Merry Christmas! Today we have a rather nice souvenir of a Christmas long ago and in a land far from here with a menu printed for a detachment of the Royal Signals enjoying Christmas in India:
This Christmas menu was printed locally that gives us a good indication as to where the company was located, here the town of Quetta, famous for having the Indian Army Staff College:
The fare offered is simple so this sugggests that the meal is more likely for the rank and file, rather than an officer. Having said that, it still sounds a good spread:
Christmas abroad was often a time for reflection, as recalled by William Pennington who was on a troop transport heading for India at Christmas in 1935:
Well, we travelled in hope, and tomorrow was Christmas Day, a day to celebrate, no matter where we were. But it was a strange Christmas here in the tropics, a setting so totally different from the English countryside clothed in a mantle of snow, with the trees bowing under its weight. Here there were no church bells ringing out the message of peace and goodwill to all men, no cheerful crowds parading the streets shouting ‘Merry Christmas’, or children trying out their new sledges, no snowball fights or carols sung along with Salvation Army bands. It was a day when all English people counted their blessings as families and friends exchanged gifts before sitting down to enjoy a traditionally huge meal of goose or chicken or turkey with all the trimmings, over which Mother had slaved all day…
On board the Neuralia that Christmas there was a quietness, all day and into the evening; the men sat silently as we listened to the BBC on the wireless, for once not hiding our sadness as we thought of wives, mothers and sweethearts. Forgotten for a while were the card games, the tombola, the crowns and anchors: our thoughts were several thousand miles away, in another part of the hemisphere entirely. A soldier’s life was not always a happy one, and the sacrifices for serving your country were often very great.
This might have been written 85 years ago, but the feelings and thoughts will be familiar to any serviceman who has been away from their family for Christmas. Please take a moment to think of those today who are absent from their families at this most special time.