Posts Tagged ‘Ypres’

Lockdown – the magazine

May 6, 2020
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Hand-drawn cover for a 1924 school magazine

I took a good look and I can find no trace of a magazine called Lockdown. Which was a bit of a surprise, because there tends to be a magazine about just about anything.

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British prisoner of war magazine from 1915

And there have certainly been plenty of magazines produced by people in much nastier versions of lockdowns than today’s. I certainly associate the word ‘lockdown’ with prison and The Wooden City was first produced in 1915 by British prisoners of war.

 

At around the same time, the hell of the mud and bombardment at Ypres inspired troops during the First World War. They found an abandoned printing press and came up with The Wipers Times or Salient News, which has been reprinted as a book and has been the subject of documentaries by the likes of Private Eye editor Ian Hislop.

And, in January 1915, Ernest Shackleton and his men got trapped in the South Pole ice in their ship, the Endurance, and lived on board for ten months. They scrubbed the decks, played football when they could get out but even so, ‘in May they all had a fit of madness and decided to shave their heads’. They had to bring in ice every day to melt for water. And had to kill their dogs when food ran short. But, in November 1915, things got worse – the ship sank, so they had to live in tents on the ice. That left them with no choice but to drag an open boat across the ice for seven days to the sea. Shackleton and five others left their 22 comrades behind and then rowed 750 miles across the ocean to South Georgia to get help from whalers there. It was August 1916 before everyone was rescued.

Luckily, Shackelton had taken books with him and a typewriter, which the men used to produce a magazine to entertain themselves.

Alongside diaries and ships logs, such journals were a Royal Navy tradition and Robert Scott and his explorers produced the South Polar Times, for both of their Antarctic exhibitions. Scott himself wrote several articles, ‘including Horticultural Notes’, a humorous piece, for which the manuscript survives. Twelve issues of South Polar Times were produced, including four from the second, ill-fated Terra Nova expedition. The issues are ‘marked by their jollity‘. However, the last issue was produced in 1912 at the expedition base hut, by men who would have known that Scott and his four companions were dead because their food would have run out. They were trapped in their tent in a blizzard, where they died, apart from Captain Lawrence ‘Titus’ Oates, who walked out of the tent with words that have gone down in history: ‘I am just going outside and may be some time.’ Scott’s journal was found in his pocket after he had been dead for eight months.

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How Arthur Conan Doyle recorded his voyage to the Arctic

But it was a trip to the Arctic at the other end of the world that inspired a more mainstream writer. In 1880, Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, took six months out of medical school to work as a ship’s surgeon on a whaling expedition. This has been published as a facsimile book. He produced a magazine-like journal of the voyage, something he had also done at school. And he carried on making such notebooks as research in his later work, such as The White Company.

 

Schools aren’t exactly prisons, but they’ve produced many magazines – often going back a century or more. The Lyttletonian from 1924 is one example, which recently went up for sale on eBay. It came from a girls’ school and is typical in using mimeographed pages (today it would be a photocopier), with an ink and watercolour cover – ‘I expect the girls made their own,’ said the seller.

And no doubt penned-in children and adults around the country are producing their own magazines, News from Over the Road or Our House Journal or Lockdown Fashion World. And these are far more likely to be accessible to our descendants another century from now than a website or blog post. After all, you probably can’t even read your emails from a decade ago, never mind a floppy disc from 20 years ago.