land work had the boys’ preparations for examinations. It was felt that the Education Authorities might help in pointing out to the masters of secondary schools how helpful their boys could be.

It was also felt that the machinery for obtaining Italian Prisoners of war as land workers should be speeded up. At present it took from four to six weeks  to get a prisoner for billeting on a farm. It was very necessary to procure them in this way to emable them to start work with the other men. To employ them in gangs meant that they did not arrive on the farm until 10am and they were away again shortly after  4 p.m.

One of the assembly also drew the attention of the Executive to the Ministry Labour order directing farm men to leave the land and seek employment in tin and coal mines. It had been suggested that woman could do land work, but this was not altogether his experience. 

Skegness Standard – Wednesday 10th Feb 1943

The introduction of the Land Girls and Prisoners of War on the Farms did cause some  problems. In November 1943 a young man was convicted of maliciously wounding a land girl at Market Rasen. Frederick Cross had taken offence at her friendliness towards the Italian Prisoners of War following her refusal to go out with him on several occasions. The young woman received knife wounds.

A brief notice to the Home Guard in the Skegness Standard, August of 1940 suggests that during the heightened tensions of war the absence of spoken English was understandably a problem.

Home Guard

Dont forget that French, Polish, and Czech airmen are flying with the Royal Air Force. A solitary parachutist may be one of these and unable to speak English. If you see five or less they may be our own men.


IWM ARP Warden © IWM Art.IWM PST 13874
IWM ARP Warden © IWM Art.IWM PST 13874

The work done by the various defence organisations on the ground is too vast a subject to adequately cover here. A brief overview of the subject has been provided below taken from information in the Alford Town books published by Cooke and Crome in 1988/90 .


Alford’s Royal Observer Corps opened in June 1936 and had been mobilised on 24th August 1939. A Civil Defense unit was formed in Alford in 1939 which comprised 4 sections; Air Raid Wardens; First Aid; Ant-Gas Squad and a Rescue Squad. Training was frequently in conjunction with local Army Units. The Home Guard were formed in 1940, training took place on a Wednesday and Thursday supplemented by night exercises and Sunday parades in the Market Place.

Servicemen responsible for coastal defences were housed in local camps or in in family homes. An Artillery Training Battery was set up at Bilsby Park.


The warnings issued by Major Hadfield in April of 1939 were of course correct and Alford was no exception  In June 1940 a Heinkel flew along West St. firing randomly. The first enemy aircraft shotdown in Lincolnshire were three Dornier 17Zs in August 1940. One dropped into the North Sea, the other two crashed in Bilsby.

In June 1941 a Heinkell 111 was hit close to Alford, the pilot crash landed down at Reston. The aircraft was displayed in Alford Market Place.

On 7th September 1941 an enemy bomber machine gunned Alford Station, dropping an bomb on a large goods shed there. Arthur Bush, a railway porter on firewatch was killed.  Arthur and his wife Ellen had lived at 16 Commercial Road, he was 65 years of age, they had been married for over 40 years. the Civil Defense Rescue Squad worked through the night

In May 1942 Compulsory Enrolment in the Home Guard was announced in the Skegness Standard. All men in the County not already involved in the Civil Defense Service would be required to assist.

In July 1942 bombs were dropped on the lineside South of Willoughby Station. Around 500 tonnes of debris blocked the lines comprising of clay bricks, concrete, trees and hedging. The Stationmaster called in the gangers and the line to Grimsby was cleared in under three hours for the mail train. The permanent gang from Alford worked to clear the other line.

Beware the Butterfly Bomb
Copyright _IWM_PST_009505_A

In 1945 the Lincolnshire Echo posted a series of extracts from a County Constabulary booklet : Air Raids in Lincolnshire. The reports reveal the extraordinary disruption caused by thousands of Butterfly Bombs dropped accross Lincolnshire during the war years. These anti-personnel bombs detonated when touched.  In June 1943 Grimsby, Cleethropes and the outlying rural areas suffered a major air attack which included over three thousand Butterfly Bombs. The devices lay everywhere , fitted with clockwork fuse and a 30 minute delay mechanism. The large number of bombs required extensive searches in town and country by police, wardens and the Fire Service involving over 10,000 man hours in Grimsby alone.  In August 1943 a further 750 of the devices were dropped in one raid on rural districts, close to Horncastle.

The disruption in rural areas was complicated by the importance of protecting the crops, harvest was suspended until extensive searches had been carried out the brunt of which fell onto the police service. Many areas of Corn, Barley , Peas Clover and Grassland were systematically searched before being declared safe. Some areas were left as the floiage was too dense. In three areas tanks were used to tow reapers to gather  a crop which would otherwise have been lost.

Life on the Home front during WWII was one of deprivation and hard work.  Shortages were widespread, the war effort demanded time, money and hard work. The poster campaigns of the 1940s were very clear staying at home was not an option.


By the end of WWII 384,000 soldiers had been killed in combat, the civilian civilian death toll was 70,000 largely due to German bombing raids during the Blitz: 40,000 civilians died in the seven-month period between September 1940 and May 1941, almost half of them in London.

On 6th December 1944 the Skegness Standard reported on the stand down of the Home Guarrd. The final parade of the 10th (Lindsey Battalion) took place in Alford, large crowds gathered to watch the march past and stand down. The men assembled at Alford Town Station and marched to the school grounds. A dais had been erected in front of the White Horse Hotel to be used as a salute base. Representations of 7 Companies, 27 Platoons, numbering 1300 officers, NCOsand men marched past headed by the band of the Louth British Legion. The stand down took place in the senior school playground. Following a service by the Rev. Draper the hymn Onward Christian Soldiers was sung. Field Marshall Sie AA Montgomery-Massingberd read a message from the King:

for more than 4 years you have borne a heavy burden. Most of you have been engaged in long hours of work necessary to the prosecution of war or to maintaining the healthful life of the nation: and you have given a great portion of the time which should have been your own, to learning the skilled work of the soldier. By this patient and ungrudging effort you have built a force able to play an essential part in the defence of our threatened soil and liberty…

The National Anthem brought proceedings to a close, and as the battalion dispersed the British Legion band played Auld Lang Syne.

In December 1945 the Lincolnshire Echo reported that between June 5th 1940 and March 3rd 1945 116,384 bombs were dropped on Lincolnshire alone killing 408 people and injuring 1,233.

The Alford war memorial commemorates twenty two fallen  in WWII, 8 of whom lost their lives in 1944, Sapper Stanley Wheatley died in Italy in October 1945 following the end of the War. railwayman Arthur Bush appears in the book of Civilian fallen.

Messrs Cooke and Crome inform us that on 8th May 1945 the Church bells were rung for an hour, following a short informal service of Thanksgiving.

Later in the day a public bonfire took place on Park Lane Field where an effigy of Hitler was burned.




Victorian Valentines


vintage-ephemera-4090031_1920In February 1931 an article in the Lincolnshire Echo  welcomed the revival of the Valentine during the previous three or four years. The writer then reflected

“ How different , however, are these lovely sentimental messengers from the crude and rather repulsive caricatures which did duty in early Victorian days and which died a deserved death!”


Valentine 1877Valentine

In 1882 The Lincolnshire Chronicle reported : [in Alford]“St Valentines day, with the postal officials, was this year, as usual a busy one. Judging by the bulky mail bags and messengers bags, swollen out to enormous dimensions, the votive offerings, indicative, let us hope , of requited tender passion, were exceedingly numerous.”


The above adverts for Valentines in Victorian Alford made me wonder what they looked like. The first things that come to mind are the traditional chocolate box victorian card with a loving verse.

Personally the Comic Valentine promised in the second advert seems a much more interesting option.


The cards below are from 1875 , they are sometimes known as “Vinegar Valentines” , it is easy to see why.

Valentine's Card
Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & HoveRoyal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove


Valentine's Card
Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & HoveRoyal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove

My favourite find for the satirical Victorian Valentine verse was in the 1875 publication:

Love Lyrics and Valentine Verses for Young and Old 

Cod eyed Valentine

To a Cod-eyed Spinster

The very last that I should take

To Village church or minster,

For purposes connubial,

Would be a cod-eyed spinster.


I’m fond of cod for dinner,’tis

With me a favourite dish,

But I shouldn’t like to own a wife

With eyes just like a fish.


Time’s hourglass now is running low,

So be no longer jealous,

Make way for younger girls and cease

To hunt up us smart fellows.


I’d sooner marry a giraffe,

Hedgehog, or porcupine,

Than from the female sex select

A cod-eyed Valentine.


Happy Valentines Day


Valentine's Card
Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & HoveRoyal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove


I am having a ripping time here Paris is as full as it can be …

This is Dorothy’s last letter home following her war service, it is really just a short note from Paris where she was having a ball. After her 4 years of service in WW1 Dorothy returned to Alford but, by then a very independent young woman, she quickly headed to London. In July 1919 the Joint Women’s VAD Committee granted her a scholarship for training in X Ray work and , in 1920, she sat her examinations in Radiography and Medical Electricity at Guy’s Hospital.  She frequently stayed at the VAD Ladies Club in London . Dorothy worked as a Radiographer at the Royal Free Hospital where she met radiologist Dr Dulcie Staveley. The two colleagues shared a flat in Gloucester Place for many years before retiring to live at Ivy House in Alford together.

July 1919 VAD procession
A procession of Voluntary Aid Detachment nurses and personnel marches past a crowd of onlookers along the Mall in London. British Army personnel are also present and there are numerous flags flying from flagpoles and stone plinths along the road.                                             Â© IWM (Art.IWM ART 4037)

25th April 1919                                                                             28 Rue de Pontlieu, Paris VIII

My dearest Father

Never mind about the money it can’t be helped. I have borrowed £15 from Colonel Robinson so will you please send him a cheque for that amount.

I am having a ripping time here Paris is as full as it can be. I am going to see Tommy Sandall this afternoon and we may go out on the binge to-night. Yesterday morning I shopped and yesterday afternoon we went to the Louvre and the Pantheon. The former is in a terrible muddle as the treasures have only been brought back since armistice and nothing is where it was before. Last night we dined with the Robinsons: they had a party.

Best Love to you all

Your loving D

I have got two Belgian nurses in the service and I am teaching them as fast as I can …

VAD camp rouen 1919
 A Voluntary Aid Detachment camp Rouen 1919                     © IWM (Art.IWM ART 2886)

16th April 1919    HMB

My dearest Father

I don’t seem to have had any news of any of you for ages but I dare say you might say the same thing of me. I have been up to the eyes in work. I have got two Belgian nurses in the service and I am teaching them as fast as I can and doing a lot of clearing up, and making lists to simplify their work, and it is somewhat fatiguing.


However in a weeks time all will be over. I am terribly sad at leaving and wish I had been able to go on to Brussels with them, but they still don’t know when they will move: it may be next month or it may be June or July. As they once declared we should be there by the middle of February it’s a case of: I shall believe they are there when the train arrives at Brussels. However it no longer effects me as my hospital career ceases next Wednesday: I shall have just completed my four years foreign service. I have no word from you when or if the Indian family are coming home, or if you are servantless or if the others have recovered from”flu”.

I leave here on Wednesday morning and go to Paris to join Fraser where we shall stay until Sunday when we go to Boulogne and cross. Then we have to stay a day or two in town for BRCS formalities and I must get a rag or two of “civvies”  and I hope to be home about the 4th May. Did you send me some money by the way , and how much, as it hasn’t reached the bank yet? If you want to write to me after the 23rd my address is c/o Lieut-Colonel Robinson. 28 Rue de Ponthieu. Paris VIII till the 27th.

The weather is very variable, lots of rain at intervals and very windy.

I really must dry up now. I am knee –deep in packing and so forth.

Best love to you all

Your loving daughter


We often get a car or ambulance lent us to follow in which is ripping fun …

VAD ambulance drivers rouen 1919 large_000000
41st Auxiliary Ambulance Car Company, General Service V.A.D. Motor Convoy. Rouen 1919           © IWM (Q 8118)

29th March 1919                HMB

My dearest Mother

I hope by the time this reaches you the invalids will all be convalescent. You have indeed had a visitation. It is very bad luck on you all especially with your domestic troubles as well. I hope your cold and cough are better too.

You may expect me home about the beginning of May I think. I will wire you the precise date when I know it.  We are all leaving by driblets through the month of April. We have already got seven Belgian nurses here and more are coming. I have got one in the Electricity and am teaching her as hard as I can.

Will you ask Father to send my allowance out as usual please and may I have some money for travelling expenses, parting presents etc. please. I am perhaps going to Paris for three or four days on my way home, but I am not sure yet. It depends whether Fraser’s uncle and aunt who live there can do with her. If she goes I shall go, but if not I shall return to England direct. The men are full of grief at our departure and openly confess a great preference for English nurses, as also the doctors!!

When do Robin and Molly expect to go back to Canada. I hope I shall see them before they go. Have you any news of the Indian travellers and their movements? I’m so glad you liked the lace: I thought it might do to put on a dress or something like that, and I ‘m glad M was pleased with the brooch.

I have been out several times on Sundays to see the paper chase ( a species of the BEF hunt) all the men ride and there is a meet at some spot and then 4 “foxes” men with paper in bags, lay a trail and are given a certain start. One is the Master with a horn and other are hounds and they track the foxes by the paper scent and have a good cross country run and every hunter about 1 and half hours riding. There is always a large following and we often get a car or ambulance lent us to follow in which is ripping fun. Then we have tea at some mess, Remount, Cavalry Indian Gunners or some old place and then come home.

I must dry up now

Best love to you all

Ever your loving Dorothy.

We went into Monte Carlo and up to La Turbie by train …

The Hanbury Botanical Gardens remain a highlight of the Italian Riviera 100 years on 

My Dearest Mother

 I think I left off at the beginning of the trip to San Remo. We went to the cap and all packed into two big cars, they are like a touring car but wider and have an extra seat in the tonneau. One holds 8 and the other 10. We were six VADs, one little Sister from the Cap (she was Australian but in the QAs) exactly like the bird and not much bigger, a Frenchwoman and two daughters and son who was an aviator who had been invited by one of the officers at the cap and the rest of the 18 were officers. It was a gorgeous day, hazing sun and so forth. We left the cap just before 10 after going through Menton passed the frontier with many formalities and paper showing by both French and Italians. Then we stopped at the Villa Hanbury, between the frontier and Ventimiglia to look at the gardens which are quite wonderful. Old Sir Thomas Hanbury the brewer had the property and was buried there when he died, Lady Hanbury allows visitors on Mondays and Wednesdays. The garden is full of everything imaginable from tropical to wild plants. There were grapefruits that were as big as a child’s head growing on the trees and maidenhair fern growing on rocks in a wet grotto.

Then we went on and just by a Bersaglieri barracks on the cliff, just at the entrance to Ventimiglia, we burst a tyre. So we got out and photographed the Bersaglieri [Specialist Italian Marksmen], who were a handsome, athletic looking group of men, and then we walked down into the town, which is a dirty smelly little hole. Then the cars caught us up again and we went through Bordighera, which is pretty and clean-looking, and halted for lunch by the seashore just beyond the town. We had a very lively lunch in the blazing sun: I took a group [shot] on the rocks which ought to be quite amusing. Then after lunch we went on: the roads is marvellous the way it winds round the mountains half way up the slope. Between Ospedaletti and San Remo we saw Corsica quite plainly looking almost like a fairy place in the clouds.

When we got into the main street of San Remo we burst another tyre but as we were on the spot it didn’t matter much. We explored San Remo thoroughly: we bought post cards and posted them: I got some Kodak films which was very bon as one can’t get them in France. The old town is simply priceless: it is fairly smelly and very dingy, nothing but people and mules can go about in it as the streets are narrow and half of them are tunnels under houses and awfully steep. We had tea and then started back. Our car had engine trouble and climbed awfully badly however we got home safely.

The next day we went by special tram to Sospel. It is up in the mountains behind Menton. The train started from the cap about 9:30. 8 of us VADs went and the rest (about 30) were officers. The tram climbed up and up squeaking hideously all the time. When we got half way there at the highest point some of us disembarked and climbed up to Castillon, which is perched on an eminence while the tram goes through a tunnel below. It is a dear little village with a castle which is ruined by an earthquake. We could see snow-capped mountains further towards the inland quite distinctly: I took some photos which I hope may come out successfully.

Please excuse this awful scribble but I am continuing this letter in the train between Rouen and Paris and it is swaying dreadfully.

We explored the ruins and drank in the beauty of our surroundings: the lovely mountains so purple with their sides terraced with such infinite patience and covered with olive trees, and the little mountain streams trickling down their stony beds, and the blue hepaticas just coming along with the hyacinths and primroses and everything so warm and balmy: it seemed impossible that we were within a day’s journey of Paris which was cold with sleet and drizzle when I passed through it going South. We lunched at Castillon in a funny little café which called itself a hotel. We had hors d’oeuvres, omelette, stewed hare and fried potatoes, cheese and oranges. We were assisted by the two cats of the establishment, one black and one chintz [?] which circled round us or yowled incessantly except when they were fed with sardine remnants or hare bones. Even when we threw bones out of the open window they leapt after them, bolted them with unholy haste, returning singing like Hintze, who I fear was a Hun!

After lunch we set out to walk down the road to Sospel which is right at the foot of the mountains in a little hollow, 7 kilometres away. (Not quite 5 miles) We loitered down gently and arrived to find a dear little place on a stream with two quaint stone bridges across it, one with a house in the middle and then the same funny old town all huddled together. We had tea of sorts there and then came back in the tram. Wednesday we went into Monte Carlo and up to La Turbie by train. All these places are swamped with these damned gum chewing Yanks but one generally loses them out in the country. The Roman monument to the Emperor Octavius has been half pulled down by some vandal hands (probably Empire period) and used to build houses but there is a big piece left quite spoilt by having pink stucco houses squeezed up against it. We left La Turbie and went down a valley to the monastery of La Ghet where Notre Dame is supposed to work miracles. If people think she has worked a miracle for them they have to paint or get painted a picture illustrating the event. The consequence is that the walls of the monastery are covered with the most unique looking pictures of people falling down precipices and lying under trams and carts.  I never saw sucj a priceless collection: they made me choke with laughter. We walked back up to La Turbie and then on to Eze where we had lunch. Eze is a dear little village among the mountains with a ruined castle towering above the cottages. Then we climbed down a mule track to the lower Corniche road and did some real Alpine climbing to get down. We walked along till we caught a tram and got into Monte Carlo and had tea at the Hotel de Paris which is a very good place and then trammed home.

Thursday morning I went into Menton to shop for two girls who were leaving at midday and then I and the three men went as far as Nice with them and we got there and saw them off. Then they stood me a thumping lunch at Maxims and we strolled on the front and listened to the band. I saw some VADs from Cannes whom I knew, and two men from Rouen, and then we caught the express tram home.

Friday morning I went into Menton and in the afternoon I and another girl, and two of the men, went into Monte Carlo. We walked round and up and down the terraces, and saw many people strangely but doubtless fashionably clothed and then we went into the Café de Paris for tea where they have a the dansant and we saw all sorts on knuts dancing: lots of French theatrical people, chiefly bad hats I should think, and also Nungesser the famous French aviator. It was one of the most amusing places I have struck for a long time.

Next morning I nipped down to Menton for a final shop: the flowers were so lovely that I longed to send you some but the posts are so irregular here in France that they would have probably been as dead as mutton when they arrived so it wouldn’t have been much good.

I left Roquebrune about 12 with 3 others and all went well till we got about halfway between Cannes & Toulon. Then the engine drew up and after some time people began to walk about on the line and pick flowers, and so one of the others went to investigate and said that several people were lying on their backs gazing up into the engine’s internals and large chunks of iron were lying about. After some time we saw two black and grimy ruffians (the driver and the stoker) wandering along the line collecting large bars and things which had fallen off the engine and they proceeded back to the engine with a large bundle of spoil, but it wouldn’t go along, and a goods train, which came up behind, had to push us till a new engine (wired for) arrived from Toulon. This made us two hours late into Marseilles and over two hours late at Paris. I took my luggage over to the Gare St Lazare and then went to Colonel Robinson’s for lunch and got back here about 7:30.

 Since then I have been very busy as Dr Stouffs has gone up to Belgium on leave and I am in charge. I must dry up now: this is a very long screed: I hope not too full of drivel. I took some ripping photos while I was down there: they are jolly good some of them.

Best love to you all your loving Dorothy.

Everyone raves about the South and it is such a tremendous opportunity to see the Riviera in the season …

The Grand Hotel du Cap Martin became a Michelham Convalescent Home for British Officers:
     “Lady Michelham has taken over the hotel and pays all expenses for 200 officers, each staying for a fortnight or three weeks. It is run exactly like a hotel with civilian waiters.”

26/02/1919   Villa Roquebrune

My Dearest Mother

I received your letter of the 20th yesterday. You do seem to be having the most awful strafe with servants: what a curse they are. I wish I could help you but even over here the question is becoming acute.

I have looked everywhere for the Times marked by M: I didn’t forget it at all but I haven’t seen it and I haven’t missed a bundle. I thought she must have decided to keep it. I’ll look again when I get back. I got the papers here thanks very much for them. If Mrs Loy is laid up surely they will have the sense to make Mrs Marshall up. Where is Nellie Marshall now? They have demobbed 4 or 5 military hospitals at Rouen.

I know I am in disgrace with Tommy: I really have had such a lot on my hands lately that I haven’t had a minute for letters. You ask why I am on leave: well four months have elapsed since my last leave and since the armistice they are not so strict and, as a lot of people have terminated in our unit, it was really my turn for leave. Everyone raves about the South and it is such a tremendous opportunity to see the Riviera in the season and it doesn’t cost me a bean except what I am spending on motor drives and so forth. I’m not in the least ill, I was very tired after “the push”  but I picked up days ago.

Really the flu seems to have started off full tilt again: I am awfully sorry about Nancy Scott. I think it was Saturday when I wrote my last letter. Sunday morning four of us (all VADs) took our lunch down to the beach: there is a small strip of shingle between the rocks. There we were joined by three officers from the Michelham Convalescent Home at Cap Martin: it is only about 20 minutes walk, and 10 minutes in the tram from us. They also brought their lunch so we had a royal feast and then lay on our backs and basked in the sun. After that we climbed up to the old village at Roquebrune: about half way up the mountain side above us and only accessible by a small path. It is a most fascinating village with all the houses jumbled higgledy-piggledy on top of each other and the streets are narrow alleys going through archways under the houses. There is quite a fine ruined castle there which we duly explored and sat on the ramparts for some time watching the clouds scudding over the tops of the neighbouring peaks and looking out over the gorgeous blue blue sea. Then we finally started to go down and an ancient woman appeared from nowhere: one of the men was being very polite and opening a gate for her when she suddenly stooped down and she got her head bumped. She was furious and cursed him up hill and down dale in the most extraordinary patois. He looked so uncomfortable poor man that we all burst out laughing. Then we came back to the villa and tidied ourselves and went off to tea with this party at the cap. The Michelham home is a huge hotel on the very tip of the cap and they have an MO or two, a Matron, 2 Sisters and 4 VADs as staff. They have 200 convalescent officers, all sorts from pip squeaks to Generals. They are all of them up and about of course, lots of these are convalescing from broncho=pneumonia. They have a huge lounge there and can invite their friends to tea and so we all trotted in and had tea and listened to music. They have a fiddle and piano which discourses sweet music to them and on Sunday as a special treat Mr Moody of the Moody-Manners Open Company ( he is a Captain in the RASC down there convalescing) sang to us. He has a lovely voice and sang several songs delightfully.

Well I will stop and catch the post with this and write again describing our trip to San Remo of which I hope you will have received the post cards sent from there.

Best Love to you all your loving Dorothy.

PS: I am so glad to hear of Robin’s safe return, I thirst to hear his adventures.

I am arrived in the most beautiful place …

monte-carlo-seen-from-roquebrune.jpg!Large 1884 Claude Monet
The view of Monte Carlo from Roquebrune           Claude Monet 1884 

21/2/1919                                        Ville Roquebrune

My dearest Mother

Here I am really arrived in the most wonderful place. After 21 hours in the train I fetched up here, feeling inches deep in dirt and very sleepy. I will try and describe this place to you. The station is a wee place between Monte Carlo and Menton and on the opposite side of the bay in which Monte Carlo lies.  The villa is a gorgeous white house well over a 100 feet from the sea with a garden running down in terraces. I am now sitting on the lowest terrace looking out into the bay with sheer rock below me and a small place chipped out for the railway to run, about 40 feet below this terrace, and  then sheer down to the sea again, which is the most gorgeous real tourquoise blue and dashing against the rocks. Yesterday it was rainy and cold, today it is absolutely baking. The sky is very blue but full of white clouds so there is no sun glare. I am sitting in a thin Summer coat but I am sure I should be quite warm enough without it.  This is really a place for Army Sisters, when I arrived I was greeted very kindly by Miss Geddes, Matron in charge. I was taken to my room, which I share with a VAD Sister,  and I had a gorgeous hot bath and dressed for dinner.

The villa belongs to a Mrs Warre who has lent it for a convalescent home for Nursing Sisters. It is a most luxurious private house, beautifully furnished. There are nine Matrons in the house, I’m told some of them are Matrons in Chief so the atmosphere is a little overwhelming, but still one can dodge them pretty well. I have a lovely little white bed very comfy with mosquito curtains and three windows in the room and a balcony. Two of the windows lokk out over the bay. I don’t know if you’ve ever been out here but the vegetation is wonderful. Palms, oranges and lemons growing on trees, bougainvillea, geraniums, flowering cactus, mimosa, almonds, magnolias, heliotropes, roses and many other flowering shrubs, some of which I have never seen before, and some whose names I have forgotten, grow in the utmost profusion.

I had breakfast in bed this morning, after having gone to bed early and slept like a top.  Fried bacon, which I like now, toast and jam all beautifully served. The mountains which run up from behind us are lovely with clouds sitting on the top of them.

The journey down was rather trying I spent the day in Paris with Fraser’s uncle and aunt( having reported at the BRCS HQ and left my kit there ) I went back there in the evening and was motored to the Gare de Lyon and safely tucked into the 8:15pm express. We were six in our carriage, 4 army sisters and 2 VADs ( myself and another) The heat was appalling and we had to turn off the radiators ( all through the cold weather the carriages were almost unheated) I dozed in my corner waking up with cramp or pins and needles every few minutes. Shortly after Lyons I woke up for good to admire the Rhone Valley which is really lovely. The river was in spate all muddy and swirly and the willows and reeds all muddy too. The rocks in the foreground were muddy and the distant hills purple, all the houses built of mud or mud and stone with warm red tiled roofs which made lovely splashes of colour.  A little further and there were whole orchards of almond trees in full bloom and funny little twisted grey green trees. I wondered if they were olives. The express by which I will return tomorrow week has just rumbled past below me. We breakfasted early in the train and got very excited when we came to Avignon looking for the bridge. We saw two bridges but whether either was the celebrated pont I doubt.

At Marseilles we halted for half an hour to stretch our legs: the approach to Marseilles with the estuary is very pretty. After Marseilles we lunched , at least some of us did, and then I sat in the next apartment to my own which was VADs only and we yarned. The railway is most fascinatingly built all along the coastline with a constant view of the sea. Even in the grey misty rain yesterday the sea was blue.

Matron is over at Cannes, I’m going over to see her one of these days. I expect I shall be very busy when I get back as Stouffs is going on leave and I shall be left in sole charge of the shop.

Has Robin got home yet ? I quite expect to hear that he and I were in Paris or Marseilles on the same day.   It is very thrilling about John and Elsie I suppose they will be home about the middle of May. Are they coming for 6 months or a year ? He ought to get a year after being so long without leave. I suppose the kids will stay in England.

Did I tell you that the man who outed Asquith is Fraser’s cousin ? His son in law Sir George Stirling is Colonel of the Reinforcements Camp at Rouen. He is in the Indian army really but got badly pipped [shot] in the war and has this permanent base job now. He is quite a decent sort and we have seen a lot of him lately, he came to our dance and we saw him at the hostel dance and so forth.

I really must dry up now: I have no more news and the sun is scorching me.

Best love to you all

Your loving Dorothy.

We are having much heartburning over dancing …

Rouen Red Cross 1919
Red Cross Hostel Rouen 1919                                                            © IWM (Art.IWM ART 2888)

13/02/2019   HMB

My Dearest Father

Thank you very much for your letters and also for the handsome and generous holiday allowance which will be more than enough for my trip as the Red Cross pay my travelling expenses and keep me down there. I am going to Roquebrune, not to Cannes as there is a vacancy there on the 19th, so I shall leave here on the morning of the 18th, spend the day in Paris and catch the night Riviera Express. My address will be Villa Roquebrune, Cabbe Roquebrune, Alpes Maritimes, France. I get there on the 19th and leave again on the 1st. It will be a nice rest and a glorious opportunity for seeing the Riviera free of charge practically. The BRCS has these two places , one at Cannes, one at Roquebrune, (close to Menton)  where they send their nurses for a change and rest. I shall hope to go to Monte Carlo, but I shall have to beg borrow or steal some mufti [civvies] as we aren’t allowed in the rooms in uniform!!

We have had about a fortnight of bitter cold and I got a little skating but it has been thawing for two days now.

I don’t know if I told you all about our gorgeous run to the Somme front: I think I did but if not tell me and I’ll write you a long screed about it. I am lunching with Fraser’s aunt in Paris on Tuesday, the one we saw about 3 weeks ago when we went to Paris. We are having much heart burning over dancing: there have been rows about it in some places and very strict new orders have come out that we may only dance in our own quarters. It is rather silly and all comes from some silly regulation that the Army Sisters may not dance. One of our girls broke her leg the day before yesterday tobogganing.

I have got such a lovely Boche helmet, camouflaged, from the Somme battlefield with a hole in the top where a bullet pierced it and killed the owner I expect. We are pretty busy just now and I think Fraser will have her hands full when I go on leave. We are very unlucky among the staff just now, Three are up at sick sisters hospital, one with a broken leg, one with slight congestion of the lungs, and one with a septic finger which has infected the bone : she will have to have part of it amputated I’m afraid. It is the index finger of her right hand which is simply putrid black. I have x-rayed her several times and the bone is very much eaten away by suppuration.

We don’t know yet when the hospital proposes to move but it will possibly be next month.

I must dry up now and go to bed.

Best love to you all

Ever your loving Dorothy

Paris is simply stuffed with Americans; they are beastly people: I simply can’t stand them

_Bertha__(large_German_field_gun)_in_Concord_Park,_Paris._LCCN201664802129/01/1919                                      HMB

My Dearest Father

We seem to have been living in such a whirl lately that I have been remiss in the matter of correspondence. Last Sunday Fraser and I went to Paris, that is to say, we went on Saturday night and came back on Sunday night. She has an uncle who is a doctor in Paris and has a French wife. They put us up and were jolly decent to me. We had quite a good time: all the shops were shut and it was a beastly day, with snow and sleet and a bitter wind, but I enjoyed seeing all the trophies. The Place de la Concorde is full of them, including a Boche tank and heavy guns. The whole of the Champs Elysees is lined both sides with light guns and Trench Mortar Batteries. Paris is simply stuffed with Americans; they are beastly people: I simply can’t stand them.

The Sunday before that we had a great rag. The Remount Camp here get up a mounted paper chase nearly every Sunday and we went out to the meet, quite a lot of us in two ambulances! The meet was up in the forest and we saw a lot of people we knew. Then when they’d started we motored to another spot and saw them all ride past on the trail. Then we went down to the training school, a funny bare sandy plain full of trenches and lewis guns ranges and so forth. We ran across that on foot and got there just in time to see the finish. We went back to the Indian Gunner’s Mess and there I met Mr Ashcroft in the Indian Cavalry who had been told by B May to look me up. We had a topping tea there and then motored home in the faithful ambulance.

Last Monday we did a Pierrot show up here among ourselves which was quite a success. It was a farewell party to a very jolly NZ VAD who was leaving. Saturday we are to give a dance at the VAD club for our friends. Tuesday next I and Fraser are going to dance at the VAD hostel a fancy dress affair. Life has become very gay here since the armistice. We are very busy too with the electricity. We expect to move in March but it isn’t settled officially. It is bitterly cold with occasional falls of snow.

I must dry up now or I shall miss the post.

I am hoping to go to Cannes for a week in about a fortnight’s time at the BRCS expense: it is a great opportunity to see the Riviera on the cheap. I am tired and want a rest, I can’t get away than 9 or 10 days at the outside so it isn’t worth while coming to Blighty for a flying visit when I shall be home for keeps in a few months. I should be grateful for a little financial aid if convenient!!

Best love to you all.