Slippers for soldiers

THE COUNTY COBBLERS and THE BELGRAVIA WORKROOMS

From the collection of Neela Mann

No 8 Queen’s Parade, Cheltenham was home to the Gloucester County Association for Voluntary Organisations – a house lent by the Mayor William Nash Skillicorne and his sister Edith.  One of the tasks carried out here was the cutting out and construction of slippers for men at rest stations and in military hospitals, under the chief cutter, the Revd. Cuthbert W. Birley, and run by Mrs Ernest Rogers.  The voluntary workers – men and women – called themselves The County Cobblers. They paid for the material for the slippers themselves and at the start of the war were making 136 pairs of slippers a week!

“There was an old woman who lived in a shoe

With the sewing of slippers she has much to do

So kindly please help her all people who can

To make the soft slippers for some wounded man”

This poem (found in an autograph book kept by Mabel Owen) is by a soldier in Naunton Park Hospital, Cheltenham.  He obviously appreciated the slippers, which were probably a pair of those made at 8 Queen’s Parade.

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Comforts for the boys at the Front

The Gloucestershire Society in London held a Bohemian Concert in the Holborn Restaurant, London.  The proceeds paid for 400 Christmas parcels to be sent to the boys of the 1st Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment on duty at the Front.  The parcels contained a briar pipe, tobacco pouch, 2 oz tobacco, 50 cigarettes and matches.  There were also 280 one pound tins of Fry’s chocolate with 24 bars per tin and 300 tins of 6 ounces of peppermints in each tin.

Baths for Cheltenham lads in Chelmsford!

There were many Cheltenham boys in the Territorial Force’s 5th Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment.  In fact, their commanding officer was Frederick Tarrant, Bursar at Cheltenham Ladies College and among their officers was Cyril Winterbotham, brother of Councillor Percy Winterbotham, who himself later became an officer in the same battalion.  Their sister Clara was Cheltenham’s first woman councillor and became the first female Mayor in 1921.

The Battalion was posted to Chelmsford for training during Christmas 1914 and few of the houses in which the boys were billeted had baths.  The appeal went out from the YMCA to householders to please let the soldiers have a bath now and then.  A system whereby bath tickets were issued allowed the troops to keep clean.

Christmas is coming…

“Christmas is Coming and the Boys are at The Rotunda”

Friday 13th and Monday 16th November 1914 Cheltenham was “invaded” by over 2,000 soldiers of the 9th and 10th Battalions of the Gloucestershire Regiment, billeted in the old, empty houses, mainly in Lansdown.  Officers of the 9th Battalion were billeted at the Queen’s Hotel and 56 sergeants at 2, Queen’s Parade.

The soldiers of the 9th Battalion were fed from a field kitchen, providing useful practice for cooking at the Front.  Aldershot ovens were based in the garden of Bayshill House in Parabola Road, which is now a Cheltenham Ladies College house. 

Bayshill House as it was in 1911.

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The End? Part 2 : Armistice 1918

Monday 11th November 1918  At 10.40 a.m news reached the Echo office by telephone that The Armistice had been signed at 5 a.m. that morning and came into force at 11 a.m.  The discussion between the German delegates and those of the Allies had lasted all night.  A special edition of the newspaper was immediately printed and distributed.

Discover how Cheltenham celebrated an end to fighting.

Stop Press in the Echo “From all parts of the country reports arrive of almost indescribable enthusiasm and public rejoicing.” 

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The End? The final days before Armistice 1918

“In war, truth is the first casualty”, so said Aeschylus.  It is not surprising, therefore, that the news of the impending end of the war was greeted, as Cheltenham’s Rector of the Parish Church Rev H.A. Wilson said, “…with dazzling suddenness”.  Who knew what to believe from newspaper reports in the Echo?  Local and national news was heavily censored to keep up morale on the home front of those who were heartily tired of the war and its effects.  But townspeople knew that, having heard stories from the soldiers home on leave, contradicting what they read in the papers. 

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