31 August – 6 September 1915: Royal Visit to the 3rd London General Hospital

The first edition of the Gazette of the 3rd London General Hospital was published in October 1915, and included a report on the visit of the King and Queen to the hospital on 1st September.  Understandably, this was also reported by the Wandsworth Borough News and between the two publications we can get a good idea of the scale of the visit.

According to the paper, the Royal party visited with only a few minutes notice, having driven up from Windsor, but when they arrived around 200 patients were “drawn up in double file.  They were all in the now familiar blue uniform”.  The Hospital Gazette phrases it slightly differently, saying that it was as nearly a surprise as was reasonably practicable and that no preparations were made aside from lining up the chairs outside for the patients.  The party arrived, went inside for introductions then returned to go up and down the lines of patients, accompanied by the CO, the Matrons and Sir Alfred Pearce-Gould.

The Borough News reported on exchanges between the royal visitors and the patients, including one patient who asked if he could have a job in the royal stables.  Another said that they were fed like cattle, to which the King replied: “You don’t mean they fed you on hay” – apparently this “caused many smiles”.  The King and Queen subsequently passed the kitchens as orderlies were fetching food for patients (the Gazette reports that apart from the patients outside, everything else carried on as usual), and paused to inspect the food, perhaps spurred on by the conversation.

Third London General Hospital PCWC109The visit lasted two and a half hours, during which the King and Queen visited almost every ward.  The Borough News notes that the wards have passages over a mile long, and there were additional wards built to the side of the Royal Victoria Patriotic building as well (forming what was known as “C block”).

The visit was summed up by the Gazette as:

The King and Queen had come down to Wandsworth, really, to say just two words to each of those blue-clad men.  And the words are: “Thank you”.

The Gazette of the 3rd London General Hospital is available on request

Wandsworth Borough News available on microfilm

For details of a nurse at the 3rd London General Hospital: http://www.schoolsofnursing.co.uk/Collections1/Collections18.htm

24th-30th August 1915: Notes from the Small Ads

Are you looking for somewhere new to live?  Perhaps the Classified section of this week’s South Western Star can help.

Why not live at healthy Wandsworth?  Where you can get a self contained flat within two minutes of ELECTRIC TRAMS and MOTOR BUSES, six minutes of Wandsworth Station… close to Wandsworth Common, comprising: sitting room, two bedrooms, kitchen, scullery &c… Rents from 8s to 12s weekly.

Or perhaps you are a respectable single man, who can pay a rent of 3/6 a week – in which case a furnished bedroom is to let at 105 Elsley Road.  Those looking for more space may wish to pay 9/6 for a sitting and bedroom, with use of the kitchen and a gas stove in York House, Beauchamp Road.  Although unfurnished rooms are also available in the same building for 8s, promising use of bath in addition to three large rooms.

IPark [Elsynge] Road, c1910f you would prefer to buy, rather than rent, then perhaps 59 Park Road [now Elsynge Road, pictured right] would be of more interest.  It is a superior 8-roomed corner house, where the bath is noted as being H&C and there is a motor-cycle shed.  This week’s South Western Star lists it for sale at £340.


Henderson’s butchers, of 179 Northcote Road were looking for a “Smart lad” and willing to pay 10s-12s a week.  A “smart, strong lad just left school” could be earning 11s a week at the drapers H V Savile, York Road.  Or a “respectable girl about 17 to 18 years for daily work, 5s per week, sleep-out”.  The adverts did acknowledge the war – H Robinson’s of Chelsea were advertising in the South Western Star that they sold Khaki riding breeches for 8s 6d, as well as double scarves, puttees and marching boots, while Alphonse Cary of 198 Lavender Hill wished to assure readers that “Although, owing to the War, piano prices are high” he would continue to give the best value for money.

Why look at the adverts?  Most of the news stories in the local papers relate to the send-off of the Wandsworth Battalion, which took place a few days before the paper was printed.  The small ads also give a good idea of what the cost of living might be for families in the area.  Maud Pember-Reeves’s study “Round About a Pound a Week” gave an account of how working-class families lived in nearby Kennington Road between 1909 and 1913, and estimated they lived on approximately 20s a week. Assuming that wages had not risen significantly – or that applications for wage increases to employers had been unsuccessful – then rent of a healthy flat at Wandsworth could take from 40% to 60% of the weekly wage.  It has already been noted that the cost of coal had increased and in comparison to the figures suggested by Pember-Reeves, so had the cost of accommodation – Pember-Reeves suggested it was around 1/3 of the weekly wage in 1913.

A Private in the Wandsworth Battalion with a wife, but no children, was being offered £1 11s and 9d per week, rising to £2 3d if he had a wife and two children, with 2s per week extra for every additional child.  For the “smart lad” to have opted to take the post at the butcher’s instead of joining up meant a wage gap of £1 1s 9d a week – a significant amount of money.  Perhaps it is one reason why so many joined up so quickly in the area.

South Western Star available on microfilm

17-24th August 1915: Wandsworth Battalion Send Off

The Wandsworth Recruitment Committee met on 20th August, to a report from the Mayor that the Battalion would, in all probability, be taken over by the War Office in the next day or two.  The War Office did not provide for the provision of bands for Service Battalions, so the Mayor has purchased the necessary instruments and the musicians in the regiment had undertaken the relevant duties, turning out a very successful band.  At the previous meeting the Mayor had reported on attempts to get the War Office to agree to a modified Cap Badge design, he had now had these authorised and would be able to supply them shortly.

Wandsworth Battalion Cap BadgeThe standard badge of the East Surrey regiment had the coat of arms of Guildford on it, Mayor Dawnay’s proposed version had the Wandsworth coat of arms and the borough motto “We Serve”.

Wandsworth Battalion send offFarewell Route Marches had already taken place, with Putney and District on 18th August, Clapham and Balham on the 19th, Streatham and Tooting on the 20th and Wandsworth still to come on Saturday 21st.  The Wandsworth Route March was to include a Tea and Send-Off before the march, which would go from the Drill Ground, Buckhold Road, past the Town Hall, Wandsworth High Street, Broomhill Road, Merton Road, Penwith Road, Earlsfield Road, Windmill Road, Trinity Road, Huguenot Place, East Hill, High Street and Buckhold Road to the Drill Ground.  The public were invited to the Drill Ground and handbills had been circulated by the boy Scouts along the route.  One of these handbills is in the Battalion correspondence file, asking residents to put up decorations and give the Battalion a resounding send-off.

As the Battalion was recruited and ready to do, this was the final meeting of the Battalion recruiting Committee and there are various summaries and accounts pasted in to the volume.  A list of subscriptions given for the Battalion includes a lists of names and amounts given, with “List 5” stating the total donated by local people as £862 16s 5d.  Amounts range from Sir William Lancaster giving £10 10s (his second donation) to a Mrs Hatfield giving 2s6d.  By List 6 the total was £1224 16s 11d and by List 7 it had reached £1251 9s 3d, including the Mayor having given a second donation of £200 and a third of a further £100.  The summary states that the War Office authorised the Mayor to raise a Battalion 1350 men and 36 officers, all Wandsworth men, in May and recruiting had commenced on 28th June.  10 recruiting offices had opened, with the very first recruit being an employee of the Council.  An additional company had been raised for Depot purposes, bringing the full strength of the Battalion up to 1600 men.  57 of the 230 applications for commission were nominated and 32 approved and gazetted by the War Office.  The correspondence file includes some details of those who applied, although only the first twenty or so rather than the whole 230.  The summary in the minutes finishes by noting that 113 Battalions had been authorised by the War Office to be raised by individuals and organisations, but Wandsworth held the record in completing a Battalion in such a short time.

Battalion Correspondence, ref: MBW/2/31/2

Battalion Minute Book, ref: MBW/2/31/1

A full history of the Wandsworth and Battersea battalions, written by Paul McCue, is available for loan from Wandsworth Libraries.

10th-16th August 1915: Wandsworth Battalion Recruits

Enlisting Flyer & ProofRecruitment of the Wandsworth Battalion had progressed well, in July the Recruiting Committee of Wandsworth Council had produced 15,750 handbills and posters which had been distributed throughout the borough.  The proof copy and the finished version are below.  This had resulted in over 900 men having signed up by the end of July and by 4th August, when they paraded at the Ram Brewery, there were 1020 men.


Now that the battalion was recruited, other concerns began to take over.  Subscriptions had been taken to support the battalion and equipment had to be acquired.  Bourn & Tant, Army, Navy & Hospital Contractors wrote offering to supply good with immediate delivery.  These included:

  • 2000 pairs of woollen gloves at 1/3½ per pair
  • 3000 navy mitts with thumb at 1/6½ per pair
  • 10,000 Best Fleecy Pants or Vest at 22/9 per dozen
  • 10,000 Army Grey Shirts at 2/4½, 3/6, 4/4½ each
  • 10,000 Khaki Shirts at 2/11, 3/9, 4/4½ each
  • 4000 Cashmere socks 6/11 a dozen
  • 4500 knitted socks 10/11 a dozen

The file does not record what, if any, of this list was ordered.  There is a copy of an appeal by the Mayoress to the ladies of the borough to not forget their own and to knit men’s socks.  “The Colonel writes: ‘Socks, Socks, Socks, we want 2000 of them, and presently gloves; at 6am the rifles handle very coldly, and finger ends get chilled.’

Not only did the men have to be equipped, but order had to be maintained in a battalion where all the men were local and might be expected to enjoy local amenities.  The correspondence file contains a list of the pubs in Wandsworth at the time, attached to a copy of a letter written to all the licence holders from the Adjutant of the Battalion.

I am instructed by the Commanding Officer to bring to your notice the fact of the absence of insobriety among the men during the formation of the Wandsworth Battalion

This reflects the very greatest credit upon the way in which Licence holders in this district have conducted their establishments, and I am further instructed to thank you for the great forethought you have shown in conducting your business, in regards to soldiers, which greatly assists in maintaining the character of your local Regiment.

Local pub landlords had perhaps been requested to not allow soldiers to get drunk in order to help keep the battalion popular locally, although no such suggestion is recorded in the minutes or the correspondence.  The letter even emphasises that it is their local regiment, presumably to keep them on side and remind them that slightly lower profits could be contributing to the war effort.

Both the equipment suggestions and the implied worries over insobriety suggest that raising a battalion in short space of time was no small task.  Wandsworth may have been one of the quickest to raise a battalion to full strength, but recruitment was not the only, and perhaps not the hardest, task involved in doing so.

Insobriety letter - recruitment file List of pubs - recruitment file

Members of the Wandsworth Battalion

Wandsworth Battalion minutes, ref: MBW/2/31/1

Wandsworth Battalion correspondence, ref: MBW/2/31/2

3rd-9th August 1915: A Year of War

This week marks a year of the war and on the evening of 4th August 1915 there was a meeting at Battersea Town Hall, in the Grand Hall. The correspondence relating to the meeting is included in the Battersea Battalion correspondence file and shows that several of the hoped for speakers were unable to attend. Mr W J West was away, but his apology mentioned that he had recruited 10,800 men. Also unable to attend was the Dean of Battersea and principal of St John’s College, Rev Canon H Wesley Dennis:

I write to express my regret at not being able to be present at your meeting tomorrow night to support the national declaration of our unflinching determination to carry on this terrible war to a conclusion which, please God, shall secure liberty and justice for generations to come.

He noted that over 560 past and present students of St John’s College were now serving with the Armed Forces, and that both his sons at the Front, so that his non-attendance was due to a clash of commitments. His letter was read to the meeting, as were letters from Captain R M Sebag Montefiore, who was the former London County Council member for Clapham and Arthur Du Cros.

Lord Hugh Cecil proposed the motion:

That, on this anniversary of the declaration of a righteous war, this meeting of the citizens of Battersea records once more its inflexible determination to continue to a victorious end the struggle to maintain that ideal of liberty and justice which is the common and sacred cause of the Allies.

The resolution was “enthusiastically carried” according to the South Western Star, and a second resolution in favour of conscription was also carried.

Local members of the 23rd County of London Regiment were named in the paper, as the regiment’s actions on 25 and 26 May had earned several medals.  They had captured three lines of trenches, and the full list of medals had just been published.  Lieutenant L S Clinton had been awarded a Military Cross for his fearlessness, as well as being promoted on the field.  Sergeant R H Oxman, Sergeant-Major T Hammond, Sergeant-Major A C Heggie, Sergeant A J Brian and Col-Sergeant F A Cooke were all awarded Distinguished Conduct Medals for bravery.

The newspaper also reports on the opening of the War Hospital Supply Depot at Springwell House on Friday July 30th. London County Council had bought the house in 1914 intending to pull it down and build a school, but were allowing the Hospital Supply Committee to use it free of charge. The depot was said to be similar to that at Cavendish Square, with the object of making items required by hospitals to treat soldiers, including splints, swabs and bandages, with a combination of “carpenter’s shop for the use of gentlemen” and rooms “superintended by a lady who is expert in the special work”. Members were expected to give as much time as possible to working in the depot and to contribute 1s or 6d per week. Already 50 women were volunteering and some had lent sewing machines and given material. Donations were solicited, and could be given by Mr Saunders, Hon. Treasurer, of the London and South Western Bank at Clapham Junction.

Last week’s meeting of Battersea Council agreed that the Mayor and Town Clerk were to administer the power granted to the Council under the National Registration Act.  The National Registration Act 1915 provided for a register of all persons between the ages of 15 and 65, who were not members of the Armed Forces.  More information about how it was used for recruitment can be found here.  As a result, posters had to be produced informing everyone of the deadline for registration – an example from our collection is below.

  National Register Poster, 1915

Battersea Battalion Correspondence, ref: MBB/8/2/15

South Western Star available on microfilm