This column written by organisers of the ‘Journey’s End’ project is to mark the contribution of Gwent people in the Great War.

ANYBODY reading the Argus in February 1918 will have been struck by the efforts it was making to help local soldiers and sailors.

Early in the war the paper had set up a ‘Smokes Fund’ to send cigarettes and tobacco to troops. Readers were invited to donate sixpence, which would buy a packet of 35 cigarettes, two ounces of tobacco and a box of matches at a third of the normal price.

Corporal Alf Jones wrote from France to say thanks for “the parcel of ‘the weed’.”

Lieutenant Colonel Dan Burgess of the South Wales Borderers expressed his gratitude for the 5,000 cigarettes that had arrived for his battalion, which had “arrived on a sunny Sunday morning, when the men were able to rest and enjoy them.”

Until they arrived, his men had been rationed to between a quarter and half ounce of tobacco a week and no cigarettes at all.

Smokes were also reached prisoners of war through being placed in parcels sent by the Monmouthshire Prisoners of War Committee. Private Sidney Parry confirmed that he had received the ‘very nice weed’ that was included in his parcel. Closer to home, supplies were also sent to sick and wounded soldiers at Wooloston House War Hospital (now St Woolos Hospital) and to local Red Cross hospitals.

The link between tobacco and cancer was not fully appreciated at that time, although Major MacLean, adjutant at the hospital, pointed out that “excessive” smoking was not good for the men since it made them breathless, but asked for the public to carry on donating them as the staff would teach them to smoke in moderation.

Private Weston of Baneswell, Newport, thanked readers for the Argus football which he had received in Italy while a sailor sent appreciation for a rugby ball which had been received on HMS Cormorant. A scheme to send footballs (round and oval) to troops had been opened in July 1915. Private Allen of the Monmouthshire Regiment wrote that the ball the Argus had sent them had “gone west” but that they had received a pair of boxing gloves, yet another Argus scheme to show its support for the troops.