A collection of ephemera relating to Lady Owen, Mayoress of Exeter, and her services to Australian troops in the First World War. Exeter saw more overseas soldiers than any inland town in Great Britain, and Lady Owen and her committee reportedly met all trains carrying troops passing though Exeter with complimentary food and drink, no matter what the hour
Some idea of the extent of her prodigious efforts may be found on the 'exetermemories' website: 'The Mayoress was a formidable fund raiser and organiser, having raised £400 since the outbreak of war, to purchase bags of food for the soldiers passing through Exeter by rail. In February 1915 she, and four other ladies were supplying a bag with a large sandwich, two pieces of cake, orange or banana and a pack of cigarettes to every soldier from the platform of Exeter's stations. They had supplied food to 12 to 13,000 soldiers between September and January'. ^The collection commences with a typed letter signed by General (later Field Marshal) Sir William Birdwood, dated 3 October 1919 from AIF Administrative Headquarters in Horseferry Road, thanking Lady Owen on behalf of the Commonwealth Government and of the AIF (quarto, embossed with the Royal Coat of Arms, Westminster, folded for posting and lightly creased). 'Dear Lady Owen ... Your personal interest and ability have, I am sure been largely responsible for the efficiency of the Buffet service at the Exeter Railway Station, which has been so welcome to our troops - both arriving in and departing from England'. It is followed by a typed letter with similar content signed by Lieutenant General Sir John Monash, dated 6 November 1919, overstamped '7 November 1919' (foolscap folio, on the AIF Repatriation and Demobilisation Department letterhead, folded for posting, and lightly creased and rubbed). He expands on Birdwood's sentiments: 'Frequent comment has been made by the A.I.F. troops who have passed through Exeter, clearly indicating that the work of your Committee has ... materially added to their comfort on the rail journey'. ^The balance of the collection comprises a typed letter signed by Brigadier General Thomas Griffiths on behalf of General Birdwood, dated 20 September 1918, forwarding an 'AIF Order' (small octavo, the first page of a bifolium, on AIF Administrative Headquarters letterhead, folded once for posting); a printed 'Australian Imperial Force (List No. 387). Extracts from 'The London Gazette' [of 16 September 1918]', issued by 'Headquarters, Australian Imperial Force, In the Field, 20th September, 1918', commending Lady Owen (as 'Owen, Mrs J.K.G., Aust. Vol. Worker') for 'valuable services rendered ... for the benefit of the Naval and Military Forces' (presumably this is the aforementioned 'AIF Order' - foolscap folio, folded for posting and a little torn and creased, complete with the original blank envelope); and two documents, both dated 19 October 1916, confirming the registrations of the 'Mayoress of Exeter's Fund (Soldiers and Sailors Comforts)' and 'Mayoress of Exeter's Fund (Hospitality)' under the War Charities Act by the Exeter City Council (quarto, forms printed rectos only and completed by hand in ink, each signed by the town clerk). Photocopies of three newspaper articles relating to the Owens and their 'unobtrusive solicitude for the fighting men of the Empire' are also included in the lot. [6 main items].