Every Picture Tells a Story The Photo Album of Alice Gooch (nee Ulph)

From records held at the Norfolk Record Office. MC 3036

The popularity of albums, scrapbooks and autograph books during the First World War serves the historian well. They bring a visual perspective to the war and, in the case of postcards, express a sentimentality and emotion which may have been difficult to express in words.

While this blog uses only the photos and postcards from Alice Gooch’s photo album (MC 3036), there are many other such examples to be found at the Norfolk Record Office, some of which are included in the blog post on embroidered cards.

Alice was born in Norwich in 1893 and attended St Augustine’s School. She later worked as a machinist in the shoe industry.  Alice’s album is a substantial book and it must be testimony to how well she was thought of by her colleagues because it was given as a birthday present in 1915 with the inscription:

To Alice

Presented by the Workgirls

For her Birthday

August 9th 1915

Many postcards wished the recipient well, sending appropriate greetings to coincide with special events. The following postcard is ironic in its use of the swastika to send a good luck message given the events some twenty years later.  The swastika, a derivation of the Sanskrit word svastika means good luck.  The symbol had been used for thousands of years before Hitler adopted the symbol for the Nazi party.

Photo 1

Card from Sid in France.

This card was sent from Sid in France and reads: Just a few lines to let you know that I received a slight wound in right hand but it has healed up and am allright again & back with the Battalion.

None of Alice’s postcards or photos reveal names which allow us to find out who they were. Some names may have been family, there is one from Uncle George, while others have no connection with Norwich such as M MacLeod from the Cameron Highlanders. These were soldiers who Alice met while working at Bracondale Auxiliary War Hospital where she volunteered as a pantry maid at the weekends.

Photo 2

Postcard from Uncle George.

Photo 3

Postcard from M MacLeod of the Cameron Highlanders.

Two postcards appear to be linked although the connection to Alice is not clear. Both are from different members of the same family – the Ruscoes from Lancashire.

Photo 4

Postcard to Alice from Miss Ruscoe.

This postcard was sent to Alice from Miss Ruscoe of Southport as part of the “Girls Friend Exchange”.

Photo 5

Postcard from A Ruscoe.

This postcard was sent from A Ruscoe.  There are records showing an A Ruscoe serving in the Lancashire Fusiliers who was invalided out of the Army after being wounded in France in 1918.

Alice’s album also contains several photos. Again, we have some names but know nothing else about them.

Photo 6

Photo of ‘Harry Newman’.

The back of this photo has the name ‘Harry Newman’.  It would be lovely to know which one he is and what happened to him.

Photo 7

Photo of unidentified solider.

Who is this young man standing proudly in his uniform?

The back reads: With fond love Freddie.

Alice’s album captures a period in time when an uncertain future strengthened friendships through correspondence and photos. Her album continued for some time after the war.

Compiled by Daryl Long, NRO Research Blogger

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Heigham Woodbine Willie and the “Kindly Dole”

Tobacco Funds in the First World War

From the Records of St Barnabas Church, Heigham and the Meade Family Records held at the Norfolk Record Office (ACC 2007/9 Box 20 and MEA 11/112, 663×6)

When you are privileged enough to read the personal letters shared between soldiers at the Front and family and friends back home, common threads reveal themselves. There is the need for news from home. There is the often unsaid appeal that, having been away for so long, the soldiers have not been forgotten. Then there is the gratitude for gifts sent which did much to not only alleviate physical discomforts but also bring some morale-boosting pleasure to the tedium and dangers of the battlefield. It is in this final context that cigarettes played such a huge role in boosting the morale of the troops during the First World War.

In October 2014 Lord Kitchener asked that a ‘Smokes for Soldiers and Sailors Fund’ be set up for those on active service as well as those in hospitals and convalescent homes. At the time there was no real awareness of the dangers of smoking and cigarettes were greatly enjoyed by many, as described in the correspondence of the Amherst sisters. The Post Office helped facilitate this by allowing cigarettes to be sent by the cheaper letter post instead of parcel post. Customs duty in France was also waived.

This blog looks at two sets of records held at the Norfolk Record Office. Each illustrates a different approach to Lord Kitchener’s request. The illustrations are all taken from the Meade collection.

The newspaper ‘The Weekly Dispatch’ set up ‘The Weekly Dispatch Tobacco Fund’. Their slogan was ‘Every 6d will gladden the heart of a HERO’.  Subscribers would pay into the Fund.  Cigarettes would then be sent out to the troops along with an addressed postcard for the recipients to reply to the donor. Some of the postcards asked that the returned card be subsequently sent on to the Tobacco Fund to stimulate more subscriptions. The postcards featured different cartoons on the front.

photo-1-more-baccy-cropped

Caption reads ‘More BACCY. Better fighting. Quicker Peace. Vere SAP.’ Norfolk Record Office: MEA 11/112, 663X6.

The soldiers’ replies were a mixture of gratitude and insight into life at the Front:

Just a line to thank you for your parcel of tobacco and cigarettes of which I was the lucky recipient.  It is indeed a great source of comfort to have tobacco to smoke while in the trenches, for which we have to rely on the generosity of our kind friends at home.  I cannot sufficiently express my gratitude to you for your kindness, the packet arrived just at the time when I was wondering where the next smoke was coming from.

 It comes a pleasure when you are in the trenches for that is all you can do except watch one another for the ground (is) very wet.

Just received cigarettes from the firm mentioned on the other side of card from you.   I was very pleased and also some of my comrades who I have been sharing them with.  These little comforts help to cheer us up a bit and it’s nice to know that we are not forgot in the old land.

Having just come out of the trenches we find it very refreshing to sit down and take a nice quiet smoke.

photo-2-message-of-thanks-cropped

A message of thanks for cigarettes and tobacco received. NRO: MEA 11/112, 663X6

While the Meade family responded to a national appeal, Samuel Frederick Leighton Green set up his own tobacco fund within his parish of St Barnabas Church in Heigham, Norwich.

Green was an army chaplain from February 1916 to February 1919. He served with distinction throughout that time working alongside his London Regiment on the Front.  Each month he would write a letter to his parishioners which would be published in the parish magazine and it was through this that the ‘Mag-Fag Fund’ was established. The collection of Green’s letter was put together in the booklet ‘The Happy Padre’ (NRO: ACC 2007/9 Box 20).

Almost every letter Green wrote made some reference to the ‘Mag-Fag Fund’ and how important cigarettes were to the troops. He was ably abetted by Mr Frazer from St Barnabas who ran the fund from the church. In his very first letter Green wrote:

March 1916.  The Vicar has kindly consented to a fund at St Barnabas . . . There is one chronic complaint  which you can all help to control. It is lack of cigarettes. True the Army rations include forty cigarettes on every Sunday morning. This kindly dole alleviates the complaint for some thirty-six hours, and then it breaks out vehemently again.

photo-3-a-smoke-is-meat-and-drink-cropped

Caption reads ‘A smoke is meat and drink to us out here’. NRO: MEA 11/112, 663X6

Green made sure his parishioners knew how important the cigarettes were to the soldiers and also how it aided his work as an army chaplain.

April 1916.  Let me thank you for the first parcel of goods for this station from the “Mag-Fag” Fund. . . If you could only see the faces of the recipients, as I go round the ward with your cigarettes and magazines.. . . . He (the army chaplain) must needs be a good listener . . . . there is little need for him to talk when once the ice is broken.  At this point your cigarettes and papers come in useful to cement the friendly relationship established.

When Green had leave he returned to St Barnabas and kept up his efforts to raise money for the ‘Mag-Fag Fund’. In March 1917 he visited families and collected for the fund and in August 1917, again on leave, a concert was held.

Maintaining the momentum of the Fund was a constant theme in Green’s letters. He did this by continually expressing his thanks to the parishioners and giving examples of how their funds made an impact on troop morale.

December 1916. I hope too that the Vicar will agree to the carrying on of our “Mag-Fag” Fund in the interest of my Battalions. In the trenches both run short from time to time and I shall always be glad to fill my pack with cigarettes and magazines as I go on my wandering in the trenches. 

February 1917. A cigarette makes all the difference when you are cold, and have to stand about, and somehow or other we view a bombardment in a different light if we have a cigarette between our lips.

May 1917. During the battle a Company Commander sent me a message: “Not a single man in my Company has had a cigarette for two days.  Can you help me?”  Fortunately I had one of my parcels in the rear. I sent for it and took it up, and earned undying gratitude. Well carry on and buck up the Mag-Fag Fund and earn some more gratitude.

July 1917.  Green wrote about receiving a note which read as follows:  “Dear Padre.  Can you help us?  We have been in this first line five days, there is not a fag amongst my men.  The Boche is shelling like blazes.  Yours etc. A-B Capt. O.C.C.Co.”

photo-4-are-we-downhearted-cropped

Caption reads ‘Are we downhearted?’. NRO: MEA 11/112, 663X6

Green became known as ‘Heigham Woodbine Willie’ because of his own, local tobacco fund. The original ‘Woodbine Willie’ was the Revd Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy who was well-known for handing out cigarettes in the trenches.

During the war Green was badly gassed and wounded. He was awarded the Military Cross and bar. After the war he returned to St Barnabas then moved to Mundesley in 1921. He died suddenly in 1929 and was accorded by the War Office a funeral with full military honours.

Compiled by Daryl Long, NRO Research Blogger.

 

 

The Lighter Side of War – An Exhibition

An Exhibition Commemorating World War One

Docking Ripper Hall

Opens 2pm Saturday 2nd August then 10-4 every Friday-Monday 10-4 throughout August

 

This exciting sounding exhibition being held in Docking is taking the lighter side of war as its main theme with a focus on Great War humour, especially through the ‘comic’ postcards that were available for soldiers to send home from the Front.

To balance this out there will also be displays of material relating to the Zeppelin attacks on the North Norfolk Coast,  to the aircraft factory Boulton and Paul and many other items.

Refreshments with a World War One them will be on sale when the exhibition is open as well as reproduction postcards.

A great number of books will be available for those interested in reading more about the war, postcards and Norfolk.

Entry is £2 for adults and £1 for concessions on the first visit but half price on subsequent visits.

docking event