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
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.
It’s been all quiet on the blogging front here at CHAC for a few weeks whilst we concentrate on our WWI Centenary Commemorations, however this does mean we have lots to blog about!
On the 4th of August, The Centenary of the outbreak of War, CHAC lead two sessions of children’s activities at two of the community halls in Yeovil. The activities included “poppy pom-pom” making, post-card decorating, emulating the sorts of postcards that may have been sent home from the trenches, and “trench art”. All three activities we very popular, especially the post cards and the trench art. We also asked the children what makes them happy, and what words of encouragement they would give to thier families if they were soldiers fighting away from home, which made for some very heartfelt messages. Here are just some examples of all the creative things that came out of the sessions.
Our “Trench Art” was inspired by the idea of soldiers in the trenches creating art works and mementos out of general rubbish they found in the trenches. Our trench art, however, was made from discarded cereal packets and loo roll tubes rather than shells and shrapnel!
On the Thursday of the same week, CHAC were back out again in the community with the first of our WWI community lectures. The first lecture was held at the South Street Day Centre in the heart of Yeovil and focused on different aspects of industry in South Somerset around the outbreak of war.
Its never easy to compete with a beautiful sunny day, but never-the-less the lecture sparked some very interesting conversations and we were able to find out more about the family history of one South Somerset resident, who’s great uncle emigrated to Canada in order to sign up after being turned away by the British Army!
Our next lecture is being held on the 4th of September at Milford Community Hall in Yeovil.