Reading War Hospitals’ WW1 Newspaper: The Ration

home front WW1

The first issue of The Ration1 came out in January 1916, declaring its intention to bring cheer to all the ‘brave fellows’ sent to Reading War Hospitals.

Unlike most trench newspapers, it was always aimed at a mixed audience: patients and ex-patients, staff (military and civilian, doctors and nurses), family and friends. As a result and not unexpectedly, there is scant mention of difficult subjects, like the current state of the war effort or a man’s specific injury and subsequent treatment.

It differed from papers like the Wipers Times, in another way too: The Ration was run by and for, regular soldiers and non-commissioned officers.

home front WW1
Available to all for a reasonable price, The Ration’s humour was gently satirical, preferring to focus on ‘conditions and grumbles’,2 such as the terrible dearth of potatoes in April 1917!3 It’s peppered with ‘in-jokes’ and surprisingly high quality cartoons, like the example above, drawn by Private F Lynch from the London Regiment.4

For family historians, The Ration is a fantastic source of information! Part of its remit was to act as a link between the various Reading War Hospitals (including some of the local auxiliary and voluntary hospitals) so it is packed with news. Throw in a few obituaries, announcements of awards, football team fixtures and the biographical details of RAMC staff, QAIMNS nurses and magazine contributors and you have a truly unique, and largely untapped resource.

home front WW1

In Part 2 I will talk about the men (and women) behind The Ration!

 

With thanks to Reading Local Studies Library for their kind permission to use images from their copies of The Ration.

Bibliography
The Ration: Magazine of the Reading War Hospitals Vols I,II & III
Satirical Magazines and the First World War: Punch and the Wipers Times” by Esther MacCallum-Stewart on FirstWorldWar.com http://www.firstworldwar.com/features/satirical.htm

Footnotes
[1] The Ration, Vol.I No.1 (8th January 1916)
Reading Local Studies Collection (Shelf No. R/DY)
[2]”Satirical Magazines and the First World War: Punch and the Wipers Times” by Esther MacCallum-Stewart on FirstWorldWar.com http://www.firstworldwar.com/features/satirical.htm
[3] The Ration, Vol.II No.16 (April 1917)
Reading Local Studies Collection (Shelf No. R/DY)
“At Park House the nurses must enter their names on a list…if they are desirous of having potatoes…”
[4] The Ration, Vol.II No.13 (January 1917) pp.247
Reading Local Studies Collection (Shelf No. R/DY)

© Emmy Eustace

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