Lots, volumes, has been written about the needs of the British army and her soldiers going to war. unsung heroes who worked in unglamourous jobs. Heroines who worked long hours in factories, mills, buses, trains, hospitals. all will and are being commemorated. It was, after all, a very new experience.
“…In this new experience you may find temptations both in wine and women.
You must entirely resist both temptations, and, while treating all women with perfect courtesy, you should avoid any intimacy.”
The above is a quote from Kitchener’s letter to each of his soldiers going off to war.
A bit idealistic, and very naive. Most men in Kitchener’s army we happy to fight and die for King, Country, and Empire. They just wanted to get laid first. At home the young soldier went to a prostitute, overseas a brothel.
Brothels were part of French life and soon they were yet more of them. Red Lights for soldiers, Blue Lights for officers. Money was being spent on loose women and wine. The rest of a soldier’s pay packet, very often, was just wasted. Some women made fortunes, others died penniless.
The wives back home were given a separation allowance and expected to just get on with things.
There is a disconnect here that is not talked about. Prostitutes are not a separate life form. They are people. times were difficult. Then as now some people have very little option, some liked the money, others just enjoyed the work. They came from all sorts of backgrounds. Some were wives, their names have vanished from history. Although I do know of one.
Her name is Annie.1) Annie worked Saville Road/Tottenham Court Road area of London. No idea of how successful she was. I like to think Annie was happy. Prostitutes are looked down upon. Regarded as “Tarts” We forget that the word very likely originated as an abbreviation of the word sweetheart. I’m also sure Annie did not remember the names, if she ever knew them, of her clients. I bet though, the soldiers she serviced were now a lot less unhappy about going to war. Her country needed soldiers. Her country’s soldiers needed her, and ladies like her. Unnamed heroines, so here is to you Annie, and others like you.
1)I’m keeping mum about her surname. it will be revealed in my book, “Poppies To Oblivion” When I can raise the funds to publish it. (Need an editor too.)