The Knights of Columbus is a Catholic fraternal society founded in 1882 in Connecticut, USA. The movement spread out from the US to other Anglophone countries including Canada. The society provided comforts, food and support to servicemen in both world wars. They provided recreation huts with the slogan ‘Everybody Welcome, Everything Free’. The Canadian branch of the Knights of Columbus has this description of the organisation’s war service:
Huts were built in Canadian cities and across the globe, including in England, Iceland, Italy, Hong Kong and the Middle East. The huts tended to the physical and spiritual welfare of the servicemen, offering not only entertainment and recreation — such as a “toboggan party” in Brandon, Manitoba — but also religious services.
The K of C huts were not quaint dwellings, but large-scale facilities with the ability of serving meals to thousands at a time as well as providing cigarettes, magazines and live shows, like in St. John’s Newfoundland and Sydney Fortress Area, Nova Scotia. Meanwhile, in places like Aldershot, weekly attendance at the K of C chapel was well over 1,000. In 1941 alone, more than one million men in the armed forces were served in huts and hostels in Nova Scotia.
Then-Supreme Knight Francis Matthews — who also served as chairman of the National Catholic Community Service (NCCS) and as one of three vice presidents of the United States Organization (USO) — toured Canadian K. of C. Army Huts in 1943 and was astonished by their work. “They are really a part of the auxiliary service of the Canadian Army,” Supreme Knight Matthews wrote in Columbia (April, 1943). “Everybody says that the work of the Knights of Columbus is indispensable to the Canadian forces.”
One of the items given out to soldiers was stationery to allow them to write home to their family and friends, with headed notepaper:
The top left hand corner has the logo of the Knights of Columbus War Services:
Note the Canadian symbols, the beaver and the maple leaf and the royal coat of arms at the top.
Here a show can be seen being put on for servicemen in one of the Knight’s of Columbus recreation huts during the Second World War: