An extremely rare American YMCA - Young Men’s Christian Association - gilt and enamel pin badge with bar ‘ Eagle Hut’ and suspended eagle, with official certificates of gratitude and appreciation for serves as a voluntary worker in ‘The Cosmo’ and ’The Eagle Hut’ during the Great War, awarded to Miss Grace Olsen.
Y.M.C.A. Eagle Hut pin badge, 50mm x 29mm, gilt bronze and enamels, with Spink and Son makers details impressed to the reverse of the badge which is in the form of a downward pointing red triangle with rectangular band running horizontally through it containing Y.M.C.A. with blue background enamel. The lower point of the badge fittedm with a loop which holds the blue enamel background bar ‘Eagle Hut’, which in turn is attached to the gilt eagle emblem, fitted with loop and ring suspension at the top of each wing.
Condition: Extremely Fine.
Together with the recipient’s ‘American Y.M.C.A. Eagle Hut Pass’, named to Grace Olsen for Wes and Friday shifts, 3.30 - 7, and two original certificates of appreciation from the American Y.M.C.A., 19cm x 14cm, awarded to Miss Grace Olsen for her voluntary work with the ‘Eagle Hut, London’ and ‘The Cosmo’, during the Great War. These both ink signed by the Chief Secretary for the United Kingdom and the Chairman of the Voluntary Worker’s Committee.
During The Great War, one thing that US troops – like their British comrades – could be thankful for was the Young Men’s Christian Association, the YMCA.
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 (and this can be seen in surviving 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 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.
The King and Queen visited the Eagle Hut on Independence Day, 1918 - they both tried American pancakes!
As well as sports, food, and accommodation, 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.
In August 1919, the hut finally closed its doors. A dance was held to mark the occasion. A decade later, the then US ambassador, 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.
Grace Olsen volunteered with both her mother and father, Captain C. E. Olsen, a retired Norwegian Army officer, to work at the American Y.M.C.A. establishments - The Cosmo and The Eagle Hut.