29th June-5th July 1915: The Belgian Refugees Garden Party

Amongst the local history books at the Heritage Service is a small pamphlet entitled “Belgian Refugees Garden Party 1915”.  This is a copy of the official programme produced for a garden party held in the grounds of Edgecombe Hall in Southfields on June 30th 1915, which was opened at 3pm by HRH the Duchess of Vendôme.  On arrival, she was to be greeted by Sir Henry Kimber, Alexander Glegg and the members of the Reception Committee (who aren’t included in the list of Sub-Committees on the front page).  Flowers and a souvenir programme were to be presented by Miss Phyllis Houdret and Master Neville de B Priestley.  Tea was available, as were light refreshments “including Fruit Salads Ices, Strawberries and Cream, Lemonade, Ginger Beer, Coffee, Sandwiches &c”.  Responsible lady helpers were supervising children who were selling souvenirs of all the Allies and sweets.Belgian garden party programme

On the map of the site were both an Entertainment platform and an Entertainment Tent.  The platform started with the band of the Holborn Industrial Schools, playing a selection of Belgian pieces and British war songs, followed by a Pastoral Play, a Hat Trimming competition for Gentlemen and a Nail Driving competition for the Ladies, amongst other things, closing with the prize distribution.  Over in the Entertainment Tent, in what may have turned out to be the better location, were a series of musical performances, including pupils from Putney County Secondary School, the Jean (Belgian) Quartet and a concert featuring dance and recitations.  Another platform in the Edgecombe Hall grounds had dance, fencing and a concert and Maypole dance.Belgian garden party programme map

Rather unfortunately, no sooner had the Duchess arrived than there was a clap of thunder and torrential rain started – and continued for the rest of the afternoon.  According to the Wandsworth Borough News, this washed out some of the carefully prepared refreshments, but as much of the entertainments carried on as possible.  The girls from Putney County Secondary had to march over in the rain, but reportedly gave a fine performance – luckily in the tent.  Edgecombe Hall’s owners opened the house up as well as the grounds, and the Duchess took shelter there – having to decline a tour of the grounds on account of having a cold and not wishing to make it worse.  Various sports carried on regardless, with particular mention due to Winifred Crewe, who took part in all 4 girls races, coming 2nd in the 100 yards and the skipping race but claiming first prize in both the egg and spoon and potato races.

Wandsworth Borough News available on microfilm

Programme available in the Heritage Service

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22-28 June 1915: Battersea Battalion’s “Tickets to Berlin”

Battersea Borough Council met on 23rd June 1915, and like their neighbours in Wandsworth were starting to record members of staff who had been killed in action.  The death of Benjamin Henry Bourne, a third class clerk in the Accountant’s Department, on 26 May was reported, he had been in France with the 23rd County of London regiment.  He was 21, the son of Benjamin and Caroline Bourne and from Hillier Road, Wandsworth Common.  This was not the only staff related matter which the Council had to consider.  As well as their regular meeting they held a special meeting, where the agenda related to pay for members of staff who joined the Forces.  In September the Council had agreed to pay staff the difference between their Forces wage and their Council one, to ensure that the men were not out of pocket by joining up.  About 102 of the Council’s staff were now receiving these payments, and the meeting’s eventual decision was that only those who obtained permission to join the Forces should receive it.  A proposed amendment that permission should be refused to those involved in munitions work was voted against.

Recruitment for the new planned Battersea Battalion was also raised at the meeting, two councillors were already members of it and came to the meeting in uniform – according to the South Western Star they “were an ornament to the Council Chamber, to which they lent an appearance of smartness and efficiency that is not generally perceivable there”.  The minutes of the meeting record that it was to be known as the 10th (Service) Battalion, the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment.  Already 50 men had joined up and were being drilled at Latchmere baths, and recruiting had not yet begun in earnest.  According to the paper, recruits were being offered a free (first class) ticket to Berlin, and the printed offers of tickets were being given out by young women in restaurants and shops “who think the local youth ought to be doing something better than making eyes over the counter”.

The urge to join up had caused a rumour to circulate round the Council that staff had been told they had a fortnight to join or be discharged.  Councillor Raynor, chair of the Highways Committee, said that no such statement had been made, no-one had the authority to make it and that any men who had been discharged had been due to the “exigencies of work”.  The Council were also having to deal with cost-cutting measures, including the proposed closure of Latchmere Recreation Ground, Vicarage Road Recreation Ground and Christ Church Gardens from November to February.  Other matters acknowledged included the new purchase of a horse for Morden Cemetery to replace the one requisitioned in October and the receipt of a case of stuffed birds by the Plough Road museum.

Battersea Borough Council minutes, ref: MBB/1/15

South Western Star available on microfilm

15-21 June 1915: Deaths of Council Staff and a Putney Teacher Joins Up

The meeting of Wandsworth Borough Council on the evening of 16th June had to deal with what course of action to take in the event of staff being killed whilst on active service.  Three deaths had been officially reported to them so far, these were listed as Private William George Daborn (2nd class clerk, Rating Department), Sergeant F Beard (store-keeper, Tooting Depot) and E Smith AB (road sweeper).  Sergeant Frederick Beard was with the 24th County of London Regiment, Private Daborn with the 23rd County of London Regiment and E Smith was an Able Seaman.  With a name like Smith it’s obviously difficult to find more information about him, but he may well have been this man as the date of his death fits.  The Council decided that on the notification of each death they would pass a resolution of Condolence to the families and appreciation of the service of the men.  It was also decided that dependants of employees killed whilst on active service would continue to receive allowances from the Council for 26 weeks.

Advice received from the Local Government Board and discussed at the meeting was that the Council should avoid appointing new members of staff whilst the war was ongoing.  Instead they should try to re-employ retired staff, or those who weren’t eligible to join the Army.  The meeting noted that Wandsworth Council was already doing this, and further recommended that heads of departments should be given the authority to fill vacancies by hiring women.  Concerns over how to fill vacancies presumably tied in to the fact that the Council was very much encouraging local recruitment, the battalion correspondence file contains a list – produced on 21st June – of staff in the Borough Engineer’s department who were apparently eligible for military service.  One hundred members of staff were listed, with approximate age and how they were employed, with notes including whether or not they had already been rejected for military service or not – see the images below.

 List of WBC staffList of WBC staff detail

Elsewhere in the borough, an entry in the school log book for Putney St Mary’s school on 15th June records that Frank Jefcoate, a student teacher who had been absent at teacher training college, would not be returning to school as he had recently gained a commission.  Jefcoate later transferred to the Royal Air Force and was killed in a flying accident in Egypt in February 1919 (the log book also records this), having been mentioned in Dispatches and awarded an MBE.

8-14 June 1915: The Wandsworth Recruiting Committee and the beginnings of the Battersea Battalion

The meeting of the Executive Sub-Committee for the Wandsworth Battalion took place on 14th June 1915, held at the Town Hall in Wandsworth.  This was the third meeting which had taken place, but the first for this particular sub-committee.  One of the first matters for discussion on their agenda was the appointment of a Colonel for the battalion, and they had two possible candidates.

The first candidate was Captain Burton, a 47 year old bachelor who was currently a non-gazetted Major.  Since the outbreak of war he had spent nine months in the Paymasters Office and had then been appointed second in command of the 12th Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment (Rotherhithe).  He was currently residing in the Charing Cross Hotel but would qualify for the position by living in Wandsworth.  Captain Gethen was 64 and had lived in Tooting Bec Gardens for twenty years.  He was a retired stockbroker, having also organised and recruited an 85 strong Mounted Detachment in the Boer War and was currently in charge of the Clapham Volunteers and an experienced Quartermaster.  The post went to Captain Burton, at which point the minutes begin to refer to him as Major Burton instead.  This was subject to confirmation by the War Office and the Major taking up residence in the borough.

Major Burton was to be present when officers were interviewed for the battalion, and several candidates were present at the meeting, including one for a captaincy and five for lieutenants and second lieutenants.  The candidates were interviewed, but no decisions were to be made for the present (further interviews take place next week).  The candidate for Captaincy was a Captain Hallett, who had lived in Clapham for twenty years and was 54, having retired from the Royal West Sussex Regiment in 1892 after 11 years as an officer.  The applicants for Lieutenants included:

  • Second-Lieutenant Hoare, of Nicosia Road, aged 30 ¾, who had previously been in the ranks of the Seaforth Highlanders and was now in the 4th Royal Irish.
  • R H Harker, Haldon Road, who was 28, married with two children and was sub-commandant of the Wandsworth and Earlsfield Athletic Volunteer Force. He had been recommended by Lieut-Colonel Haskett Smith as knowing the 1914 drill and having drilled a full company on several ocacsions.
  • Mr Courtenay Bishop, a 36 year old widower with one child who was resident in Victoria Road, Clapham. He was an engineer with the 1st Battalion Surrey Volunteer Force.
  • Second Lieutenant Greene, currently held an appointment with the 7th Dorsets but had been on active service in Northern France with the 15th County of London Regiment (Civil Service Rifles). He was 22, spoke French and had previously been a civil servant.
  • Mr GW Buchanan was the director of a building contractor who lived in Trinity Road. He was 31 and an instructor for the Signalling Company of the 1st Wandsworth Battalion Home Defence Corps, who had also previously spent 7 years with the London Scottish.

This was a busy week across what is now Wandsworth as the regular meeting of Battersea Borough Council took place, with the first reference in the minutes to the borough also being asked to recruit a battalion.  The Mayor was authorised to raise a local unit of infantry and the Recruiting Officer was requesting offices in the Lower Hall of Battersea Town Hall to use as offices and a store.  It may sound as if Wandsworth had been asked to recruit a battalion before Battersea, but this was the first Battersea Council meeting since 12 May, whereas Wandsworth’s Council meeting was on 19th May so the Council were able to authorise arrangements faster – the request to Battersea had already been in the local paper.  Battersea’s connections with the Forces also included the headquarters of the 23rd County of London regiment on St John’s Hill, a connection marked in the meeting’s minutes by an invitation to all members and staff of the Council to a memorial service for the fallen of the 23rd in St Mary’s Church, Battersea, to be held on 12th June.

Wandsworth Recruitment Committee minutes, ref: MBW/2/31/1

Battersea Borough Council minutes, ref: MBB/1/16

1-7 June 1915: Battersea Grammar School

The Summer Term edition of the Battersea Grammar School Magazine carried several articles relating to the war.  First was a list of additions to the roll of honour, showing those who had joined since the publication of the first list.  34 more old boys had joined up a range of regiments, including two old boys listed in the Karachi Artillery Volunteers, another listed as “Australian Contingent” and one who was a Sapper in the London Electrical Engineers Searchlight Corps.  There was also an old boy listed as in the Royal Naval Air Service, which was still in its early days, as well as the usual range of regiments.

The termly reports on how each House was faring in sports were much the same as usual, with the addition to the Trinity report of “mingled feelings of sadness and pride” as they recorded the death of former member Rayner somewhere near Ypres, where he had been serving with the 23rd County of London regiment.  Otherwise, Trinity reported that their sports success was less than in previous years – they were second or third place in the House championship but hoped to return to the glory of previous years and victory soon.

It was the end of the BGS Cadet Corps’ first year of enrolment, so the magazine carried a report from them on how it had gone.  They had yet to be officially inspected due to the war, but had been recognised and their first appearance as a recognised Cadet Corps had taken place on 15h May, where all the Cadet Corps in the London area had come together and marched past the King at Buckingham Palace, then Sir Francis Lloyd in Hyde Park.  Over the year there had been a number of changes in personnel, as officers of the Cadet Corps had gone on to the Armed Forces.  There was a reminder that it was hoped that all members of the Corps would go on to join the Territorial Forces when they reached the correct age.

Battersea Grammar School magazine, ref: S21/2/12/5