Mad men & English togs

21st December 1914

The Dorsets sent in their nightly reports to the 15th Brigade HQ and this filtered through to the 5th Division.The diary entry reads (I think) “patrols report of wounded”. What could this mean? Were there wounded out in No Man’s Land? Or were some of the Dorsets wounded while they were out and about?

Rifle fire at intervals was the order of the day. The response from the Germans was to heavily shell the Dorset trenches. Six men were wounded. The shellfire came from a new enemy battery to the north and British guns were asked to locate and engage it the following day.

In today’s Telegraph one hundred years ago, all the Christmas consumerism we seem to think is just a modern phenomena is there to see in all its greedy glory in 1914. On page five, a full page advert*, which is titled “What they need most at the front” begins with a “remarkably enlightening Letter from an Officer”. The letter goes on to recommend Christmas gifts men really needed at the front. Underneath in five columns, run adverts for a range of products, ranging from Oxo, Aquascutum overcoats, Horlick’s malted milk tablets and vaseline. In one of the panels is a pull quote. It reads “–but what they need most of all is MORE MEN”.

The addition of the call to arms message recalls the broohaahaa over this year’s Sainsbury’s advert. Presumably the copy was devised by ad men who were still a long way from signing up to the war effort.

The page uses a no holds barred advertising trick still used today; namely tug at the consumer’s heart and then hit them over the head with the product. John Lewis is still doing it every Christmas.

* Dorland advertising agency placed the advert in the newspaper. They went on to be one of the UK’s, and indeed the World’s, biggest ad agencies. They made the iconic Castrol GTX ad in 1980.

The Dorsets’ Achilles heel


14th November 1914

Here’s a little extract from Frank’s last letter:

Ho (No?) just a minute you ask what I would like for Xmas well Till I would like some underclothing and things like that only tell Aunt not to forget a bit of Xmas duff, only it won’t be any good posting it just before Xmas as I won’t get it so you will have to allow for that.

I wonder if that was Sainsbury’s Xmas Duff? “Eh what?” I hear you cry? I was going to show a Delia recipe but then realised she’s* she was tied up with Sainso’s too. I’m not their biggest fan having found lumps of concrete in my muesli last week and I must admit that their Christmas advert sits very uncomfortably with me. Here’s a recipe for Plum Duff and a little of its history.

Today one Dorset man was killed: 17 year old William Read. Two men were wounded. That was soon to increase to three wounded. The shelling had became so accurate that a decision was made to move the Battalion HQ to a château lodge, a quarter of a mile behind Point 63. This area was later known as Red Lodge, and became a military cemetery until 1930** when the graves were moved to Berks Cemetery Extension because the land couldn’t be purchased in perpetuity.

Image showing Red Lodge, Ploegsteert Wood

Red Lodge, Ploegsteert Wood

So it was ironic then that, having moved to a safer area, Major Saunders was making his daily visit to the companies along the line when he was hit by a piece of shrapnel on the foot. Major Fraser immediately assumed command of the Battalion.

Mons retreat

(The then Captain) The Dorsets’ new CO Major Fraser can be seen here second from right, looking like a headmaster with a pipe and shiny tag.

* Thanks to the Barber of Seville Sainsbury’s Orange for the correction.


** See comments below