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Christmas at war: 1914 - Gifts for injured soldiers

Updated Monday, 18th December 2017
Small kindnesses for troops recovering from their injuries in Manchester - and a surfeit of pudding.

The King and Queen visit Taplow Hospital, August 23, 1917 King George V and Queen Mary of Teck on a visit to Canadian soldiers being treated at Taplow Hospital, Buckinghamshire earlier in 1914. (L-R: the King, Colonel Watt, the Queen, Mary Astor)

The idea that the war would be "over by Christmas" is a complex one - Stuart Halifax has researched how popular the idea was, and how firmly it was believed for First World War Studies. Regardless of whether the population or politicians had expected the conflict to have been concluded, as Christmas 1914 approached it was clearly going to be a festive season where "peace on Earth" was unlikely. The Royal Family attempted to bring some festive cheer to troops who had been sent back, wounded, from the front.

Soldiers In Hospital

Gifts from the King and Queen

The soldiers in the Whitworth Street Military Hospital will have pleasant reminders of the Christmas season. Many people have taken timely thought of them, including the highest in the land.

The King and Queen will send each man a Christmas-card bearing their likenesses and autographs, and the Queen has added a gift of tobacco.

There will also be a third individual gift which, if it does not hang on the Christmas tree of the ward, will be placed, by some delegate of Santa Claus, at the bedside.

A proper Christmas dinner will be served, following the modern instead of the old convention, which substitutes turkey for roast beef but clings tenaciously to the plum pudding, decorated with the twig of holly, and mincepies.

There is almost reason to fear a surfeit of the pudding, one would think, because the Daily News will provide each patient with a plateful weighing half a pound; and yet the plentifulness of supplies will be a more positive proof of goodwill.

Messrs Dingley have made the hospital a gift of fruit, and Messrs Cadbury have sent boxes of chocolate.

Some people - and they are among the most busily occupied at this time of the year - are going to brighten the hospital in another way. These are the pantomime and music-hall artists, who are arranging matinee and evening performances for the whole of the week between Christmas and New Year.

The hospital now has about 700 inmates. As many men as could well manage the journey have been sent home to be with their relatives at Christmas, but empty beds were quickly filled by fresh arrivals from the front. Since the war began the hospital has treated nearly nine thousand cases, of which 7,734 were wounded men from France.

From: The Manchester Guardian, Christmas Eve 1914

Christmas at war: An OpenLearn Live special

In the run-up to Christmas, each day this week OpenLearn is republishing a short article from contemporary newspapers capturing an officially-approved view of life in wartime during the First World War


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