Sunday, 22 January 2017

Sunday WW1 Remembered...

It wasn't all about fighting on the Western Front. 

The troops spent long tedious hours when nothing much was happening, so with great endeavour the men found ways to entertain themselves. To alleviate the boredom the men would play cards, such as pontoon and brag and a board game called Crown and Anchor.

Crown and Anchor Board game
© IWM (EPH 7436)

Pack of 'Waddington's Number 1 Playing Cards', associated with the First World War service of Herbert Copestake in the Royal Flying Corps. The set of linen-finish cards by John Waddington Ltd (Leeds and London) is complete with its original (though now damaged) box. (© IWM)

Waddington  Playing Cards
© IWM (2325)

When away from the front line the men were able to have more free time, and once their morning routines had been completed games of football could take place, mostly against each other but occasionally against other units in the area. There was also the opportunity to visit the local areas and the etsaminets, small cafes that sold food and wine, became a place where the men could find some consolation in home cooked food and companionship.

An elderly lady serves coffee to British troops at a French estaminet behind the lines at Croix-du-Bac, near Armentières.(© IWM)

(Ernest Brookes)
© IWM (Q635)

Music Halls, variety shows and theatres were all very popular during the war and the troops found the opportunity to bring this form of entertainment to the Western Front. Music and singing could provide huge escape for them.

An open air performance in front of a large audience of troops by the "Bohemians" concert party of No. 14 Convalescent Depot at Trouville. The stage has been erected in the shell of a ruined building. 16 August 1918. (©IWM)

© IWM (Q 11503)

The men would sing sentimental songs which reminded them of wives and girlfriends at home. Occasionally someone would have a gramophone sent out to them from home with boxes of popular records. Officers being sent home on leave were often instructed to bring back a new record so that a collection could be built up.

Singing helped to lift the spirits and when the wine and beer flowed the men were able to forget their troubles, and as the alcohol took effect, the song words became slightly more bawdy, which had a great effect on their morale !

DECCA Gramophone
© IWM (EPH 7660)

It's a Long Way to Tipperary and Pack Up Your Troubles were very popular.

Listen to more -  Podcast 44 IWM : Wartime Leisure and Entertainment


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