Tag Archives: Royal Navy

Great Little Exhibition-Parcels Of Comfort

Knitting List,Rocking Dog

Knitting List

Last week I went to a great little exhibition, “Parcels of Comfort”. Until January 8th people can visit this poignant space at Bristol Cathedral. Parcels of Comfort examines the story of the importance of parcels sent to the front during WW1. The British Army considered the delivery of letters and parcels to servicemen as vital as delivering rations and ammunition.

Parcels and letters provided an amazing boost to the morale of the troops, especially those suffering the mud, lice, cold and deprivation of life in the trenches.

This exhibition uses small room sets to create the environment where loved ones would knit and sew useful items to send out to the boys. Warm woollen socks, gloves and under-garments would undoubtedly have made the recipient more comfortable. Five local textile artists, together with GCSE textile students from a Bristol school have used hand-stitching and mixed media to cleverly recreate the atmosphere of home during WW1. The knitted items for the exhibition were created from original wartime patterns.

I loved the embroidered tea and soap packet, together with the embroidered addressed linen parcels.

I am fortunate to have my great Aunt Susan’s postcards sent to my Grandmother from France where she was serving as a nurse. Two of her cards mention the fact that the parcel of sweets hadn’t arrived. Then, another postcard thanking the family for the parcel.

Later in time, my father Doug, served in the Royal Navy during WW2. A bundle of letters written by my father to his aunt and uncle have survived. Egypt, Australia, Shanghai, my dad was obviously hopeful there’d be mail waiting for him at his next port. From all this correspondence it was evident just how much he loved hearing news from home. One letter carries a list, messages and signatures of all the guests who attended his sisters wedding in Scotland.

If you live local to Bristol I can really recommend this little exhibition. Perhaps you can tie it in with a delicious visit to the renowned Ice Cream parlour “Swoon” which is close by on Park Street.

Whilst on a war theme, I am heading to Clifton Cathedral on Friday to see the 1916 silent film The Battle of the Somme. It is accompanied by Laura Rossi’s orchestral score, performed by the newly formed Bristol Symphony Orchestra. I need to remember to take a box of “Man-size” with me.

 

Great Aunt Susan is the nurse holding the lantern. Grandfather, John Warrington Scott is the cheeky looking soldier back right.

Embroidered Wall,Rocking Dog

Embroidered Wall

Parcel Of Comfort,Rocking Dog

Parcel Of Comfort

Wool & Embroidery Silk,Rocking Dog

Wool & Embroidery Silk

Aunt Susan Person Of Comfort,Rocking Dog

Aunt Susan Person Of Comfort

WW1 Grandfather,Rocking Dog

WW1 Grandfather

WW2 Navy Dad,Rocking Dog

WW2 Navy Dad

Nellie’s Diary Entry. Remembering VE Day.

The Ages Of Nellie, Rocking Dog

The Ages Of Nellie

I have been thinking about the 70th anniversary of VE Day. I have also remembered my Grandmother Nellie’s diary entry for 8th May 1945. It simply read “War Over. Blackened fireplace.” I love the statement, you’d somehow expect something a little more euphoric after five and a half years of war. It is difficult to fathom her apparent lack of elation considering the family lived on the Essex coast. My Mum recalled witnessing the red glow of London ablaze, terrifying Doodlebugs and the constant drone of aircraft. There were frequent air raids and Mum hated the smell of the rubber gas masks. I remember her telling me that she felt particularly sorry for babies encased in the specially designed Mickey Mouse masks. I don’t think we can appreciate just how simply terrifying it all must have been. Together with the impact of rationing, worrying about loved ones, sleep deprivation, housing and transport difficulties life must have been fraught for the nation.

So…. my Grandmother felt the compelling need to blacken the fireplace on VE day. Nellie’s diary unfortunately was not one of those diaries worthy of inclusion in a museum to demonstrate the plight of those on the home front. Indeed entries were sparse but there were monthly “Red Letter Day” entries. Nellie’s husband Newsome was employed in a reserved occupation and thus at home. Pregnancy could have been a definite and inconvenient wartime possibility.

Wartime rationing left Nellie with a compelling need to hoard food and when she died in 1975 there was much to deal with! I remember numerous jars of Heinz Sandwich Spread, Marmite and Shipphams paste. There were tinned peas, packets of Typhoo tea and bags and bags of sugar. Most disturbingly there was a large bucket of eggs which had been preserved in Isinglass. Isinglass is a substance obtained from the dried air bladders of fish, and it was used to preserve eggs during WW2. The Isinglass would be dissolved in a bucket of water and then the eggs would be submerged in the solution. It would preserve the eggs for between 6 months and a year. We take eggs so much for granted today but during the war the standard weekly ration for a person was 1 egg or a packet of dried egg which equated to twelve eggs. Vegetarians were allocated two eggs. My late Dad recalled loving omelettes made from dried eggs.

Nellie’s 1975 eggs had a grey furry appearance and looked decidedly unappetising, especially in the eyes of three squeamish teenagers! As my mother had also grown up with a wartime “waste not” mentality the eggs in their bucket lurked for a month or two in our house. Eventually, even Mum realised she couldn’t quite bring herself to use the egg hoard.

I include photo’s of family, especially of my Dad who loved his time at sea during WW2. War for Doug strangely provided a wonderful opportunity to see the world, and he sent numerous letters detailing his travels. A stash of letters sent to his aunt and uncle survive and describe in detail stops in Malta, Egypt, the Far East and Australasia. I find it fascinating that my Dad could write, whilst serving in the QARANC in Germany my Mum was always the one who wrote. Very occasionally Dad would add his name and a kiss, and I appreciated that.

Doug’s Certificate of Service has helped me pinpoint where he was in the world at particular points in the war. Indeed I discovered that his ship HMS Belfast, took part in the Scharnhorst Action in the Arctic Circle. The German Battleship “Scharnhorst” was destroyed with the loss of 1,932 men (36 survivors) on 26th December 1943. A few years ago whilst on a cruise up to The North Cape I found it very poignant that I was sailing in the same waters that my Dad was sending and receiving coded messages deep in the bowels of The Belfast. Furthermore, I thought of all those from both sides who had perished at sea, and I shed a tear for them.

I am grateful that my Dad’s letters have miraculously survived, together with a touching archive of naval photo’s, documents and medals.

We as a generation have witnessed the passing of the last veterans of WW1 and now are likely to witness the sad demise of the last veterans of WW2. I feel it is vital to try and gain first hand accounts of war and the home front whilst we still can.

My Dad Could Write!, Rocking Dog

My Dad Could Write!

From A Boy To A Man. WW2, Rocking Dog

From A Boy To A Man. WW2

Fading Family Photo's, Rocking Dog

Fading Family Photo’s

The War Told in Fabric

Wedding July 1945, Rocking Dog

Wedding July 1945

I came across this photo of my Aunt Margaret and Uncle Alec whilst on my cleaning blitz. Their wedding in Edinburgh took place in July 1945, just two months after war had ended in Europe. I have no idea whether Margaret’s dress was a dress that had been borrowed as was common during the years of rationing, or whether it was made from silk rescued from a parachute. Parachutes were much in demand for the making of underwear, nightwear and wedding dresses.

Clothing rationing was brought in during 1941 so that factories and their workers could be freed up for the making of armaments. Additionally, there were difficulties in importing raw materials due to the bombing of merchant shipping. Rationing made for a fair system for the population and everyone was issued with a ration book with coupons to purchase clothing. Clothing rationing unbelievably continued until 1949. Furnishing fabric was rationed later than dress fabrics and for a time many women used these fabrics to make clothes. The amount of buttons, trimmings, skirt length and fullness were tightly governed. Many men were miffed that trousers could no longer sport turn ups.

The Utility Scheme was launched by the British Board of Trade in 1943 and offered people a range of well designed, good quality and price controlled clothing. Indeed this scheme not only covered clothing but footwear, furniture and home textiles. Utility items carried the CC41 logo. It is likely the CC stood for Civilian Clothing but another interpretation could be Controlled Commodity. 41 signifies the year that clothing rationing began.

The photo below of the fabric with the whimsical castle etc.. is Utility fabric. I bought this in an antique shop in Marlborough a few years ago and have a few yards (or should I politically correctly say metres!) I found a CC41 mark along its border, and now can’t find it to photograph! I have upholstered a 1930’s child’s chair with it but am feeling rather miserly about what to do with the remainder.

The 1942 Australia label is stitched to a scratchy wool blanket which my dad Doug bought back in his kit bag whilst serving as a telegraphist in the Royal Navy. In fact Doug missed his sister Margaret’s wedding because he was serving in the far east. War finally ended on 2nd September 1945 and my dad came home. I remember seeing his Navy whites neatly folded in a bedroom drawer in the late 60’s, but eventually there must have been a culling process, and now there are just the photo’s and a medal or two.

The War told in Fabric.

Utility Whimsy, Rocking Dog

Utility Whimsy

Kit Bag Blanket, Rocking Dog

Kit Bag Blanket

We Are Sailing, Rocking Dog

We Are Sailing