South Somerset’s White Feather Soldier

Image from Imperial War Museum. © IWM (Art.IWM PST 2763)

Image from Imperial War Museum. © IWM (Art.IWM PST 2763)

The popular wartime propaganda of “Women of Britain say “Go!” came quite close to home at CHAC this week. In the last few weeks CHAC has received two donations relating to the Luffman and Jesty families. The staff were shocked to discover that one Yeovil boy, whose name is sadly inscribed on the town’s war memorial , was encouraged to sign up to fight by a young woman on a train.

 

The Jesty Family. Edgar George on right with his mother, father, four sisters and their cousin

The Jesty Family. Edgar George on right with his mother, father, four sisters and their cousin

Ernest George Jesty (pictured on the right) was just 17 when he enlisted to fight in the “Great War”. His family had recently emigrated to Canada but following the outbreak of War he and his father returned to England. They found work “doing there bit for the War Effort” at the Woolwich Arsenal. Working in a “Reserved Occupation” (i.e. Essential to the War Effort), meant that Edgar George was spared the horror of the trenches.

One day however, whilst passing through Salisbury on a train Edgar George Jesty was handed a white feather by a female passenger. The white feather was a sign of cowardice and young women handing them out to men in civilian dress to shame them into joining up became a common practice. Government propaganda targeted women to encourage men to join the armed forces. Edgar George was so convicted by this act that he left his job on the Home Front and volunteered for war.

The photograph above was taken in June 1916, not long after Edgar George signed up. Unfortunately, this is most likely the last family photo to feature Edgar George as he was listed as Missing on the 1s of July, The First Day of The Somme, and his death was confirmed some weeks later.

We don’t know how many other men from Yeovil or South Somerset were encouraged to sign up by the white feathers, but it would appear that had Edgar George not received the white feather that day he may never have signed up for war.

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