We have recently received a donation to our Liddle Collection relating to Richard George Hall Evans a private in World War 1. His archive contains letters written to his family from a training camp and the front, and also postcards and medals.
Richard, or Dick as he was known, was born in Middlesbrough in 1896. Volunteering for service at the outbreak of the war in 1914, Dick was sent to Frensham Training Camp near Farnham in Surrey. His early letters contain touches of humour. He writes to his sister Jane ‘tell Nellie Turnbull to send her card and I will give her one back for devilment’. Dick is envious of Jane who had been to a recent Middlesbrough Football Club match. The 1914-1915 season of the Football League was to be the final one before it was suspended for the duration of the war.
Evidently Dick quickly regretted signing up, writing from the camp, ‘There is a lot got sent home from here that have not passed here wish I was’. He was to survive another two years, fighting with the 9th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment in France. Dick died at the Battle of Albert on 10th July 1916, but sadly his parents Frank and Dorothy were given false hope that he was wounded and missing. It was only in November that they found out that Dick had died in the battle.
Another donation in March was a leaflet called ‘Woman’s Place…’ which was published by the Army Bureau of Current Affairs (ABCA) during the Second World War.
The Army Bureau of Current Affairs was founded in 1941 and directed by W. E. (later Sir Emrys) Williams. Williams had been editor-in-chief at Penguin Books, and from 1934-1940 was Secretary of the British Institute of Adult Education. Williams believed ‘that the fighting men and women had a right to basic information, political curiosity and a feeling of partnership in deciding what kind of a country Britain should be after the war had been won.’
The ABCA pamphlets were published in two series: ‘war’ and ‘current affairs’. Pamphlets in the ‘current affairs’ series were published fortnightly and titles included ‘The Nation’s Health’ (February 1943), and ‘Development of Nazism’ (October 1942), as well as pamphlets on the position of women including ‘Women at War’ (June 1942), ‘Women after the War’ (May 1943).
‘Woman’s Place’, published in January 1944 encourages debate about the position of women in society. It challenges readers to think about assumptions such as ‘woman’s place is in the home’, and suggests that ‘ignorant and casual observers jump to the wrong conclusion that Women Who Work are a phenomenon of war’.
Williams, who wrote the pamphlet himself, acknowledges the long history of paid women’s work prior to the war but, perhaps more progressively, he acknowledges the unwaged labour performed by many women. ‘One thing to get clear in our minds’, Williams writes, ‘is the fact that some kinds of women’s work are, and always have been, habitually unpaid.’
The ABCA pamphlets were the cause of some controversy in the 1940s. Intended to facilitate the discussion of topical issues in groups, they have been credited with contributing to the victory of the Labour Party in the 1945 General Election.