Saturday, 25 April 2015

Captain Roger Francis Draper

Recently, Ancestry has begun to upload WWI War Diaries from The National Archives. 

I was very pleased to discover that the Ancestry collection includes the war diaries of my great grandfather's battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment, which landed at Suvla Bay, Gallipoli on the 6th August 1915. 

At the moment, the available diaries are not indexed by name, just by date, location, regiment and unit. So whilst reading through both versions of the diary (handwritten and typed) for the months of August and September, looking for references to my great grandfather, I kept an eye out for Captain Roger Francis Draper, of whom I wrote last year

All my previous research had led me to believe that Captain Draper was killed in action on the 22nd August 1915. However, according to the 6th Battalion's war diary, he died or was mortally wounded on the 21st August.

As I read over the entries, I realised that the confusion over dates might have occurred because the man responsible for compiling the diary, Captain and Adjutant VTR Ford was also wounded on the 21st August! As a result, Captain Ford had to write up his usual review of the day's events at a much later date than was usual.  

The handwritten copy was originally dated for the 22nd August but amended to read the 21st. It doesn't mention Captain Draper at all.  

It is the typed 'good' copy that references Captain Draper on the 21st August 1915. Probably because his name was added to the details given in the handwritten version, the diary is ambiguous as to whether he was killed outright or was severely wounded.

Perhaps this small discrepancy is only a minor point but it highlights the fact that official war diaries were written by men who were not just observing from the sidelines. Like many a useful genealogical resource, we need to bear in mind that these surviving original documents may be a second or even third 'good' copy, cobbled together from hastily scribbled notes, sometime after the event. 

© Emmy Eustace

Thursday, 16 April 2015


Postcard by Capt Bruce Bairnsfather
The Chevrons Club opened on the 7th February 1918. It offered Non Commissioned Officers on leave a place to stay in London. Conveniently situated near Victoria Station, the Club provided guests with a hot meal, a bath and a bed, with the chance to relax with a smoke and a game of billiards for just 1 shilling a night or 5 shillings a year.

I have a pile of paperwork relating to the Club's early years. This unique collection paints a picture of an organisation with big plans and good intentions (branches in major naval and inland towns and the Dominions, local unemployment bureaus, war memorials etc). 

Chevrons Club 1918 from Flight Magazine via
Although by 1919 the Chevrons Club had a healthy 1,745 members (including 112 Canadians and 227 Australians), subscriptions alone were not enough to keep an increasingly expensive operation afloat. Clearly, this was due (in part at least) to overspending by an Executive Committee comprised of (mainly) senior ranking officers from the armed services, adept at persuading various wealthy friends and colleagues to make hefty donations but inadequate as managers of a residential London club.

In order to help raise £150,000 to continue the extension of the St George's Square headquarters and to establish local clubs, the Executive Committee organised a dance, hosted by everyone's favourite fundraiser, George Robey

The grandly titled 'George Robey's Ball' was held on the 5th June 1919 at The Queen's Hall, in Langham Place, London. 

I'm thrilled to say that I've discovered a hitherto undated clip of film from the night in question, on the British Pathé website:
If you follow the link, you'll see that it features George Robey, working the dance floor in his rather creepy 'Prime Minister of Mirth' persona.

Given all the effort involved, the ball made a regrettable loss of about £55, a sum which ignored the "problematical £20 due from Mr Geo. Robey".

Not unreasonably, at their next AGM the membership passed a "vote of censure" of the Executive Comittee's administration, "in view of the colossal losses incurred under their management". The vote was dismissed as "the action of a few malcontents"

Seemingly unrepentant and undaunted, the Committee's plans grew more ambitious: a boxing tournament between the British and French Services, held at Holborn Stadium on 22nd June 1920. 

The Boxing Committee, fully expecting a capacity crowd of 3000, spent a whopping £770 on the match. Expenditure included: £72 on the stadium, £60 on unsold programmes, £116 on a press agents' lunch and advertising, £100 on medallions and £68 on 'tube railway' posters.

In the end they sold a paltry 705 tickets, which amounted to receipts of only £525 - another colossal loss.

The Finance Committee Secretary, LJ Farries Esq announced the "adverse balance" in his report to the Executive Committee of July 1920. 

Staggeringly, he managed to blame the French ("the French were entirely responsible") for delaying the match until it was too late in the boxing season. 

In addition, he quoted the "failure of the Goddard-Moran fight" which temporarily closed the stadium box office and a lack of public interest because "the boxing public have been surfeited with boomed matches on which enormous sums have been spent in advertising and nothing short of a sensation will now draw the people, as witness the farcical Burns-Beckett fight".

Perhaps the most disappointing factor of all was the "prevailing apathy" of the armed forces themselves. Farries lamented that "Guards' officers came in some numbers but I doubt if we sold 10 tickets in the War Office or Admiralty; as regards the men I had printed a leaflet...offering service men in uniform half-price seats - not one was sold".

By August 1920, membership had dropped to 930 and part of the newly acquired premises (No. 82 St George's Square) had to be surrendered for a much needed £180.

Based on this downward trajectory, I was gladdened to learn that the Chevrons Club managed to survive the efforts of its first Executive Committee. In fact, it must have prospered, as the St George's Square headquarters were still open in October 1940 when they were bombed by the Luftwaffe.1 Eventually, the Club moved to Dorset Square, where it stayed, until its closure around 1972.2   

Detail from The Chevrons Club Christmas Card 1919


1/ '23/10/40 Bombed out at the Chevrons Club' Letter written by Elydyr Lewis from the Blog entitled "Letters from London WWII" Originally posted 6th September 2011. 
2/ 'The Last Days of the Chevrons Club' 1972 The National Archives Ref: AIR 2/18841 & AIR 2/18842 

Friday, 3 October 2014

Situation Vacant: the Servant Problem in Edwardian England

"Mrs Hunt begs to forward the particulars of a servant"

Mrs Ellen Hunt's Servants' Agency was located at No. 86 High Street, Marylebone, London with additional premises on the Fulham Road. In 1901, when Ellen's 74 year old husband, George was described on the census as a retired printer, Ellen (two years his senior!) was still the proprietor of a 'registry office for servants'.1 Even after her permanent retirement to the coast, the London agency continued to trade under Ellen's name.2

This Edwardian employment agency form is genealogical gold dust and a rare survivor - I have never seen another one!

It was sent by Mrs Hunt's agency to Ronald Hugh Wilson Robertson (1879-1917) in March 1907 and provided the 'particulars' of Arthur J Broadfoot of 2 Craven Mews, Ealing. According to the form, Arthur was aged 36, 5 foot 7½ inches tall, 10 stone 6 lbs and married with one child. He had been in the employ of a Miss Pontifex for four years, as her groom/gardener.

If, like I did, you try looking for Arthur J Broadfoot in the census, you won't find him. For all its apparent attention to detail, the Servants' Agency failed in one vital respect: his name! Considering the notoriously high registration fees charged by registry offices to any male applicants, this was a careless mistake.3

Eventually, I discovered that Arthur J was in fact Alfred James, born one of twins, in Liverpool in 1872, the son of Joseph and Susan Broadfoot.4 Alfred moved down to London5 shortly before joining the army, aged 19 in 1891. After active service in the Anglo-Boer War, he was discharged in May 19036 and started work with Miss Pontifex soon after. His steady, live-in job enabled him to marry in December and his daughter Margaret was born the following year, in 1904.

On 27th March 1907 Ronald Robertson, wrote directly to the man he believed to be called Arthur Broadfoot, outlining his requirements, which included laundry work for Broadfoot's wife. Apart from the technical matter of whether Broadfoot could 'both ride and drive', Ronald wanted to know the age and sex of his child and whether he and his wife were 'both strictly sober'.

Alfred promptly answered all Ronald's questions, including the personal ones: his daughter was aged 2½ but 'very little trouble' and his wife was 31, 'a good cook or housemaid & would not mind doing washing'. 

In addition, Alfred asked a salary of £1 per week.

Ronald followed up on the reference, seeking reassurance that Broadfoot was 'a good man, honest & sober, willing to make himself useful'. On 10th April, Helen Pontifex of 58 Uxbridge Road, Ealing confirmed that she had never seen Alfred 'anything but sober'. Although he had always done anything she asked, she thought 'he would keep more to his work if he was under a man'. She confirmed that the wife was a good cook but she couldn't comment on her washing!

Sadly, the original invitation hasn't survived but it is obvious that Alfred went to Gloucestershire for an interview soon after Miss Pontifex's reply.

It didn't go well.

By 17th April, Alfred was requesting payment of his expenses:

travel from West Ealing to Badminton 9d
losing 1 days work 4s

total: 4s/9d

The final letter in this series was from Ronald and he far from happy:

'In reply to yours of 17th I enclose a Postal Order for 4/9, do you think it quite fair to charge 4/9 a day for two or three hours when you are out of a job? Please acknowledge it.'

***Postscript*** 10th December 2014
If you are interested in servants' employment agencies then may I recommend the new post on 'A Visitor's Guide to Victorian England' by Michelle Higgs: 'Servants' Registries: How Victorian Maids Found their Places'

1/ 1901 Census TNA Ref: RG13/959/11 p12
2/ 1911 Census TNA Ref: RG14/5336/40B
See classified advertisements in The Times including 16 June & 22nd June 1905
plus an entry in the London Post Office Directory 1910
3/ Hansard: House of Commons Debate 3rd May 1906 vol.156 c.716: Servants' Registry Office Fees
4/ GRO Births on & Baptisms, St Mary Magdalene, Liverpool on 
Lancashire Online Parish Clerk Project 
5/ 1891 Census TNA Ref: RG12/8/109 p9
6/ Service Record for Alfred James Broadfoot on TNA Ref: WO97/4418/82

© Emmy Eustace

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Every Military Requisite

On 2nd April 1901, the London Gazette published the commission of 2nd Lieutenant Ronald Hugh Wilson Robertson (1879-1917) in the 1st (Brecknockshire) Volunteer Battalion, the South Wales Borderers.

Immediately after the announcement, no less than 5 companies were pitching for his business.

military history

HJ Tucker, Military Tailor & Outfitter 137 Cheapside, London, EC.

HJ Tucker used a pre-printed and rather impersonal standard letter, accompanied by a generic estimate for a 2nd Lieutenant's uniform. The quote included the cost of a sword with either a 'best proved steel hilt and scabbard' or a more expensive plated version - 'to prevent rust'.

military history

military history

Hebbert & Co Ltd, Manufacturers of Army, Navy, Railway and Police Cloths, Clothing, Caps & AccoutrementsHead Office: Bethnal Green Road, London, E. Telephone No. 909 London Wall. 

Unlike Mr Tucker, Hebbert & Co were on the phone. Hebbert’s approach was more personal: a handwritten letter, signed by H G Brightwell of No. 24 Cecil Court, Charing Cross Road, London. 

They too enclosed a price list but this time specifically aimed at a 2nd Lieutenant in the Infantry Volunteers.

Note the difference in the price of gloves: doeskin versus dogskin.

According to his surviving correspondence, Hebbert & Co Ltd were rewarded with an order from Ronald Robertson - two years later, when he purchased a 'cloth cape' in October 1903.

military history

J Fisher, Army and Volunteer Contractor 33 & 34 Artillery Place, Woolwich. 

Fisher specialised in second hand goods. His 'Circular' did not advertise a phone number nor did it contain a separate price list. Instead, J Fisher's 'Special' offer included an 'unsoiled' infantry officer's steel sword for £3/5s or one in nickel plate for a snip at £2.

military history

Samuel Brothers Ltd, Military Tailors & Outfitters Sydenham House, 65 & 67 Ludgate Hill, London EC. Telephone No. 689 Bank. 

Like the other four companies, Samuel Brothers Ltd despatched their price list on 3rd April. It was accompanied by a fairly hurried looking handwritten letter, which stressed 'quality, workmanship & finish'. Uniquely, it drew the new lieutenant's attention to fellow officers (from his battalion) who were already Samuel Brothers' customers: Majors Powell & Jones, Captain Jowel and Quarter Master Dickey.  
military history

Although they enclosed a handy 'Officers' Self-Measurement' guide (right), I think it unlikely that a young officer would ever attempt 'self-measurement' for his first uniform but it's a nice touch. 

The last and successful approach was made by: 

military history

Hobson & Sons 'Officers Department', 1, 3 & 5 Lexington Street, Golden Square, London W. Telephone No. 3666 Gerrard. 

Hobson & Sons used a standard but professional, typed letter. It offered the Crickhowel based 2nd Lieutenant Robertson the convenience of using their agent Messrs Williams Bros Tailors of 145 Commercial Street, Newport for his measuring and fitting.

Ronald Robertson took quite some time to consider his options and eventually ordered his tunic and mess uniform from Hobson & Sons on 4th June 1901. Two days later, under the pressure of attending his first Brigade Camp at Porthcawl on 13th July, he submitted an order for the rest of his uniform:
military history
Staggeringly, given the time frame, Hobson's managed to fulfil most of Ronald's order before he left for Brigade Camp. They only missed the deadline with the Great Coat and the Sam Browne Belts and Sword Knot, but these items were ready for delivery a week later. 

From an announcement in the Gazette to possession of your full kit, it was quick work!

Hobson & Sons are still in business

© Emmy Eustace

Saturday, 21 June 2014

We Smoke Your Health and Wish You Well: WW2 Cigarette Postcards

postcard WW2
Overseas League Tobacco Fund Cigarette Postcard 1943

To our modern eyes, supporting the provision of free cigarettes for young men and women would be at best, irresponsible and at worst, immoral.

In the context of both the First and Second World Wars, it was regarded not just as an act of charity but a patriotic duty. A delivery of cigarettes from home brought comfort to the weary soldier on the front line and boosted morale.

The Overseas Club inaugurated its famous Tobacco Fund during the First World War. Its success was legendary: in addition to tobacco for the troops, it donated 350 aircraft to the Royal Flying Corps and paid for a new hospital for wounded airmen.1

During the Second World War, f
or the price of just a shilling, the Tobacco Fund, 'with the co-operation of the War Office and the Customs Authorities' was able to send 'duty and carriage-free' a parcel of 50 cigarettes to units at the Front,2 hospitals or even ships at sea. Included in each package was a postcard, with the donor's address on one side and a blank space for the recipient's message, on the other. 

My father (for most of his life a non-smoker) was a keen donor to the Overseas League Tobacco Fund. He desperately wanted to join up, having been in the OTC (Officer Training Corps) at university but his requests were always firmly denied. Much to his intense frustration, they decided he was more useful in India. I think the Tobacco Fund was a small but poignant part of 'doing his bit' as he appears to have kept every single reply. As a result, I am fortunate to have 43 of these very special 'reply postcards'. 

postcard WW2
Cigarette Postcard 1945

Note the message at the bottom: 'Important: at the request of the authorities' - in capitals - 'Do not disclose any particulars of your unit'. This stricture wasn't always followed particularly closely, as can be seen in the cards below.

postcard WW2   
Cigarette Postcard 1945

This postcard, dated 7th July 1945, was sent by Lalitha Hensman, a Welfare Officer with the Indian Red Cross at South East Asia Command. Having obviously remarked on the address of the donor, she kindly takes care to point out that the 'recipients were Indian soldiers'. 

postcard WW2  
Cigarette Postcard 1944

My third and final postcard was sent in August 1944. Simple and to the point, it really sums up the whole collection: 

These cigarettes were issued to Allied Ex Prisoners of War who escaped through our lines. They were more than acceptable, and we wish to express our thanks to you.

AG Kennard [?]

* New Zealand Expeditionary Force

1/ 'Founding Father' By Alex May. 'Overseas: Journal of the Royal Overseas League' Issue 3 3rd September 2010 p.13  
2/ 'Tobacco for the Troops' The Spectator Magazine 12th November 1939 from the Spectator Archive

© Emmy Eustace

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Not to be Used for any Other Purpose: Recycling the Royal Navy

"OHMS: On His Majesty's Service"

If a genealogist is allowed to have one, my favourite ancestor has to be my Great Uncle John Bridges Eustace, known to the family as Jack. He kept everything (almost) and his fascinating archive will undoubtedly feature heavily in this blog.

By way of example, here are a few envelopes!

Having originally been designed to hold Royal Naval Service Certificates and associated service documents (gunnery and torpedo history sheets etc) the 'Envelopes for Parchment Certificates and History Sheets' were made of durable, thick paper. Well over a hundred years later, they are still in fairly good condition.

Waste is and was frowned upon in the Navy, whether it be ammunition or paper and Jack, regardless of the strictures on the front, happily re-used all types of envelopes for his private paperwork as seen below:

royal navy history
HMS c1901
Royal Navy history
"Not to be used for any other purpose"

Royal Navy history
HMS Alert c1901 

Royal Navy history
Wax seal of the Commander-in-Chief North America and West Indies from the
back of above envelope addressed to the Commander of HMS Alert,
JB Eustace 

Royal Navy history
"Letter to HBM Minister at Caracas"

Saturday, 7 June 2014

The Wicklow Militia 1884

Wicklow Militia c1884

This glorious picture of the band is from the early days of my grandfather Alexander Henry Eustace's long and eventful military career. 

Given the choice between officer training in the rarefied atmosphere of Sandhurst or entering the army via the militia, Alec gratefully chose the latter. Accordingly, in 1883 he was posted adjutant to the 7th Brigade Northern Irish Division Royal Artillery - aka the Wicklow Militia.

Later in life, he described how, marching through Wicklow Town on the way to the annual camp held on the Murragh (an open area on the coast where they fired a cannon out to sea), the wives and sweethearts would run along side them crying and sobbing "as if they were really going to war...smuggling liquor into the ranks as they marched"!

Wicklow Militia c1884