Over the next few months, interns and volunteers on the Reflections project will write a few blog posts to discuss their experience working on the project and some of the research materials they have uncovered. This time Northumbria University intern Hannah Simpson discusses her research into the goings on at the Lit & Phil during the war.
Captain Dennis Bayley wrote to the library in 1918 to
“covey to the society my personal thanks and those of the joint war committee for their magnificent and patriotic gift, and will you please tell them that during the recent heavy fighting it has been of inestimable service, and the gratitude of many of the men who have received assistance from it is very great”.
He was talking about the gift of an ambulance that had been purchased through a subscription by library members. As was noted in the written proposal for the donation that “whilst it is primarily the duty of the government to deal with the wounded, the war is upon so gigantic a scale that the government relies almost entirely upon the British Red Cross” to whom the ambulance was donated.
The subscription was admirably met with donations ranging from 1s to £20. The ambulance was amongst the many charitable enterprises undertaken by the |Lit and Phil during WW1, including donations of novels and magazines (6000 in 1918) to soldiers and sailors fighting the war.
This aptly demonstrates the charitable nature that lived at the heart of the Lit and Phil. Of course, as were all people and places during the First World War, the library itself had been affected by the losses of war, and these efforts of charity reflect how deeply these loses were felt. The range of donations show us that members of all backgrounds happily donated to the ambulance cause, and is quite staggering when you realise that the £488 raised through the subscription would be worth approximately £30,000 today.
After noting the copy of the letter of thanks from Captain Reynolds, the record states that “many members have joined the Forces, and some have fallen”, a poignant reminder of the personal reasons that lay behind the donation of the ambulance.