Holidays and Home Leave during WW1
In 1915, the British Army introduced periods of home leave for soldiers to support morale and allow troops to rest and see their loved ones. Leave was short and infrequent however, and it depended on the state of military operations. Many soldiers longed to return to Britain, known affectionately as ‘Blighty’. This longing was expressed in a war time song written in 1916 called, ‘Take me back to dear old Blighty’. You can listen to Florrie Forde singing the song here.
In Suffolk, brothers George and Albert Stopher sent numerous letters to their family expressing their desire for leave. In the letter below Albert writes to his mother, ‘I expect we will soon mobilise now and the ones who are fit will have a few days leave. I hope I shall be able to see you again before I go away’.
(IA) HD825/2/25 From Albert, at Codford St Mary, to his mother, 23 May 1915
Troops enjoyed various pastimes when they were home on leave. These included seeing family and friends as well as their sweethearts, going to music halls and the theatre, and eating and drinking.
Seeing the struggles that soldiers went through, people wanted to do their bit and offer them respite. In Suffolk, Reverend F W Emms wanted to provide servicemen with a seaside holiday. He started fundraising in 1915 and gathered enough money to purchase a property in Lowestoft by 1919.
(LA) 527/I1/2 Information leaflets for organisations sending men to the Lord Kitchener Memorial Holiday Home and for guests, nd. With thanks to the Lord Kitchener Memorial Holiday Centre.
The home was named after statesman and military leader Lord Horatio Kitchener. It opened on 7 August 1919 at 10 Kirkley Cliff, Lowestoft and provided a place for ex-servicemen to ‘holiday’, or convalesce, after the war.
(LA) 1300/69/305 Photograph of a group of people in front of the Lord Kitchener’s Memorial Holiday Home, nd
Under the original Charity Commission Scheme, the home was due to close in 1945. However, the Second World War provided another batch of ex-servicemen in need of holidays and the scheme was extended. Women were admitted to the home in 1974 and it remains open today.