“It is not a time for fasting and rejoicing on the scale of former years …” (Richmond & Twickenham Times, 23 December 1916)
As Christmas 1916 approached in Richmond, the mood was sombre. There seemed little to celebrate in the aftermath of the Somme, and little to spare anyway. The newspapers reported on the rising cost of living and the difficulties of even getting the daily bread delivered: The Mayor of Richmond, Sir James Szlumper, urged people to conserve resources and collect it themselves!
The winter of 1916-17 was also abnormally cold, even for the Northern Europeans used to cold winters. For volunteers from across the empire, it was unbearable.
At the start of the war, Indian soldiers had shivered in their light cotton uniforms when they arrived in France in 1914, before being issued with appropriate kit. This short clip of film shows that soldiers from the West Indies faced similar problems: The short sleeves of the Trinidadian soldiers contrast with the thick coats worn by the British dignitaries.
During the war, over 15,000 volunteers joined the British West Indies Regiment. Many served in the campaign in the Middle East, others fought on the Western Front in Europe. On Christmas Day 1916, Private Simeon Theophilus McIntosh of Manchester, Jamaica, died near Boulogne, Northern France.
For an alternative view of Christmas in the trenches, try this article on the Dutch FIrst World War website, Heritage of the Great War.