Comfort packs sent to front line troops during the First World War were gratefully received during the 1914-18 conflict.
More than 100 years later the packs, containing all manner of comforts from home, are still being sent to loved ones – sometimes thousands of miles away.
In autumn 2018, Doncaster 1914-18 raised funds and collected items to send 300 comfort packs to soldiers serving in the Middle East over Christmas.
The project, ‘From Donny with Love’ paid tribute to Doncaster’s extraordinary contribution to the First World War, when local communities rallied together to raise over £1 million – that’s £59 million today! – in support of the British Armed Forces.
Members of the public and local businesses donated £1,000 and brought hundreds of items to be packed into the decorated boxes and shipped out to the troops.
In the boxes were sweets, games and Christmas decorations, plus reminders of home in the form of Yorkshire Tea, KP Nuts, and Henderson’s Relish.
The soldiers who received the Christmas comfort packs were from the Rifles Regiment, the successors to the local King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, which played a key role during the First World War.
The campaign was backed by Care for Casualties, the Rifles’ official charity, which was set up in 2009 to support Riflemen and their families.
Comfort packs in the First World War were put together by local people, including the War Working Party. They raised funds and sent items to soldiers including socks, scarves and shirts, slippers and cigarettes.
Our comfort packs are a modern take on these, with items that serving soldiers requested. 100 years ago, Brodsworth girl Amy Tyreman, along with her sisters, knitted many hundreds of ‘comforts’ for soldiers.
She included her name and address with the packages she sent, and as a result, many of the grateful men who had benefitted from a pair of her socks or a warm scarf sent letters of thanks in return. Amy received 28 letters in total, which she treasured until her death in 1971.
The packing day took place at Cusworth Hall in October 1918. Children from Sandringham Primary school attended to help pack the boxes, alongside volunteers, staff from local organisations and soldiers from the Rifles Regiment.
After two days of packing and wrapping, the 300 boxes were picked up by a military vehicle to make the long journey to the Middle East in time for Christmas.
Now the team have received some amazing photographs and thank-you letters from the regiment, proving how the campaign helped to boost morale and raise spirits among to the soldiers, many of whom were spending their first Christmas away from home.
The Doncaster 19141-18 team would like to once again say a huge thank you to all who supported the project – it would not have been the success it was without each and every donation.
The troops were truly touched that people from back home were thinking of them over the festive period, and we are delighted to receive these photographs of them receiving their gifts.
One letter sent to the Civic Mayor of Doncaster, Coun Majid Khan, from Captain H Sawers, showed the appreciation that troops abroad still have for the packs from the borough.
It reads: I am writing to thank the people of Doncaster and, in particular, the Doncaster 1914-18 Heritage Project, for the kind gift of the Christmas Boxes that were sent to my company in Afghanistan over the Christmas period.
Fourth Batallion, The Rifles, has a team of 30 soldiers deployed in Mazar-e Sharif to mentor and train an Afghan police school and over Christmas I was in command of the ‘stay behind’ party of 15. The parcels from the Heritage Project made a great difference to the morale and welfare of the men, some of whom were spending their first Christmas away from their families.
Despite the remote location we managed to enjoy a festive Christmas and the parcels added perfectly to the atmosphere and were very well received.
It can often be a difficult time for the Riflemen, especially the junior soldiers and those with young families, to be away at Christmas and your parcels remind them that there are people back in the UK thinking of them.
Capt Sawers also added that the Rifles share a close heritage with Yorkshire and the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and we are grateful that this link is maintained from the cities and towns from which our antecedents came.