Cigarettes and home comforts

Seven soldiers in group

It’s strange to see photographs of people smoking in our World War One collections. It’s not surprising that informal photos often capture someone with a cigarette in their hand. This posed photograph of uniformed soldiers shows every man a smoker.

Cigarettes must have been a comfort at the front. We know tobacco is an appetite suppressant. There are apocryphal stories of the dangers of lighting a match in the trenches, or of lives saved by the bullet deflected by a metal cigarette case.

Looking at the log book for Granby Row School my colleagues came across the following entries for 1914.

Weds Nov 4th 1914

Boys asked permission to bring in cigarettes or cash to be sent to the Old Boys at the front instead of spending the money in fireworks. I accepted the trust and received by Friday Aft. 1100 cigarettes. We sent 800 to Jas. Egerton in Hospital at Paris – Robt Skitt & J. Machin in the trenches, F.Wright H.M.S. Hindustan (North Sea) F.Whitney H.M.S. Duke of Edinburgh (Mediterranean) W.E. Carter & R Fletcher wounded at home. The remainder 300 to the Military Hospital Whitworth St.

Friday 13th

Fred Wright H.M.S. Hindustan – H Thompson R.A.S.C. and J.Bell R.E. visited.

Letter from J. Machin Rifle Brigade. Jas Calardine (Cyprus), Sapper Shaw R.E. Driver Edge R.H.A. W. Blakeley (Cyprus)

Written by Henry Littlewood, Head Teacher. He retired on Weds 23rd December after 39 years as headmaster.

It’s fascinating to see that former pupils kept in touch with their school in this way.

The numbers of cigarettes involved is astonishing. Cigarettes or fireworks? They wouldn’t be old enough to buy either nowadays!

M66/30/3/1/1 – Granby Row log book

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