Slightly hidden away within the Birmingham Collection are many examples of school magazines (search the Local Studies Index by name of school to find them) which are an often overlooked source. Fiona Tait has trawled through one series to see what they reveal about how girls at one Birmingham secondary school supported the war effort. This complements other information that can be found in items such as school log books and contemporary newspapers.
Here is some information from The Mag-Pie: The doings of The George Dixon Girls’ Secondary School, Rotton Park, Birmingham, Spring Term, 1916.
These activities of various classes in the school were mentioned on pp. 35-37:
‘During last term and this the School has been busy in various ways in connection with the War. About 500 worn garments – all mended – have so far been despatched by the secretary to the Lady Mayoress’ Depot or to various Council Schools, or to Harborne Hall for the use of Belgian Refugees…..great credit is due to some of the heroic girls who staggered to School under parcels of apparently greater cubical content than themselves….’ [ in all 58 parcels had been received ].
‘The School caught the knitting fever in its severest form. It was hopeless to try to keep pace with the demand, either for wool or pins – otherwise, apparently, we could have fitted up the entire Expeditionary Force. As it is, at least 350 articles have been distributed.’
[The contributions of the different classes and some individuals were mentioned].
‘Chocolates, cigarettes, boracic powder, playing cards and mending wool were enclosed in parcels sent direct to soldiers.’
‘In 1B (20 girls) – every girl has helped, 54 garments being sent in. In this enthusiastic class Mollie Kellaway is perhaps the most enthusiastic. She has contributed to the fund 14/-, which she has gained by the sale of patriotic badges or collected. She has also knitted or begged ten woollen articles including our only jersey, and has brought in addition, wool, pins, and worn garments…..the Class, as a whole, gave 8/- to the fund instead of sending each other Christmas cards.’
‘The energy of 2A takes the breath away….the 22 of them produced at least 70 articles….helmets are their great speciality, and of these they have knitted 43. It can be mathematically demonstrated that they must have knitted in their sleep.’
‘2A have also, we are informed, raised sufficient money by all making toffee, and selling it to each other at a high price, to buy a football and send it to the Front…’
‘…3B…before Christmas raised about 11/- for wool and cigarettes, and this year they held an extremely well organised Bazaar in the dinner-hour, at which they made 30/- in 30 minutes – a very useful rate if one could only keep it up.’
‘4B… the Class is sending a football to the front.’
‘We are now hoping to send to the Lady Mayoress’ depot a good supply of socks, as these are still urgently needed. Will everybody please raise 1/- by some means and then knit a pair of socks with the wool bought with it.’ [850 pairs were the School’s target].
This letter from the Front was also reported on:
Sent to 2A: Driver A. Cheras, A.S.C.
c/o Queen Victoria Rifles
British Expeditionary Force. Feb. 16, 1915.
I am writing on behalf of my chums and myself to thank you for the football you so kindly sent us, and which we all appreciate very much. You may be sure that we shall enjoy many games, though we are near the firing lines. Our work is to take supplies up to the trenches by night, and it will be something to do to break the usual monotony of the day by playing ‘footer’…….’
‘As you were so kind as to invite is to sample your ‘weird and wonderful toffee,’ we are only too willing to accept the risk, as the football is sure to help digest it.
I must now conclude, wishing you all, and the ‘Toffee Department’, every success.
Cheras and Fellow Tommies.
Ref: Vols 1-7, 1909-1916. L48.34. [Publication of the Mag-Pie ceased in 1916).