A parcel for Christmas

ms-703-acc-2015-082-christmas-letter

Christmas letter sent by members of Moseley Road Men’s Early Morning School to absent class members at the front, December 1915 [MS 703 (2015/082) 247]

During the festive season, we often give a thought to those who are absent and it was no different in December 1915 when scholars of the Men’s Early Morning School and the Men’s Afternoon Bible Class at Moseley Road Friends’ Institute decided to send Christmas parcels to absent members who were contributing to the war effort in the armed forces or as munition workers.

In both the Early Morning School and the Afternoon Bible Class, several collections were made and a number of scholars who were to be awarded prizes for their class work, were asked to give these up in order that the money for the prizes could instead be allocated to providing a Christmas parcel to their fellow scholars at the front.

Barrow Cadbury,  President of the Early Morning School and Institute and teacher of Class XV of the Men’s Early Morning School, offered to contribute a small fellowship hymn book, a copy of the new edition of the adult school song book and a supply of chocolate for each parcel. Class XV decided to send cigarettes while other Early Morning School classes provided other useful items to be added to the parcels. In total, sixty-two parcels were sent to the front, and enclosed in each one was,

…a most unique greeting, consisting of a message from the school, followed by a reproduction of the signatures of practically all our regular attenders.

(Moseley Road Early Morning School minute book (MS 703 (2015/082) 247)

The letter’s message read,

As Christmas and the New Year draw near our thoughts often turn to you and many of our Members who are surrounded by danger and peril, and we believe that your thoughts will often turn to the old School.

The parcel which accompanies this letter comes as a small remembrance from us, your fellow Members of the Morning School, with our loving greeting and best wishes for Christmas and the New Year, and our  earnest prayer that you may soon be back in health and strength amongst us.

Your loving brothers

(Moseley Road Early Morning School minute book (MS 703 (2015/082) 247)

Letters sent back to the Men’s Adult School indicated that the letter was a much appreciated part of the parcel. The original of this is pictured above, and one of the two pages of signatures can be seen below.

ms-703-acc-2015-082-christmas-letter-signatures

Signatures of members of Moseley Road Men’s Early Morning School in a Christmas letter they sent to absent class members at the front, December 1915 [MS 703 (2015/082) 247]

Around the same time, the Men’s Afternoon Bible Class also decided to send parcels to their absent class members. After much discussion, they agreed on the contents of the parcels.

… it was decided that parcels should consist of two cakes of Mexican Chocolate, packed in specially prepared tins;  50 Gold Flake cigarettes, also packed in tins; a tin of Skipper Sardines a packet of soup powder: a card of Buttons; a pair of Laces and four Wax Candles. For those in England, 4 ozs of Sweets took the place of Candles.

(L18.6 Friends Institute Moseley Road Men’s Afternoon Bible Class reports 1907 – 1915, annual report 1915.)

extract-of-accounts-of-moseley-rd-afternoon-bible-class-1915-l18-6

Extract from the annual accounts of Moseley Rd. Men’s Afternoon Bible Class, 1915, showing expenditure for Christmas parcels for soldiers at the front [Friends Institute Moseley Road Men’s Afternoon Bible Class reports 1907 – 1915, annual report 1915, L18.6]

Ten men in the class spent an afternoon and evening packing the gifts into boxes, wrapping them in waterproof paper and addressing them ready to be sent. The parcels were then displayed during that Sunday’s class so that everyone could see what had been done in their name for those scholars at the front before being sent the following morning. All but one of the parcels safely reached their destinations and members of the Bible Class received many letters of thanks from the grateful recipients.

From the Men’s Afternoon Bible Class, two hundred and twenty men were in the armed forces, and another two hundred and fifty were doing munition work. The Class’s annual report for 1915 notes that,

…this is truly a case in which it is far more blessed to give than to receive.

(L18.6 Friends Institute Moseley Road Men’s Afternoon Bible Class reports 1907 – 1915, annual report 1915.)

The practice of sending Christmas parcels continued in subsequent years of the First World War.

Eleanor, Project Archivist (Birmingham and Warwickshire Quakers)

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