Witley, July 14, 1917

Saturday          Finished writing J tonight  13th Bde played Ladies today for Charity Rec’d letter from J. Weather warm Did not get my pass. This is Cox’s army alright The next time I apply for one I’ll get it or take French leave

Cox’s or Coxey’s Army is a ragtag or disorganized outfit, but Percy’s use implies outright incompetence or even malice rather than muddle. Martin Pegler says the phrase was used mostly by Canadian soldiers, though it refers to an event in American history — an 1894 march on Washington by American unemployed workers, led by one Jacob Coxey. (1)

French leave, of course, is the English equivalent of the French filer a l’anglaise. To take an unauthorized leave, it seems, is something only others do, especially when the other is a culture which is traditionally suspect. Today, by the way, is Bastille Day, the epitome of the French overthrow of authority.

27e Football match players large.JPGMore cheerful is the prospect of a match between a women’s football team and men of the 13th Brigade. Percy gives us no details of the game or its outcome. We know that women’s football teams were extremely popular during the first world war, often being composed of workers from munitions factories — “munitionettes” — who first attracted attention more for their novelty than for their sporting skill, and who turned the attraction into effective fundraising for wartime charities. (2)

I derive great entertainment from the body language of the players below.

27d Football match players large.JPG.jpeg

The photographs are from Percy’s large album.

(1) Pegler, Martin, ed. Soldiers’ Songs and Slang of the Great War.  2014.
(2) “WW1: Why was women’s football banned in 1921?” BBC News Magazine. December 12, 2014. Online.

Copyright 2017. See “More about this project.”
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