Rhoda Nicholls

(1903-1994) – School girl egg collector

Collecting eggs for injured soldiers was an important task for children in the war. Two of Rhoda Nicholls’ eggs were eaten by injured soldier Private S. Hall; the first in hospital in Rouen and the second in a Southampton hospital. He wrote a letter to thank the little girl with blonde plaits.

Credit: DairyLand, near Newquay, and Gerrans Heritage Centre

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Egg collecting was a major home front activity, especially for children like Rhoda Nicholls of Gerrans.    Poultry World launched the National Eggs for the Wounded Scheme in 1914, declaring ‘Every British hen should be on active service’.    Queen Alexandra then made a personal appeal in August 1915. 

The eggs were mostly sent overseas – an estimated 20 million in total - to injured servicemen in hospitals.  Packed in sawdust or special boxes, half a million eggs were needed weekly.  Those that broke en-route were given to hospitals in England.  Every parish had its egg collection point and churches and chapels held special Sunday collections.  Children were encouraged to write their names and addresses on the eggs they collected.  One young Dorset woman went a step further and painted tiny designs of flags, animals and flowers on her eggs.  Eggs were sometimes ‘blown’ by soldiers and the shells kept as souvenirs. 

Gerrans parish supplied 4,186 eggs for the war effort by the end of October 1915.  Two of Rhoda Nicholls’ eggs, collected in this period, were consumed by the same injured soldier, Private S. Hall, a week apart.  While in no. 8 Hospital Base at Rouen in France he was served an egg with her name and address on it.  A week later, having been transferred to a hospital in Southampton, he was again given an egg with her name and address on it.  He wrote to thank her; and the letter was published in the local newspaper on 10 September 1915.  Gerrans School also sent mouth organs to the troops.  Rhoda remained in Gerrans, never married, and lived to the age of 91.

Other Cornish parishes recorded their egg collecting antics in parish magazines or school log books.   In Ladock parish 2,525 eggs were collected in just two weeks.   By October 1915, Ada Collett of Lamorran-with Merther had collected no less than 1,005 eggs herself and competitive collecting was being encouraged.  Eggs from this part of mid-Cornwall were taken to the Truro Egg Depot and sent off by train.

Key words: children, home front

Credit: DairyLand, near Newquay, and Gerrans Heritage Centre