When Corisande, Lady Rodney went to France in 1914, she was struck by the sad condition of the British Soldier, who had no place to go for recreation or to convalesce from the results of wounds aside from various local cafes and estaminets. She suggested the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) consider building recreation huts in rear areas manned by a Women’s Auxiliary. Between the end of December that year and June 1920, 1,870 women volunteered for service entirely at their own expense and under strict war time rules to make a home for the men. Many of the women had lost fathers, husbands and brothers so shut up their houses leaving friends, relations and children in order to show their gratitude to the soldiers by offering them familiar surroundings and welcome in a country that for most was alien.
Model tank loaned to the Museum by Sir John Graham Bt CMCG
The Women’s Auxiliary of the The Young Men’s Christian Association 1914-1920
Between the end of December 1914 and June 1920, 1,870 women volunteered for service abroad entirely at their own expense to make a home for the men. Many of them had lost fathers, husbands and brothers and they gave their services free, shut up their houses leaving friends, relations and children in order to show their gratitude to the soldiers by offering them familiar comforts and welcome in a country that for many was alien.
YMCA Hut sketch held by the Mercer's Company
The YMCA Volunteer
Miss Rachel Sprot, 25 years old from Scotland and her younger sister volunteered in rotation to work in the YMCA canteen in Rouen between 1915 and 1917. It was whilst Miss Sprot was working in the canteen that she was given the model tank by a grateful soldier. She gave the model to her son who has kept it safe all of these years.
Copy of the certificate presented with the kind permission of Sir John Graham Bt
The Tank on the Battlefield
Tanks were first used in action on the battlefield on the 15th of September, 1916 with limited success. Early tanks were built in two variants:- the ‘Male’ carried two 57mm guns plus 4 machine guns and the ‘Female’, 5 machine guns. Future use in larger numbers did influence the outcomes of later battles and proved to be key learning experiences for the British command. The novelty of the tank was exploited extensively for propaganda purposes and to raise morale at home. Making of model tanks quickly became a popular pastime for soldiers as suitable materials such as wood and ridged copper drive bands from shells were readily available.
Image CXTIWMPOq70953 IWM This item is from The First World War Poetry Digital Archive, University of Oxford (www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ww1lit); © Imperial War Museum.