Today started like any other day at the hotel. A busy breakfast service and guests arriving for conferences and coffee dates with friends heralded the start of another week. Over in the coach house, our marketing executive was busy preparing reports for the team for the week ahead and planning social media content. A call from the ladies on reception changed the tone of the day with the revelation that a guest was staying in the hotel whose grandmother was the head cook to Lady Grace Weigall and her husband Sir Archibald Weigall and he had a document he wanted to share with us.
This sometimes happens at the hotel when people want to leave items connected to the building and its history so that they can go on display for the others to enjoy. In the case of what came to the hotel today, it was a remarkable find. Sitting with the guest in the Squadron Bar we were presented with a very old A5 sized leather-bound book. The previous owner, Bertha Crawford had been a Cook here at Petwood during WWI and had set about collecting signatures and little tales from some of the soldiers who were here convalescing at the time. It is a truly remarkable account of just some of the men who were recovering here. Some of the poems written within the book are stoic and patriotic whilst others lament the loss of innocence and demonstrate clear sadness at the devastation created by war. There are also a number of illustrations, like the one pictured here, done by the soldiers themselves.
In the coming weeks and months, we are going to, with the family’s permission, digitise and transcribe the book and create a version of it to go in the Squadron Bar for people to enjoy and look at. In the meantime, you can read a couple of pages here.
Just one of the many pages of illustrations, poems and letters to Bertha Crawford in this stunning journal.