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The Spectator at war

The Spectator at war: How to keep husbands sweet

19 August 2014

8:00 AM

19 August 2014

8:00 AM

From The Spectator, 22 August 1914:

SIR,—The article on this subject in your last issue has prompted me to write down some of the things said to me about the war by the women in my district. Our rector wished me to ask at each house whether any one from it was serving with the forces. The usual answer was: “No one from here, I’m glad to say. I shouldn’t like any of mine to go.” One mother said: “There’s no one here could go but Eddie, and I’ve told him he needn’t offer. If they want him they’ll take him.” This idea is general. One woman had heard that “they” had “taken” twenty men from B— (a neighbouring village). Eddie’s grandmother had not been sleeping at nights for the fear that they would take him- ” he’s such a big, strong, likely fellow.” Lest too unfavourable an impression of this village be given, I must say that, though small, it has supplied one man to the Regular Army, two Reservists who have rejoined their regiments, and three Territorials. The relatives of these men show no unwillingness to let them go: a quiet pride is the only feeling they express, and that in manner, not in words. The glories of war are hidden from the village wives and mothers. They think more of its hardships. Sugar was 8d. a pound one day last week. “My husband is fond of a bit of sugar. He often takes a spoonful from the basin, but I’ll keep it locked now, and there’ll be no more on the table than what’ll just go round.” But though they regret the war, they are all satisfied that England could not honourably have avoided it. They are in no anxiety as to its issue, for the idea that we might be unsuccessful has not occurred to them. They know that our Army is small, but “one of our lads is as good as three of theirs.” Several women expressed a deep distrust of the Germans. One told me that she usually went to a chemist named Schuhmacher. “I never knew till lately that he was a German. I sha’n’t go to him no more. Who knows what he may put into the medicines now?” One outspoken old lady said: “I blame the King. I do blame him, having that there Caesar ” (she pronounced it so; perhaps there was a confusion between Kaiser and Tsar) “to stay with him, and letting him see all our ships and soldiers.” I have saved till the end a question put by one trustful soul: “How long is it going to last, Miss? Does the rector know? “—

I am, Sir, &c.,


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