London Opinion

It’s a long time since I was seriously collecting variations on the ‘white feather’ theme, but today I was delighted to come across a postwar variation on the theme in London Opinion, in early 1919, when everyone was asking when demobilisation was going to happen: >


Sound Mirrors

There’s an interesting article on the BBC News website about the concrete sound mirrors erected on the British coast during the First World War. These were designed to catch and amplify the sound of incoming aircraft, and so give warning of air raids. The technology was apparently still being developed till the thirties, when it was supplanted by radar.

The article is here, at

Commando No 5181

Commando comics have been on sale since 1961.
For those who don’t know them – they have a small, square format, containing 64 pages of black-and-white drawings telling a war story, most often about the Second World War. They are published by D.C. Thompson of Dundee, publishers of the once-mighty Beano. The Beano is not what it was. Is Commando?
I was in W.H. Smith’s the other day, and noticed the above cover. It turns out that recently Commando has been doing a series to mark the centenary of the Great War’s ending. Out of curiosity, I bought the magazine – number 5181 of a run of issues that has kept going for fifty-seven years (with the same personnel at the helm for most of that time). Read More »

P.G. Wodehouse – the Man and his Work

The P.G. Wodehouse exhibition at the British Library that I mentioned a few weeks ago is now happily in place, and Marion and I visited while in London earlier this week.

It is a fairly  small affair, in the Sir John Ritblat Treasures of the British Library room. The last exhibit I saw in that space was devoted to Karl Marx. The Wodehouse one is cheerier. It is a sample of the manuscripts and other items recently sent to the Library by the Cazalet family (on permanent loan, I think).

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Munnings as war artist

In my ignorance, I had never realised that Alfred Munnings was a war artist. Has he featured in any of the war painting exhibitions I’ve seen over the years? If so, I don’t remember.

 But a war artist he was, in 1918, embedded within the Canadian cavalry, and later with the Canadian Forestry Corps. Usually these paintings are kept in Canada, but at the moment there is rather a splendid exhibition of them at the National Army Museum in Chelsea.

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Not Such Quiet Girls…

This is just a brief note to say how much I enjoyed Not Such Quiet Girls… presented by Opera North in the Howard Assembly rooms in Leeds last week.

The main storyline is about a lesbian relationship that flowers in France but collapses with the end of the war. (Hall is perhaps the main influence here. It’s worth remembering that neither she nor Price served in the war, but made myths about it later. This play is a refashioning of their myths to deal with twenty-first century concerns.)   Read More »

Buchan’s ‘Castle Gay’

Cover of first edition

My review of John Buchan’s CastleGay (1930) is now online on the Reading 1900-1950 website:

‘Lest We Forget’ at IWM North


Selecting the Unknown Soldier. Image from ‘Lest We Forget’

Until February 24, 1919, there is a very good free exhibition at the Salford branch of the IWM. ‘Lest we Forget’ is about remembrance, and ways in which the Great War cast its shadow over succeeding years.
The exhibition starts with the dead – a wall of small photos of bodies sprawled on various battlefields (the sort of picture that was rarely shown publicly during the war years). Then it shows how the dead were dealt with. Read More »

Scottish Women’s Hospital

I was browsing through the interesting sequence of  Persephone Posts, and came across a link to this archive film of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals founded by Elsie Inglis:

It gives an idea of life in the fourteen field hospitals set up by the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies in various European theatres of war. They were entirely staffed by women. There is a particularly good sequence showing the team conducting an operation to remove shrapnel.
The filming was apparently done at two of their hospitals – one at Villers-Cotterets in Northern France, the other at Salonika. Cicely Hamilton (author of William, an Englishman and much else) worked at one of these hospitals.

‘The Battle of the Ancre’ – at Sheffield


On Tuesday 13th November at 6.30 p.m., there will be a public showing of the 1917 film The Battle of the Ancre and the Advance of the Tanks at Sheffield Hallam University (at the Void Cinema, Room 123 (Building level 1) of the Owen Building.

This was the second of the full-length documentaries commissioned by the War Office to show the British public what the Army was doing in France. It was filmed during the later stages (September to November, 1916) of the Battle of the Somme, and its special appeal at the time was that it showed tanks, the new wonder-weapons, in action.

The film will be preceded by a talk by Dr Lawrence Napper, who knows a good deal about silent film generally, and the war films in particular. He recently published online a strong critique of Jackson’s dazzling new They Shall Not Grow Old, saying that the ‘effect is to force the authentic footage into a bizarre simulacrum of modern feature film-making conventions, rather than to draw out the authentic nature of what it shows.’  I look forward to hearing what he has to say about The Battle of the Ancre.

Another strongly-argued review, by ‘PH’ on the Silent London site, goes even further in its critique of Jackson’s use of archive footage.

Like its predecessor, this film aimed to give a people at home a good idea of how the war was being conducted. By and large it succeeds, as I remember, and, unlike the Jackson film, it tells the story of one operation, clearly, rather than offering a mish-mash of several battles edited together.

Note: when I originally posted this, I confused the review by PH with that by Lawrence Napper. Apologies to both.