There was a letter published in the Express & Star on 28 November 1916, from “A Local Soldier’s Wife”, that stated the following:
Sir, Now, soldiers’ wives of Wolverhampton, wake up! Are we going to have our allowance on Saturday before Christmas Day so as to get a Christmas dinner for our children, or have we got to wait for the Post Office to open after Christmas, and have our Christmas dinner for the New Year?
It is all right for the wives and children who have got their husbands at home and have their wages on Saturday. Is not a soldier’s wife and children entitled to a Christmas dinner while their husbands are fighting for their King and country? Trusting some of your readers will think of the soldiers’ wives and children who were without a Christmas dinner last Christmas through waiting till after Christmas for their allowance.
This letter triggered a huge response from fellow readers. This included a rather tongue-in-cheek letter from “A Great Bridge Soldier’s Wife”, which suggested on 30 November
that all soldiers’ wives with the 17s. 6d. allowance try to get admitted to the nearest workhouse on Christmas Day, so that our half-starved kiddies may be sure of a Christmas dinner. It’s a sure thing they will not get one in their own homes. We are used to meatless days and sugarless tea, soon it will be fireless grates if we are left to struggle much longer on this miserable pittance
She ends by talking of their pride in their husbands, saying “they would carry on with a lighter heart if they knew their wives and kiddies were getting enough to eat.”
Not everybody viewed this suggestion in the tone it was intended, however. “Another Soldier’s Wife”, whose letter appeared on 2 December 1916, stated
Sir,- I quite agree with “A Local Soldier’s Wife” about trying to get our allowance before Christmas Day…But why at the nearest workhouse, as “A Great Bridge Soldier’s Wife” puts it. Very useful institutions indeed, and a good suggestion; but would our husbands out in France like to think we had got to tramp all the way to the workhouse with our little ones to get our Christmas dinner?
She suggested the Prince of Wales’ Relief Fund could provide assistance, as “What is it called a relief fund for, if it brings no relief to soldiers’ children at a time like this?” A letter from “A Penn Soldier’s Wife”, published on the same date, talked of heir six children under 10, saying that she would “look or a Christmas dinner of some kind if we have to steal it.” Mrs T. Jones of The Leasowes, Compton, however, was more practical, stating that she had “taken the matter up, and trust it will prove successful.” At this point, due to the volume of letters received, the editor of the Express & Star announced that no further letters would be published on the subject.
Unfortunately I have been unable to confirm whether this appeal worked, so I don’t know whether the wives and children were able to have their Christmas dinners. On behalf of Wolverhampton Archives, however, I would like to wish all our readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!