After gaining an interest in trench journals, the Lit and Phil acquired a trial for the online archive ‘Trench Journals and Unit Magazines of the First World War’. The database held a comprehensive selection of scanned First World War material from various intuitions. However after diving into these, what I did not expect to find were the civilian, munitions and veteran magazines. These proved to be the most attention-grabbing.
A particular journal titled ‘Recalled to Life: A Journal Devoted to the Care and Return to Civil Life of Disabled Sailors and Soldiers’ contained an article on The Joseph and Jane Cowen Home for the Training of Disabled Sailors and Soldiers, Newcastle Upon Tyne.
The article, by Colonel Sir Thomas Oliver, describes the opening and operations of the newly established care home. Jane Cowen, the daughter of the late Newcastle MP, Joseph Cowen, had donated £2500 to ‘found and equip’ the home, which opened in August, 1916.
The first six months proved to somewhat slow, but things began to pick up and the homes thirty-five beds were quickly occupied and always remained to be. Five more beds were quickly added to meet demands.
The men received training in order for them to be able to enter a trade and back into civilian life after injury from serving in the war. A ‘theoretical education in cinematography’ was a discipline described being taught at the home, a very exciting prospect. This very much suggested to me that the home was ‘a pioneer institution of its kind’, a phrase later used to described it. Several of the homes occupants went on to become accomplished cinema operators.
The article very nicely shows how Newcastle was not just a community contributing to the present war effort, but also always thinking of the future and post-war existence: ‘The interest taken by the Newcastle public in the Cowen Home and the future of the disabled soldier is shown in the fact that, although no appeal has ever been made for funds to carry on the work, hardly a week passes without the Hon. Treasurer receiving donations varying in amounts and expressive of the sympathy of the donor’.