The dread broom and the swish of skirts: Jessie Allen Brooks, part of the H.G. Wells’ household, Floor Games and Little Wars

My FEMBruary last post to mark International Women’s Day March 8th and Women’s History Month in the UK and USA.

One of the background presences in Little Wars and Floor Games is the swish of skirts of women of the Wells’ household.

Part I – Boys and Girls, Floor Games and Little Wars

Women crop up somewhat comically in Floor Games and Little Wars as interrupters, destroyers or dismissive of these mostly boy’s games. The rare “more intelligent sort of girl who likes boy’s games and books” of the title, preface or dedication seems to have left little trace from the time.

Little Wars, Part I: “can be played by boys of every age from twelve to one hundred and fifty—and even later if the limbs remain sufficiently supple—by girls of the better sort, and by a few rare and gifted women.”

Little Wars, Part II : “Primitive attempts to realise the dream were interrupted by a great rustle and chattering of lady visitors. They regarded the objects upon the floor with the empty disdain of their sex for all imaginative things.”

Little Wars, Part II: “First there was the development of the Country. The soldiers did not stand well on an ordinary carpet, the Encyclopedia made clumsy cliff-like “cover”, and more particularly the room in which the game had its beginnings was subject to the invasion of callers, alien souls, trampling skirt-swishers, chatterers, creatures unfavourably impressed by the spectacle of two middle-aged men playing with “toy soldiers” on the floor, and very heated and excited about it.”

On a practical basis, any child or adult of us with no set-aside games room or table who has tried Garden or Floor Games knows the frustration of destructive feet, mealtimes or animals.

Wells recommends ideally playing “in no highway to other rooms” and maintains for some of the book an even and equal approach to male and female involvement.

Floor Games, Part I: “The jolliest indoor games for boys and girls demand a floor, and the home that has no floor upon which games may be played falls so far short of happiness.

“It must be a floor covered with linoleum or cork carpet, so that toy soldiers and such-like will stand up upon it, and of a color and surface that will take and show chalk marks; the common green-colored cork carpet without a pattern is the best of all. It must be no highway to other rooms, and well lit and airy. Occasionally, alas! it must be scrubbed—and then a truce to Floor Games.”

“Upon such a floor may be made an infinitude of imaginative games, not only keeping boys and girls happy for days together, but building up a framework of spacious and inspiring ideas in them for after life. The men of tomorrow will gain new strength from nursery floors. I am going to tell of some of these games and what is most needed to play them; I have tried them all and a score of others like them with my sons, and all of the games here illustrated have been set out by us. I am going to tell of them here because I think what we have done will interest other fathers and mothers, …

Lots of boys and girls seem to be quite without planks and boards at all, and there is no regular trade in them. ”

What of the women of tomorrow? I wonder what Wells’ acquaintance E. Nesbit, mother of sons, writer and creator of Wings and the Child or the Building of Magic Cities (1913) and children’s books would have made of all this “boyhood” stuff? https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2021/01/30/i-never-thought-of-building-magic-cities-till-the-indian-soldiers-came/

Floor Games, IV: “I will now glance rather more shortly at some other very good uses of the floor, the boards, the bricks, the soldiers, and the railway system—that pentagram for exorcising the evil spirit of dulness from the lives of little boys and girls.”

Little Wars seems a little less inclusive in its language:

Little Wars: “Every boy who has ever put together model villages knows how to do these things, and the attentive reader will find them edifyingly represented in our photographic illustrations.”

As Alan Gruber in his Duchy of Tradgardland blog proves, girls can happily create model villages as well as any boy! http://tradgardland.blogspot.com/2017/07/breakfast-biscuits-little-wars-house.html

Part 2 – The Women of the Wells’ Household

Centre of the household was Wells’ second wife ‘Jane’ (Amy Catherine) Wells, (1872-1927), the same age as Jessie Allen Brooks. She typed Wells’ work, ran the household and as A.C.W, the War Correspondent, took (some of?) the photographs for the original magazine articles and the book. She also would have been the one who typed up and proofread Wells’ manuscripts for Little Wars and Floor Games.

Windsor Magazine, Dec 1912 part II Battle of Hook’s Farm – the magazine photographs by ‘Jane’ or Amy Catherine Wells, his second wife are rougher than the summer 1913 book published ones.

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The retouched photo of Fig. 4 of Hook’s Farm – every leaf and branch is the same, so these are not reshot specially for the book.

As we mentioned in an earlier blog post, listed in the Wells household in the 1911 Census for Hampstead there was also

Mathilde Meyer the Swiss Governess, 28

and two domestic servants –

Jessie Allen Brooks, 38, Cook – Domestic, b. Richmond, Surrey

Mary Ellen Shinnick, 27, Housemaid – Domest, b. Coppingerstown, Cork, Ireland

These are the ladies behind the dreaded broom shown or illustrated in Floor Games:

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2021/01/21/the-invisible-men-and-women-behind-h-g-wells-little-wars-and-floor-games/

John Ramage Sinclair’s spirited line illustrations of the dread destructive sweeping up of play

https://archive.org/details/floorgames00well

Part 3 – More Boys, Less Girls?

Interesting how girls do still get occasional references in Floor Games at least and mostly omitted from Little Wars. Alongside the Battle of Hook’s Farm, the ‘Battle of the Sexes’ was hotting up in Edwardian Britain with the rise of Women’s Suffrage.

Within the towns in Floor Games, III: “You can make picture-galleries—great fun for small boys who can draw; you can make factories; you can plan out flower-gardens—which appeals very strongly to intelligent little girls.”

Mostly in Floor Games, Wells remembers to be inclusive of boys and girls, fathers and mothers. This is less so in Little Wars, I: “This priceless gift to boyhood appeared somewhen towards the end of the last century, a gun capable of hitting a toy soldier nine times out of ten at a distance of nine yards.”

Interesting to think that at this same time, enterprising girls in this Edwardian period were joining or rivalling their brothers by setting up their own Baden Powell Girl Scout groups in response to Scouting for Boys (1907/08), quickly officially channeled into BP Girl Guides. The Suffragette movement in Britain was moving into its most active and aggressive phase as well.

Boy Scouts were quickly produced by Britain’s in 1909 and many other hollow-cast manufacturers but did not produce Girl Scouts. USA Girl Guides were first produced by Britain’s in 1926 and British ones not until 1934! The Boy Scouts crop up from time to time in J.R. Sinclair’s charming line illustrations.

I have written in another post about Mathilde Meyer, the Swiss Governess who took over the care of the Wells’ two children Frank (b.1903) and Gip (b.1901) from Jessie Allen Brooks who had been partly their nurse.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2021/02/21/little-wars-some-more-from-the-memoir-of-mathilde-meyer-governess-to-h-g-wells-children/

Mathilde Meyer in her memoir H.G. Wells and his Family (1955):

“But Mrs. Wells , who had been looking on highly amused! Intervened at that moment, saying that there was no time now for battles, that it was the night when the floor had to be scrubbed, and soldiers and bricks to be put back into their boxes, before bedtime.

Both boys protested wildly: “Oh, Mummy, Mummy!” They shouted, “not to-night, please, not to-night!” But Mummy was firm.

This was the worst about Floor games. The linoleum, on which they were set out, alas, had to be washed periodically. An armistice had to be declared. The battlefield had to disappear completely; the boards had to be out against the wall, and twigs that looked already looked a little wilted, burnt with the paper flags.

I wished my new pupils good-night, wondering what kind of inspiration I had made on them. It was not until weeks later that Jessie told me what their verdict had been. “Stupid – but quite nice.”

The fate of many Floor Games – blundering adults, all in this case male. No skirt swishers here!

So who were these washers and scrubbers of linoleum?

I find Jessie Allen Brooks an intriguing figure, as her age and working class background is similar to H.G. Wells but her life was so different. Wells’ mother Sarah remained in domestic service on and off before and after marriage, depending on the family income including time in service at Uppark, living in accompanied by Wells as an ailing child

The Epsom and Ewell History Society have a good potted history of Wells’ family life https://eehe.org.uk/?p=24117

I will deal with Mary Ellen Shinnick the family’s Irish domestic servant in 1911 in another post.

Jessie was Nurse to the Wells’ boys before Mathilde arrived in 1908. She continued to play an important role as Cook and Nurse in their lives during the time that Mathilde was their Governess until 1913, almost until the two boys departed for Oundle School in Autumn 1914.

In the final year or two, male tutors Mr. Classey and the Pomeranian / German Kurt or Karl Butow played more and more of a role in shaping the boys’ education in preparation for an all boy’s boarding school like Oundle. Mathilde Meyer kept in touch by letter with the boys over the years, well into the 1950s.

Jessie Allen Brooks is a large but largely hidden behind the scene presence in the lives of the two Wells boys and the Wells household. But for Meyer’s memoir and the 1911 Census, she would be another Invisible Woman in the Floor Games and Little Wars world of H.G. Wells.

Jessie was Nurse to the two boys in the absence of their mother, she is their Cook for nursery teas, with or without their mother, and she is the mistress of the dread bed and bath time as an end to the day’s imaginative games.

No doubt she would also, with the other Wells’ servant Mary Ellen Shinnick, have been a scrubber and washer of chalk outlines of “the country” on floors, burner of paper flags and wilting twig tress, sweepers up and accidental destroyer of toys and games left out beyond their time.

Jessie Allen Brooks – destroyer of worlds! – to misquote Robert Oppenheimer.

I have no photograph yet of Jessie Allen Brooks but we do have an affectionate pen portrait (looking back in her memoir H.G. Wells and his Family from 1955) of Jessie from Mathilde Meyer on her arrival at Spade House in 1908. Mrs Wells says they will all “have tea with the boys, and Jessie the nurse …”

“Jessie, the nurse, was introduced to me next. She was, as I found out later, a very efficient nurse, and devoted to her charges. Middle-aged, tall and gaunt, she seemed almost severe in looks, and naturally I wondered how I would get on with her.”

Compare this to her description of the first servant she meets at the door, quite anonymous, so probably not Jessie’s younger sister Mabel who worked with Jessie at Sandgate for the Wells’ household (1901 Census): “A maid in a white cap and apron appeared at the door … Presently the maid came back to tell me Mrs. Wells was busy in the garden …”

Mathilde’s bag is carried to her cleaned room, hot water is already there for washing – all the busy work of keeping a middle class Edwardian household goes on mostly unseen.

Mathilde Meyer notes in her memoir that: “I looked no doubt somewhat scared when [Mrs. Wells] told me that, because she tried to assure me by saying that Jessie would still be in the house, although no longer in her capacity as a nurse, but as a cook, and that I could therefore always rely on her to help me if either of the boys were ill and wanted extra attention and care. I felt reassured. “

A Governess, especially a foreign one, held a slightly odd, more elevated social position above stairs compared to a domestic servant like Jessie Brooks.

After a battle of the Floor Game or Little Wars by Wells and his two boys, Mathilde Meyer notes after the game and repair of broken figures that:

“Then suddenly the schoolroom door opened, and there stood Jessie, gaunt and serious. “Bath time for you, Frank,” she announced curtly and Frank, without a murmur, followed her out of the room…”

There is a transition period when Jessie fills the new younger arrival Mathilde in with quirky details on how the Sandgate seaside Wells household runs and the character of the Wells family and boys including the “prickly” H.G. Wells, the unconventional dining outside where possible, not always dressing for dinner and Wells’ bohemian habits of walking around the garden in bare feet.

Later that night, Jessie on her way to bed, came to my room to enquire …”

Further glimpses of Jessie occur throughout Mathilde Meyer’s memoir, but as the transition of roles continues, we read less and less of Jessie’s work.

It is not absolutely clear if Jessie transferred in Spring 1912 with Mathilde and the Wells household to Easton Glebe (Rectory) in Dunmow in Essex when they moved from Hampstead (London) to the country. A “lively dark haired Irish parlourid” is noted there, who could be Mary Ellen Shinnick.

Jessie Allen Brookes – Early life and family

1881 Census

The 9 year old Jessie Allen Brooks is at school. The family are living in 2 Elm Cottages, Princes Road, Richmond, Surrey.

Son of a labourer, Jessie’s father William Allen Brooks (b. Chelsfield, Kent 1842-1931) was working as a gardener, like H.G. Wells’ father Joseph.

In 1871 he was a gardener working in Plaistow, Bromley. (Born in 1866 in Bromley in Kent, H.G. Wells would have been about 5 at this time).

Her mother Mary Ann Sills (b. Maidstone, Kent 1845-1923) was from Maidstone, Kent. She married William Allen Brooks in 1867. Her father John was a quarryman (1851 Census).

Jessie’s family was made up of her mother, father and 3 brothers and 2 sisters:

William Stephen Sills Brooks, (b. Plaistow, Kent 1868 – d. 1931, Guildford, Surrey) – according to the 1911 Census, he became a Gardener like his father in Woking Surrey

Jessie Allen Brooks, (b. Richmond, Surrey 1872 – 1938, Surrey)

George John Brooks, (b. 1875 – 1955) who became a drapery manager, married and had a family.

Rose Elizabeth Brooks (b. Richmond, Surrey 1877, – 1955)

Mabel Offord Brooks, (b. 1880 – 1970)

Born after the 1881 Census:

Ada Mary Brooks (b. 1882 – 1888) Princes Road, Richmond

Albert (‘Bert’) Richard Brooks, (b. 1886, Gunnersbury, Middlesex, d. 1929 Cobham, Surrey) who became a Grocer in Cobham, married and had a family.

1891 Census

In 1891 the 18 year old Jessie Allen Brooks was working alongside her sister Rose Elizabeth Brooks (1877-1945) in 5 Shaa Road, Acton (London, now W3) for Susan Boddy, head of a family of Wells children born all over the Empire.

Her sister Rose E Brooks is on the next page of the 1891 Census

Presumably the Wells / Boddy family were a military, trade or civil service family, Susan has remarried a Mr. Boddy, who is absent from home on the 1891 Census day. Adelaide or Adalaide M Wells and siblings – one to follow up in another post.

5 Shaa Road, Acton, London as it is today on Streetview, the Boddy /Wells family house, an impressive Victorian semi-detached house to keep clean for the Brooks girls!

I can’t work out if this Shaa Road Boddy / Wells family connection is coincidence or how and whether these Wells might be related to H.G. Wells. He came from a big family of brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles.

Domestic servants and their siblings were often referred (on good character or reference) from one previous family employer to another branch of the employer’s family or friends. It is not uncommon to find sisters working together in domestic service.

1901 Census:

Going back to the 1901 census, 28 year old Jessie Allen Brooks (b. 1872-1938) is working as a Cook- Domestic for the Wells family at Spade House, Sandgate, Kent, along with her sister Mabel Offord Brooks (1880-1970), then aged 21 – Housemaid Domestic.

Ancestry UK family history source: Spade House Sandgate where Jessie and Mabel Brooks worked for the Wells family (1901 Census)

1911 Census – as above, in 17 Church Row / Road, Hampstead – Jessie is working for the Wells family.

https://www.london-walking-tours.co.uk/17-church-row-hampstead-hgwells.htm

An interesting house with interesting residents http://www.shadyoldlady.com/location.php?loc=540

So there is a mini history of the Wells household, the houses where Little Games and Floor Wars were created and played, and where Jessie Allen Brooks and her sisters worked hard behind the scenes.

What happened next to Jessie and her family?

After working with Jessie in 1901 for the Wells family at Spade House, Sandgate in Kent, sister Mabel Offord Brooks may have travelled 2nd Class as a domestic to New York in 1909 from Liverpool aboard the White Star liner Baltic. By 1911 she was back in Woking in domestic service for the family of bank clerk Bernard Blagden family.

Jessie’s mother Mary Ann died in 1923. Younger brother Albert died in 1929, aged 42. Her father William Allen Brooks died in 1931 aged 89, when she was 58; the same year her older brother William also died, aged 62.

In 1927, Wells’ second wife ‘Jane’ (Amy Catherine) Wells died at Easton Glebe, Dunmow, Essex.

Some women of property were given the vote in 1918, the rest in 1928. We start to pick up traces in the Electoral Register in the 1930s.

In 1934 Jessie Allen Brooks is living with her sister Rose in a shared house with the Collins family Woodfield, Goldsworth, Woking (Electoral Register). By 1937, Rose, Jessie and Mabel Brooks are living together again.

In 1938, Jessie Allen Brooks died, aged around 65.

In 1939, Mabel and Rose Brooks are living together now in 25 Kingsway, Woking (near Horsell Moor of War of the Worlds fame). Aged 59, Mabel is still working in paid domestic service!

Sister Rose Brooks died in 1945, aged 68. Her and Jessie’s former employer H.G. Wells died in 1946. Mabel is still living there through the 1950s into the mid Sixties.

Mabel Offord Brooks died in Northwest Surrey in 1970, the longest surviving of the Brooks siblings.

Until the 1921 census appears in 2022, it will be difficult to say how long the ageing Jessie Allen Brooks stayed in service with the family. Sadly there is no surviving 1931 or 1941 Census.

Jessie’s brother Albert, a grocer in Cobham, Surrey died in 1929. Jessie, now 56 and her unmarried sisters Rose and Mabel attended, along with her father and Brother William.

She died aged c.65 in 1938, appears never to have married and lived in her later years with her spinster sisters, who also had careers in domestic service.

Jessie Allen Brooks – a woman from a very similar background to Wells himself but whose life was very different. Importantly she kept the Wells family clean and well fed throughout many years!

I shall finish with Peter Dennis’ lovely 2019 image of Wells for his Little Wars book (Paperboys / Helion) featuring a skirt swisher in the background:

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, March 2021

FEMBruary female figure painting challenge, 54mm BMC Plastic Army Women figures and Morecambe And Wise’s The Magnificent Two

54mm BMC Plastic Army Women figures as the Women’s Revolutionary Army of Parazuellia

My final entry for the FEMBruary female figure painting challenge are these fine new plastic 54mm BMC Plastic Army Women figures. They reminded me of the Revolutionary female figures in a favourite Morecambe and Wise film from childhood, The Magnificent Two (1967).

Isobel Black in The Magnificent Two

Read more from these two posts from my Pound Store Plastic Warriors blog:

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2021/03/05/the-magnificent-two-1967-imaginations-uniforms-the-womens-revolutionary-army-of-parazuellia/
Gloss shiny toy soldier paint and varnish finish for these figures

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2021/03/05/fembruary-bmc-plastic-army-women-as-the-revolutionary-womans-army-of-parazuellia/

Blog cross-posted by Mark Man of TIN, 5 March 2021

FEMBruary 2021 Figure 1 – Rosie the Riveter

First figure off my FEMBruary painting table –

a gloss 54mm toy soldier style painting of ‘Rosie the Riveter, the WW2 US propaganda poster girl (“We Can Do It!”) of women’s war work in the factories of America.

‘Rosie’ is a bonus figure within the new BMC Plastic Army Women sets from my first ever Kickstarter pledge last year. The sets are now in the main web shop at BMC.

The ‘Rosie the Riveter’ Story and its links to the “We Can Do It!” poster can be found here:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/We_Can_Do_It!

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosie_the_Riveter

I also looked at press images of “Rosies” (one of the nicknames for US women war workers) and a similar Norman Rockwell 1943 magazine cover.

I restrained myself from trying to do the polka dot head piece or the lapel badge, even in 54mm. Gloss acrylic paint , gloss varnish and pink cheek dots give this figure an old fashioned toy soldier feel.

I wanted her to look like she had been made by William Britain’s Ltd during the war, albeit unlikely as Britain’s Ltd was turned over to munitions production after 1941 .

Rivet gun at her feet, We Can Do It! says Rosie

The British equivalent of Rosie is probably Ruby Loftus, painted by Dame Laura Knight: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruby_Loftus_Screwing_a_Breech-ring

Precursor to Rosie, in 1941 Canada had “Ronnie the Bren Gun Girl”

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veronica_Foster

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=GdqMt0fZPiY&feature=youtu.be

Next up, almost done on the painting table – the BMC Plastic Army Women – painted for FEMbruary – including another version of Rosie.

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 15 FEMbruary 2021

Blog Post Script B.P.S.

Thanks to Alex at the Lead Balloony blog for setting up the FEMbruary challenge of painting believable female Miniatures and gaming minis.

“These ladies form a nice segue into another topic – that of my now-annual ‘Fembruary Challenge’!  It’s a simple affair, just paint & post one or more female miniatures from your piles-of-shame, in the name of fair representation within the hobby. Just link back to this post, or ping me directly & I’ll grab a pic and include your entry in the final round-up in early March (usually by International Women’s Day, 8th of March)

Given that this is intended as an encouragement to think about inclusion in the hobby then it makes sense if your entries are kick-ass ladies, and not the product of some socially awkward mini-sculptor’s sexy fantasies… Anything dodgy & I’ll omit it from the round-up, otherwise, have at it! I usually pick my favourite of the bunch – no prizes I’m afraid, but a boatload of kudos to you as an official Fembruary Winner!”

https://leadballoony.com/2021/01/13/mythic-battles-pantheon-introducing-the-amazons/

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 15 FEMbruary 2021

No Mixed Bathing (FEMbruary 2021)

Crossposted from my Pound Store Plastic Warriors blog – a wash and brush up for the new 54mm BMC Plastic Army Women figures, prior to the FEMbruary believable female figure painting challenge (started by Alex at Lead Balloony)

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2021/02/01/no-mixed-bathing-fembruary-2021/

As FEMbruary back up, I also have some lovely Bad Squiddo WW2 Pigeoneers.

Not too late to join in … grab a female figures and join in!

Crossposted by Mark Man of TIN, 1 February 2021

#FEMbruary 2020 Girl Scout Patrol Challenge completed on Leap Day

IMG_2695
Daisy Patrol completed at last …

Crossposted by Mark Man of TIN 29th #FEMbruary 2020 – more photos of my finished #FEMbruary Girl Scout Patrol figure conversion  challenge here at:

https://tabletopscoutingwidegames.wordpress.com/2020/02/29/fembruary-leap-day-2020-girl-scouts-patrol-finished/

Happy Leap Day 2020. How have you spent your extra Leap Day? 

Women Soldiers – Girl’s Own Paper Article 1893

As part of FEMbruary 2020, here’s an interesting article on Women Soldiers from a random edition of the Girl’s Own Paper that I once owned, dated November 4th 1893

G.O.P. was sister to the Boy’s Own Paper – I wonder what their boy’s take on an article about Woman Soldiers would be?

The opening page with herald – Taran Tara!

A Victorian take on women in the military:

Column 3

Article written by Laura Alex. Smith, Girl’s Own Paper November 4th 1893

The Dahomey Amazons featured in my FEMbruary blogpost of 2018: https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2018/03/10/more-dahomey-amazons/

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2018/02/15/colonial-amazons-women-soldiers-of-dahomey-and-siam/

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 27 FEMbruary 2020

This is the GOP edition that this Women Soldiers article came from.

And for good measure, a fine military looking gent  in GOP, December 3rd 1887:

Marlene Lilli visits the lonely NAK desert troops 1941

Marlene Lilli the famous singing star and “Forces Sweetheart” visits a lonely desert airstrip to cheer the lonely NAK NordAfrika Korps troops.

#FEMbruary 2020 – a chance to celebrate beleivable female gaming miniatures.

Marlene Lilli is a useful little platform figure from the Peco / Merit / Modelscene set 5201 Unpainted Army, Navy and Air Force personnel.
http://www.plasticsoldierreview.com/ShowFeature.aspx?id=107
5116 Army Personnel
https://peco-uk.com/collections/4mm-oo/products/army-personnel

Her visit to the troops was inspired by one of the latest song covers by one of my favourite bands Postmodern Jukebox. Previously featured on Man of TIN / Pound Store Plastic Warriors:

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2019/03/15/thinking-outside-the-postmodern-paintbox/

This is its first German language cover, the 1980s Nena song 99Luftballons or ’99 Red Balloons’. This is covered in a 1940s / 50s  jazz vibes style in German by singer Aly Ryan.

The 1980s original song was released in both German and English.

Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN, 11 FEMbruary 2020. Enjoy!

#FEMbruary 2020 Girl Scout Patrol Challenge

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Four short of a full Daisy  Patrol of eight Girl Scouts  (right)

I can’t believe it’s #FEMbruary again – the annual challenge by Alex @ Lead Balloony blog to paint more female miniatures for your gaming hobby.

https://leadballoony.com/2020/02/03/leadballoonys-3rd-fembruary-challenge/

Marvin reminded me that we are already in FEMbruary with his challenge figures

https://suburbanmilitarism.wordpress.com/2020/02/05/court-appearances-fembruary-2020

My challenge this year is a limited one as I am preparing Scouting and Snowballing figures and rules for the Little Wars Revisited 54mm Games day at Woking with Alan Gruber (still spaces left to join in).

This year my challenge is  four more Girl Scout figures to convert from 42mm Boy Scout figures to make up a full Daisy Patrol of eight figures.

https://tabletopscoutingwidegames.wordpress.com

The figures are Little Britons / STS Shiny Toy Soldiers LBB30 Boy Scout sold through Spencer Smith Miniatures.

DBE9EC6B-C5DB-49C1-941C-32783153F4D7

Previously on Man of TIN blog in #FEMbruary

#FEMBruary 2019 Bad Squiddo 28mm Land Girls and Soviet Women – https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2019/03/17/huzzah-for-boycraft-flower-show-craft-success/

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2019/03/07/the-unwomanly-face-of-war-book-review/

#FEMbruary 2018 – More Bad Squiddo land girls and other female figures

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2018/02/18/fembruary-2018-progress-so-far/

Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN 6 FEMbruary 2020

The Unwomanly Face of War – book review

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It’s World Book Day on March 7th and International Women’s Day on March 8th (so unofficially the end of this year’s  painting and modelling challenge #FEMbruary 2019).

To mark these dates I thought that I would review this fascinating military oral history book about Russian women in WW2. It is possibly one of the freshest and most interesting military or social history books that I have read about WW2 for several years since The Taste of War: WW2 and the Battle for Food by Lizzie Collingham (2011).

One of the downsides of reading many WW2 books is having to (skim) read the same material  over and over again in different books, which makes finding new material or insights all the more interesting.

The author Svetlana Alexievich interviewed many Russian servicewomen in the 1970s and 1980s about their war experiences in WW2. She used the same ‘polyphonic’ oral history approach in her other work such as Boys in Zinc (1991) about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which I have not yet read.

The Unwomanly Face of War was published first in Russian in 1985, then translated into English in Moscow in 1988. The book was rejected by several Russian publishers as ‘unsuitable’ history. When this book was first written and the oral histories recorded, Russia was still the old USSR then. Glasnost and Perestroika were still several years away.

Svetlana Alexievich returned to the subject of the book in the early 2002-2004 and added or restored more material, presumably as some forms of Soviet 1980s censorship had changed by then. This is what is featured in this recent translation published by Penguin in 2017 / 2018.

Extracts here https://www.penguin.co.uk/articles/2016/on-the-battle-lost-by-svetlana-alexievich.html

There are some updated or  presumably new sections in the preface – “what the censors threw out”, “from a conversation with a censor” and “what I threw out” – that are interesting to read in light of this self censorship and official censorship of what is suitable national history.

Svetlana Alexievich won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2015 for her well curated “polyphonic” oral histories  on Chernobyl, the Russian war in Afghanistan in the 1980s, the break up of the USSR, children in WW2 and this unusual book on Russian women at war in WW2.

Why am I reading this book?

I began reading this book as part of my 2019 FEMbruary figure challenge to paint or celebrate your believable female gaming or model miniatures.

The recent 28mm Women of WW2 Bad Squiddo Miniatures range by Annie Norman  had not only female soldiers, tank crews and snipers but also a command group of medics and radio operators, which I chose to paint. They are almost complete as of the end of #FEMbruary.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2019/01/31/fembruary-2019-and-new-bad-squiddo-figures-arrive/

This FEMbruary blogpost also links to some interesting Guardian interviews with Svetlana Alexievich.

Fellow FEMbruary challenge acceptor Marvin at Suburban Militarism chose the Female sniper and spotter pair.

https://suburbanmilitarism.wordpress.com/2019/02/17/fembruary-2019-soviet-sniper-sisters-in-snow/

What makes the book unusual and fascinating is that it is skilfully curated directly from the words of the women themselves, presumably transcribed from tape recordings or letters. Their job roles go beyond the somewhat known – female snipers, the first female fighter pilots – and into the less well known but more stereotypically ‘feminine’ jobs. Surgeon. Nurse. Medical Assistants to infantry or Army Regiments  – armed Combat Medics.

There were plenty of women who worked with or fought with the Partisans. Other women served on the front line as sappers, engineers, mechanics, radio and telegraph engineers.

Even more surprising were the oral histories from women proud of their patriotic service as Laundrywomen.  Mobile bath units. Cooks. Bakers. You forget that someone had to clean and repair uniforms. Cook the bread. Boil the water for soldiers to have a hot bath.

These women are  the equivalent to the unromantic duties of the ATS women in Britain who cooked, cleaned, baked and repaired for the war effort – but often in the war in Russia these jobs took women well into the combat zone and front line.

A quick scan through of the ranks listed after each woman’s name shows everything from Private and Partisan fighter through junior officers (“Lieutenant, Political Commissar of  a Field Laundry Unit” was one of the most unusual) up to high ranking posts such as airforce officers and a rare, almost accidental female Naval Commander post!

The range of jobs listed by the interviewees is fascinating:

Factory Labour Front Worker

Partisan Underground Fighter / Liaison / Medic

Militia Commander

Anti-Aircraft Gunner

Commander MG Platoon

Field Bath and Laundry Unit, Laundress

Searchlight Operator

Construction Unit, Engineer / Sapper / Miner (land mines?)

Art Singer

Armorer

Political Journalist

Rifleman

Radio Operator

Military Journalist

Cook

Logistics / Driver / Traffic Controller

Postal Worker / Communications

Telegrapher / Telephone Operator

Scout

Sniper

Nurse / Nurse Aide / Matron through to Surgeon

Paramedic and Private, Motorised infantry

(Front line) Medical Assistant  to an Army Company or Cavalry Squadron

Airplane Mechanic / Car Mechanic

Pilot / Airforce Captain

Naval Fleet Commander

Crypotographer

Some jobs I had never heard of such as an Aerostat Operator – I had to look this up. Surprsingly such odd or old fashioned sounding jobs are still advertised today! An aerostat (from Greek aer (air) + statos (standing) via French) is a “lighter than air aircraft that gains its lift through the use of a buoyant gas. Aerostats include unpowered balloons and powered airships. Especially with airships, the gasbags are often protected by an outer envelope.” (Wikipedia)

Maybe these aerostat operators are the equivalent of the WAAF girls who handled Barrage Balloons in Britain.  These Aerostat balloons  were known as ‘Pigs’ not just because of their shape but also stubbornly annoying “temperament”. Such balloon girls were immortalised in paint by British war artist Laura Knight. https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/15503

The Unwomanly Face of War sadly has no such illustrations, aside from the striking cover image of Natalya Kravtsova, commander of the 46th Guards Air Regiment, well decorated  ‘Hero of the Soviet Union’. It would have been interesting to have seen wartime photos of these women at work or when they were interviewed in the 1970s and 1980s. However I’m sure a trawl through Soviet wartime art would reveal many Laura Knight style, realist/ Soviet heroic style portrait paintings of Russian servicewomen. Pinterest has many ‘recoloured’ portrait photos of Russian servicewomen, decorated, famous or otherwise.

It is not a pleasant read in parts, dealing plainly with frontline combat, injury and also the atrocities inflicted on Russian civilians.

There is also however friendship, romance, patriotic pride, occasional humour, stoic self sacrifice, postwar denial and a relief at finally being able to tell or record these stories and experiences many years later.

The end of my FEMbruary challenge 2019?

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Bad Squiddo Games website image of 28mm painted Russian Women’s Command figures, sculpted by Alan Marsh .
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My almost finished 28mm Bad Squiddo Games Russian Soviet Command – Officer, Field Telephonist and Armed Medic. Gloss paint and gloss varnish style.

I am not sure what use this book would be to wargamers or tabletop gamers who focus on the Eastern Front in WW2 or what they would make of this book.

As I have no intention of gaming the Eastern Front in 28mm, I bought these Bad Squiddo figures more for diorama or vignette purposes. They could potentially be converted to female troops of other nationalities.

Annie Norman at Bad Squiddo Miniatures has a widening range of varied Soviet / Russian Military Women https://badsquiddogames.com/shop#!/WW2

There is an interview about this range with Annie Norman on the Meeples and Miniatures podcast about this Women of the Red Army range  with Annie’s further book recommendations: https://meeples.wordpress.com/2016/04/06/meeples-miniatures-episode-168-bad-squiddo-games-women-of-the-red-army/

Just as many of the roles undertaken in wartime in Russia were mirrored in some ways in Britain in WW2, there’s a Bad Squiddo British Women of WW2 range. I have also painted some more of Annie Norman’s Land Girls from her Bad Squiddo Women of WW2 range as my challenge for FEMbruary 2019.  https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2019/03/02/back-to-the-land-for-fembruary-2019

Blogposted for International Women’s Day (8th) and World Book Day (7th) March 2019 by Mark, Man of TIN blog.

Fantasy Plastic 54mm Warriors for FEMbruary?

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Crossposted from my Pound Store Plastic Warriors blog for FEMbruary

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2019/02/24/fantasy-plastic-warriors/

Meanwhile  the 2019  FEMbruary figures painting challenge carries on:

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2019/01/31/fembruary-2019-and-new-bad-squiddo-figures-arrive/