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Covering the villages of Wilsden and Harecroft
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A Queer Request

“Soldiers on service are evidently as subject as the rest of the world to fashions and fads. They are constantly discovering new diversions and interests, and there is no telling in advance the direction their fancies will take. We have mentioned from time to time in these columns requests that have reached us from trenches and camps for all sorts of things, from footballs to concertinas and from gramophones to mouth organs, to relieve the tedium of training or to while away the hours of wearisome waiting at the front. But the queerest request of all is one from a member of the Duke of Wellington’s, “somewhere in France”, who says he and his companions would be very much obliged if someone would send them a cheap tattooing outfit. “We have had one in the battalion up to these last few week,” he observes, “but owing to a bit of misfortune it got lost, and it is the only thing that occupies the boys when we come out on rest”.

The Tattooing Fad in the Army

We confess that this was the first intimation that had reached us that our boys in khaki had taken to decorating themselves after the manner of those ancient Britons and more modern South Sea Islanders about whom we used to read in our school days, who evidently found an outlet for their artistic tendencies by turning themselves into walking picture galleries. We were aware, of course, that the practice of adorning their skins with wonderful and fearful devices was in favour with certain of our Jack Tars [Navy personnel], but we did not know that the fashion had caught on to any great extent in the Army. Since the arrival of the letter quoted above, however, we notice from a daily contemporary that “souvenir tattooing” is the latest fad of the fighting men in France. The old-fashioned designs of lovers’ knots, flags and coiled snakes have given way to miniature coloured representations of tanks, aeroplanes, machine guns and Stokes mortars. Absolute accuracy in detail is insisted upon, and some really excellent work is being executed. Expert wielders of the tattooing instrument are in great demand. Their fees range from five to twenty francs, according to size of design and amount of detail required.

Skin Puncturing as a Rest-time Diversion

That is evidently the high art phase of this tattooing craze which has seized upon the Tommies in the trenches and the rest camps. But, apart from this resort to experts in the craft, we gather from the letter of our soldier correspondent that the boys are given to amateur experiments themselves when they can get the tackle to practise with. How this new amusement is viewed by the Army authorities we have no means of knowing. For our own part, it seems a rather curious form of rest-time diversion. We should have thought our soldiers, of all mortals, would have had their fill of puncturing in their vaccination and anti this and anti that inoculations at the hands of the doctors, without wanting to go in for picture puncturing on their own. But there is no accounting for tastes, and if the boys find amusement and interest in the practise of this peculiar form of decorative art, and the authorities have no objection, we have no doubt some of our readers will be ready to oblige by supplying the apparatus for it. We shall be glad to furnish the address of our soldier correspondent to persons willing to oblige in this way”.

- Keighley News, 25th May 1918

Sources

Keighley News Archive (accessed via Bradford Libraries website)

 

15th May – In German-occupied Belgium, sixty-one people were brought to trial in Brussels, accused of printing and distributing the illegal patriotic newspaper Libre Belgique. The newspaper had had a wide distribution, and had been a particular source of annoyance for the Germans. The sixty-one accused had been arrested at the end of January 1918, and the Kaiser sent a telegram of congratulations to the Military Governor, General von Falkenhausen – the paper had described von Falkenhausen as “a bird of prey sent to live on the palpitating flesh of Belgium”. All the arrested were sentenced to between 10 and 12 years imprisonment – but within weeks, the paper reappeared, with issue 143 being printed almost single-handedly by Abbé van den Hout, who, on a treadle press, printed 7,000 copies, then arranged for more to be re-printed in Antwerp. Copies of Libre Belgique were even smuggled into internment camps in Germany, where they were read aloud to audiences of four or five-hundred internees.

18th May – In retaliation for German air-raids on London, thirty-three British aircraft bombed Cologne, causing widespread damage and killing one hundred and ten civilians. The next night, German bombers struck again at London, killing forty-eight civilians. Of the twenty-eight German bombers on the raid, six were shot down by British pilots, and another three crashed on reaching their home aerodromes.

Photo Libre Belgique Source Ghent University Library, archive.ugent.be:FC213012-1731-11E2-A8D9-5A520D0ED9C1, via Europeana http://www.europeana.eu/portal/en/record/9200142/BibliographicResource_30. This file is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license: https://creativecommons.or/licenses/by-sa/4.0/

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Sources

Keighley News Archive (accessed via Bradford Libraries website)

Gilbert, M. First World War




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Sources

Keighley News Archive (accessed via Bradford Libraries website)