A Nurse’s Autograph Book
I only re-joined the team here at The Potteries Museum a few months ago. It’s been a pleasure reacquainting myself with the collections and exhibitions. One of the best bits of being a new curator is getting to know the many objects in your care and the thrill of discovery as you do so.
Taking down the the temporary exhibition For the Fallen last month, my eye was drawn to notebook, opened at the illustration pictured below. The sketch is inspired by the many propaganda posters and pamphlets that followed the death of nurse Edith Cavell in October 1915. It is signed R.E. Rushton.
The sketch is one of many contained within the autograph book of Annie Myatt, who was a nurse at Lord Derby War Hospital, Warrington, in 1915. Unlike most autograph books, this one isn’t filled with celebrity signatures or messages to fans. Instead, it contains the names, poems, sketches and jokes of dozens of recuperating men. It forms a rare, personal, and unique record of her service and the lives of the men she cared for.
Some highlights from the rest of book are picked out below.
R.E. Rushton wasn’t the only talented artist to grace the pages of the book. Others contributed their own works of art in pen, pencil, and even water colours.
Other soldiers used cartoons to leave depictions or jokes regarding contemporary people and events.
Even if they weren’t writing cartoons, soldiers left jokes in other forms. For example, this menu for La Caffe De Trench.
Or this by W.B. Wragge:
I list to me, my Sister fair,
And when this page your eye does meet,
I trust that what is written here,
To you will it not be all Greek.
This message is followed by Greek-style text – not deciphered!
Many soldiers left messages of appreciation or thanks.
The Roses is Red,
The Violet is Blue
The Sugar is sweet
And so are you
Pte R B Williams
Kings Own (RL) Regt
Lord Derby War Hospital