Puddings and Parcels: Christmas fundraising in the First World War

Christmas is traditionally a time when we think of others and when charities launch special appeals to raise funds.  During the First World War this was even more important with so many soldiers and sailors serving overseas, separated from families and home comforts.

School log books record the charity fundraising efforts of the pupils.  At Gellidawel School in Tonyrefail in October 1914, the Headteacher recorded sending a  £1 postal order to HRH Princess Mary for her fund to provide Christmas gifts for servicemen.  The teachers had provided the prizes and there was a prize draw amongst the children, who paid a penny for each ticket [ELL26/2].

One Headteacher in Pen-y-bont School, Bridgend [EM10/11] wrote wearily in October 1914 that, due to the war and the many calls …it has entailed upon the pockets of the people…, he had not had …the face this year to beg for subscriptions… to the Christmas Prize Fund. However, funds were raised for servicemen and a sizeable sum of over £7 was sent to the Prince of Wales Fund.  It was used to purchase cigarettes, woollen mufflers and chocolates and sent to Old Boys stationed in Scotland.  He records having received a thank you from Sergeant Major Miles thanking the boys for …their Happy Christmas Box [EM10/11].


Refugees from Belgium were not forgotten at Christmas. The Headteacher of Dyffryn Mixed School in Ferndale, recorded that money had been raised for the refugees by pupils collecting on Christmas Day in 1916 [ER15/1].  The minute book of the Rest Convalescent Home in Porthcawl also records help given to Belgian refugees;  …that the matter of providing extra diet etc. for the refugees and staff at xmas be left to matrons and chairman… [DXEL/3/5].

Concerts were arranged to raise funds.  Mr Leon Vint applied for a licence from Barry Council to open ‘Vint’s Place’, Thompson Street in Barry on Christmas Day in 1914 and 1915, with performance profits to go to the Barry Red Cross Hospital.  Romilly Hall was also to be allowed to open on Christmas Day for the same purpose [BB/C/1/20,21].  As well as raising funds, the opening of venues on Christmas Day meant that servicemen could be entertained.  Cardiff Borough Council gave permission for the Central Cinema, The Hayes, to be used on Christmas Day between 5.30 and 8pm for the …purpose of free entertainment for servicemen [BC/C/6/54].  Mountain Ash Urban District Council proposed a Sunday Concert at Abercynon Palace on 29 November 1914, …the proceeds to be devoted to the making of, and sending a huge Christmas box of cigarettes, tobacco, socks etc to the soldiers at the front [UDMA/C/4/12].

In 1916 The Daily Telegraph and Daily News were entrusted by the War Office to raise funds for providing Christmas puddings for soldiers at the front, and local councils raised funds to send to the charity. Porthcawl Urban District Council sent over £7 to the ‘pudding fund’ in 1916 [UDPC/C/1/10].

Local parish councils, churches, chapels and other organisations also sent morale boosting Christmas parcels to local men serving abroad.



Amongst the records of the Cardiff University Settlement are letters of thanks from soldiers for parcels received at Christmas. On 19 December 1916, Gunner C Upcott writes to Edward Lewis, I beg to thank you and all the members of the University Settlement for their kindness in sending me the parcel and I do not know how much to thank you for your kindness.  It is something terrible out here with the rain and one thing and another but I hope the end won’t be long so as we can all meet once again (DCE/1/64).


Private William Slocombe of Cardiff, who was awarded the Military Medal during the War, wrote to his mother, from the front, on 9 December 1916.  He asks her to buy him a …soldier’s diary… which has …a lot of useful military information and a small French dictionary at the beginning… I should like you to send me one if possible. It does not cost more than a couple of shillings at most.  He is also thinking of Christmas gifts for his family at home and sends a postal order for 10 shillings; It is for the kids and yourself… If you can get some chocolates for the girls so much the better.  I should like to give Pa some tobacco too’  Poignantly he writes …the circumstances are very different to last year aren’t they?  Your affectionate Son… [D895/1/3].

These records, and many more relating to the First World War, are available to consult at Glamorgan Archives.

To merit promotion it is only necessary to be attentive, intelligent and sober: Instructions for the Glamorganshire Constabulary Force, 1841

In November 1841, as the newly formed Glamorgan Constabulary set out into the field for the first time, each man was provided with a copy of Instructions for the Glamorganshire Constabulary Force. Thirty three pages in length and printed so that it could be slipped easily into a jacket pocket, the booklet provided ‘instructions’ for each of the three ranks – Superintendents, Sergeants and Constables. A copy of the original booklet is held at the Glamorgan Archives. It provides interesting reading in terms of what it tells us about both the early days of policing and the changes brought about in society by industrialisation.


Much of the booklet is basic advice for Constables, with an emphasis on the prospect of promotion if they acquitted themselves well.

…to merit promotion it is only necessary to be attentive, intelligent and sober. Diligence is always in his power; the necessary intelligence is easily acquired; and to be sober requires only that firm resolution never to enter a public house, or accept liquor from any person whomsoever.

Drunkenness was clearly a major concern, and the four Superintendents were instructed to ensure that all publicans were aware that …harbouring Police Constables during the hours of duty… was an offence. From the outset, Capt. Charles Napier, the Chief Constable, made it clear that being found intoxicated while on duty would lead to immediate dismissal.

Nothing denigrates a Police Officer so much as drunkenness, nothing is so soon observed by the public, and nothing exalts the character of a Constable so much as the steady and uniform refusal of liquor when offered to him, even with those who at the moment may be offended at his determination.

Constables was also warned that they would be subject to numerous insults and provocations but must never show …resentment or anger… and recognise that such things are …incidental to … office.

When a Constable exhibits good temper he will never want either the approbation or the assistance of every respectable spectator. On the contrary, any want of temper is almost certain to expose him to disapprobation and insult, and must deprive him of that presence of mind which is so essential for his own protection and the reputation of the Service.

When looking at the list of offences that Constables were required to deal with, many would figure in a modern day police pocket book, including murder, housebreaking, robbery, assault and receiving stolen goods. However, several were very much of their time, reflecting society in the mid-19th century. For example, the list of Bye Laws listed activities that were subject to penalty:

No swine sty or privy to be emptied, or night soil, etc to be removed except between 12 at night and 5 in the morning….

No cattle to be slaughtered or dressed in any street….

Blacksmiths and persons using a forge and having a door or opening to the front of any street to have the same closed within half an hour after sunset, to prevent the light shining upon the street….

No person to shoe, bleed or farry any horse or cattle in any street except in case of accident.

Perhaps surprisingly, the list included:

No carriage to be washed or repaired in any street, except in case of accidents.

This was also the period of the Rebecca riots and Constables were warned that offences classed as felony included:

Maliciously throwing down any toll-bar or fence that belonging to any turnpike gate.

In addition, it was not uncommon in coastal areas for ships to be lured onto the rocks so that they could plundered. and Constables were instructed to be on the lookout for anyone:

Exhibiting any false light with intent to  bring any ship into danger, or maliciously doing anything tending to the destruction of any vessel in distress, or any goods belonging thereto, or impeding any person endeavouring to save his life from such ship or vessel.

The emphasis was on being smartly turned out at all times, with Constables dressed in blue swallow tail jackets and white breeches in the summer. Yet maintaining high standards must have been quite a challenge at times, given the instruction that:

If it rains the Constable on duty must keep clear the eyes of the sewers.

On a lighter note, the streets of major towns would have been very different in the 1840s and a flavour of how they might have looked is provided by the guidance given on ‘Day Duty’:

He is to remove all nuisances, prevent the foot-walk from being obstructed in any way whatever, and either drive away, or take away into custody, all beggars, ballad singers, oyster sellers and persons selling fruit or other articles in baskets.

The police force also had a key role in dealing with fires. Constables were charged with raising the alarm and also relaying the news to the fire station.

If he has to run and feels tired, he is to send forward a fresh Constable when about half way; but still he is to keep on his course as fast as possible, lest the message should miscarry.

There were also very specific instructions on what was to be saved:

If it is a counting house or warehouse the first things to be saved are the books and papers.

There is no doubt, however, that the major challenge faced by the new force lay in policing the rapidly expanding industrial towns in south Wales. Of the 34 sergeants and constables recruited by the Glamorgan Constabulary in 1841, 12 were deployed to the Merthyr Tydfil district leaving the rural areas, by Napier’s own admission, thinly policed. Drawn by the opportunities for work in the coal mines and iron foundries, towns such a Merthyr had seen their population increase at a phenomenal rate. The new Glamorgan Constabulary was presented with a daily challenge in maintaining law and order in busy bustling towns where the population worked hard, but alcohol was cheap and readily accessible. The advice on dealing with drunkenness was remarkably mild.

Although a Constable is always to act with firmness, he is never to interfere needlessly. When a drunken man is making his way home quietly, he is to let him pass on without speaking to him; if he is disorderly, he is to speak mildly and friendly to him, and persuade him to go home; if he needs assistance he is to help him; if he requires protection, he is to pass him without murmuring to the next Constable, who is to pass him in the same manner to the next, and so on till he is conveyed home.   

When he finds a person lying stupidly drunk he is to arouse him without any violence or uproar; if he can tell him where he lives, he is to be conveyed home; if not he is to be carried to the station.

While disorder was associated primarily with men, many women and young girls were employed in the new industries and Constables are warned that they would have to deal with drunken or quarrelsome women:

With disorderly women the Constable is to hold no communication of any sort, or under any pretence whatever. He must behave towards them with a determined sternness of manner, and never allow them to gather in crowds or on his beat, to create a noise, or to interrupt persons as they pass. By compelling them to keep moving quietly along much trouble will be avoided; and keeping them as much as possible off the streets altogether after twelve o clock at night, not only much disorder but many robberies will be prevented, for they not only rob gentlemen and drunken men themselves, but serve as an excuse for professional thieves lurking about, to plan and commit robberies. If all his stern vigilance cannot control them, he is, whenever they behave riotously or indecently, or quarrel with each other, to take them into custody, and book them for the offence of which they are guilty, and for no other.

It was already recognised that there were areas of such towns where the police had to use caution, and the booklet contained a specific section on dealing with ‘Affrays and Riots at Night’.

… when there is a serious affray or dangerous riot, he is to apprehend all persons so offending, particularly the ringleaders. As the Police are obnoxious to such parties, individual Constables must be cautious how they interfere. In most cases they had better spring their rattle, and collect assistance; then rush forward resolutely and keep together until the crowd have dispersed.

This was sound advice for Constables armed only with a truncheon and carrying a rattle to summon assistance.   The booklet concluded with advice for Constables on presenting evidence before the Magistrate.

When called on, he must state his charge clearly and candidly, in as few words as possible, introducing nothing that does not bear on the charge. He must not introduce any ‘says he’, and ‘says I’, but simply state the bare facts of the case, concealing nothing that makes for or against the prisoner. When the Magistrate asks a question, the answer is to be prompt and plain, without disguise or circumlocution. He is, whilst he is before the Court, to stand up in his place, with his hands quietly by his sides.

So, with their new uniforms and pocket book the men of the Glamorgan Constabulary set out in November 1841 for their new posts. The guidance in the pocket book was used to good effect, as illustrated in the solving of the Ynislaes burglary in December 1841, just one of the thousands of crimes to be solved by the force over next 175 years.

A copy of Instructions for the Glamorganshire Constabulary Force, (London, Clowes and Sons, 14 Charing Cross, 1841) can be found at Glamorgan Archives, ref.: DCON38.

Tony Peters, Glamorgan Archives Volunteer