A Nurse’s Autograph Book

10/12/201813:1504/05/2020 15:18Leave a Comment

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.

Britons Avenge! (Nurse Cavell) sketched by R.E. Rushton 1915. Image copyright Stoke Museums.

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.

Front of Annie Myatt’s autograph book. Image copyright Stoke Museums.

Anne E Myatt, Lord Derby War Hospital, Oct. 1915. Image copyright Stoke Museums.

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.

Off the Eddystone, Plymouth: A South-Westerly Swell. 5th Nov. 1915. G. Prout, 8th Devons. Image copyright Stoke Museums.

The Setting Sun: Cromarty, Scot. Oct 31 1918. J.W.Slater. Image copyright Stoke Museums.

Untitled scene, E Wright, 4th York & Lancaster. Image copyright Stoke Museums.

The Cartoonists

Other soldiers used cartoons to leave depictions or jokes regarding  contemporary people and events.

Tommy: “You’ve been awfully kind to me. If ever there was a fallen angel, you are one.” A.W.Midgley, 20th Royal Fusiliers. August 26th 1916. Image copyright Stoke Museums.

‘Taking Cover’ – B.B.B. Royal Welsh Fusiliers. 30.9.16. Image copyright Stoke Museums.

The Comedians

Even if they weren’t writing cartoons, soldiers left jokes in other forms. For example, this menu for La Caffe De Trench.

Menu for ‘La Caffe De Trench’. Name unclear. Image copyright Stoke Museums.

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!

Message by W.B. Wragge, November 1918. Image copyright Stoke Museums.

The Thankful

Many soldiers left messages of appreciation or thanks.

Poem by Private R.B.Williams, Kings Own  (RL) Regiment. Image copyright Stoke Museums.

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

Written by Joe Perry (Curator, Local History)

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