YMCA Postcards from the First World War
In a volume of the Official History of the Great War appears the following: "In the ruined houses, barns and cellars, and in the dug-outs in which the Y.M.C.A. worked near the front, tea, coffee, cocoa, bovril and oxo, with biscuits, cakes and cigarettes, were the principal articles provided, and notepaper and a few books and old newspapers were available."
Sir Arthur Yapp
On Thursday morning 27th September 1917, Arthur Yapp appeared at Buckingham Palace to be honoured with the order of the British Empire. When he was presented, the King told him that he had "..seen our Y.M.C.A. huts all over the country and had visited our centres right up the line on the Western Front." The King added, "You have placed the whole Empire under a debt to you."
During the Great War, Sir Arthur was the National Secretary of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). Under his guidance, its image was changed from one of providing church services and hostels for the homeless, to that of morale-booster and provider of welfare services to the British Army.
The UK Over Night Hostels
During the conflict, tens of thousands of troops ended up in London. Many were on leave from the Front and training camps in the UK, and they arrived at all hours of the day and night. Most simply passed through, but some were forced to stay in the capital overnight, often with nowhere to go "before the train some six to eight hours later conveyed them to their destinations in the North." The YMCA opened hostels for these men at Euston, Kings Cross, Victoria, Paddington and Waterloo stations.
The overnight hut at Victoria Station was specifically created for NCO's and other ranks, but a short distance away, in Grosvenor Gardens, the YM erected a hostel for officers. It became a comfortable club where the guest could have bed and breakfast and buy a souvenir postcard of his visit to it. A specimen of the card is shown here on the left.
The Commercial Photographic Company of Guildford published several sepia coloured cards of the interior of the Grosvenor Gardens establishment.
Later, the Commercial Photographic Company published cards of another Red Triangle center in London. This was the Eagle Hut which was often visited by American soldiers, one of whom sent a card from there to Indian Head Street, South Hansen, Massachusetts, on 5th July 1918. The sender simply wrote, "Will write soon". Another in the set from which it came, was captioned ‘Eagle Hut London’ and was sent to New York. On it there was no message. Another card featuring the Eagle came from the Ministry of Information. The coloured picture thereon was an attractive panoramic view of the large YMCA complex. Further printed details reveal that it was taken ‘From a drawing by Henry Rushburt’.
However, providing huts for accommodation and entertainment for soldiers and sailors, was just one of the many activities undertaken by the YMCA during the First World War. Picture postcards featuring the doings of the YM during 1914-1918 provide a splendid illustrated record of the organisations war-time work.
This eBook outlines the activities of the Y.M.C.A. during the First World War. The book is illustrated with picture postcards and posters from the conflict. Included in the download are 3 FREE Great War YMCA publications - also presented as eBooks.
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