Saturday, December 15, 2012

India in Flanders Field: "Our Day," December 1917

"Our Day" Poster, India, 1917. © IWM, Item PST 12592.
Another almost-Christmas post for my readers today. I found this interesting poster in the IWM Collections Database this morning whilst looking for holiday-related items. It was, I discovered, a timely find. Almost exactly 95 years ago, the Red Cross's "Our Day" celebrations took place in India. 

I managed to locate this digitized newspaper article (oh, how I love the internet!) about the festivities at the National Library of Australia's website. On December 13th, 1917, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that, all across India on the 12th, a fundraising effort and various Imperial huzzahs (marked by Union Jack "buttonholes," lovingly circulated "portraits of Their Majesties," etc.) were raised.

Here's another poster from "Our Day," this one more clearly linking the day's purpose to the Red Cross's fundraising in India:

"Our Day" Poster, 1917, India. © IWM, Item PST  12590.
According to the 1917 or 1918 book, The Work of the American Red Cross, which reported on efforts of the American branch of the organization as well as its international collaborations from "the outbreak of War to November 1, 1917," the "Our Day" fundraising campaign took place in many nations and was a tremendous fundraising success for the British Red Cross. Here, for instance, is a poster proclaiming a different "Our Day" in South Africa:

"Our Day" poster, South Africa, ca. 1917 (?). © IWM, Item PST 12337.
In prior years, the Red Cross had organized "Our Day" campaigns, though all indications are that 1917 was the first and/or only year of India's participation. The posters' imagery suggests an effort to make or find order amongst the chaos of the battlefield. Angelic or benevolent figures represent the Red Cross's hopeful, helpful, presence amid the pain and struggle of soldiers. The bright white light in the South African poster or the nurse's crisp apron are depicted rising above strife and focus our attention within each image. The first poster (at top) is the least similar in its imagery, though its promise that the funds collected will go primarily to the "men fighting in Mesopotamia" is supported by the various sketches of soldiers in action.

If you are moved to remember soldiers' and/or their families this holiday season, you might check out my earlier posts about service or contribution opportunities among several well-respected charities in the U.S. and Britain. For more about India's role in the Great War, take a look at earlier writings in the "India in Flanders Field" series here on "Ghosts of 1914."

Next time we'll get into the holiday spirit and begin honoring Christmas with the ghosts of 1914. To my readers celebrating Hanukkah, may you enjoy the last weekend of the festivities. 

© Fiona Robinson

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