Sunday, 5 March 2017

World War One Era Autograph Book, Part 2

A second look inside the old autograph book, picked up at a book fair recently.

I mentioned the last time that I thought this book had been carried through the war. All dated entries fall between 1915 and 1919 but there are far more blank pages than used ones. A few have a military theme and here is one of those...

I suspect now that the book was in use during the war, but not actually taken to the front. It's in far too clean and undamaged a state. There are no mud - or blood - stains and no torn or scuffed pages. Perhaps the references to the war were completed during periods of leave or just after demobilisation?

This pencil sketch is titled Directing The Way At The Front and shows one soldier saying "Yer knows the dead 'orse 'cross the road? Well keep straight on till yer comes to a p'rambulation 'longside a Johnson ole."

A Johnson hole was a particularly large shell crater. Named for its size and referring to the World Heavyweight Boxing Champion to 1915, Jack Johnson.

Here's a small photograph print gummed into the book.

I'm no motorbike expert I'm afraid. The closest model to this that I've been able to find going through Google images is of a Sunbeam - see advert below.

This advert dates from 1915 so is the right era. Seventy guineas is £73.50, a considerable sum in those days. You would have to spend roughly £106 in 2017 to buy something that cost £1 in 1915. So today such a motorcycle would cost £7,791 give or take a groat... On the other hand, what would that same 1915 motorcycle be worth now in working condition?

Ah... hang on - a message has flooded in! The motorcycle in your photo is a 1915 AJS D1 750cc 2cyl side valve. You can just make out the AJS logo on the side of the tank. They usually had a rear pillion but this one looks to have a luggage rack instead. All the very best Chris Hartley. Many thanks Chris!

Agh! This photograph has been gummed over some existing writing on the page. The bottom of the page is signed A Waring, May 30th 1918. I was despairing of ever being able to remove the photo safely without damaging what was under it when I had an idea. I took out a bright LED torch and shone it through the page from the other side. A word at a time, moving the LED along the lines I eventually made out this:

I slept and dreamt that life was beauty
I woke and found that life was duty
Never say die
Up man and try

The first two lines come from a poem by Ellen Sturgis Hooper. I've had less success identifying the origin of the, perhaps more familiar, last two lines. They seem to go back to proverb and idiom. If anyone knows better, please let me know!

Along similar poetic lines here's my closing look at the old autograph book for this time.

When it comes your wedding day
A new broom I will send
In sunshine use the bushy end
In storm the other end

Margaret Salt, 12 June 1919

2 comments:

  1. Hi John Long time no speak! The motorcycle in your photo is a 1915 AJS D1 750cc 2cyl side valve. You can just make out the AJS logo on the side of the tank. They usually had a rear pillion but this one looks to have a luggage rack instead. All the very best Chris Hartley

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cheers Chris. Good to hear from you again. Your comment somehow made it onto another post but I've copied the relevant bits back onto this one. Best regards, John

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