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Remembered Today:

White feathers


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Guest KevinEndon

Does anyone have any information on how serious the waving of white feathers was. Does anyone recall a story of someone being chased down the road by a women with a white feather and does anyone know if it was their mother, grandmother or greatgrandmother who did this as their husband was at war.

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Somewhere on the forum there is or was a story of a soldier on leave who was given a white feather on a bus. He used it to clean his pipe and returned it to the donor with a comment along the lines of "Thanks very much. We don't get pipe cleaners very often in the trenches."

Nigel

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auchonvillerssomme

I have a picture of a soldier wearing a wounded stripe on the sleeve of his civilian suit which i suppose would identify you as served.

Mick

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My favourite "white feather" type of story took place late in World War Two. The story was told to me by the fellow who had been on the receiving end of a tirade by a woman who had seen him standing in front of a store window gazing at the goods on display.

She ranted on at some length about his lack of courage; why wasn't he in uniform,etc., and then stormed off. If she had stayed a bit longer she may have noticed the difficulty my friend had in walking. He was still getting used to the artificial leg he was wearing to replace the one he had lost in Italy!

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Did the habit of giving white feathers tail off as the war progressed? I can think of three reasons:

1. Fewer men to target.

2. As more women joined up or otherwise contributed to the war effort, handing out white feathers would have prompted the retort as to what the woman was doing to help.

3. Realisation that some men had good reason not to join up (not fit enough, wounded in action, more important to munitions, agricultural etc work), on leave.

Moonraker

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I'm sure I read a while ago that during WW2 Guy Gibson and his crew were celebrating in London after going to the palace to receive their medals (including a VC of course) for the dams raid when some of them were handed white feathers by a couple of ladies. They saw the funny side apparently. I can't say I would have done given the losses on the mission.

My grandfather and uncle were both given one in Bristol when my uncle was on leave from Bomber Command and my grandfather having survived the first war was working as a flying instructor by day and a policeman by night being too old for the second war. Their mistake was not to be in uniform........

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Somewhere on the forum there is or was a story of a soldier on leave who was given a white feather on a bus. He used it to clean his pipe and returned it to the donor with a comment along the lines of "Thanks very much. We don't get pipe cleaners very often in the trenches."

Nigel

The story is quoted by Max Arthur in 'Forgotten Voices of the Great War'. Attributed to Private Norman Demuth, 1/5thBattalion, London Reg, the lady was barracked off the bus by other passengers!

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George Armstrong Custer

"I was walking down Camden High Street when two young ladies approached and said: 'Why aren't you in the Army with the boys?' So I said, 'I'm sorry, I'm only seventeen' and one of them said 'Oh, we've heard that one before'......Then she put her hand in her bag and pulled out a feather." - Private S.C. Lang*

*Quoted in The Somme Ninety Years On - A Visual History, by Youel & Edgell, p. 27.

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Hi Folks

In Max Arthurs "Forgotten Voices......" (can't quote as I lent my copy to a mate....), one of those quoted tells how he was presented with a white feather whilst walking across a bridge in London, & promptly walked to the nearest recruiting station & re-enlisted, despite having already being sent home from France as he had joined up under-age!!!

I have an Admiralty 1914 "War Service" badge, which (I believe) was issued to one of my great grandfathers, but understand there were some "White Feather" badges, designed for men who could not enlist for whatever reason, anyone know of them???

Cheers

Mark

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per ardua per mare per terram
including a Victoria Cross winner handed the White Feather.

That was GM Samson RNR.

The problem got so bad that they had to issue the 'on war work' and then the Silver War Badge.

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The problem got so bad that they had to issue the on war wok and then the Silver War Badge.

{quote]

The Silver war badge was introduced from 12.9.1916.

It was awarded to service personel who had sustained a wounded or contracted sickness or disability during war service which resulted in them being invalided out.

Don't know how many of these were issued :unsure:

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Men who signed under Lord Derby's scheme were issued an armband to wear while they were waiting to be called up (An example can be seen in post #18 in this thread ), to avoid white feather attacks while they were still in civvies.

Gloria

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Guest kenneth mcarthur

Private harold carter....

'' ......on the saturday i went to a music hall in civvy clothes and as i lined up outside a lady came along and put a white feather into my hand.I looked at it and felt disgusted ,but there wasn't much i could do about it.I felt small enough over the white feather incident outside,but as i went into the gallery a chap came out in naval uniform -he might have been a petty officer-and said that no girl should be sitting with a chap unless he was in uniform.

No man should be out of uniform,he went on-if he was out of uniform he was nothing more than a worm!He made me feel about as big as a worm ,I just sat there,on my own,while people looked at me and i looked at them.I should like to have jumped up and told them I'd just come out of the trenches at Ypres,but i couldn't,I came out disgusted and went home..........

alex

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stiletto_33853

John Nettleton in "Anger of the Guns" wrote about his first leave.

"Then I usually went to bed and slept for about twenty-four hours. That did me a lot of good. So did getting out of my uniform. Someone told me that one was not supposed to wear civilian clothes, but I didn't see how anyone could find out and did not worry about it. And by that time, silly girls had given up the trick of presenting white feathers to men in civilian clothes whom they thought should be in khaki."

His first leave was in December 1915.

Andy

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In the Department of Documents, Imperial War Museum, London is a "White feather letter" in the form of a brief note sent anonymously to a man, offering him the post of washer-up for the local Girl Guides as he hadn't joined the Forces!

It used to be on show in the galleries, but exhibits change and I can't be sure whether it's still on view.

LST_164

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Michelle Young

My Great Grandad, a pre war regular in the Royal Artillery was handed one when home on leave and not in uniform. Apparently he had quite an extensive use of soldiers language and treated the donor to some of it!

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Folks

Got my copy of "Forgotten Voices" back......

The man I mentioned in my earlier post was Frederick Broome who had joined the army under-age prior to WW1 & was only 15 when he went to France with the BEF. He took part in the retreat from Mons, the Battle of the Marne & the advance to Ypres before being evacuated home with enteric fever.

"I went & visited my father, & he sent in my birth certificate, so I was discharged for having misstated my age on enlistment.

........a few months afterwards I was walking across Putney Bridgewhen I was accosted by 4 girls who gave me 3 white feathers.I explained to them that I had been in the army, & been discharged, & that I was only 16 yrs of age, but they didn't believe me......I felt awfully uncomfortable & embarrassed & said something about how I had a good mind to chuck them into the Thames........I finished my walk across the bridge, & there on the other side was the 37th London TA assoc of the RFA. I walked straight in & rejoined the army"

I wonder how many others like Frederick were "shamed" into joining or rejoining the army under age as a result of receiving a white feather?

Mark

On a slightly different note, at the time of the deployment in readiness for the Gulf War of 1991, I was approached, whilst at home for the weekend, by a peace protestor requesting I sign their petition. When I stated it was not a good idea for me to do so as I was in the RAF & already had friends out there, she was unable to say a word, & simply walked away.

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I think the whole practice was abominable. That it was orchestrated by an ex-army officer makes it even worse.

Modern warfare makes it inevitable that many, many people - let alone men - have to be in the rear supporting the troops - factories, designing, etc. not to mention transport, railways, whatever, so just because someone is not in uniform means nothing.

I know my father was given one in WW2 when he was in a job he was forbidden to leave, worked for and in the RN although not in uniform, and in a job done by soldiers in the army (if you see what I mean).

Equally, he was, when travelling, not entitled to make any use of services supplied for service personnel - canteens, tea stalls, etc. as he was only a civilian. He was often travelling between ships, but that didn't matter.

I doubt that we are any better today.

Sometimes of course this is justified to a certain extent. I know that during the end in Aden a group of civil engineers refused to build a road as they would have gone under fire and the REs had to brought in to do it. The incident provoked a parliamentary committee - Wilson-Smith? to look at the whole business of civilians in th armed forces.

They went to one guy I knew and asked him what he would do if he came under fire and he replied that it would depend whether he had a rifle or not. When they asked him why he said, 'If I had a rifle I would do asI used to do in Malta during the siege. When the sirens went I used to put my pen in my pocket, climb out of the office window and up the fire escape and man a Lewis gun.'

They crept away.

Sorry, going on, but I still think it was despicable.

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