Follow the Drum: Spring 1915
Springtime on the Front
As spring develops on the Front, Pte W. Boddy (8th (King’s Royal) Irish Hussars), a Richmond resident, writes enthusiastically about a slight improvement in the weather :
“I am very glad to say the weather is slightly improving, so I hope we will be able to get Kaiser Bill on the run. I am keeping in very good health except but for colds, which are quite fashionable. The sweater is very nice and keeps the cold out. We are all hoping for good weather, for it will be a treat to get the sun out.” (Richmond Herald, January 1915)
Pte Boddy’s strong bond with his family at home is underlined by the support apparently given in the shape of gifts, as well as his endeavouring to allay their worries:
“I am sending you a list of things I need most – towel, braces, tobacco, matches and candles. You can send these instead of other small things. I am sorry to put you to all this trouble, but it can’t be helped, as you will understand. You needn’t worry in the least about me.”
Spring also meant significant military campaigns were launched and once again the local men were involved. For example, the fighting at Neuve Chapelle in March 1915 is described by Sgt. C. T. Southwick, a member of the teaching staff at the Richmond British School. Writing in a letter to his mother, he recalls “the most exciting time I had was when taking a party up with rations and materials for the Engineers, who, of course, had to work on the new trench which the firing line had to dig as soon as they reached their objective. Of course it was in the interest of the Germans to try to prevent supplies and reinforcements etc coming up by shelling all approaches and they made no mistake about it, dropping two or three shells almost on top of me.”
The major campaign in the Dardanelles also commenced at this time with the naval bombardment. Leading Seaman Clements, a Twickenham man aboard the H. M. S. Vengeance described his experiences in the Dardanelles (Richmond & Twickenham Times 3rd April 1915, p.2):
“We started the bombardment of the Dardanelles about a week ago, all the squadron firing at long range at the entrance forts. There are six of these, most of which have ten or eleven inch guns. Very pleased to say they were all out of action and fire by the end of the day. The Turks had a good supply of Turkish delight back to us, but, thanks to the skilful manoeuvring of the ship by our captain, we were not hit except by fragments of shell after they had burst…”
At this stage the disastrous events of the Dardanelles campaign had yet to develop to their full level of horror and losses.
Spring Fashion on the Home Front
Fashion trends and new styles for spring 1915 were still being followed in the local press, no doubt as a means of maintaining some sense of normality, although the war was negatively impacting on supplies in the shops and prices.
Local stores such as Gosling & Sons Ltd of George Street, Richmond looked to international fashion influences to spot trends for each season. For example, the photo at the top of this post shows their Japanese selections for 1915, as publicised in the Richmond & Twickenham Times, 3rd April 1915. Similarly, Wright Bros. Ltd of Richmond were also regularly taking out large advertising spreads in the paper with sequences of glamourous hats just in from Paris and claims that “our agent in Paris keeps us in touch with all the latest productions”. Also “The Newest Fashions for Easter and Spring Wear” were heavily featured as the illustrations of the latest dresses indicate (Richmond & Twickenham Times 27th March 1915), as shown below.
As the war progressed, however, women’s roles would change and so would their priorities. They would perhaps be looking for something more practical than an ostrich feather hat. Sadly, due to the sudden losses of life in the war local people needed to dress in mourning clothes at short notice. One local business, H. Gouldsmith & Son (Dyers and Cleaners) with a network of outlets in Richmond, Teddington and Surbiton decided to run an express service for “Mourning Orders”.
Enterprising businesses from outside the local area sometimes advertised in the Richmond & Twickenham Times. As Easter 1915 approached, holidays in Southend-on-Sea, Westcliff-on-Sea and Thorpe Bay were promoted in the Richmond & Twickenham Times of 27th March 1915, as shown below.
Clearly the advertisers are keen to emphasise the benefits of the “health-giving air” and leisure activities as a means of distraction from the “unusual conditions prevailing throughout the Country”, which have no doubt had a detrimental impact on the number of holidaymakers flocking to the seaside.
More first-hand experiences of these powerful events can be discovered by visiting the search room of the Richmond upon Thames Local Studies Library & Archive.