The Cemetery, Etaples, 1919 by John Lavery © IWM (Art.IWM ART 2884)

It will be over by Christmas

by Pat Morfett

I am interested in the citizen who, in 1914, might have bought a Post on his way home from work, maybe turning first to the sport’s page or the wanted ads or births, marriages and deaths, using The Post much as we do today.

January 1914

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The weather was dull, dry and changeable, good news for the January sales due to start on Saturday January 3rd.

There was a cup tie match at the City ground on January 14th to look forward to but unfortunately, the weather changed on January 13th and The Post reported one of the worst storms in Nottingham for many years, eight football matches cancelled and others abandoned.

There was a 15round welter-weight boxing match between the Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire champions.

2/6 would pay for entrance to the races on January 27th and holidays in Australia, Canada, America and New Zealand could be booked.

The theatre and cinema listings might have been of interest and maybe the reader would have had a ‘meat tea’ as an extra treat. There was Dick Whittington at The Grand Theatre (until further notice) and Cinderella at the Theatre Royal.

This comment was printed in the gossip column, taken from a Derbyshire vicar’s parish magazine - he said that he would allow a girls’ dance but he could not allow one to which men were admitted. “I should be acting right against my conscience if I were to consent to what might prove a snare or two.”

There was also a report on an article from The Observer which said that at the start of the New Year people were generally optimistic about the future. Their concerns were focused on Home Rule for Ireland, The Suffragettes and the growing influence of Trades Unions as their membership grew. The likelihood of war being declared later in the year seemed far from the minds of most people.

April 1914

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A trawl through the Post in April indicated that readers were looking forward to the Easter break. The edition on April 4th advertised special rail excursions to Grimsby Docks, and Cleethorpes on Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Monday. Holiday apartments were available in Skegness.

A father wrote, somewhat grumpily, to the letters page on the April 7th saying that his daughter used to be content with a new Easter hat but now wanted a purple wig to go with it! Flowers for home and church were said to be of an inferior quality on the market, the discerning flower arranger was advised to look further afield.

The edition on the April 7th also printed a report on a Parliamentary debate on The Home Rule Bill saying Ulster “cannot be driven into a constitution to which she is averse.”

The motor cycle enthusiast might have been tempted by the motor cycle suit for 21/- modeled by a rather handsome chap. Later in the month, on April 18th, a brand new 1914 Wolf motor cycle, for £26, was advertised to go with it.

Cars were also advertised for sale alongside horses and carriages.

Marsden’s advertised Easter eggs and other novelties.

The Empire advised its patrons to book early for the show at their “Premier Variety Theatre” while the Hippodrome was showing “Great Holiday Attractions.”

We learn that the King and Queen motored from Windsor to Buckingham Palace to meet with Prince Louis of Battenburg, First Sea Lord of the Admiralty, but it was only to discuss a cruise Prince Albert and his brother were planning.

A long column was devoted to schoolboy howlers, the best was judged to be this one, “Rough on the Viceroy.
This Viceroy (reservoir) is filled with water.”

May 1914

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Morley’s Café - The Old Established Eating House.

  • Meat teas 6d
  • Steak and kidney pudding 2d
  • Hot beef and mutton dinners 6d
  • Fruit pie or pudding 2d

Morley’s menu might have encouraged readers to eat there before a visit to The New Electra Palace off Alfreton road to see “Sixty Years a Queen” or to the Mechanics Large Hall to see “Spartacus” which had been shown to King George and Queen Mary.

The Whitsuntide holiday and the prospect of a break away from Nottingham might have been on the minds of some readers. Seaside and country holidays were advertised in Grimsby, close to docks and station, and in Mablethorpe, Skegness and the Isle of Wight.

The back page had a bold ad for Motor Char-a-Bancs on Trinity Square who were taking excursion bookings.

There was a Klic camera for 18/9, only from Boots, holiday luggage, a trunk for 9/6 or a Gladstone bag for 18/9.

The results of a bye election in N.E. Derbyshire were in the news, the winning candidate attributing his victory to his opposition to The Home Rule Bill. It was noted that there would now be 287 Unionist representatives in The House of Commons,
“a majority at least sufficient to put an end to this wretched policy of which this Government is so proud.”

A short article in the next column reported on the causes of the Balkan Wars where, “Where every rule of war was broken.”

The next column had a large cartoon of a happy housewife using Stephenson’s Furniture Cream which, the readers were assured, would not smear.

Motor cars were in the news on page 5, lamenting the speed at which they were driven down busy high streets, “great hulkin’ fiends,” said the little old lady in the cartoon.

On the same page there was a report from Parliament. A question had been asked as to Mrs. Pankhurst’s intentions. Was she or was she not to lead a deputation to meet with his Majesty? No one could enlighten the House at this point but to loud cheers of “here, here” and much laughter it was suggested that if she was indeed to lead a deputation, then she was well enough to be returned to prison to finish her sentence.

The next page had a further report on this planned deputation, 1000 police and mounted police were on standby. The meeting might still have taken place if Mrs. Pankhurst’s attempt to commission an aeroplane from France had been successful. The French aviator declined.

There was information for racing and cricket enthusiasts, the former were urged to read the Sporting Chronicle for an analysis of the runners and riders in the Derby. The gossip column did not disappoint.

Hotel Proprietor, “You shall not leave till you have paid your bill.”
Guest, “You are too kind, then this shall be my permanent home.”

June 1914

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June looked likely to be the most exciting month of the year. The King and Queen were to visit the city on June 24th and 25th.

On Saturday June 6th details of the programme for the Royal visit, approved by the King, were printed.

The Royal couple would arrive by train at 12.20 when there would be a 21 gun salute from Castle Rock. A detailed list of all those invited to be in the procession from the station and the order in which their carriages would leave the station was given. On arrival at the Market Square there would be 40 ladies from the British Red Cross, presumably ready to assist any loyal subjects needing first aid. At 1.20 the procession would re-form and leave for Wollaton Hall.

Past members of The Boys’ Brigade were invited to join the Parade on Huntingdon Street, “fall in, in line, back of the Battalion,” was the instruction.

The edition on Thursday June 18th devoted a column to shops and houses along the route who were advertising their windows for people who wanted a good view of the spectacle. Some had balconies and some would have bought lace hand flags 4d from Jessop and Son.

Peach’s Hairdressing Salon.
“Large window to let with full view of the Market Place-what offers?”

The proprietors of the James’ Store on Carrington Street took the patriotic high ground and announced that they had decided to place their shop windows at the disposal of their staff. They felt it was inappropriate to profit from such an occasion.

The London Tailoring Company offered a free gift, a beautiful costume in the latest fashion, to the lady whose birthday fell on the 24th June.

On June 24th there was this report.
“A loyal welcome. In all the history of Nottingham there has never been such a display of enthusiasm, attested by decorations, assembled multitudes and the presentation of loyal addresses as today greeted King George and Queen Mary.”

On the evening of June 24th there was to be a Grand Fete in the Arboretum, admission 6d. The Band of H.M. Grenadier Guards would entertain the crowds and there was to be a “Colossal Firework Display.” A letter of dissent appeared in The Post suggesting it would be fairer to cancel the fireworks and open the event to everyone for free. The programme went ahead as planned and those without 6d to spare might have enjoyed the show from Waverley Street.

The Royal visit would be remembered and talked about for a long time. June ended on a triumphant note.

July 1914

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July looked to be a busy month with the Irish Terrier Club meeting in Mansfield on July 2nd and, “Young cricketers of ability desiring to advance” being invited to attend practices. There was a bowls match in Long Eaton and notices in the sports columns for football, golf, cricket and rugby fixtures.

The latest craze, a skacycle, (scooter) also advertised in May, was advertised again as healthy exercise for boys and girls.

The letters page, under the heading, “The Bathing Question ” had a long letter from Swim Straight who noted that other readers had also written in, also shocked and angry over the activities of “certain types” who were not appropriately dressed for bathing and, moreover were also gambling, “a degrading habit.” If this was not bad enough, courting couples out for a walk would see folks loitering on the bank swearing, perhaps when the gamble did not go their way. It was really too bad for those who had only a short time to “pursue a manly and healthy exercise.” (swimming)

Joseph Chamberlain’s death on July 2nd headlined the edition on July 3rd.

Lord and Lady Middleton left Wollaton Hall for Yorkshire en route to Scotland for the autumn. On the same page there was a report of a ten year old boy who allegedly had walked to Nottingham from Croydon. He appeared before Magistrates who found him to be “morally deficient” and committed him to an industrial school.

The same edition reported a meeting of The Ladies Committee where Captain Miller of HMS Nottingham received a silver model of the old frigate. The hope was expressed that The Nottingham would only ever be engaged in peaceful works. Towards the end of July an excerpt from a speech by Mr. Asquith was printed, “The most important question for Britons at the moment is whether The Empire can consistently with honour and the obligations it has entered into with France and Russia remain an onlooker as Italy proposes to do.”

August 1914

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The front page of the edition on August 1st urged its readers to buy an umbrella, “hundreds of umbrellas and walking sticks special bargains,” from George Wood’s, field glasses for sale as well. There were ads for seaside and country accommodation to rent.

Motor bikes and cars were for sale alongside “a phaeton, Governess car suit pony.”

China, earthenware and a fried fish range were advertised for sale.

So far so normal, but a story, “gaining currency,” reported that it was rumoured that the Robin Hoods had received orders not to leave home.

Would citizens be concerned? June had been an exciting month; people were probably still talking about it, especially if they had rented a window or a balcony. The Boys’ Brigade Contingent must have been so proud and what about the young lady whose birthday was on June 24th? Had she received the promised costume? July had been unremarkable by comparison; after all even Lord and Lady Middleton had left for Scotland, as usual, for their autumn holiday. The front page was not likely to have worried readers; indeed they might have been more interested in the anonymous letters professing love and admiration for certain golfers, “Love on the Links.”

There were more worrying reports on page three but easily ignored among the notes on the Midland Swimming Championships, and the good advice for drivers, “When cars meet on a hill.” A leading hosiery firm hoped for things to return to normal so that its export trade could recover.

The Nottingham Grocers’ Association was not so sure and decided to put up prices on sugar, flour, bacon, hams and eggs.

The Reverend Wiseman, President of the National Council of the Evangelical Free Churches, urged its members to pray. “The die is cast” for the most terrible conflict for centuries announced a headline on page 5. A Paris newspaper had reported that Germany was mobilizing and war was imminent. British ambassadors were, however, making a “supreme and final effort” to avert war. They noted that Mr. Asquith did not wish to give up all hopes of peace.

The Committee of the International Women’s Suffrage Alliance met in London and resolved to send a telegram to Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands urging her to do everything in her power to avert a European catastrophe. She signed a mobilization decree.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer issued a statement to reassure the country that the situation was not serious enough to justify any emergency measures regarding money. The Bank rate fell by one percent and a week later there was an advertisement from money lenders.

On August 8th there was an article which reported that several thousand people had attacked two shops in Swansea in protest at the price of sugar, while in Dudley, Staffordshire, a crowd had removed the roof from a bake house and stolen £150.0.0 worth of provisions. A more measured response was reported from the Loughborough Trades Council who discussed the rise in food prices since the Declaration of War. They spoke of “unnecessary exploitations” and “cruel inflation of prices.”

Increases of between one and two hundred percent had been noted.

Food shortages were apparent from the very start of the War and would worsen as ships bringing in imports had to face blockades by German warships and submarines fast forward to September when The Shilling Fund had been set up, Lloyd George said that every penny raised would be needed and Mr. Asquith urged everyone to help, and indeed they did. Did readers turn out to cheer on this fund raising venture?

A Mr. Charles Hallam of Forman Street owned a dog, a great dane, a monkey and a cart. He proposed to harness the dog to the cart and then parade through the streets collecting for The Shilling Fund, but first he needed a harness and a Belgian soldiers’ uniform for the monkey. A lady quickly came forward to supply these. We do not know how much was raised.

In November a list of donations to The Shilling Fund was printed. Alongside large donations from individuals and businesses were donations from the sale of scent sachets, £1.0.0 from the sale of pin cushions and 10/- from the sale of flowers.

There can be no doubt that the Relief Fund was urgently needed when, on the next page, there were letters from soldiers’ families recounting the hardship suffered because they had not received their soldiers’ pay. It was suggested that this was one reason why recruitment had stalled.

September 1914

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The readers, who, in January, were optimistic about the future, would not have considered that the country would be at war seven months later. The Royal visit was a recent exciting, jubilant memory, cheers still maybe ringing in their ears. There was still a mood of euphoria almost, a sense of unreality. If a reader picked up his Post in August he would find news of the German invasion of Belgium, indeed Belgian refugees had been arriving in this country for several months, all with eye witness accounts of terrifying events. There were also unsubstantiated reports from Austria and Portugal, a report of a naval battle off Holland which proved to be untrue and which Mr. McKenna condemned in the House, “in the strongest terms, the fabrication of false news.”

Nearer to home, in Nottingham, it was said that some shops had been commandeered by the Army, not true, supplies could not get through. Some shop keepers had loaned their vehicles to the Army so could not make deliveries. Alongside these reports were the familiar sports, cinema and theatre news. What was the reader to think? Events were moving at a rapid pace, the predictable was rapidly disappearing. The mood, not just in Nottingham but in the rest of the Country as well, remained generally optimistic, after all it will be ‘over by Christmas’ - that phrase, that feeling, attributable to no one but on everyone’s lips. As September drew to a close there was some discussion in the letters page, as to whether or not Goose Fair should be cancelled. It was decided to go ahead as usual, as one letter writer said, “all work and no play… “

October 1914

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Goose Fair was not as well attended as in previous years, even on Saturday when the trains bringing day trippers from Sheffield and Manchester were full. There was a fresh attraction, a gigantic Zoo which offered 25% of money from advanced ticket sales to the Relief Fund set up by The Post.

A man was arrested on Saturday and charged with being a pick pocket. He said he had come to the City to enlist and showed his papers as proof, he had then gone to the Fair to sell a few things, he was selling feathers. He was remanded.

Thursday October 1st - Goose Fair Thursday, and there was to be a football match between Forest and Lincoln at the City ground. Large crowds were anticipated and the Robin Hoods were to march round the ground at half time as part of a recruitment drive. There was a disappointing gate of only 5000.

The pheasants were in luck though; perfect conditions but hardly anyone left to shoot them.

The front page on October 2nd featured a letter from a Nottingham doctor who wrote that after the Battle of Mons his patients were “happy and confident” and while they might be, “miserable in body (they were) enthusiastically happy in mind,” and keen to get back to fighting. I wonder if this was the same doctor who obligingly exposed a soldier’s frostbitten foot for the King, when on a visit to frontline hospitals he said he had never seen one. There was general amusement round the bed. The reporter reminded readers that trainloads of wounded arrived every night.

At home the reader did not need to be reminded that basic food products were in short supply and when available was more expensive. The house wife was urged to use margarine.

November 1914

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The South Nott’s Hussars were enjoying manoeuvres in the south of the county and an accompanying photograph shows a group of laughing fellows having fun camping. War news was suitably cheering and the reader was told that German guns had been destroyed and the enemy had been unable to advance.

The reader could still go to the cinema but he would see patriotic films depicting British heroism. The Theatre Royal had “a great naval and patriotic play” while at The Grand Theatre there was an orchestral concert which would have a silver collection in aid of Belgian refugees.

December 1914

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Could there be any readers who believed it would be ‘over by Christmas?’ Cricket fans could not have imagined that all test cricket would be cancelled when war was declared and the Pavilion and Ladies room at Trent Bridge would become a hospital, receiving its first patients before Christmas and more than 1200 by the end of 1916. The crowds who had cheered for the King and Queen in June, those memories still fresh, were out in Market Square in August cheering men marching to enlist. But Christmas was a few weeks away and a sombre note in the Post told readers, “It is in keeping with the times that only practical presents shall be given.”

Umbrellas and walking sticks from Thomson’s on Milton Street maybe or cigars from Perkins and Son on Exchange Walk.

There was a fox terrier show in Mansfield, fog at Windsor saw racing cancelled and there was a revue at The Theatre Royal. The Pinxton Amateur Dramatic Society raised £30.0.0 for the Belgian refugees and a whist drive raised £1.6.1d for the soldiers and sailors fund.

Food shortages had been evident from the beginning of August, even though The Post had reported “At the moment fear is not entertained of a substantial shortage of wheat.” Bread prices rose by a farthing soon after. This situation was to become worse as the war progressed, The King urged his subjects to voluntarily ration food in 1917, not surprisingly this was not a success. Rationing was not introduced until 1918.

D.O.R.A. (Defence of the Realm Act) was operational in August and such was the fear of food shortages that it was an offence to feed stale bread to ducks! Stale bread could be dipped in diluted ketchup, seasoned and deep fried, advised Mrs. May Byron who wrote several books for the home cook during the war.

Citizens were urged to become more self sufficient and parks and playing fields were dug up to grow vegetables. There were never enough. The food, or rather lack of food, situation was to become worse as farm labourers left the land to enlist. Women were eventually allowed to work on the land and indeed filled many jobs left vacant.

Some home cooks made cakes to send to their men folk in the trenches.

Trench Cake – “Eggs are out of the question,” said Mrs. Byron and indeed this cake contains no eggs. Rub 4 ounces of margarine into 8 ounces of flour. Add three ounces of currants, 2 tablespoons of cocoa, 3 ounces of sugar, 1 teaspoon of vinegar and a quarter pint of milk. Beat well and bake.

This was a cake sturdy enough to survive Christmas 1914 and the next three Christmases until the Armistice in 1918, and the War was not really over by that Christmas either, the Peace Treaty being signed in 1919.

© Pat Morfett 2017


  1. Main Image:The Cemetery, Etaples, 1919 by John Lavery © IWM (Art.IWM ART 2884)
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