25-30 May 1915: Battersea Recruitment Concerns

This week’s edition of the South Western Star carries a letter from the Mayor of Battersea – T W Simmons – that plans to raise a field battery had been dropped in the light of the War Office’s request for the borough to raise an infantry battalion.  The paper had yet to make a comment on this, but a meeting of the Lavender Hill branch of the Clapham Conservative Association was reported as having met the previous week and discussed it.

One member felt that it was rather late in the day for the Mayor to be raising a battalion and that they might as well “go the whole hog and bring about conscription”.  The Chair proposed a resolution, which was not put to the vote in the end as they decided to wait for their parliamentary candidate’s opinion, that conscription should be introduced as he felt the authorities were trying to shame men into enlisting and in some cases shaming the wrong men.  Another member said that teenagers who looked older were being pestered in the streets to join up, and that one 14 year old who had been turned down as a cadet was now in the 23rd County of London Regiment.  It was suggested that there were plenty of men in Battersea who were deaf to all appeals being made to them, and that compulsory military training should be introduced.

Public pressure to enlist was also behind another story in the paper this week, reporting the inquest into the suicide of 23 year old Samuel Charles Seymour.  He was a milk roundsman, and had been coming under pressure from customers as to why he had not joined up.  His family stated at the inquest that he had been keen to make sure the family was properly settled before joining up, as he was their only son, but that the “chipping” from customers had been making him very withdrawn over the last few days.  The verdict was “Suicide During Temporary Insanity”, and in summing up the coroner:

No young man can feel comfortable in these days if he is in London, and not at the front, or preparing to go.  Many of us are hoping the time is shortly coming when all young men of military age will either be at the front, or preparing to go; making munitions of war, or wearing badges showing they have offered their services, and then if anyone looks askance at a yong man, he has only to point to his badge to show he has tried to serve his country.  Perhaps that time will come very soon.

South Western Star available on microfilm.

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