Saturday, 12 March 2016

The Coffee Stall at Rouen Station an extract from Huyton College School Magazine 1915

N.B.:  There is some overlap here – Fascinating Facts/Inspirational Women/Female Poets of the First World War

I’ve been researching the contribution to the First World War made by schoolchildren because everyone did their bit.   I contacted several schools with great success and am gradually writing up exhibition panels.   One of the schools was Liverpool College which merged with their sister school Huyton College in 1993.   One of my former school teachers – Miss Vera Blennerhasset – went on to become a Headmistress of Huyton College, so, eager to pick up on the coincidence, I contacted the Headmaster of Liverpool College and he put me in touch with Jane Rooney of the Huyton College Old Girls Guild.  

Jane kindly searched through the Archives of Huyton College and photocopied me the School’s 1915 Magazine which is fascinating.  Jane also kindly checked with the Liverpool College Foundation that it would be in order for me to share the information, which I will try to do over the coming weeks.   There are accounts written by former pupils or members of staff who were on the Western Front in the early days of the war, as well as contributions by school pupils at the time.    

The girls of Huyton College were very busy knitting and in the Autumn Term 1914 “Sent to Sister Matthews, Casulaty Clearing Hopsital at Ypres – Mufflers, mitttens, socks, helmet.  Sent to Mrs Collingwood for R.N. – Mittens and mufflers.  Sent to Loyal North Lancashire Regiment – Mittens.”

Here is a taster from the magazine:

Page 25 A letter from Miss Hunter a volunteer at The Soldiers’ Coffee Stall, St. Sever Station, Rouen dated 3rd March 1915

“Here one gets really in touch with the men who have been out ever since the war started, and who have been up in the trenches several times. They come down here to the base camp for a rest, after having been out at the front.  They much appreciate anything we do for them.  They all say it is one of the best canteens, or, in fact, the best canteen they have come across over on this side.

Cigarettes they never seem to have too many of, and the amount of “Woodbines” that “Tommy” consumes in incredible.  We have to limit the packets to two or else we should always be out of stock.  Peppermints and cough lozenges they also love, and the latter are especially acceptable, as so many have bad coughs and colds with being out in the damp so much.

We have been very busy at the stall lately as a good many troops have been going through. Just before a train starts for the firing line, we have to feed as many as a thousand or fifteen hundred in about an hour.  It is what we call a “rush”, and one sees only a mass of khaki and a blur of faces, all clamouring for food or drinks on the other side of the counter, while one hands over sandwiches, cake, and coffee as quick or quicker than possible.

When Boy Scouts came through the other day, I was able to make them up a parcel of various things for them to take in the train with them.  It is a thirty-six hours’ journey to the front from here (very slow trains, of course).

I am on night duty this week, so am writing this at 3 a.m. – which is rather a slack time, as only a few men come in between 1 and 5 a.m.  However, we make a point of having the stall open night and day, so that the men know there is some place where they can always get a hot drink – of course, the men on guard in the station here come in at all hours.  Also, there is always a fire – or at least a hot stove – round which they can sit, and we provide as many illustrated papers as possible, and forms and tables, where they can read or write.  An officer told me the other day that a warm place where they can write is so much appreciated by the men.  We can never have too many illustrated papers – so if any of you have any you have read and finished with, they are most acceptable.”

Huyton College or, to give the school its correct title, The Liverpool College for Girls, Huyton, was founded in 1894 as an independent day and boarding school for girls and was a sister school to Liverpool College.   Huyton College merged with Liverpool College on 27th July 1993, shortly before its centenary.

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