The supplies most needed, reported the Canadian Field Comforts Commission, were as follows:
Socks, mufflers, gloves, underwear, shirts, small towels, handkerchiefs, leather boot-laces, small books, candles, sweets, cocoa, soup-tablets, pipes, notepaper, soap, toilet paper, pencils, cards, tobacco and cigarettes and gum.
“Smoking is one of the few pleasures we have over here and it is indulged in by all alike,” wrote a chaplain from somewhere in Belgium. Canadian cigarettes were overwhelmingly preferred to British; even if the quality of the English smokes were good (which it wasn’t, they complained), “things from home, like mother’s pies, are always the best.”(2)
A private from the 52nd Canadians wrote to express his thanks for his share of the comforts:
“It is just what I needed. The tobacco and cigarettes and paper sure came in good time as we just came out of the firing line and we happened to be out of it [tobacco and writing paper] but now we are writing home and blowing the smoke in the air and enjoying ourselves nicely.” (3)
It is almost a cosy scene; of the reality left behind in the firing line, there is no mention but the following:
“The toothpaste came just in the right time as I was out of it and have not been able to clean my teeth for over a fortnight.”(3)
Civilians, especially civilian mothers, cannot bear too much reality: toothpaste deprivation though uncomfortable, can be readily and cheerily overcome:
“but I will sure have them shining now.”(3)
(1) The Canadian Field Comforts Commission. Field Comforts. 3 (October 1916): 21
(2) Field Comforts. 1 (Oct0ber 1915): 14
(3) Field Comforts. 2 (June 1916): 29
The poster comes from Tony Allen’s “Cigarettes and Tobacco and WWI Soldiers,” Picture Postcards from the Great War. It uses “Arf a mo’, Kaiser,” a cartoon drawn by the British cartoonist Bert Thomas for the Weekly Dispatch, a newspaper which ran a tobacco fund for soldiers. The cartoon helped to raise £250,000 for smokes.