Jump to content
Great War Forum

Remembered Today:

Sign in to follow this  
BeppoSapone

The White Feather

Recommended Posts

BeppoSapone

THE WHITE FEATHER

Does anyone know anything of an Admiral Penrose Fitzgerald of Folkestone. According to the Peace Pledge Union he is supposed to have been the "brains" behind the "White Feather" Campaign of WW1":

"The White Poppy is sometimes linked with the white feather, which chauvinist women bestowed on 'slackers' in the First World War. The notion of a white feather representing cowardice goes back to the 18th century, arising from the belief that a white feather in the tail of a game bird denoted poor quality. To 'show the white feather' was therefore to be 'unmanly'.

On 30 August 1914, less then a month after the declaration of war, a retired Admiral, Penrose Fitzgerald, announced in Folkstone that he had formed a band of 30 women to present a white feather - a danger 'far more terrible than anything they can meet in battle' - to young men 'of public school and university education...found idling and loafing' instead of setting an example to working men.

Thereafter white feathers were given out all over the country, but their frequent bestowal on men invalided from the trenches or otherwise unqualified for military duty made the women concerned unpopular even among those sympathetic to the war effort.

For those men who necessarily remained at home in key state industries the effect of being presented with white feathers was often one of shame although the pacifist Fenner Brockway proudly noted that he had enough feathers with which to make a fan.

The government's response was to authorise production of a badge bearing the legend "King and Country", thus marking out its wearer as someone effectively excluded from overt moral pressure to enlist.

Long after the war, pacifists rediscovered another significance of the white feather. In 1775 a Quaker meeting in Easton, New York State, was surrounded by war-painted Indians armed with tomahawks and arrows. The meeting continued in such solemn stillness that what had begun as a stealthy attack by the Indians became a silent response to open friendship, as the Indians disarmed themselves and sat alongside the Quakers. Afterwards, the Indian chief explained that it was the obvious absence of any weapons among the Quakers that had dissuaded his men from attack. He took a white feather from one of his arrows, stuck it firmly over the roof of the house and said, 'Your settlement is safe. We Indians are your friends, and you are ours.'

This story led a PPU member in 1937 to have 500 'white feather' badges made as a symbol of peace. All were quickly sold out."

For the story of the dreaded "White Poppy" of the Peace Pledge Union, go here: www.whitepoppy.org.uk

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Michael

From the East Kent Gazette of 5 September 1914;

"Speaking at the Lees in Folkestone, Admiral Penrose Fitzgerald urged females holidaying in Folkestone to pin white feathers on every able bodied slacker in town"

Michael

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Chris_Baker

It's a good job he's not around now!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
BeppoSapone
From the East Kent Gazette of 5 September 1914;

"Speaking at the Lees in Folkestone, Admiral Penrose Fitzgerald urged females holidaying in Folkestone to pin white feathers on every able bodied slacker in town"

Michael

A friend has emailed me a bit more background info' on Admiral Penrose Fitzgerald, whose first volume of memoirs, "Memories of the Sea", was published in 1913.

I don't know that it tells you a great deal more about the Admiral and the White Feather Campaign, but I found it interesting all the same.

"Fitzgerald served as a lieutenant in the wood screw frigate Ariadne on the North American and West Indies station from 1861 to 1864. The vessel was paid off at Sheerness in Spring 1864 and Fitzgerald recalled:

'Fifty years ago Sheerness was generally declared by naval officers to be the most God-forsaken place on the face of the earth. There was no railway to it, and the only way of getting at it was by crazy little paddle-steamers from Chatham. The town itself was mostly composed of wooden hovels built of dockyard chips; for in the old days - the very old days - the shipwrights were allowed to carry out of the dockyards, when they went home at night, the chips they had made during the day - partly to clear up the litter around the building slips and partly as perquisites, for firewood; but the indulgence had to be stopped, as it was found that they made an abnormal amount of chips, quite out of proportion to the finished article, and that the chips got bigger and bigger, until at last they were able to build houses with them. And thus it came about that the district known as ''Blue Town,'' where most of the dockyard workmen lived, was a collection of clinker-built houses built of dockyard chips; the term ''clinker'' or ''lapstrake,'' indicating, in technical language, that method of boat-building most commonly in use where one plank laps over the next one.

The Ariadne was not allowed to go alongside the dockyard to strip and return her gear, although there was plenty of room, but was moored to a buoy in the harbour, half a mile from the dockyard, as this was in accordance with red-tape and was certain to cause the greatest amount of inconvenience and involve the largest amount of labour for the crew; and I really think the stripping of that ship was the bitterest time I ever had in my life.'"

This comes from the website of something called "The Naval Dockyards Society".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
healdav

White feathers were still being handed out by some misguided souls during WW2.

My father was once given one, and he was a bit annoyed as he was in a job in the RN and was forbidden to volunteer for active service (he wasn't even allowed to join the Home Guard).

Given that even by WW2 there must have been 7 or 8 people supporting every man in the front line and many more civilians needed behind that, it was pretty daft to assume that someone not in uniform was refusing to volunteer.

I have heard of men and officers who were on leave and out of uniform being given them, but I can't say that this is absolutely authentic.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Killratio
I have heard of men and officers who were on leave and out of uniform being given them, but I can't say that this is absolutely authentic.

J.T.B McCudden V.C. was handed one in London by a woman who scowled and did not have the courage to even say anything.

He was so incensed that he threw it back at her as I recall.

regards

Darryl

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Johnsonm

My grandmother told me that my grandfather , who was a gunner was home on leave in 1917 and was walking with her down Broad Street in my home town of Reading when a lady tried to give him a white feather . As he had been in France and Belgium for the past 3 years my grandmother said that he was most upset . ( Her euphemism , as my grandfather was 6'5" and had a fine vocabulary as I recall , being on the receiving end of it at times ) . It must have been particularly galling for serving soldiers to have been offered a feather even if they were in civvies .

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...