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HazelMac

Women on or around Salisbury Plain

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HazelMac

I've been told that my grandmother, Brenda Alice Bryan, worked on or around Salisbury Plain during WW1 "feeding the troops". I believe she was a civilian and I'd like to know when she worked there. Are there any records of civilian personnel?

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seaJane

@Moonraker can you contribute anything?

 

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Moonraker

Welcome to the Forum, Hazel

 

My first thought was that your grandmother may have worked at one of the dozens of recreational huts run by the YMCA, Salvation Army and other organisations that provided off-duty facilities for soldiers, though my impression is that rather than full meals they provided refreshments and sold tins of food to embellish army rations.

 

However when Jacko Thompson of the 45th Training Reserve Battalion, Australian Imperial Force, arrived at Camp number 9 at Sutton Veny in October 1917, the Salvation Army hut gave him the best tea he had had since leaving home: "nice new and crisp bread & butter - BUTTER! Tea and eggs etc, and with reasonable charges".

 

As the war progressed, women replaced men in camp kitchens. A letter sent from the Central Flying School, Upavon reported that: "We have had our man cooks replaced by women and well we know it. The Cooking was not up to much then but now we are suffering for their inexperience. Its as the Australians say 'Say kid they cant cook water'.

 

I'm very weak on genealogical research, and other GWF members may be able to make suggestions or even do a little research for you. I couldn't find  "Brenda Alice Bryan" on the British Red Cross database of its volunteers.

 

I've sometimes wondered what it would have been like to be one of a very few women working in a camp of thousands of men.

 

 

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Moonraker

Hazel's query set me thinking (well done, Hazel, that's an achievement) and I started a more general thread

 

Women replacing men in British camp kitchens

 

Looking at it will give you some more ideas as to your grandmother's work.

 

I suggest that any further contributions to Hazel's relate specifically to her grandmother. Her being a civilian makes researching her more difficult than had she served with the WAAC. Any further info about her (maiden or married name, place of birth, addresses in 1914-18) might prompt our genealogists into action. As I said, my knowledge of researching family history is limited.

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Airshipped

Potentially a red herring for you Hazel but I've encountered a few WRAF who served in similar roles, i.e. is it possible that your grandmother may not have been a civilian? Although Old Sarum is in the distance from Salisbury Plain (well, according to Turner's or Constable's paintings if I recall correctly) there was a large RAF presence there. 

 

Potentially, 'feeding the troops' could actually have been feeding aircrew and groundcrew of the RAF.

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Moonraker

There were a number of other airfields "around Salisbury Plain" who employed women in a number of roles. "Salisbury Plain" itself is a large enough area in itself and "around" makes it  vast, not helped by some soldiers who weren't actually in camps on it thinking they were, eg those at Fovant.

 

And quite apart from the organised facilities, there were many individuals who ran their own cafes and opened up their homes to soldiers.

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HazelMac

Apologies for sending an earlier reply to the moderator. My grandmother, Brenda, was born in 1893 in Queensferry, North Wales. I've found her on the 1911 census working as a scullery maid in that area. I didn't know her but her son, who did, told me of the Salisbury Plain connection. He would have known if she was a member of the armed forces, so I'm pretty sure she was a civilian. She worked as a domestic servant in other houses so I don't believe she would have had the resources to be a volunteer. Thanks to everybody for their help so far.  

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FROGSMILE
Posted (edited)

Don’t forget the Miss Perks Soldiers’ Home at Bulford, a large institution that provided refreshments and relaxation opportunities throughout the war.  It had women on its staff too.  Bulford and Tidworth were both close to Salisbury Plain and the Southern Command HQ was not far away at Tedworth House.

There were also several more like the YMCA and Wesleyan/Cromwell Institutes.

 

7CED00B6-B0F3-4C59-AF23-C709DCA852C7.jpeg

2BA17F43-8834-495D-963F-97FE3FF381E6.jpeg

9B524190-7BAE-4D4A-A69F-A1C7A50BEBF3.jpeg

4E901D13-7E84-4ECC-9E1C-2B373A6B4FB0.jpeg

DB100F87-045D-48BA-9BFD-3645BE96CB99.jpeg

Edited by FROGSMILE

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HazelMac

Thanks for the information about Miss Perks' Soldiers' Homes. I'd never heard of these before  From what I have read so far there were two Miss Perks offering help to servicemen. I will pursue this further in an effort to trace when my grandmother was employed around Salisbury Plain. Thanks too for the great photos. 

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FROGSMILE
Posted (edited)
20 hours ago, HazelMac said:

Thanks for the information about Miss Perks' Soldiers' Homes. I'd never heard of these before  From what I have read so far there were two Miss Perks offering help to servicemen. I will pursue this further in an effort to trace when my grandmother was employed around Salisbury Plain. Thanks too for the great photos. 


Yes, it seems that the Perks sisters saw themselves as imbued with the Holy Spirit.  There is some detail about them and the Soldiers Homes here: https://www.hopewinchester.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Regs_book.pdf

(warning: its a bit churchy and only some of it is relevant to the soldier’s homes in Bulford and Winchester)

Edited by FROGSMILE

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Gareth Davies

Do you know where in Bulford it was?

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Moonraker

I can't say if Frogsmile does, but N D G James in Plain Soldiering, published in 1987, tells me that Miss Perks' Home "occupied the site on which the present Roman Catholic Garrison Church now stands and the short avenue of lime trees leading to the Church originally lead to Miss Perks' Home".

 

William Luff, Soldiers of the King - A Record of God's Work, (S W Partridge & Co, London 1903) describes  Misses Louise and Emma Perks as "two ladies who for years have devoted strength, time, talents and means to the furtherance of gospel meetings, bible reading and meeting for prayer and praise, caring for sick and wounded, sending parcels abroad and general correspondence with men everywhere."

 

In March 1917 D L Ghilchik reported that "Miss Perks will let you have two boiled eggs for a tanner [6d]." (IWM PPR/MCR/33)

 

 

 

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FROGSMILE
Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Moonraker said:

I can't say if Frogsmile does, but N D G James in Plain Soldiering, published in 1987, tells me that Miss Perks' Home "occupied the site on which the present Roman Catholic Garrison Church now stands and the short avenue of lime trees leading to the Church originally lead to Miss Perks' Home".

 

William Luff, Soldiers of the King - A Record of God's Work, (S W Partridge & Co, London 1903) describes  Misses Louise and Emma Perks as "two ladies who for years have devoted strength, time, talents and means to the furtherance of gospel meetings, bible reading and meeting for prayer and praise, caring for sick and wounded, sending parcels abroad and general correspondence with men everywhere."

 

In March 1917 D L Ghilchik reported that "Miss Perks will let you have two boiled eggs for a tanner [6d]." (IWM PPR/MCR/33)

 

 

 


What you’ve outlined is my understanding of the location too.  It must have been demolished soon after the war as the church’s foundation stone was laid in 1920.

 

This from Historic England:

 

“Sketch designs for a church at Bulford Camp were under consideration in 1913, but not progressed due to the outbreak of war. Following the armistice it was decided that the church should also serve as a memorial to the fallen, and Blount and Williamson of Salisbury were engaged as architects. The foundation stone was laid by Field Marshall Lord Methuen on 13 October 1920 and the nave dedicated in 1923. Increased costs caused building works to cease until 1926. The building was completed in 1927, and dedicated to St George by the Bishop of Salisbury on 27 November of that year.”

 

However, I’m very puzzled by this because elsewhere it states that Miss Perks home was “taken over by Elise Sandes  in 1926”.

 

There’s more information from a book you’ll be familiar with here: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=ggU9BAAAQBAJ&pg=PT116&lpg=PT116&dq=miss+perks+soldiers+home+bulford+camp&source=bl&ots=OIyx9vibeU&sig=ACfU3U1B7AjY9yqMBLHb5i6yWGxSjjTA0Q&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjRh6P8sc3qAhXVoFwKHYEZDFw4ChDoATAAegQICRAB#v=onepage&q=miss perks soldiers home bulford camp&f=false

 

55719FC9-B3CC-4075-A4EE-955037D3D072.jpeg

82349F38-7EBF-43A4-8BCE-8C4821F590C2.jpeg

Edited by FROGSMILE

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IPT
43 minutes ago, FROGSMILE said:

However, I’m very puzzled by this because elsewhere it states that Miss Perks home was “taken over by Elise Sandes  in 1926”.

 

There was a Sandes Soldiers Home at Bulford Camp in the early thirties. 

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HazelMac
8 hours ago, FROGSMILE said:


Yes, it seems that the Perks sisters saw themselves as imbued with the Holy Spirit.  There is some detail about them and the Soldiers Homes here: https://www.hopewinchester.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Regs_book.pdf

(warning: its a bit churchy and only some of it is relevant to the soldier’s homes in Bulford and Winchester)

 

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HazelMac

Thanks Frogsmile for the link to the book about the Perk sisters and the homes they ran. It doesn't help me find at what stage during the First World War my grandmother worked on or around Salisbury Plain but it's interesting.

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FROGSMILE
Posted (edited)
10 minutes ago, HazelMac said:

Thanks Frogsmile for the link to the book about the Perk sisters and the homes they ran. It doesn't help me find at what stage during the First World War my grandmother worked on or around Salisbury Plain but it's interesting.


It’s difficult to say what records there might still be without knowing what specific organisation your grandmother worked for Hazel. The Army’s service records for soldiers were largely destroyed by bombing in WW2, so I’m sure that you can imagine how unlikely it is that civilian cooks employment details would have been retained.  
We sometimes forget that things were not computerised at that time.  Records were handwritten, or sometimes typed on paper that if archived for a lengthy period would have had to be stored.  Storage space was expensive and so the importance of records was considered before accepting the expense of preserving them.

Edited by FROGSMILE

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IPT

Further to the location mentioned above, I read somewhere that it was intended that the home be located somewhere out of the way, but Miss Perks, (I don't know which one), got in Lord Roberts ear, and had it located right on the main road.

 

I was guessing earlier and thought it might be here, on this 1918 plan, but the image is too small to tell. It does seem to fit with what's been mooted.

 

bulford.jpg.86d5863b8736bd5e0191a5031ea1fe73.jpg

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FROGSMILE
Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, IPT said:

Further to the location mentioned above, I read somewhere that it was intended that the home be located somewhere out of the way, but Miss Perks, (I don't know which one), got in Lord Roberts ear, and had it located right on the main road.


Yes, I think that that anecdote is specifically mentioned on page 22 of the churchy article from Winchester in post # 10 above. 

Edited by FROGSMILE

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Moonraker

 

9 hours ago, FROGSMILE said:

... This from Historic England:

 

“Sketch designs for a church at Bulford Camp were under consideration in 1913, but not progressed due to the outbreak of war. Following the armistice it was decided that the church should also serve as a memorial to the fallen, and Blount and Williamson of Salisbury were engaged as architects. The foundation stone was laid by Field Marshall Lord Methuen on 13 October 1920 and the nave dedicated in 1923. Increased costs caused building works to cease until 1926. The building was completed in 1927, and dedicated to St George by the Bishop of Salisbury on 27 November of that year.”

 

However, I’m very puzzled by this because elsewhere it states that Miss Perks home was “taken over by Elise Sandes  in 1926”.

 

There’s more information from a book you’ll be familiar with here...

This description and your photos relate to the Church of England building - it was a Roman Catholic one that was built on  the site of Miss Perks' Home. N D G James says that the story "behind the present Roman Catholic Garrison Church ... is far more complicated" and refers to several, including two marked on the 1923 revision of an Ordnance Survey map. But I think we have digressed enough from Hazel's  original query.

 

And yes, that book does seem vaguely familiar!

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FROGSMILE
Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, Moonraker said:

 

This description and your photos relate to the Church of England building - it was a Roman Catholic one that was built on  the site of Miss Perks' Home. N D G James says that the story "behind the present Roman Catholic Garrison Church ... is far more complicated" and refers to several, including two marked on the 1923 revision of an Ordnance Survey map. But I think we have digressed enough from Hazel's  original query.

 

And yes, that book does seem vaguely familiar!


Apologies, I had searched using terms “RC Church”, but somehow it went awry.

Edited by FROGSMILE

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Moonraker
Posted (edited)

IPT kindly gave me the source of his plan, which is  item WO 32/4056 at the National Archives. A clearer 25" map dated 1924

 

is here

 

and shows an "Institute" (a term denoting recreational premises) where IPT has put his red arrow.

 

With apologies to Hazel, especially as I'm one of the first to cavil when a thread wanders off topic. But I hope that we've given you some ideas of the sort of places where your grandmother may have worked. As Frogsmile has suggested, you - and we - really need at least a couple of details to help you further. It's a pity that any letters or postcards that she might have sent home have not been preserved to provide clues.

 

EDIT: Come to think of it, "recreational" was not the best word to use, though some such huts might have a games-room, perhaps with a billiard-table. An "institute" in this context was a hut within a military camp used by a civilian organisation and offering off-duty amenities, such as a library, reading and writing rooms  and a canteen selling refreshments and light meals.

Edited by Moonraker
amplification

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HazelMac

I realise I'm clutching at straws trying to find records of civilian worker's around Salisbury Plain during WW1 but I didn't know my maternal grandmother, Brenda Bryan, and neither did my mother. My mother was born in September 1916 and adopted as a baby. Up until the 1990s my grandmother was just a name on my mother's birth certificate, there is no father's name. I researched Brenda and found she had a son (half-brother to my mother) who told me about the Salisbury Plain connection and that his mother had worked as a domestic servant for Austin Chamberlain in Birmingham and at Mollington Hall, in Cheshire. I can't find records to establish when she worked at these places. I have recently found I have a DNA match to someone through my unknown grandfather. This person has supplied information about her male ancestors and one of them was in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces and on Salisbury Plain from November 1915 to January 1916, when my mother would have been conceived. If I could establish that my grandmother was also there at this time it adds weight to him being my grandfather. Conversely, if I was to find that my grandmother was working elsewhere at the time then maybe I should dismiss him as a candidate. I would be grateful for any help.

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Moonraker

I think that the dates you gave should be November 1914 to January 1915? The First Canadian Contingent was on the Plain between mid-October 1914 and mid-March 1915 with  soldiers coming and going in between. The Contingent had a very rough time in an exceptionally wet winter and after their departure, mostly to France, very few Canadians were based on the Plain but had camps elsewhere, such as at Seaford and Witley in Surry.

 

You may not wish to post information about your informant's "male ancestors", but if you have your grandfather's name you could look for his records

 

here

 

The website has other genealogical resources, though I find it a bit clunky. Inevitably there are omissions and discrepancies, but you may be lucky and find your grandfather's service record and his unit, which may enable us to pin down exactly where he was based. The Canadians were based at camps in the Lark Hill area, near Amesbury, but floods in early January 1915 forced some of them into billets in nearby villages.

 

This is a list of Canadian officers and men compiled in November 1914.

 

At that stage of the war there would have been far fewer women "feeding the troops" than later on, and not many welfare institutes providing them with comforts.

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FROGSMILE
Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, HazelMac said:

I realise I'm clutching at straws trying to find records of civilian worker's around Salisbury Plain during WW1 but I didn't know my maternal grandmother, Brenda Bryan, and neither did my mother. My mother was born in September 1916 and adopted as a baby. Up until the 1990s my grandmother was just a name on my mother's birth certificate, there is no father's name. I researched Brenda and found she had a son (half-brother to my mother) who told me about the Salisbury Plain connection and that his mother had worked as a domestic servant for Austin Chamberlain in Birmingham and at Mollington Hall, in Cheshire. I can't find records to establish when she worked at these places. I have recently found I have a DNA match to someone through my unknown grandfather. This person has supplied information about her male ancestors and one of them was in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces and on Salisbury Plain from November 1915 to January 1916, when my mother would have been conceived. If I could establish that my grandmother was also there at this time it adds weight to him being my grandfather. Conversely, if I was to find that my grandmother was working elsewhere at the time then maybe I should dismiss him as a candidate. I would be grateful for any help.


“Initially the Canadians were divided into several tented camps spread out several miles to the northwest of Amesbury. The 1st Brigade was at Bustard Camp as were the Divisional Mounted Troops and the PPCLI. The 2nd and 3rd Brigades were at West Down South Camp while the Divisional Supply Column and the Artillery set up at West Down North Camp. The 4th Brigade, the Cavalry, the 17th Battalion and the Newfoundland Contingent were farthest along at Pond Farm Camp.”

 

“The photograph [Canadian soldiers marching through Amesbury, Wiltshire in 1914] was taken by 30-year old Thomas Lionel Fuller, an Amesbury-based photographer / entrepreneur. He snapped thousands of photographs and sold them to the soldiers as souvenirs to send home to loved ones back in Canada.”

 

61A02B43-9425-46B7-ABFB-C9F9C48D6701.jpeg

Edited by FROGSMILE

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