To quote Paul Rusiecki:
‘Middle class women with time on their hands, no financial imperative to earn a living and who were eager to demonstrate their patriotism, flung themselves into the war effort with gusto.’
This is how we find certain women living in Wivenhoe, they seem to be organising many social activities in the war years to raise funds. The Forester’s Hall appears to have been the venue chosen for many of these events.
A Whist Drive organised by the Wivenhoe Branch of the Conservative and Unionist Ladies League was held in November of 1914.
Mrs Ada Francesca Oakley the Hon. Secretary had organised this event. This lady falls exactly into the above category. She was married to Henry Richard Oakley (Capt.) a master mariner. They resided in a moderate Victorian villa called “Glen Coe” built in 1897 in Belle Vue Road with their 3 sons Harry known as Don, Kenneth and Winslow. They have a memorial, in the shape of a cross, which can be found at the far end of the old Wivenhoe Cemetery.
Several extracts contained in the Essex County Standard Newspaper at the start of the war 1914/1915 contain reports of naval personnel and troops receiving gifts sent to them by the True Blue Ladies League. The funds which this group raised sent presents out at Christmas 1914 and there were letters sent back in thanks.
Wivenhoe News Essex County Standard 1915
ANOTHER LETTER OF THANKS. – In connection with the True Blue Christmas presents distribution the following letter has been received, by Mrs. H.R. Oakley of Glencoe, Wivenhoe, hon. Sec. Unionist Local Ladies’ League:- H.M.Y. Vanessa, January. 27 1915.
Dear Madam: We, the officers and crew, wish to ask if you will be so kind as to tender our best thanks for the presents we received from the Ladies’ League True Blue. Wishing to all a most prosperous and victorious New Year, Yours truly, Officers and Crew.
The magazine which was mentioned’ True Blue’ was a small pamphlet printed once a month on behalf of the Unionist Party. Wivenhoe reports were of course reported in the Colchester area edition. One lady responsible for the distribution of these in Wivenhoe was Mrs J. G. Moore.
The Conservative Headquarters in Wivenhoe was based at ‘Gothic House’ in the High Street.
Another valued member on the committee of this group was Mrs Jane Smith who unfortunately died in 1915 on March 15th. She had been a keen gardener and had often lent beautiful pot plants to decorate the hall or function room where events were held.