Anzacs at Windsor

Did Andy Duncan have tea with King George V? In my previous post I suggested this family story may have come from the Anzac tea party held in Windsor Great Park in October 1916.

The Adelaide Advertiser reported the tea party in detail

ANZACS AT WINDSOR. (1916, 29 November) The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA.) p. 10. Newspaper article found in Trove reproduced courtesy of the National Library of Australia.
ANZACS AT WINDSOR. (1916, 29 November) The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA.) p. 10. Newspaper article found in Trove reproduced courtesy of the National Library of Australia.

A tea party in Windsor Park in the middle of October is, it must be confessed, a risky undertaking under any circumstances. When it comes to entertaining 6,000 wounded soldiers in various stages of convalescence and varying degress of helplessness the “founder of the feast” is, it will be readily agreed, “asking for trouble.” Mrs. Dennistoun Fïske, an Australian lady (sister-in-law to the late Major General Sir J. Hoad), who has on sundry occasions entertained wounded soldiers on quite a big scale, decided, however, that she could trust the clerk of the weather to behave decently on Saturday, October 14, and made arrangements to entertain on that particular day 10,000 wounded soldiers at tea somewhere.

The question of a suitable rendezvous was, of course, of prime importance, involving questions of transport, not only of the men themselves, but of the wherewithal to feed and amuse the guests, and the provision of sufficient shelter for all should the clerk of the weather signify his disapproval of the gathering in his usual effective manner. The King came to the rescue of Mrs Fiske (and her myriad of helpers) by granting the use of Windsor Great Park for the rendezvous, and the difficulties of transit, &c., reduced the number of probable guests to 6,000. To entertain even that reduced number was, however, not a small undertaking, even if the clerk of the weather proved – as he happily did – in benevolent mood. Happily Mrs. Fiske enjoyed the cordial and active support of scores of willing helpers, who “delivered the goods” required to make the tea party a success without a hitch.

Hundreds of motor cars, motor omnibuses, taxi cabs, brakes, and carriages had to be requisitioned to bring the big party from London. Honorary services were provided in this direction by the Acton Taxi Drivers’ Association, an organisation of taxi-men possessing their own cars, who week by week, for nearly two years past, have patriotically, at their own expense, undertaken to give drives to wounded soldiers. The taxi-men found 75 taxi-cabs, and carried four or five men each from London and back. Private owners also lent cars. Hundreds of “waitresses” were required. These were organised by Lady Edward Spencer Churchill and the Mayor of Windsor, and included many wives of officers A band was wanted, and the band of the 2nd Life Guards met the requirement.

Then there was the food required – 1,250 lb. of meat, 4 tons of flour, 6 dwt. of sugar, 1,000 lb. each of currant and plain cake, 12 barrels of grapes, 15 boxes of apples, 150 lb. of tea, £25 worth of butter, and 20,000 cigarettes. The committee of the London Chamber of Commerce gave the meat and also a grant of £50 towards the cost of the transport. Messrs. Tate gave the sugar, the London Corn and Flour Association contributed the flour, whilst Selfridge’s supplied the currant cake, and Messrs. J. Lyons & Co. the plain cake, as well lending the crockery ware.

The gathering took place on the Cavalry Exercise Ground, near Queen Anne’s Gate.This had been specially laid out by Crown authorities under the direction of Colonel Claude Willoughby, Deputy Ranger of Windsor Great Park. Water was specially laid on, and about a dozen field ovens installed for the purpose of boiling the water. Two huge marquees were erected, each capable of accommodating one thousand men, tea being served in batches.

The men came by train, by motor cars, buses, and vehicles of every description, and some even came on steam launches up the river, private generosity providing practically all transport, whatever form it took.

To see the endless stream of vehicles arriving and depositing their human freights beneath the giant elms and oaks, and in front of an enormous marquee, rather reminded one of an Ascot race day. But an Ascot of a new character and more wonderful than any seen before, in which all the men wore the blue suits and red ties of honor, while most of the ladies accompanying them were in nurses’ uniform.  There were, of course, some cruelly maimed men, unable to move without assistance, but it really seemed as if these were the jolliest of all.

There was a tremendous tea of all kinds of sandwiches and cakes and tea and coffee. There was not much left of any thing when the “big attack” was over. Before that the Duchess of Albany and Princess Alexander of Teck and Princess May of Teck followed a little later by Princess Christian, made a tour of the tables and spoke kindly words to the guests. After tea there were races, and a pleasant afternoon was concluded by the pleasant drive back to London through the lovely country lanes of the land which we call “Home.”

This seems a likely origin for the family story, but there are other possibilities. On 10 March 1917 the Reading Mercury newspaper reported –

THE KING AND WOUNDED SOLDIERS

A number of wounded soldiers – mostly Colonials – visit Windsor every week, and, by permission of the King, are shown over Windsor Castle. They are afterwards entertained to tea in the servants’ hall.

It is also possible that the story refers to one of the King’s many visits to troops and hospitalised soldiers during the war. In 1916 the King visited Australian troops on Salisbury Plain in September and December

 

Sources

ANZACS AT WINDSOR – The Adelaide Advertiser, 29 Nov 1916. Newspaper article found in Trove

THE KING AND WOUNDED SOLDIERS – The Reading Mercury, 10 Mar 1917. Newspaper article found in the British Newspaper Archive

KING REVIEWS ANZACS – Warrnambool Standard, 30 Sep 1916. Newspaper article found in Trove

THE KING’S PRAISE – Clunes Guardian and Gazette, 29 Dec 1916. Newspaper article found in Trove

THE KING REVIEWS AUSTRALIAN TROOPS – Pathe Gazette newsreel, c.1916. Australian War Memorial collection F00071

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3 thoughts on “Anzacs at Windsor”

  1. What a great story containing such a lot of detail. I love the Clerk of the Weather idea. No wonder they chose the name Trove for the digitilized newspapers as they are a real treasure trove of information.

    Like

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