Ephemera: Winnie Mary Knight’s Autograph Book: A Glimpse of Bromley in the First World War

For the fifth entry in this series, while this autograph book is a modest affair, with just 26 entries, it is one of the more interesting and insightful, books I have come across and was beneficial during my Master's research.

The book belonged to a Winifred Mary Knight (1899-1981), a 1914 Christmas present from her older sister Dorothy (1897-1987). She lived on Sundridge Parade, in Bromley, Kent and was one of six children (she had three older sisters and two younger brothers) to Kate (1868-1920) and Richard George Knight (1870-1921).1

Her father was an electrical engineer and owned the company Messrs R.G & J Knight Electrical Engineers. The company had existed since at least 1898, and a thought that had never crossed my mind before was what sort of work would an electrician at the start of the century be doing? Thanks to an article in the Bromley and West Kent Telegraph from 1901, I have an answer, which is more modern than I expected. The article explains that they were working on improvements to the Bromley Wesleyan Church, which involved the fitting of nine electroliers, each pumping out 80 candles of lights (approximately 1,000 lumens), as well as the fitting of telephonic transmitters for the hard of hearing.2 The company received several mentions in the local press, along with the Knight family — mostly their involvement with local sports organisations, R.G. Knights' involvement with the local masonic lodge (a recurring thread I am seeing in examining these autograph books) and the Bromley Parish Church, on Church Road.3 The church connection is particularly relevant. As children, Winifred, and her siblings appear in articles related to the Sunday school — it seems her older sister Marion (1895-1957) was particularly good at sweeping up the prizes.4 Winnie's uncle, James Knight (1875-1934), one-time business partner of her father, also attended the church along with his family and was deeply involved in the choir.5 Singing, it would appear, is a passion that Winifred pursued; performing in and around the local area, taking on solos such as Teresa del Riego's 'Homing' and Landon Ronald's 'Down in the Forest.' Both songs require the singer to have a wide range, strong technical skills, and are more operatic in nature compared to other songs of the period.

Winifred never married, and the 1939 registrar has her occupation listed as a Clerk & Sales Woman at an Electrical Engineers (which I am presuming was with her brothers, who took over the family business) and she stayed in the Bromley area until her later years, before finally moving to Eastbourne in Sussex.6

The entries in the book, where identifiable, were made between 29 December 1914 and 14 December 1931. Of those entries, seven were made by various soldiers who served in the First World War. Unlike the mystery of Mary Ann Murray's book how Winifred's paths would have crossed with soldiers is quite clear. Bromley, Southeast of London, had (as it still does) two train stations (Bromley South and Bromley North), connecting it to central London and other key wartime locations such as Southampton, Dover and Woolwich.

These railways connections were put to good use during the war. At the outbreak, the local Red Cross and Voluntary Aid Detachments (VAD) came under the control of the Kent County Territorial Association and were told to prepare auxiliary hospitals in the region. On the morning of 13 October 1914, the instruction to mobilise was given. Within 24 hours, the first train load of wounded arrived at Bromley South — some 500 casualties, mainly Belgian soldiers, who would be the first of many.7 Over the course of the war, there were over 50 auxiliary hospitals in the Bromley locality, and while I haven't been able to find a figure for the total number of wounded who passed through the area, figures for just 12 of those hospitals total roughly 19,000, including Spring Hill Auxiliary Hospital (764 admissions) — located near the corner where Winifred lived — and Church House VAD hospital (1,220 admissions) — located next to Bromley Parish Church. Additionally, Kent 33, an all-male ambulance detachment of the VAD involved in the transporting of patients from Bromley South Station to hospitals in the area, held their Sunday parades at the church.8

Moreover, there were several military hospitals in the area, most notably the Ontario Military Hospital in nearby Orpington. Winifred's book includes an entry from this hospital, though the individual (Tuck? Jack?) remains unidentified.

Figure 1. Entry by an Unknown Bombardier, 14th Battery RFA, O.M.H Orpington, Winifred's Autograph Book

Bromley had a number of ties, starting pre-war, to the County of London Territorials, and Bromley Parish Church was frequently employed as a Sunday Parade destination for the battalions. The 7th London Regiment (3rd City of London Volunteer Rifle Corps) was housed nearby during the war in the former Fox & Sons Brewery in Green Street Green, along with the 2/1st Battery of The Honourable Artillery Company and the 2nd Battalion Welsh Guards.9 Bromley was home to the Queen's Own (Royal West Kent Regiment) territorials and West Kent Yeomanry — whose drill hall was on East Street — and the Bromley area formed part of the London Air Defences. Down the road, in Grove Park, was the No.1 Mechanical Transport Reserve Depot of the Army Service Corp.10 From their Journal, the Pennington Press, one thing we can conclude with confidence is that the lads of the ASC liked a night out in Bromley.11 The Swan and Mitre pub, at the end of the High Street — which I believe is still there today — was a particular favourite haunt.

I should stress the above just scratches the surface of Bromley's involvement in the First World War. It would have been more surprising if someone's paths hadn't crossed with a soldier during this period.

The Entries

Figure 2. Entry by Cecil Jack Puttick, Winifred's Autograph Book

The first entry I would like to highlight is from Cecil Jack Puttick (1897-1965) who is certainly posed with some 'swank'. He was local to Winnie, living in South Bromley, on Newbury Road.

Just before the outbreak of war, he found himself, along with a Sidney Davis, in front of the Judge of Bromley Police Court. His crime? Riding his bicycle on the footway at Ridley Road, for which he and Sidney were fined the sum of 2s 11d — which seems excessive.12 But that wasn't his only appearance in court. The same month, he was also up in front of the judge (it is unclear which hearing took place first), for the charge of wilfully committing damage to grazing grass in Shortlands. He and three other lads, accused of playing truant, were spotted playing cricket in a field. The owner, a Henry Vixard, claimed that the grass had been worn away by the youths and was seeking 4s in damages. The defence pointed out that cricket had been played on the ground for a long time, and witnesses were called who gave evidence that Mr Vixard had taken monies (3d) from the lads to allow them to play cricket on his land. Thankfully, the case was thrown out.

In April 1915 the Bromley Chronicle ran a piece on the 3rd Bromley Scout Troop. The Troop Master mentioned that 28 former members of the troop had signed up for the war effort, and Cecil is listed as one of the 28. The article also noted that the scouts, since the war's outbreak, had been undertaking orderly work at various Red Cross hospitals in the area.13

Cecil joined the Royal Field Artillery (service number 10588) and a Holy Communion card, from September 1917, has him as a Bombardier, with Y6 Trench Mortar Battery in the area of Vaudricourt, which is the Somme area. He was demobbed in 1920, holding the rank of Acting Sergeant.14

Figure 3. Entry by Wilfred Arthur Puttick, Winifred\'s Autograph Book

As well as Cecil's entry, there is also one by his older brother, made two years earlier: Wilfred Arthur Puttick (1895-1968) joined the 64th Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery, in September 1914 (service number 2802) as a driver.15 According to his family, he was injured in 1916 when his horse was hit by a shell, and he received a shrapnel wound to his leg (Silver War Badge B119,321).16

4. Wilfred Puttick, Image courtesy of Tim Puttick (Grandson), Tim Puttick ©

After the war, Wilfred went on to have a successful career in the music world; there are numerous accounts of him performing as a tenor, spanning from the 1920s into the 1950s, starting with a run of local concerts and performances.17

In the 1930s, Wilfred was on the committee of the London Oratorio and Concert Association, an organisation which promoted various choral and operatic artists and hosted concerts.18 Additionally, he sung tenor as part of a trio called the Condale Singers, along with Miss Lenora Brown (soprano) and Robert Paget (baritone), who performed in and around London and were reported to be popular in the West End.19

From the 1940s, he performed alongside the BBC Theatre Chorus and the BBC Theatre Orchestra, such as in Verdi's Aida in 1941 alongside opera singer Edith Mary Coates (1908-1983), and in The Beggar's Opera in 1945. He also appeared in more light-hearted productions, such as Aladdin in 1944.20 In later accounts of his public performances, he is referred to as 'The Well-known BBC singer'.21

He also worked alongside Ivor Novello and in later life and was a copyist for the composer Robert Bruce Montgomery (1921-1978).22

Wilfred Puttick's musical career got off to an early start, which, combined with the connection to the Church, I believe provides a reasonable explanation of how the Puttick's knew Winifred — however, a deep breath is required...

The Puttick brothers lived in South Bromley, and the nearest church to them was St. Mark's, Masons Hill. In 1908, Wilfred, then aged 13, performed at the St. Mark's annual 'Amateur Theatricals by Sunday School Scholars' in a sketch titled 'A Birthday Party', playing the part of Nervous Boy.23 In 1909, again at the church, he appeared in a concert in the aid of Aylesbury Road School Sports Fund (where he was a pupil) where he performed 'Apres La Valse', a violin and cello duet with fellow pupil Harold May.24

St Mark's Church, as well as being where the 3rd Scouts Battalion held their Sunday parades, happened to be the daughter church of Bromley Parish Church, and it seems the churches came together for certain events throughout the year. This included Easter 1913, as well as the Sunday schools which regularly met together.25 Given their shared passion for singing, it is not unreasonable to believe a friendship would have formed between Winifred and Wilfred. Supporting this, an article from 1922 mentions both Winifred Knight and Wilfred Puttick performing in the same concert at Aylesbury Road School in aid of Bromley Cottage Hospital.26

If this is the case, Wilfred's entry makes perfect sense, as he is giving her his address during training so they can stay in contact.

Figure 5. Entry by John D G Cowie, Royal Scots Fusiliers, Winifred\'s Autograph Book

Unfortunately, I have not been able to identify the individual who left the entry above, although I believe the signature reads 'John D G Cowie, Royal Scots Fusiliers'. I have been unable to find any records which match this name.

What I find interesting about this entry is that the image depicts a soldier in a rather heroic pose, getting ready to throw a grenade, while his comrades in the background prepare to advance, paying no mind to the explosions in the distance. It suggests bravery, a willingness to do their part, and the beginnings of a courageous tale.

It also happens to have been copied from an advert for Moss Bros.

Figure 6. Moss Bros Advert, Blighty July 1916, p.29, Author's Collection

I mentioned in a recent entry in this series that soldiers tended to spoof propaganda in their own cartoons, and likewise adverts were commonly lampooned. Therefore, it is interesting to see Cowie use this copy to leave his mark. The following is pure conjecture, but I wonder if he chose to copy this image before he had seen the battlefield and the realities of war, perhaps while still attending training in the UK — was it an idealistic vision of what was to come?

Figure 7. Entry by G. Thompson, Army Service Corps, Winifred\'s Autograph Book

This entry by G. Thompson (George Robert Thompson, service number 249463 perhaps?) exemplifies what I would categorise as a 'proud' entry, a somewhat common type to be left by soldiers, eager to show off their pride in the regiment or battalion they have joined.

I believe the printed ASC logo has been glued in and added at a later date, similar to the Puttick entry above. The reason I suspect it was added later — and I have noticed this in other sources — is I just can't imagine Tommy Atkins walking around with a pocket fall of printed logos ready for the awaiting autograph book hunter. I think it far more likely — given this was an age of scrapbook making — that they were added by the book's owner, perhaps using readily available sources such as advertisements in magazines. For instance, adverts such as the half-page advertisement below would have been a convenient source, and the size aligns well with the placement seen here.

Figure 8. The War Budget, 22 July 1915, p.iii, Author's Collection.
Figure 9. Entry by Janet Scott Chisholm Simpson, Winifred\'s Autograph Book

The last entry I wish to highlight was made by Janet Scott Chisholm Simpson A.R.E. (1874-1968). Despite the book containing only a small number of entries, one theme that runs through is the link to Bromley Parish Church. Several entries are from people who were associated with the church, such as E.L.M. Allen, a minister who left to be instituted as the Vicar of All Saints, Rochester in September of 1925.

Allen wasn't the only one who departed the church at this time: Janet retired from the church in the same month, after dedicating over 17 years' service to the church's Sunday school. The Bromley & West Kent Mercury reported there was a grand event held in her honour, well-attended by scholars past and present.27 Which is when I believe this entry was made.

Janet was also a talented artist, educated both at the Lambeth School of Art, and the Royal College of Art. In 1929, a collection of her etchings was published, spanning the 25 years she lived in Bromley. They are available to view on the Bromley Borough Local History Society site, and they provide a vivid window into the world where our book-owner Winifred lived and grew up.


The usual warning about how it is still very early days and far too early to draw any meaningful conclusions applies here. From the 204 entries captured across all books so far, a quarter of them have been copied from other sources, such as the Janet Simpson entry above, which is a quote from an essay titled 'Friendship' by American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882).

Having considered words by source in the last entry , I wanted to see if there was a distinction between entries that are originals and those that are copied i.e. is there a difference between words used every day, and words which are quoted? Especially since, as seen in the Janet Simpson entry, a lot of the quotes come from American sources, and across all sources examined so far, there has been a fair amount of material that has originated from Methodist sources.

In the following table, the 'Original' column lists words that are only found in original entries, while the 'Copy' column shows words that are exclusive to copied entries. For comparison, the 'Both' column includes words that appear in both, and 'All' combines all words. All columns are ranked by frequency.

At this stage, it is far too early to draw any meaningful conclusions, but I find that slicing and dicing the data like this is useful as it builds up in my mind how everything fits together, especially if you compare this table with the aforementioned word by source analysis, hints about what might be revealed begin to emerge.

Figure 10. Top Words by Original Entries vs Copied Entries and Comparison.

As before, all the entries can be found here and are shared under a creative commons licence.

The entries for Winnie's autograph book can be found in the folder 'WINNIE-BROMLEY-131123'. There is a text document and photograph for each page. A spreadsheet called MasterRecord, in the root directory, contains the meta-data.

The Technical Bit

Not much to report on this entry, but compiling the script for the word comparison above has made it clear that there's a lot of tidying up to do — both with the model and the underlying data. However, following on from my previous technical update, it's apparent that many more entries are needed for this analysis to yield meaningful results, so I'd prefer to focus my efforts on adding new entries at this stage. Moreover, there are still many unknowns to uncover.

The next book I plan to capture poses a challenge and will likely require considerable time. Nonetheless, I hope that in the end it will shed light on some of these unknowns.

The script used for the table above is stored in the files titled 'Language — Influenced,' and I have also included two additional files:

  • PDQListOfAuthors: This file generates a list of entries that have been copied, along with the original authors.

  • PDQCheckWords: This file provides a quick query for checking which entries contain specific words.

  1. 1911 Census England and Wales. ↩︎

  2. Bromley and West Kent Telegraph, 21 September 1901, p.5. ↩︎

  3. Bromley and West Kent Mercury, 21 September 1928, p.1. ↩︎

  4. Bromley Chronicle, 23 January 1908, p.5; Bromley Chronicle, 14 November 1907, p.7; England and Wales Deaths 1827-2007. ↩︎

  5. Bromley and West Kent Mercury, 19 January 1934, p.9. ↩︎

  6. 1939 Register, England and Wales Deaths 1827-2007. ↩︎

  7. Joyce Walker, 'The British Red Cross in the Bromley Area 1910-1919', Bromley Local History, Number 4. (1975), pp. 17-20. ↩︎

  8. Paul Creswick & G. Stanley Pond, & P.H. Ashton, Kent's Care for The Wounded (Hodder and Stoughton: London, 1915), pp. 129-132; J. Walker, 'The British Red Cross', p.17, 22-23. ↩︎

  9. Charles Humble Dudley Ward, History of the Welsh Guards 1915-1919 (London: London Stamp Exchange, 1988 [1920]), p.333; Digby Planck, History of the 7th (City of London) Battalion: The London Regiment, embracing the 3rd London and 32nd Searchlight Regiment, R.A (Sussex: Naval and Military Press, 2002), p.218; https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/the-british-infantry-regiments-of-1914-1918/honourable-artillery-company-infantry/, retrieved 18 June 2024. ↩︎

  10. Pam Preedy, Living Through the Great War at Home: How people of Bromley Faced the Challenges of War (London: Austin Macauley Publishers, 2021), p.45; TNA/CAB-24-38/GT-3210, 'H.M. Office of Works, Report for Fortnight ended 4th January 1918', 4 January 1918. ↩︎

  11. The Pennington Press, 29 September 1916, p.1. ↩︎

  12. Eltham & District Times, 2 July 1914, p.11. ↩︎

  13. Bromley Chronicle, 22 April 1915, p.1. ↩︎

  14. Royal Artillery Attestations 1883-1942. ↩︎

  15. Silver War Badge Roll 1914-1920. ↩︎

  16. Email correspondence, Tim Puttick (Wilfred Puttick's grandson), 6 June 2024. ↩︎

  17. Sevenoaks Chronicle and Kentish Advertiser, 5 May 1937; Middlesex County Times, 1 April 1950, p.4 ↩︎

  18. The Musical times and Singing Class Circular, July 1934, p.580. ↩︎

  19. Sydenham, Forest Hill & Penge Gazette, 22 January 1932, p.9. ↩︎

  20. Aida (1941), BBC Home Service, 19 November; The Beggars Opera (1945), BBC Home Service, 9 July; Aladdin (1944), BBC Home Service, 14 January 1944. ↩︎

  21. Biggleswade Chronicle, 20 February 1948, p.11. ↩︎

  22. Email correspondence with Tim Puttick (grandson), 10 June 2024; Bruce Montgomery, Bruce Montgomery/Edmund Crispin: A life in Music and Books (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing, 2007), p.168. ↩︎

  23. Bromley Chronicle, 30 January 1908, p.5. ↩︎

  24. Bromley and West Kent Telegraph, 18 December 1909, p.3. ↩︎

  25. Bromley Chronicle, 19 February 1903, p.8; Bromley and West Kent Telegraph, 29 March 1913, p.6. ↩︎

  26. Bromley & West Kent Mercury, 24 February 1922, p.8. ↩︎

  27. Bromley and West Kent Mercury, 2 October 1925, p.1. ↩︎

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