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.
Battersea Battalion Correspondence, ref: MBB/8/2/15
South Western Star available on microfilm