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Gillette's Christmas Party, 1940 or 1941

Diane Elphick (Gardner) sent this photo of the Gillette's Christmas party for children. She believes it dates from 1940 or 1941 and probably took place in the works canteen: the tall windows look similar to those in Peter Young's photos of the exterior. Diane adds 'Mum was working there on some sort of war work'.

B/W photo of a children's Christmas party

The photo shows around 40 people including a few mothers and other adults dressed as Father Christmas (apparently wearing a full mask, not just a fake beard), a fairy (wearing ballet shoes and standing on her points), a clown (not a scary one), a circus ringmaster, Little Bo-Peep (possibly) and a man with a bow tie - too early for James Bond, possibly a waiter? The children range from a babe in arms to around ten years of age and have a range of new toys: two rabbit (or hare?) soft toys, a very spottily-dressed doll, a penguin, a wooden train, a pull-along soldier and what may be a Lucie Attwell Fairy Tree biscuit tin/money box, produced by William Crawford (the webmaster has an interest in vintage biscuit tins). Perhaps some of the gifts were handmade - see the BBC note that follows.

There is a tall Christmas tree with lights and decorations; party hats are mainly simple conical affairs and each child has been given a badge. To the left is possibly a stage - with very steep steps up to it - and on this is a table with a character - may be a black and white minstrel? - the word 'Gillette' is visible. A poster underneath includes the wording '... Help You... Help your... Help you...'.

The BBC History website adds some context:
By the end of 1940, 24,000 civilians had been killed in the Blitz and hundreds of thousands made homeless. In November, German bombers had obliterated Coventry city centre and there had been particularly fierce raids on Manchester and Liverpool in the days leading up to Christmas. The public were now mourning the loss of their loved ones on the home front and in combat, as well as praying for the 41,000 British soldiers captured on the continent.

Please get in touch if you can add any names.

Published November 2016