16th March 1919

An ambulance wagon came for us before 8 o’clock, with a very nice smiling chauffeur and we packed our things in completely as we thought, and started on our way… I discovered, however, to my vexation that we had left behind the “sardine tin” with all my plates in, and we had to return for it. When we got to the Red Cross Headquarters we found our old gentleman [their new chauffeur] was still mending the car, so it was all right.

I discovered that our old gentleman, Mr Blow, was one of the earliest workers in autochrome, after which he talked much photography.

The autochrome process, patented by the Lumiere brothers in 1903, was the first commercially available colour photographic process. Edis herself is famous for her autochrome images, and was also a pioneer of the technique in Britain. Click here to see some of her autochromes in our collection here at Cromer Museum.

He was of the Society of Friends, and talked interestingly of their difficulties in the war. He had been head of the Red Cross Automobile Section in London and had great experience. He was responsible for passing all those who applied to go to France.

As we neared Bourges we found a motley crowd of French civilians and the sky blue poilus, khaki Americans and a considerable number of WAACs “walking out” with them. It was rather a wonderful sight in an old French town.

According to Wikipedia, “Poilu” is apparently an informal term for a French WW1 infantryman “meaning, literally, hairy one. It is still widely used as a term of endearment for the French infantry of World War I. The word carries the sense of the infantryman’s typically rustic, agricultural background. Beards and bushy moustaches were often worn. The poilu was particularly known for his love of pinard, his ration of cheap wine.”

Mrs Lloyd, the Commandant of the Camp [the WAAC camp in Bourges] who had heard nothing about us, but gave us a very kind welcome and said she would put us up in the Camp.

I showed them a few photos after supper, and Major Keen [American second in command at the camp] professed himself “tickled to death” over the Lloyd George and Foch ones, and was determined to possess copies.

Seemingly, Edis carried some prints of her previous work with her, as she mentions showing these and occasionally giving copies to people she meets at various points in the journey. These are the images she mentions here, both from the Cromer Museum collection:

These are both digitally produced positives from original glass plate negatives in our collection, so they look quite different from the final printed versions. Interestingly, you can see where Edis has manipulated the negatives: the dark “halo” around Foch’s head is due to a varnish being painted over the face in the negative to make it brighter. The copies Edis would have carried with her were probably sepia toned platinotypes like this one – you can see the effect of the varnish here, as Foch’s face seems to appear out of the darkness.

For the first time for long enough we got off early to bed, having done no photography, so having no sorting of plates to do. The beds were very boardy, and the weather had turned bitterly cold. I spent a rather aching night and was not sorry that we had arranged to move on in the afternoon.


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