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White feather


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Yes I have read one or two stories which may be 'true in principle' but perhaps not in details. The usual one is that a young man in civilian clothes is in a restuarant , and a rather pompous older lady comes bustling over and hands him a white feather. He thanks her for it politely and puts in his jacket pocket so it remains visible. Later when gets up to leave, he reaches under the table, comes up with a walking stick and when stands, it is clear that part of his leg his missing.

Such stories being circulated seem to show that there were doubts concerning the antics of the women with the white feathers.

Regards

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QUOTE (David Faulder @ Apr 28 2010, 10:07 AM)

When did the practice actually die out? I have heard rumour that it also occurred during WW2.

David

Not a rumour - It does indeed seem to have occurred during WW2. Attached is a strongly-worded Daily Mirror editorial of the 30th August 1940.

post-42233-1276764392.jpg

It certainly did happen. My father was sent one. I mentioned earlier that although he was in a civilian job he was forbidden to even volunteer for active service (his civilian service was actually more active than that of many sodliers or airmen).

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Guest CombatCarer

When did the practice actually die out? I have heard rumour that it also occurred during WW2.

David

I know for a fact that a soldier who resigned from his Territorial Unit just before it deployed was sent a white feather in the post. The person who sent it did not have the courage to hand it to him, and nor did they make themselves known. It was sent from the town where the Unit was located so could have been anyone.

This occurred when the Unit was deploying to Iraq and it was 2003, so it can be argued that it still hasn't died out!

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  • 4 weeks later...

Does anyone have an idea of when the practice began. I've posted before on this topic that I've found refernce to it in literature on the American Civil War.

I find myself tending to think the practice has more traction in pop culture then in actual total historical numbers. It's a simple tableau to create that pulls a lot of strings.

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  • 7 years later...

 

Today’s Daily Express:-

THE statue of Suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst should be removed from its place of honour in Westminster because of her role in bullying thousands of young men to go and die in the First World War, a campaign group has claimed.

The Fathers4Justice group, which campaigns for men to be treated equally with parental access and divorce, has pointed out that the feminist icon Mrs Pankhurst and her daughter Christabel were leading members of the White Feather Campaign. In contrast her younger daughter Sylvia was a prominent pacifist. Founded by Admiral Charles Fitzgerald and the prominent author Mrs Humphry Ward in August 1914, the White Feather Campaign saw hundreds of thousands of young men harassed and publicly pillaried for not going to fight in the trenches on the Western front even if they were in reserved occupations.

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Steven Broomfield
14 hours ago, PhilB said:

 

Today’s Daily Express:-

THE statue of Suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst should be removed from its place of honour in Westminster because of her role in bullying thousands of young men to go and die in the First World War, a campaign group has claimed.

The Fathers4Justice group, which campaigns for men to be treated equally with parental access and divorce, has pointed out that the feminist icon Mrs Pankhurst and her daughter Christabel were leading members of the White Feather Campaign. In contrast her younger daughter Sylvia was a prominent pacifist. Founded by Admiral Charles Fitzgerald and the prominent author Mrs Humphry Ward in August 1914, the White Feather Campaign saw hundreds of thousands of young men harassed and publicly pillaried for not going to fight in the trenches on the Western front even if they were in reserved occupations.

 

Give me strength.

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I read the topic of Austrialan servicemen being given white feathers  because they had a cushy Job in Europe......Cushy Job Living in trenches bombarded by bullets, machine guns , flame throwers, blown up by mines bombs, artillery shells, stricken with disease..not to be mentioned risk of being shot swoen in the air or dying at sea{blown up; drowned; freezing} indeed!:angry::whistle:

and lets not forget Posion gas!!!

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1 hour ago, Steven Broomfield said:

 

Give me strength.

 

 Exactly so.   But a little piece of trivia- the well-known photograph of Mrs. P.  being manhandled by a policeman

image.png.8efeb2e2cc1a85b68e870c2e8b0425a1.png

 

 

    The policemen was Inspector Francis Rolfe of the Metropolitan Police- It was not that Mrs. P. was unduly gamine-Rolfe was 6'4" tall.  He was a specialist in "political" duties and potentially  troubleosme public events. He died of meningitis in June 1914-tripped over a barrier at Bisley and a graze became infected. Buried in St. Marys,Wanstead. His father was also a policeman- one brother died of fever in South Africa with the Cape Mounted Rifles. Another,Sergeant Charles Rolfe of the London Rifle Brigade was killed in action in France in May 1915.

 

image.png.55d9af7b87be3b21208500624780f140.png

 

(With Thanks to the late Alexander Korda and A.E.W.Mason.- 3 of the Four Feathers as given to Harry Faversham by his bother officers.

 

    Steven-Just to cheer you up even more- Given the number of casualties in the Chinese Labour Corps and similar African/Afro-Caribbean  formations, there is a statistical chance that the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey is either Chinese or Black. 

   

Edited by Guest
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As this thread pointed out..some men could not be accepted into the services becasue they were in occupations that were essential to the war effort or because they had physical aliements that prevented the from enlisting....In US IN WWII....those who wanted to serve but didnt want to kill could be given occpations such as combat medic {Which was just as dangerous being on the front lines;} or...the alternative such as jobs such as working as orderly in hospitals or foresrty work {thus freeing able bodied men to service]

As regarding to those who chose not to serve because of religious objections....WWI there were cases of those who jailed until the end of the war....heopefully in WWII there were was a more saner policy..mark them off as conscious objectors.....and let them go..after alll..if he is not willing to serve...why train him at all!   On the other hand I came across WWII Stories of ancient US Civil War Veterans in their 80's or so..who tried to re-enlist  in WW II nearly 70 years after the "LAte unpleasentness" of 1861-1865!:whistle:

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There is a letter in the Hampshire Chonicle, presumably published late 1915, from a former serviceman who complains that young men who had attested under the Derby Scheme and had "done nothing" were swanning about town in admiration, wearing their armbands, whereas someone like himself who had seen action at the front and been discharged were given nothing more than a piece of paper (discharge certificate) which had to be produced from a coat pocket every time he was challenged. 

 

Presumably the introduction of the Silver War Badge eventually made things easier.

 

Alan.

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21 hours ago, voltaire60 said:

 

      Steven-Just to cheer you up even more- Given the number of casualties in the Chinese Labour Corps and similar African/Afro-Caribbean  formations, there is a statistical chance that the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey is either Chinese or Black. 

   

All I can find about the original (ie on the battlefield) selection is:-

Suitable remains were exhumed from various battlefields and brought to the chapel at Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise near Arras, France on the night of 7 November 1920."

Is there any indication how and by whom this (very important) original selection was made?

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54 minutes ago, stiletto_33853 said:

Attached is a JSTOR article written by Nicoletta F. Gullace "White Feathers and Wounded: Female Patriotism and the Memory of the Great War"

 

Andy

White Feathers and Wounded men.pdf 3.36 MB · 1 download

Possibly not just the ladies misjudged patriotism. My grandfather apparently received a white feather along with his breakfast, seemingly left by his practice partners daughter because he did not reciprocate her interest in him. Wonder how many men went to the front because of a woman scorned or simply because of good old spitefulness.   

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Steven Broomfield
1 hour ago, PhilB said:

All I can find about the original (ie on the battlefield) selection is:-

Suitable remains were exhumed from various battlefields and brought to the chapel at Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise near Arras, France on the night of 7 November 1920."

Is there any indication how and by whom this (very important) original selection was made?

 

Might be worth a Forum search; if that yields nothing, try a separate thread. The people who know that stuff might not see it here.

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From a previous post by johnsutton:-


“I have recently transcribed the definitive account on the body selection from Brig. Gen. Wyatt's personal papers at the IWM.

The transcript reads:

THE UNKNOWN WARRIOR

 

On one of the many visits to the Adjutant General, as GOC France and Flanders, he said The Dean of Westminster had just been in to see him. He had suggested that a Body of an Unknown British Soldier should be brought back from France and buried in Westminster Abbey. I was asked what I thought about it and said it was a wonderful idea. The suggestion was placed before His Majesty, who immediately approved. It is rather interesting that after the approval had been given, I attended a large luncheon party and at it, I was asked what they thought of the proposal to bring a over a body, and only person out of 24 agreed that it was a wonderful idea, the rest said it would never appeal to the English. All arrangements were left to me and I decided that:-

  1. The Body must be an English Soldier, and that there could be no means of him being identified.
  2. A Body should be chosen from each of the four Big Battle Areas
    Aisne, Somme, Arras, Ypres
  3. The Bodies should be brought to my Hd. Qrs. At St. Pol and placed in the Chapel there on the 8th November 1920,
  4. The parties bringing the Body should at once return to their Areas.

At 12 midnight 8/9th Nov, it was reported that the four bodies had arrived and accompanied by
Lt Col Gell one of my staff, I went to the Chapel.

The Bodies which were nothing but a collection of bones, placed in sacks, were each placed on a stretcher covered by a Union Jack,“
 

it rather precludes the idea that the body could be non-English, though how they did that on an unidentifiable “bag of bones” escapes me!

 

 

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2 hours ago, PhilB said:

All I can find about the original (ie on the battlefield) selection is:-

Suitable remains were exhumed from various battlefields and brought to the chapel at Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise near Arras, France on the night of 7 November 1920."

Is there any indication how and by whom this (very important) original selection was made?

 

  Hi Phil- it was a bit of a tease. Like you, I have the usual stories about the selection being from each of the main battlefield areas (Sometimes given as 4,sometimes 6), the random placing and selection, carriage by HMS Verdun,etc.  I suspect that the selection could not have been absolutely random-as the UW could have been Australian, New Zealand, South African-indeed,Portuguese or even German.  The whole thing suggests that reference was made to GRU sheets to ensure  that a Brit. was chosen- UBS. So not quite random- 

     But the idea  did work- it acted as a consolation to many bereaved-  I wonder how many bridal bouquets were placed there over the years- The dear old Queen Mum left her bridal bouquet there in 1923, as a memory of her brother,lost serving with the Black Watch. I have a local family who lost 2 sons out of 3- the third was badly wounded but when he married the bride did the same- her bouquet was placed at the local war memorial.

    The White Feather  mob-if,indeed it really existed, were but one of the eccentricities of war - war brings out the nutters and not just those on the General Staff. My favourite was a suggestion in 1914 by a retired Colonel local to me, in Woodford,Essex, that used tea leaves could be gathered from the "right" sort of households, dried and sent out to the troops in France. As the German tourist says as the final words in the classic episode of Fawlty Towers "However did they win the war?"

Edited by Guest
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The stipulation is (item 1) that it must be an English soldier. Was that to mean British or exclusively English - again a difficult task on a bag of bones? Was a Scottish Unknown Soldier ever considered?

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5 hours ago, PhilB said:
  1. The Body must be an English Soldier, and that there could be no means of him being identified.

 

And some members on here were very insistent that the Irish were not discriminated against.....

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53 minutes ago, PhilB said:

I suspect that, in those days, English was used (rather carelessly!) to mean British.

 

Precisely. 

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2 hours ago, Jim Clay said:

 

Precisely. 

In my  step grandfathers diaries I  don't think he uses the word "British" once, always "English" when talking about the army. occasionally Allies, sometimes french but never British,

But then again he was born into  "English Victorian aristocracy." That maybe is perhaps the answer!....(But he did receive a white feather Before signing up to the RAMC)

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Steven Broomfield
19 hours ago, PhilB said:

I suspect that, in those days, English was used (rather carelessly!) to mean British.

 

Many, many years ago we visited Builth Wells. The war memorial there is instructive, and Mr Google provided me with a picture.

 

'Live thou for England

We for England died'

Builth Wells.jpg

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Dai Bach y Sowldiwr
23 hours ago, Steven Broomfield said:

 

Many, many years ago we visited Builth Wells. The war memorial there is instructive, and Mr Google provided me with a picture.

 

'Live thou for England

We for England died'

 

Going further off on the tangent, I see this epitaph inscription has been covered here in the past:

 

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On 31/08/2020 at 11:36, PhilB said:

I suspect that, in those days, English was used (rather carelessly!) to mean British.

 

And the Irish (and Scotch and Sheep aficionados) are and were very well aware of that!

 

 I don't think this is careless useage. This chap was a senior British army officer, writing an account of what he knew was a historic event, an event that would attract keen attention in the future. He was writing for posterity, and I think he meant precisely what he said - an English soldier. Not German, French, Scotch or Irish, or any other sort of colonial.

Edited by Wexflyer
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