18-24 May 1915: Formation of the Wandsworth Battalion

20th May 1915 saw the first meeting of the Wandsworth Battalion recruitment committee, held in the Town Hall.  The request from the Army Council and Lord Kitchener to raise a battalion was reported at the Council meeting on 5th May, and this was the first meeting about doing so. The first decision taken by the meeting was to form a Committee, in fact to form two Committees – both a General and an Executive Committee.  It was also considered important to establish that the name of Wandsworth would be attached to the battalion if they raised, say, less than 1000 men.  Councillor Prince also suggested that the various wards of the borough should be identified with the battalion by name, this was to receive consideration rather than being automatically approved, presumably due to the earlier concerns over numbers, and in the end only the borough name was recorded.  Officers of the Battalion were to be Wandsworth men only, this was clearly felt to be important to maintain a properly local battalion and also to encourage local men to join up and to be supportive of the endeavour.  A recruiting officer had already been found, and the Mayor (Archibald Dawnay) was sure than in a large borough like Wandsworth 150 men could be found from each ward.  There had already been a hundred applications to join the battalion and when it reported the meeting, the Wandsworth Borough News further encouraged all man of military age resident in the borough to join up. The same day also saw the regular meeting of the Putney Relief Fund Committee. Numbers applying to the Fund for help had reduced considerably since the early days of the war and only 5 applications were being considered at this meeting.  Four of them had applied at least once before, although one of them was turned down on this occasion as her distress was held not to be caused by the war.  That applicant returned in subsequent occasions and was granted relief, all the way through to July 1916 when the minutes stop, and two other applicants this week also continued to rely on the committee.  They were Harriet Andrew, Marie Gibson and Margaret Kelly. Harriet Andrew is probably the same one who lived at 125 Lower Richmond Road in 1911, she was a widowed needleworker who was living with another, older, woman and very probably would have suffered in the reduction of available work – laundries in Battersea also reported a downturn in business as a result of the war.  The other two applicants have proved difficult to find more information on, as the minutes don’t give addresses.  The other applicant who received a positive outcome this week was Elizabeth Pigott, enquiries were to be made about her circumstances by Miss Kitson and Miss Lecky (of the Eileen Lecky Clinic) and if those proved favourable was to receive an emergency payment.  She was eventually granted 13s a week for two weeks and referred to the Fulham committee instead. For earlier meetings of the Relief Fund committee, see this post. Wandsworth Battalion minute book, ref: MBW/2/25/1 Putney Relief Fund minute book, ref: MBW/2/32/3 Wandsworth Borough News available on microfilm

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