As an important seaport Ramsgate became a strategic hospital base and some of the largest buildings in Thanet such as Chatham House College, the Granville Hotel in Ramsgate, and Yarrow Children’s Home in Broadstairs, were used as temporary hospitals. Additional beds were also placed in the Ramsgate General Hospital.
When waving off their menfolk women put on a brave face, but as these two verses of a poem by Miriam E Gladwell show, many a tear was shed at night in the privacy of their own bedroom:-
You came to me with your eyes ashine
With a soldierly, careless trend
In a khaki uniform so trim
And a new peaked cap on your head
I’m off to the front dear comrade mine and I’m jolly glad to go
But your lips were set in a line so grim
That bode ill for the foe
My fighting blood leaped up in pride
You looked so British, so grand
But my women’s heart was so vaguely stirred
As you heartily shook my hand
Stirred with a pain I struggled to hide
You were marching to glory – or death
And ‘twas only God that night who heard
The tears that were choking my breath
Miriam E Gladwell was a Ramsgate poet, well-known to the concert-going public in the town and district, who had made many successful appearances on the platform as an elocutionist of merit, and was always available for the organisers of charity events. In October 1916 the Thanet Advertiser published a book of her poems called “In War Time,” which was followed by another volume in December 1917. Miriam and her husband Charlie ran the Wellington Hotel in Ramsgate High Street. Her children Vincent and Miriam were the original Bisto kids designed in 1919 by the cartoonist Wilf Owen from Rochester who worked for a time for the East Kent Mercury newspaper.
In March 1915 the Labour Exchange in Turner Street, Ramsgate, claimed that no able-bodied person need be unemployed. Women were wanted as farm and dairy hands, for leather stitching, brush making, machining clothing and for light machining for parts for the armaments industry.
By April 1915 there were already signs in the Thanet Advertiser that women were starting to take on the jobs of the men who had left for the front:-
It is all to the good, therefore, that women should take up the lighter duties of distribution, and there are many duties in the railway, postal, police, and administrative services that might well be done by women, thus releasing many fit men for the greater and heavier employments.
Despite losing one of her sons, Captain Robert Montefiore, earlier in the year in August 1915 Mrs Sebag-Montefiore held the annual sale in her garden on the Eastcliff at Ramsgate. Money was raised for the Thanet Women’s Aid Association in support of poor people and young girls who found themselves destitute through no fault of their own. In the sixteen years of its existence it had never been more needed than when the men were away fighting at the Front.Others raised funds for Christmas gifts, books and newspapers to send to the troops. Many organizations distributed food, clothing and gifts to the families of soldiers and sailors, as well as to women displaced from their homes by wartime service. Continue reading Fund raising in Ramsgate
Women and young girls set to work knitting hundreds of useful items for the soldiers and sailors such as khaki socks, balaclava helmets, gloves, and mufflers or scarves. At Hereson School, they started collecting money for a Wool Fund to enable the girls to knit socks, belts and helmets for the soldiers, and arranged concerts to raise money. The girls worked very hard and in December 1914 they sent off 105 knitted garments. The next year the girls also made sandbags. Continue reading Socks for the boys
In September 1915 Mothercraft clubs to promote the health and welfare of babies were being started all over the country. Two opened up in Margate and Ramsgate opened theirs in September 1915 followed by Broadstairs and St Peter’s in November 1915. The welfare of infants was a question of great national importance and every encouragement was given to organisations which sought to help and educate the mother to bring up healthy children. Continue reading Thanet’s women doing their bit
Women doctors were rejected at first by the government, so many women turned to nursing or voluntary work in hospitals and began to play a valuable part in the war effort. As they nursed the wounded Tommies they felt close to their own brothers, fiancés and fathers who were fighting overseas. Continue reading Dr Grace Dundas
Encouraged by the local newspaper something of a local competition developed as to which family had the most men at the Front. In 1915 Mrs Todd of Princes Street in Ramsgate had a son and eleven grandsons on active service, while Mrs Goldfinch of Model Cottages in King Street had five sons in the army. Private Miller of the 9th Buffs was mentioned as one of the 14 members of his family who had enlisted, including 3 sons, 4 brothers-in-law, 4 cousins and 2 nephews all except two of whom came from Ramsgate!! Even Mrs Sebag-Montefiore up at East Cliff Lodge had five sons away fighting. Captain Robert did not come back. Continue reading Mother’s Pride
Thanet Advertiser July 5th
As soon as the news of peace was in the air a great crowd began to gather at Ramsgate Market Place, the Town hall being the centre of gravity which attracts the people when important announcements are expected. The raucous voices of the ships’ sirens rent the air, and the general din was added to by the blowing of numberless weird instruments by children of all ages in the street. It was, however, a very orderly assembly, and waited patiently for the Mayor to make, from the balcony of the old building, his formal announcement of the Great Fact. Continue reading Thanet’s Peace Celebrations July 1919
Tommy’s in the trenches
Fighting kultured Huns
Charging with a bayonet
Or firing heavy guns.
Jack is on the ocean
Waiting – but in vain
Sea-Huns met Jack tar before
They’re not so keen again
Specials here in England
Stroll about at night
Watching for a Zepp or spy
Or some such Hunnish sight
Girls are up and doing
Working hard all day,
Driving motor vans or cars
In quite an English way.
Women sit by firesides
For Jack or Tom to knit.
No matter what our sex is
We’re here to do our bit.
Hilda M Slade