The Lincolnshire Regiment Comforts Association

I wrote this after stumbling across an article in the Grantham Journal which talks about the Lincolnshire Regiment “Comforts” Association. The aims of such an ‘Association’ are easy to imagine and I am sure we all remember a recent Branch presentation that talked about how those on the Home Front were sending items to the Front to make the lads lives a little more bearable. However, the Lincolnshire Regiment “Comforts” Association is not something I had heard of until now, which in itself isn’t surprising, but a google search for that term produces zero results too, so I thought it merited a little research.

This is the Grantham Journal article I found, dated 7 October, 1916, that piqued my interest.

Lincolnshire Regiment “Comforts” Association

In our advertisement columns will be found an appeal by the Lincolnshire Regiment “Comforts” Association, the needs of which are urgent, and we are confident it only requires that these needs should be well-known for them to be promptly met by generous hearts and hands in the County. Supplies are invited for troops abroad, some hundreds of thousands of mufflers, mittens, helmets etc. being required for the various theatres of war. Lincolnshire has been asked for a thousand pairs of mittens by October 15th. We are asked to note that this special and immediate requirement must not interfere with monthly subscriptions and donations, nor with the supply of socks, shirts, cardigans, towels and handkerchiefs, nor with the giving of cigarettes, tobacco, and all kinds of tinned goods. The appeal of the Lincolnshire Regiment “Comforts” Association, as we have said, is one that will find a very ready and sympathetic response. The headquarters are 189 High-street, Lincoln, and the hon. secretary is the Rev. W. H. Kynaston.

Looking back through previous editions of the paper the earliest printed reference I can find to the “Comforts” Association and Lincolnshire is February 1916 where it is inferred it had recently been formed.

“Comforts” for the 6th Lincolns

(To the Editor of the Lincolnshire Chronicle)

Sir,- I have just heard from my husband (Major Elkington) of the safe arrival of all the comforts collected and sent out by me to the 6th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment. The cases of “comforts” and cigarettes (nearly 30 in number) were unfortunately delayed at Alexandria; however, they have now been received and are much appreciated by the men.

Major Elkington wishes me to thank very warmly, on behalf of himself and the Regiment, all the kind friends in Lincoln and district for all the warm things they have sent out, and he hopes for a continuance of their kindness.

Now that the Lincolnshire Regiment “Comforts” Association has been formed for the purpose of collecting and providing comforts for all the County battalions in future Mrs. Akenhead and I will work in conjunction with them, and I sincerely hope everyone will continue to give what he or she can. – Yours, Kathleen Elkington, 68 Prince’s Gate, London, S.W.

Side note: Major William Ernest Walter Elkington (1873-1957) was the son of Lt. Gen. John Henry Ford Elkington (1830-1889) and had four brothers who all served in the military; Lt. Col. John Ford Elkington (1866-1944), Lt. Col. Robert James Goodall Elkington (1867-1939),  Lt. Charles Jarvie Elkington (1869-1893) and Capt. George Edward Elkington (1871-1901).

An article published in March 1916 shows the Lincolnshire Comforts Association had been formed in December 1915, with the following subscriptions having been received since that date;

The Right Hon. Lord Heneage, £20
The Lord Lieutenant, £10
Sir Charles Welby, Bart., £10
Lincs. Chamber of Agriculture, £10
Major Royds, M.P.,  £5/5s
Mr. A. S. Leslie Melville, £5/5s
The Lady Heneage, £5
Per Mr. B. Henton, £3/5s
Rev. Canon Welby, £2
The Mayor of Lincoln, £1/1s
Rev. C. P. Mellor, £1/1s
Major F. E. Tetley, £1
Mrs. J. M. Phillips, £1
Mrs. W. M. Phillips, £1
Mr. J. D. Franks, £1
Captain Eagar (for 2nd Batt.), £1
West Halton Sunday Sch. Children, -/10s
Mr. R. W. James, -/10s
Mrs. F. Seely, -/5s
Mrs. Pears, -/5s
Old Girls’ Association, Lincoln High School, -/5s
Mrs. Jarvis, -/2s/6d

A piece found in the Lincolnshire Echo (March 1916) listed those units on active service that they were supporting. The Association supplied comforts to ‘the Yeomanry, the Royal Field Artillery of the North Midland Brigade, and the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 10th Battalions of the County Regiment’. The Hon. Treasurer was Mr. F. A. Peacock of Cottesmore Place; and the Hon. Secretary was Mrs. C. D. Bayldon of Mainwaring-road.

A typical call for supplies for troops abroad

2/Lt D. Akenhead

There were several ways in which help was sought; by sending monetary subscriptions; by making some of the required garments; by the making up of small working parties amongst friends and sending in garments to the depot at regular intervals – the first of such schemes had been successfully introduced by Mrs. Akenhead in the parish of St. Martin’s and was it hoped to roll out this model further-afield around the County. Mrs Lucy Akenhead was the wife of the Vicar Canon Edmund Akenhead and their church was on West Parade (now demolished). Their son, Captain David Akenhead (pictured right) was with the 6th Lincolns in Gallipoli and Egypt, finally ending his war on the Somme being invalided out with shrapnel in his back and having lost an eye.

In late 1915/early 1916 there were several “Comfort” Associations set up around the UK. Some of these, such as in Lancashire, were set-up by District Councils as an attempt to amalgamate several committees and organisations bringing the provision of comforts under one inclusive banner, rather than have countless committees working to support individual groups of soldiers such as the wounded, POWs etc.

Those generous people on the Home Front who had been working on supplying the older organisations would soon take up the challenge of supplying the Comforts Associations too, as happened in Great Ponton where Miss V. Wood and her group, who had been supplying the British Red Cross Society with a large number of socks and shirts for wounded soldiers since the war began, in May 1916 sought to recruit more workers to send a greater contribution from Great Ponton to the new Lincolnshire Regiment “Comforts” Association too.

There was obvious concern about the overlap between the Comforts Association, the Lincolnshire Yeomanry Fund and the two local branches of the British Red Cross. This was partly mitigated by donations being split down the middle as happened in June 1916 when the gardens at Canwick Hall, the Dower House and Canwick House were opened one evening to the public at a charge of 6d – the proceeds of which being split between the Red Cross and the Comforts Association. Clearly it would have been difficult to chose who had the most worthwhile cause when there was so much fundraising going on.

The Lincolnshire Regiment “Comforts” Association was registered as a charity in September 1916 under the War Charities Act 1916. This was at the same time that the Wounded Soldiers’ New Years Party, The Star and Garter Commitee and the Red Cross Society (North Lincolnshire Branch) all became registered charities too which gives some indication of how much competition there would be for funds. Despite this, the Comforts Association kept up with their appeals and the generous people of Lincolnshire delivered.

It wasn’t until November 1917, nearly two years after being set-up, that the Association missed their quota for the first time. The Grantham Journal published the following article;

The Lincolnshire Regiment Comforts Association was this month for the first time unable to comply with the requisition for comforts for troops at the front.

Lincolnshire people are earnestly urged to support their own men during the winter months, and enable the Association to send out the articles asked for. Contributions of MUFFLERS, MITTENS, HELMETS and SOCKS may be sent to the depot at 189 High Street, Lincoln.

The Lincolnshire Regiment “Comforts” Association kept up their mission throughout the war although the frequency of their appeals does appear to drop off in 1917/18. In April 1919 the chairman, T.C. Fry, notified the Editor of the Grantham journal about the cessation of their work.

Sir – You would do us a service if you would allow me to give publicity to the fact that the Lincolnshire Regiment “Comforts” Association has now, for the present, ceased its work and will not resume unless the war should break out again and the Lincolns be involved. As soon as peace is quite secure, a full statement of the work done and of the disposal of the monies will the issued.

So next time you are out shopping in Lincoln keep your eye out for the Skipton Building Society at 189 High Street; as you now know that one hundred years ago the building was the depot of the Lincolnshire Regiment “Comforts” Association!

The former depot of the Lincolnshire Regiment “Comforts” Association at 189 High Street, Lincoln.


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