Tag Archives: Ww2

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

The 11th Hour Of The 11th Day Of The 11th Month

Poignant Somme Symbolism, Rocking Dog

Poignant Somme Symbolism

Armistice Day has been commemorated for the last 98 years on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. It marks the day when the Armistice was signed at Compiegne, France between the allies of WW1 and Germany. It brought about the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front.

Beginning in 1939 the two minute silence was moved to the closest Sunday to 11th November. This decision was taken so as not to disrupt wartime munition production if 11th November fell on a weekday. After WW2 this Sunday was named Remembrance Day or Remembrance Sunday.

The Poppy worn in the lead up to, and on Remembrance Sunday itself came about as a result of the famous poem “In Flanders Fields” by Lt. Colonel John McCrae. A Canadian doctor, he was inspired to write the poem in 1915 after losing a friend at Ypres. The bleak battle torn ground was barren, but he witnessed resilient scarlet poppies struggling through the churned and barbed fields. Later an American academic Moina Michael, started making silk poppies which were brought over to England by a French woman Anna Guerin. In 1921 the British Legion was founded, and the organisation that year ordered 9 million poppies. The sale of these poppies raised a staggering £106,000, helping veterans with housing and employment.

Yesterday I went to College Green in Bristol to see the installation of “Shrouds of the Somme”. I witnessed servicemen meticulously laying out 19,240 12inch shrouded figures. The number represents the allied servicemen who died on the very first day of the Battle of the Somme. Somerset artist Rob Heard made the figures and personally wrapped and bound each figure with a hand stitched shroud. Studying a list from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission he systematically worked through the 19,240 fatalities, crossing off each name as a figurine had been given its shroud. Though I didn’t witness the exhibit in its entirety, it was truly poignant. The “Shrouds of the Somme” remains in Bristol until the 18th November.

Driving away from College Green I happened to notice that poor old Queen Victoria sited outside The Bristol Royal Marriot Hotel had been given a rubber gas mask by some joker. From experience she’s the butt of many a prank, for a student city we are!!

Today I will be remembering my grandfather John Warrington Scott (Royal Engineers) who was badly gassed in the trenches during WW1. As a consequence of the gas he died from stomach cancer aged 46 on Armistice Day 1941. Also remembering my lovely mum who died 31 years ago today. On a happier note Happy Birthday to lovely niece Iona who slipped out into the world on the bathroom floor 17 years ago today!

Shrouds Of The Somme, Rocking Dog

Shrouds Of The Somme

3 Of The 19,240, Rocking Dog

3 Of The 19,240

Gas Masked Royal, Rocking Dog

Gas Masked Royal

Grandfather John W. Scott, Rocking Dog

Grandfather John W. Scott

My Mum, Rocking Dog

My Mum

Niece Iona, Rocking Dog

Niece Iona

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 Day I Met A Holocaust Survivor.

Remembering, Rocking Dog

Remembering

Yesterday was Holocaust Memorial Day and with all the TV and radio coverage it made me think of my own personal and very precious memory of meeting a Holocaust survivor.

In the summer of 1991 Andy and I saw a small advert in a newspaper for an apartment to rent in the centre of Prague. Cheap flights booked we headed out minus children to the capital city of Czechoslovakia (in 1993 the Czech Republic was formed). Our living accommodation was reminiscent of a crackly black and white spy movie. With 1960’s Formica kitchen and a bathroom situated off the kitchen separated by a curtain it wasn’t luxurious, however, it was clean and a brilliant base to discover the city.

We found Prague to be beautiful with amazing Art Nouveau buildings, The Charles Bridge, Wenceslas Square, tube system and other architectural gems. Shopping was definitely one of the highlights, with tins of Caviar, Russian hats, Soviet tin space toys and political Matryoshka dolls being sold out of the boot of clapped out Trabant’s. Other retail browsing was done in a departmental store where you had to pass through a turnstile to look at aspirational western goods. These products included Levi jeans (so similar to the legendary Levi advert!) and Sindy dolls. There were shops selling a sparse array of vegetables, whilst others sold a handful of light bulbs or gloves. Soup kitchens to feed the workers provided rather grim soup and coarse bread for about 16 pence. Eating in Prague in 1991 was not a gastronomic experience with fruit and vegetables being particularly poor. However, we were only there for five days and not a lifetime, the lovely beer and wines rather compensated.

Having booked the trip rather last minute ( We were in the middle of a house build, with two jobs, and two lively children) we really hadn’t researched where to visit (no internet and no wonderful Top 10 DK guides). We visited the Tourist Information desk and were given a number of Must- Do’s including a pettrifyingly scary flight over the city in an old Cessna biplane. The other recommendation was to make a pilgrimage to Lidice.

So, one beautifully sunny August day we found ourselves on a public bus heading ten miles out of Prague to the new village of Lidice. Having done history at school the terrible fate of Lidice wasn’t something I had covered.

This is a very short potted history of what happened to this Czech village. On May 27th 1942 there was an assassination attempt on Reinhard Heydrich (the Butcher of Prague) who was Acting Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia. Heydrich died as a result of septicaemia a week later. Hitler sought revenge and raided 500 towns and villages attempting to find the two assassins and collaborators. In addition he ordered the total obliteration of a village. Lidice was chosen as it was suspected of harbouring local resistance partisans. Therefore on June 9th 1942 173 Lidice men were rounded up and shot. A further 11 men who weren’t in the village at the time were also later shot. Meanwhile 203 women and 105 children were assembled at the local school. On 12th June the women were taken by train to Ravensbruck concentration camp and were forced to work in road building, leather processing and in ammunition and textile factories. The majority of the children were gassed in Magirus gas vans at Chelmno. Seven children who were considered racially suitable were sent for Germanisation and handed over to SS families.

With all the villagers dealt with, pets killed, bodies dug from graveyards, and homes ransacked for valuables, the village was razed to the ground and bulldozed. The Nazis proudly proclaimed that the little village of Lidice, its residents and its very name were now blotted from memory.

Following the wars end only 17 children were to return “home”, whilst 153 women were liberated. Though Lidice was supposed to be eradicated from maps, many countries very quickly after the atrocities named towns, squares and roads after Lidice. Many girls were named Lidice and numerous memorial statues were erected throughout the world. In September 1942 coal miners from Stoke on Trent set up a fundraising organisation, “Lidice Shall Live” to raise funds for rebuilding the village. The first phase of housebuilding was completed in 1949 and survivors were able to live in the new Lidice.

On the site of the old village a Rose Garden with 29,000 roses from 32 countries was established. Whilst in 1967 The International Exhibition of Fine Art, Lidice was begun. It recognised the need to commemorate the lost generation of Lidice (together with other child war deaths worldwide) and invites on an annual basis submission of artwork from across the globe ( there are often 70 contributing countries ).

Back to 1991. Andy and I arrive at Lidice in truly gorgeous sunshine and I remember very little of the roses, but I do remember large sunny fields with corn and wild flowers gently swaying in the breeze. I also remember a building with photographs featuring all the men that had been shot on that fateful day. It was very moving.

Then we moved to the building that housed the annual Exhibition of Fine Art. We were looking at a range of wonderful art of all mediums and enjoying the diversity and quality of sculpture, painting, collage etc.. when we were approached by a very small elderly lady. She appeared frail and had rasping asthmatic breathing. In very broken English and with much emotion she told us that she had survived the concentration camp and rolled up her sleeve to expose her tattoo’d number. With ever increasing emotion she told us that her two children had died in the concentration camp ( presumably Chelmno ) and that her husband had been one of those 173 Lidice men that had been shot. By now I was finding it incredibly difficult to digest all that she was telling us. Finally she took us to a large oil painting of old Lidice. Pulling over a chair she took off her slipper and clambered up onto the chair. Using her slipper she pointed out the house she had lived in before everything changed that fateful day in June 1942. By now she was very tearful and her breathing increasingly laboured and we hugged. She offered us apples, which i’m ashamed to say I didn’t accept, I simply felt I wouldn’t have been able to say the word thank you as my heart felt as if it was in my mouth and with my breathing having stopped. Outside the building I wept. It was such a short meeting but one I have never forgotten. I consider it to have been a great privilege to have had those few short poignant moments. It is one thing to read accounts in books but quite another to meet a person having lived through such a momentous and terrible period in history.

We left Prague with some of those Soviet tin toys, hand made puppets, a chance meeting with a Scottish football manager and of most importance, memories of that truly amazing Holocaust survivor.

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