“Soldiers and Sailors Free and Easy”, Salisbury


War Charities Certificate for "Soldiers and Sailors Free and Easy" (G23/990/6 With permission of Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre)

 

Salisbury ‘Free and Easy’

The City Council ran a series of entertainments for servicemen in the Council Chamber and on 26 October 1916 registered the Soldiers and Sailors Free and Easy as a War Charity. That day the Mayor presided over the first formal meeting which set up a Central Committee, one for Teas and another for Entertainment. It was minuted that teas should be carried on as before, followed by the Concert up to 9.0pm; the one to drift into the other.

The first Minutes of the committee 26 October 1916

The first Minutes of the committee 26 October 1916
The first Minutes of the general committee 26 October 1916. (G23/990/6 With permission of Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre)

As the notes above show, here are the entertainments that took place between October 28 and December 9 1916:

Oct 28 | 3rd City of London Regt’l Band

 Nov 4 | Concert by Blind Musicians in aid of St. Dunstan’s Hostel. – Teas served in vestibule for ‘Free & Easy’

        11 | Miss Grahams Ladies Choir

       18 | Concert Dance to Australians of 3rd Divn. – Farewell speech by Captain Davidson (C.F).

       25 | A. S. C. Vaudeville unable to give promised concert, the usual impromptu concert given continued until 9:0pm.

 Dec 2 | New Zealand Res: Group (Aling Camp) Band under Band Sergeant Davie. 6 to 7 pm. 7 to 8:30pm A. S. C. Vaudeville Concert Party from Codford Camp.

        9 | Australian Pianists.

 

These gatherings proved popular and in December 1916 it was decided in view of the number of Soldiers who attended the Teas and Concerts that there was not room for civilians, other than subscribers and helpers.

Minutes 14 December 1916 (G23/990/6 With permission of Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre)
Minutes 14 December 1916 (G23/990/6 With permission of Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre)

From the list below you can see the entertainments that took place at the end of 1916 and begining of 1917:

1916

Dec 16 | “The Mudlarks” Concert Party from Bulford Camp under the leadership of Lieut. Eveleigh R.F.A.

23 | Concert arranged by Doctor Baker (local artistes)

30 |  “The Mudlarks” Concert Party

1917

Jan 6 | Concert arranged by Miss Walters (local artistes)

13 | Band of 3rd Australian Training Bn.

20 | Band of 15th    Ditto

27 | [Mrs A. C] Mathews & local artistes

Feb 3 | Headquarters Austn. Band from Tidworth under Bandmaster Radford.

 

By 11 October 1917, the committe had decided that civilians were to be debarred altogether.

Notes to be Actioned 11 Oct 1917. (G23/990/6 With permission of Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre)
Notes to be Actioned 11 October 1917. (G23/990/6 With permission of Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre)

During February 1918 as food supplies diminished the organisers were informed of time restrictions and reductions reguarding food that could be purchased by soldiers in receipt of rations.

Letter from Heaquarters of the Southern Command, Salisbury 20 February 1918. (G23/990/6 With permission of Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre)
Letter from Heaquarters of the Southern Command, Salisbury 20 February 1918. (G23/990/6 With permission of Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre)
Copy of reply from Salisbury Free and Easy 26 February 1918. (G23/990/6 With permission of Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre)
Copy of reply from Salisbury Free and Easy 26 February 1918. (G23/990/6 With permission of Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre)

By April 1918 it became even stricter and they were informed that soldiers who are already in receipt of full rations cannot … be provided … with meals which include Meat, Butter and Margarine.

Letter from the Ministry of Food 5 April 1918. (G23/990/6 With permission of Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre)
Letter from the Ministry of Food 5 April 1918. (G23/990/6 With permission of Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre)

Even after the war ended there were still many soldiers seeking some entertainment and in March 1919 it was decided to continue the teas but to end the concerts.

Mintues of the General Committee 6 March 1919. (G23/990/6 With permission of Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre)
Mintues of the General Committee 6 March 1919. (G23/990/6 With permission of Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre)

However as demobilisation continued the demand decreased and by October the meetings had ended.

The last minutes of the General Committee 13 October 1919 (1)

The last minutes of the General Committee 13 October 1919 (2)

The last minutes of the General Committee 13 October 1919 (3)
The last minutes of the General Committee 13 October 1919. (G23/990/6 With permission of Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre)


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