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The Eagle Hut

21 Nov

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. One thing that US troops – like their British comrades – could be thankful for in the Great War was the Young Men’s Christian Association,  the YMCA. The presence of American servicemen and their YMCA in London is marked by a plaque on Aldwych – the site of the ‘Eagle Hut’.

The YMCA supplied British servicemen away from home in the UK and overseas with a place to eat, drink, relax, and write letters home. As American troops arrived in large numbers, the organisation committed to supplying a home from home for them in England’s capital.

Operating from mid-August 1917, the YMCA’s Eagle Hut was officially opened on 3 September by US ambassador W.H. Page (as seen in this Pathe film).The Eagle Hut was established by four American businessmen based in London: E.C. Carter, Robert Grant, Grant Forbes and Francis E Powell. It stood at the point where the Indian High Commission and some of Bush House now stand, slightly west of the bottom of Kingsway on the north side of Aldwych.

The Eagle Hut, Aldwych by Sir Henry Rushby [(c) IWM]

The hut served around two million meals in the two years it operated – from August 1917 to August 1919. It was said to serve 3,000 per day, 4-5,000 on busy days. American pancakes were the most popular items offered, with 1,000 sold every day, as well as 13-15,000 ice creams per week during the summer.

The hut was run by 800 of volunteers – most of them women – and included 410 beds for servicemen staying overnight. It also had a billiard room, and other games were played – including a Kaiser-bashing game:

Sport at the Eagle Hut (Daily Mirror 4/7/1918)

That day, the King and Queen also paid a visit. 7,662 meals were sold – while the King tried out one of those American pancakes.

The King and Queen visiting the Eagle Hut for Independence Day, 1918 (Daily Graphic 6/7/1918)

As well as sports, food, and accomodation, the Hut also provided information for the troops. The YMCA also organised theatre trips and sight-seeing trips for them, to places like Kew, Windsor, St Paul’s, the Tower of London and the Old Cheshire Cheese pub.

Inside the Eagle Hut, by Sir Henry Rushby [(c) IWM]

In August 1919, the hut finally closed its doors. A dance was held to mark the occasion. A decade later, the then US amassador, A.B. Houghton, unveiled a plaque to be placed in the wall of the buildings on the site of the Eagle Hut, paid for by the ‘Eagle Hutters’, a group of American businessmen who had volunteered at the Hut during the war.

The plaque marking the location of the Eagle Hut

Links to information and pictures:

London Daily Photo

Photos of the hut: here, here and here; and two here.

Times 26/8/1919 and 7/10/1927

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5 Comments

Posted by on 21 November 2012 in Ordinary Londoners, Places

 

5 responses to “The Eagle Hut

  1. Roger T Winter

    6 May 2015 at 8:58 pm

    My mother’s sister Marian Johnson’s future husband William Manser Tate stated the Eagle Hut Aldwych was his address on the wedding certificate. William was in the Australian Imperial Forces as a private and may have been working as a backer there at the time.

     
  2. Ann Krasny

    25 March 2016 at 3:25 am

    Is there an exact location for the plaque? My Grandfather AIF (Australia) speaks about going to the hut while he was in London on leave. I will be in London later this year and would be interested in visiting the area. Ta!

     
    • Stuart

      29 March 2016 at 6:12 pm

      Hi. The London Remembers site (http://www.londonremembers.com/memorials/eagle-hut-ww1) shows the exact location. If your grandfather was over in WW2, I think the Eagle Hut was in a different location then. I remember seeing a reference to it somewhere when I was doing this post. I’ll try to dig it out.

       

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