At the National Archives last weekend, I did a little more research on my grandfather, and will post about it soon.

Meanwhile, I am puzzled by an abbreviation in the London Gazette :


What does T.F. mean? I bet there’s someone out there who knows.

Arnold Bennett, and the English and the French


I spent Saturday at the National Archives in Kew, taking a look at, among other things, Arnold Bennett’s activities when in charge of British propaganda to France in 1917-1918.
Bennett’s notes and memos are rather impressive – crisp, sensible and decisive – as he deals with a multitude of issues. Read More »

The Whicharts and the War

I’ve just blogged on the Reading 1900-1950 site a review of The Whicharts (1931), Noel Streatfeild’s first novel (and a prototype, grown-up and slightly seedy version of Ballet Shoes).  here I’ll just add a couple of notes about Streatfeild’s mentions of the Great War in this book. Read More »

We all live at Number 24

I’m reading Ernest Raymond’s The Jesting Army (1930).

The army   is near Gilban (in Egypt), heading towards the Battle of Romani (August 1916). The soldiers are singing:

…certainly not Tipperary, which had been discarded immediately the newspapers made it into the Soldiers’ Song [….] but in high chorus they invited someone to wash them in the water in which he washed his dirty daughter, that they might be whiter than the whitewash on the wall; or they proclaimed that they all lived at number 24, and at number 24 there was a knocker on the door; or they announced to the stragglers of Gilban that they were the New York swells, and they were respected wherever they might go…

I don’t know the ‘Number 24’ song. Can anyone help?
Judging by the words alone, it sounds oddly like ‘Yellow Submarine’… Read More »

A decade of blogging

I woke this morning to an email congratulating me to the fact that this blog is ten years old today. I really hadn’t realised.

Occasionally I get fed up with commemorations and anniversaries, but here is one that I suppose I ought to mark.

Ten Years. Quite a while. Read More »

Arnold Bennett on the House of Windsor

I spent yesterday at the Manchester Central Reference Library (where I enjoyed many hours when I was a student in Manchester during the 1960s). I was looking at wartime copies of the New Statesman, and especially at Arnold Bennett’s column ‘Observations’, which he wrote over the pen-name ‘Sardonyx’.

The columns are gossipy and lively, and often include items designed to needle the great and powerful. For example, he often ended the column with quotations from  speeches made by Lloyd George when he was a rabble-rouser in opposition, which carried a hefty bit of irony now that he was Prime Minister.

I enjoyed his comments in July 1917, when the Royal family changed its name to Windsor. Read More »

Lake Rudyard – the Geneva of the Potteries

The two writers I’ve been thinking about this year are Rudyard Kipling and Arnold Bennett.

So I was delighted to come across a BBC web feature that links the two. It’s about Lake Rudyard, a popular beauty spot in the Potteries, and if you like Bennett’s novels you’ll enjoy the photos of pleasure seekers who came sightseeing, boating, and even skating on the lake.

lake rudyard

Read More »

Soldiers singing, at the end of the war

Last year I was working on a chapter about soldiers songs for the forthcoming Edinburgh Companion on the First World War and the Arts. Yesterday I came across a paragraph that I wish I’d seen before  finishing the chapter.

It’s from the New Statesman, October 19, 1918: Read More »

The Oxford Vigilance Committee

I’ve recently been thinking a lot about Arnold Bennett’s novel about wartime prostitution, The Pretty Lady, so was delighted to come across a webpage referencing the November 1916 Oxford Vigilance Committee, and its report on the immorality of wartime Oxford.

The committee sees prostitution as a ‘permanent social disease’, but the war is creating conditions in which more young women are tempted into immorality; ‘It is feared that a large number of soldiers’ wives encourage soldiers to visit them in their homes for immoral purposes.’

War has encouraged:

…a state of mind of which everyone is more or less conscious, half-excitement and half melancholy, in which the ordinary interests and standards of life are obscured, and a kind of recklessness drives one to extremes of vice, almost as easily as extremes of virtue. Among girls there exists a widespread extravagance of dress and manners, and a desire for excitement and ‘experiences’ which is at the bottom of much that is going on now in Oxford.

Read More »

English Words in Wartime

Readers of this blog may also be interested in ‘English Words in Wartime’, a blog that looks at ways in which the Great War changed the language.

It looks especially at the words noted by that splendid diarist the Rev Andrew Clark, who set himself to describing the effects of war on everyday life, and collecting the war’s language and folklore.

Others, of course, were also interested in what was happening to the language. Here’s a snippet from the Sunday Times of 1915, noting what Kipling, that inveterate student of slang, had included in his reports from the navy: Read More »


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