Saturday 29 November 2014

Knitting in the First World War

If only the book “Knitting for Tommy Keeping the Great War Soldier Warm” by Lucinda Gosling had been available two years ago!  This is a must-read for anyone who loves knitting and will also be of great interest for those keen on the history of the First World War from all angles.   Lucinda has gathered advertisements, postcards, cartoons and photos and threaded in authentic knitting patterns used during that war to end all wars.  Lucinda's book  has been published by The History Press, who have given us some wonderful commemorative publications so far this year, and you can find out more on their website:

Two years ago, when I began researching this commemorative exhibition project, I got in touch with an old school friend who runs a knitting circle.  It seemed to me that we could get together and have an afternoon of poetry reading.  The group warmed to the idea and came up with all sorts of interesting items – gloves, mittens, pullovers, balaclavas, fingerless gloves, tea cosies and so on that would surely have been in vogue back then.  There was even a Land Army girl. 

The afternoon was a big success with 80 people attending, WW1 music, talks about the war and a chance to view some of the exhibition panels with WW1 poets with “Wirral connections”, such as May Sinclair, Wilfred Owen and Geoffrey Wall and the one about Nenette and Rintintin the Parisien urchins who were turned into lucky charms using scraps of wool.  Richard Speed of the Knitters and Natters Group in Louth, Lincolnshire kindly made me some replica Nenette and Rintintin dolls.  (If the name seems familiar it was the inspiration behind naming the American film star dog who was discovered as a puppy in a bombed out kennels in Lorraine during WW1 – see under “Fascinating Facts” for more on that story).

And to let you know that I  haven’t forgotten the main point of this weblog, here – with many thanks to the eagle-eyed Phil Dawes who is researching Great War poetry about knitting - is a poem about knitting written by Nellie Hurst during WW1:

I KNIT, I knit, I pray, I pray.
My knitting is my rosary.
And as I weave the stitches gray,
I murmur pray'rs continually.
Gray loop, a sigh, gray knot, a wish,
Gray row a chain of wistful pray'r,
For thus to sit and knit and pray--
This is of war the woman's share.
And so I knit, and thus I pray,
And keep repeating night and day,
May God lead safely those dear feet
That soon shall wear the web of gray.
Now and again a selfish strain?
But surely womans heart must yearn,
And pray sometimes that she may hear
The footsteps that return.
But if, O God, Not that.
But if it must be sacrifice complete,
Then I will trust that afterward
Thou wilt guide home those precious feet.

Nellie Hurst - published in "The Westminster Gazette".

Photo of the knitted Land Army Girl courtesy of J.Wright.

Sunday 23 November 2014

Aline Murray Kilmer (1888 - 1941) - American Poet

Aline was born on 1st August 1888 in Norfolk, Virginia.  Her parents were Ada Foster Murray, a poet, and Kenton C. Murray, who edited the “Norfolk Landmark” newspaper.

Aline’s Father died in 1895 and in 1900, her Mother remarried Henry Mills Alden who was the Managing Editor of “Harpers’ Magazine”.

Aline was educated at Rutgers College Grammar School, where she met her future husband, Joyce Kilmer.   Aline and Joyce were married on 9th June 1908.

When their daughter Rose contracted Polio, Joyce and Aline converted to the Roman Catholic faith.

After her husband’s death in the First World War, Aline had her first collection of poems published under the title “Candles that Burn” in 1919.  She continued to write poetry and also wrote children’s books.

Aline died in Stillwater Township, New Jersey on 1st October 1941.

Monday 17 November 2014

Mechtilde Lichnowsky - Germany

With many thanks to Penelope Monkhouse for supplying the following information:

Mechtilde Lichnowsky (1879 Schloss Schönburg – 1958 London) (née Mechtilde Gräfin von ind zu Arco-Zinneberg) came from a noble family and was a great-granddaughter of the Empress Maria Theresa. In 1904 she married the diplomat Karl Max Prince Lichnowsky, with whom she had three children. Between 1912 and 1914 Prince Lichnowsky was the German ambassador in London, where he tried in vain to reach a political settlement with the UK.

Mechthilde´s first works Götter, Könige und Tiere in Ägypten, 1914, Ein Spiel vom Tod, 1915, Gott betet, 1918, Der Kinderfreund, 1919, were  influenced by Expressionism. Her early literary contacts included the writers Carl Sternheim and Frank Wedekind, as well as the theatre producer Max Reinhardt and the publisher Kurt Wolff.  Mechthilde also corresponded for many years with the Viennese writer and editor of Die Fackel, Karl Kraus.

After her first husband’s death in 1928, Mechtilde moved to the south of France. She refused to join the official Writers´ Chamber and consequently her works were banned. In 1938 she married a British Major - Ralph Harding Peto - but on making a visit to Germany in 1939 she was interned and did not see her husband again - he died in September 1945.

During her house arrest, Mechtilde worked on her critical book "Worte über Wörter" in which she showed the barbarity of the NS-regime through the language it used. It could not be published at the time, but did appear in 1949. During 1946 Mechtilde moved to London, where she lived until her death. In 1954 she was awarded the literature prize of the City of Munich and became a member of the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts. Mechtilde died in June 1958 was buried in the cemetery at Brookwood in Surrey.

A.M. Emonts: Mechtilde Lichnowsky - Sprachlust und Sprachkritik. Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2009.
M. Karl: Mechthild Lichnowsky: Die kluge Fürstin. In: Bayerische Amazonen – 12 Porträts. Pustet, Regensburg 2004, S. 50-65
A. Antoine: Mechtilde Lichnowsky. In: Britta Jürgs (ed..): Wie eine Nilbraut, die man in die Wellen wirft. Portraits expressionistischer Künstlerinnen und Schriftstellerinnen. AvivA, Berlin, 2002, pp. 230-249

Penelope Monkhouse (b.1952) is a German-British scientist living in Germany and is a granddaughter of the novelist, dramatist and literary critic Allan Monkhouse. Literature of the early 20th Century is one of her chief non-scientific interests; she is currently engaged on a comparative study of German and English poetry of this period. Penelope also writes poetry of her own and translates poetry to and from German and English. 

Photo:  Courtesy of View Images via Google Images:  Mechtilde and Karl in London

Thursday 13 November 2014

Exhibition at Lytham Heritage Centre, Lytham, Lancashire, UK until 22nd November 2014

With many thanks to the hard-working band of volunteers who keep the lovely Lytham Heritage Centre going.

Their exhibition "Lancashire at War 1914 - 1918" has a section featuring some of the Female Poets, Inspirational Women, Fascinating Facts and Forgotten Poets of the First World War.

The Centre is open from 10 am to 4 pm every day except Mondays and the exhibition runs until 22nd November 2014.

Among the poets featured are Anna Akhmatova (Russia), Florbela Espanca (Portugal), Moina Belle Michael and Ella Wheeler Wilcox (America), Catherine Bridson, Agatha Christie, Winifred M. Letts, Millicent Sutherland and Mary Webb (Great Britain).   Lancashire's forgotten poet Lascelles Abercrombie is also featured, as is Inspirational Woman Mary Riter Hamilton the Canadian artist who went to paint the aftermath in May 1919.

There are also leaflets about female poets, writers and artists who served as VADs, nurses, drivers, etc., and about some of the best known WW1 songs.

The glass case you can see in the photo contains some specially created ceramic pieces by Lytham-based ceramic artist Marie Kershaw, who has also made some really lovely ceramic poppies, which I believe she will be selling in aid of a military charity.

Sunday 2 November 2014

Female Poets, Artists, Writers who served during The First World War

As many of you will know, I began this commemorative exhibition project in May 2012 for an exhibition to be held at the Wilfred Owen Story museum, in Argyle Street, Birkenhead, Wirral in November of that year.   Now, more than two year on, the project has grown and the exhibition (with slight variations to the original panels as I keep finding more information) is still on show.

For those of you who are unable to visit exhibitions I started this weblog and have also put some of the information into print (and e-book form).

Some of the exhibition panels are on currently on display in the UK at the Wilfred Owen Story, Birkenhead, Wirral;  Salford Museum and Art Gallery, Salford, Manchester; Fleetwood Library, Fleetwood, Lancashire.  There will also be panels on display at the "Lancashire at War 1914 - 1918" Exhibition at Lytham Heritage Centre, Lytham, Lancashire from 5th November 2014.

I am currently collecting information about poets, writers and artists who served in some way during the First World War.  As always I'd be most grateful for your help in finding others. Here are those I have found so far:


Edith Bagnold (Great-grandmother to Samantha Cameron)
Maud Anna Bell - Serbian Fund
Beatrix Brice Miller - went to France as a Lady Helper with her mother who was a trained nurse
Vera Brittain - VAD nurse in the UK and Malta
May Wedderburn Cannan - VAD - Rouen, France 1915 and Paris in 1918
Agatha Christie - VAD in Devon
Jessica Stewart Dismorr (1885 - 1939) - Artist who nursed in France in WW1
Eva Dobell
Lady Helena Emily Gleichen (1873 - 1947) - Artist. Radiographer during WW1
Isobel Grindley
Cicely Hamilton - Royaumont - administrator; actress, poet, writer
Violet Jessop
Winifred M. Letts - served with the Almeric Paget team of physiotherapists
Nina Mardel
Naomi Mitchison - Scottish
Carola Oman
Jessie Pope - was a volunteer at St. Dunstan's home for the Blind during WW1
Olivia Robertson
May Sinclair (Travelled to France with Dr. H. Monro in August 1914, May had to return to England after six weeks due to shell shock)
Freya Stark 
Millicent Sutherland - funded a hospital - her work was painted by the French artist Victor Tardieu**
Joan Thompson
Evelyn Underhill (I am not sure if she nursed but she did work for the SSAFA - Soldiers, Sailors, Air Force Association)
Alberta Vickridge
M. Winifred Wedgwood


Mary Borden set up and funded a medical team and went to France 1915 - 1918
Amelia Earhart - trained as a VAD assistant in Canada 1917 - 1918
Mary H.J. Henderson lived in England and went with Elsa Inglis to Russia and Serbia to nurse
Elizabeth Nourse (1859 - 1938) ARTIST - worked in France helping refugees WW1
Marie Van Vorst
Edith Wharton
Ella Wheeler Wilcox - went to France in 1918 to read poetry and lecture to the troops

Grace Ellery Channing went as a War Correspondent


Emily 'Beryl' Henson (1887 - 1969) - poet
Mary Inger - poet
Iso (Isobel) Rae (1860 - 1940) Artist - joined the VAD in London WW1 - Etaples Base Camp
Alice Ross-King (1887 - 1968) - poet
Christine Erica Strom (1892 - 1984) - poet
Jessie Traill (1891 - 1967) - Artist - joined the VAD in London WW1 worked in hospitals in England and France


Stephanie HOLLENSTEIN - Artist who nursed, became a soldier, then a war artist in WW1


Henriette HARDENBERG - poet and nurse


Elizabeta POLONSKAYA - poet and doctor


Emine SEMIYE ONASY (1864 – 1944) – writer/nurse

With thanks to all those who have helped me - Martin Zieren, Phil Dawes, Penelope Monkhouse, Stanley Kaye - and to all the people who have contacted me since I began this project.

Remembering my Grandfather, Lewis Jackson, an Old Contemptible with the Royal Field Artillery who survived the conflic,t and my Great Uncle, James Yule, who was killed at Arras on Easter Monday, 9th April 1917 - the same day as the poets R.E. Vernede and Edward Thomas were killed.

Photo:  Exhibition Panels at Fleetwood Library - showing Ella Wheeler-Wilcox 

**  Victor Tardieu's paintings are on display at the Florence Nightingale Museum in London