First World War Friendship Book

Autographs: collecting memories

Friendship books are small notebooks filled with drawings, messages, poems, jokes and autographs written by soldiers. This friendship book dates from 1917 and belonged to Sergeant Joe Smalley, who served with the 10th Battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment. 

This Battalion was formed at Pontefract in September 1914 for the duration of the First World War. After training, it set out for Boulogne in France in September 1915, and was still fighting in France in 1917. During the First World War, units of soldiers were constantly moved to new areas as the fighting progressed.  

Men became instant friends with the soldiers from other regiments and even other countries fighting alongside them. They had a shared sense of comradeship and looked out for each other. By asking them to write or draw something in his book, Joe Smalley was collecting mementoes of the friends he had made under very difficult circumstances. He would soon be moved on and was unlikely to ever meet any of them again. 


Autograph – A signature written as a memento 
Battalion and Regiment – a military unit of about 1000 troops (during the First World War), divided into a headquarters and several companies. There are at least two battalions in a regiment
Comradeship – Sense of trust and friendship among people who are working together 
Memento – An item kept as a reminder of a person or event

View other relevant My Learning WW1 resources.

Scroll down for a list of links and resources on this topic or see the teachers' notes  page for discussion and activity ideas.

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