Wartime Messages

Publisher: 
Dottridge Brothers Limited

Very occasionally one comes upon a book whose existence is the oddest thing about it. Wartime Messages is one of these curiosities.

Dottridge Brothers was a firm of wholesaler suppliers to the funeral profession (a history of Dottridge Brothers can be read online). In justifying this publication, the foreword to this volume relates how:

The casual remark of one of our friends that he regretted he had not retained copies of our News Letters published during the period of the War, has prompted us to have a bound reprint of those issued during the War years 1939-1945.

I guess this "friend" was not the sort of person you'd want to sit next to at a party. Here's a sample of what he regretted mislaying:

Advancing Prices

We found it necessary, because of numerous increased costs, to advance our prices, but whilst our immediate stocks lasted we have have not advanced prices to cover the control prices arranged at the outbreak of War by the Timber Control, in spite of the fact that replacements of our stocks will have to be made at these prices, if the Timber can be obtained at all. From the time was our current price list was arranged, Japanese Oak has advanced 62½%, English Elm 50% and other Timbers from 45-50%.

And this:

With petrol rationing, the difficulties of driving after dark, and shortage of labour, many Funeral Directors will prefer to send bodies by train rather than by Motor Hearse.

There are however moments of excitement:

In the early morning of September 9th [1940] one of Hitler's ill-aimed bombs found one of our Timber Mills, at Haggerston, as a target. Or it may be that our Firm's reputation has penetrated into Germany, and that Hitler thought us sufficiently important to put our name upon it!

However that may be, it duly arrived, and made a very nasty mess of a Moulding shop and the whole front of our buildings. Fortunately, in fact almost miraculously, no one was even injured, and all our machinery remains intact. A lorry buried completely under debris has been resuscitated, and was at work again in a few days. A small fire was started but soon put out. Although one large stack of Japanese Oak was bodily shifted about 10 feet against a wall, our loss of Timber has been small.

Small Effect on Production

Within 48 hours arrangements had been made to run extra shifts at our two other Mills, so our loss of productive power has been very small, and very fortunately it has been unnecessary to inconvenience our many customers by any delay in getting our their orders.

And some jarring transitions:

The latest news of our Junior Directors with the Forces is as follows:—

Squadron Leader G. D. Britton, R.A.F.V.R., is with the M.E.F.

Lieutenant J. C. Dottridge, R.N.V.R. On the Pacific Coast.

Captain D. Dottridge. In Italy.

We are glad to inform our friends that although solid brass Handles are practically unobtainable, we have substituted electro brassed to the same designs, and we are at the moment holding good stocks of Coffin Furniture, Drapery and accessories. Prices are as follows :—

Coffin Furniture, 4 prs. and breastplate. From 8/4.
Shrouds and Inside Linings,        From 6/2.

Presumably this volume was given away as a promotional item. I hope the recipients were duly grateful to be given something so special: in the generally dull, but well-populated, field of corporate vanity publishing it surely stands alone.

Comments

the cure for insomnia has been found. Non-sleepers can read, or have these newsletters read to them. I guarantee a satisfactory period of sleep will start within 15 minutes without using any drugs. The newsletters could also be read over the sound system at penal instutions resulting in the stupefication of hundreds of inmates in a few minutes. The United States Army could broadcast the newsletters anywhere in Afghanistan or Iraq with the same results.
It also kinda reminds us that back then, they were actually at war. Now we are at video games.
It's dull, but you get an understanding of what the funeral trade was like during World War II. I could see social scientists or economic historians using this as primary source material.

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