Cambridge and World War I

Scouring the pages of the ‘Cambridge Chronicle’ for material for the Village Society’s November 11 presentation, I came across a letter written in September 1914, just after the outbreak of war, extolling the virtues of flannelette as opposed to flannel underwear for the troops.

The writer, J.L., noted that “the cult of flannel undergarments came in with the much advertised jaeger”. She complains that “the name has a German and discredited sound”. She herself wears cotton next to the skin by choice, as do members of her mothers’ group. “Flannelette washes better and is less irritating and septic than Flannel”. Noting that “the labouring classes don’t generally wear Flannel”, she quotes an old relative who recently died aged 96, who “always wore linen next to the skin”.

Such concern for the comfort of British troops was admirable, though I suspect the quality of underwear was fairly low in priorities in the subsequent four years! More extracts next month.

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