30 November – 6 December 1915: Military Service Tribunals

6 December saw the first meeting of the Battersea Local Tribunal, also known as a Military Service Tribunal. This was just a meeting of the Tribunal members, with no cases to hear as yet, but would act for the next almost three years – deciding whether or not applications to defer or be excused from military service would be permitted or not. The same week, on 1st December, Wandsworth Borough Council agreed a committee to act as the Local Tribunal – after some debate within the Council, it had been agreed that one of the members of the tribunal would be a shop-keeper who would understand the needs of small businesses. The minutes do not record which of the members that was.

The Battersea meeting agreed that the Tribunal would be formed of those present, the Mayor [William Moore], W Hammond JP, A Winfield, H G White and W Watts, with a quorum of 3 people – meaning the tribunal could not act unless at least three of them were present. Present at the first meeting was also Lieutenant Gost, who was the recruiting officer for Battersea and was later replaced by a military representative, Captain Briggs, to argue the case for the Armed Forces.

Tribunals were set up after the National Registration Act, which was passed in July 1915 – partially to boost recruitment but also as a way of establishing how many men were in each occupation. Certain occupations were exempt from being called upon for military service, as they were deemed of national importance themselves. Following on from Registration, the Group Scheme of recruitment was devised, where men were encouraged to sign up and be placed into a particular group, which would mark when they were to be called up for service. A much more detailed explanation of the scheme can be found here, with links to articles on how to research this further for particular soldiers.

After the war, the records of the Military Service tribunals were supposed to be destroyed, with only the Middlesex Appeals Tribunal being kept officially for England, and the Edinburgh and Peebles Tribunals kept for Scotland (see here for more information). Several of the local ones survive however, with both Battersea and Wandsworth having kept their minutes. The Wandsworth minutes are largely just minutes, with the names of the men who came before the tribunal having been kept in a separate register – which has not survived. The Battersea minutes do list the cases heard, and we will be coming back to the registers in future weeks.

Battersea Military Service Tribunals, 1915-1918, ref: MBB/2/25/2-4

Wandsworth Military Service Tribunals, 1915-1918, ref: MBW/2/30

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23-29 November 1915: Putney St Mary’s School

The log book of the boys school at Putney St Mary’s School is divided into several sections, each recording different aspects of school life that the standardised book thought were important. Some of these are in the miscellaneous section and details visits to the school, school holidays and other special occasions. For November 1915, the only two events recorded in this section were a visit from the Nurse to examine all the boys and a visit from Dr Verdon Roe to carry out a medical inspection.

Other sections give more insight into the life of the school – the recorded absences for teachers this week notes that Albert Hyslop and A H Rood were absent for half a day as they were “at recruiting office – attempting to enlist”. This was obviously not a successful attempt, as on 7th December Albert Hyslop was again absent, having “Gone to Manchester to try to enlist”. A H Rood continued at the school throughout the war, but Albert Hyslop’s trip to Manchester was a success – his marked absence and recorded last day as staff on 10th December carry the note “Enlisted + gone to Dublin”. It is possible that A H Rood was ineligible for service due to health reasons, in March 1916 he was absent as having been called up for a medical exam by the military but as he wasn’t subsequently called up to service we could guess that he failed it.Logbook - half page

Logbook - gone to ManchesterHyslop’s absence meant that the Head Teacher was “obliged to take charge” of his class. Another part of the log book records how often the Head Teacher taught, and through December and January he is noted as frequently in charge of a class through the absence of a teacher, as well as being in “constantly in charge” of the whole school. Eventually a new teacher was transferred to the school from Brandlehow School for the duration of the war – Mrs Evelyn Faulkner.

Logbook - Head teacher

Elsewhere in the borough, a meeting was held of Battersea Borough Council. They too were dealing with issues around staff joining the Forces, a new Group system of recruitment was coming in (the Derby Scheme) which meant they had to consider if staff joining up through that should receive the same benefits as those who had joined up earlier. The recommendation was that they should, if they joined up before 4th December. Staff now had to be given permission to join up, and at the meeting three men were granted it – W Marsh, public lighting attendant, A J Spriggs, coal trimmer, and G Wright, groundman, Morden cemetery. The Derby Scheme recruitment will feature more next week, and in weeks to come, as we look at the Military Service tribunal records.

Putney St Mary’s school log-book, ref: S11/3/3

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

16-22 November 1915: 3rd London General Hospital – women, supplies and transport

The November edition of the 3rd London General Hospital Gazette includes an editorial on “Our New Orderlies”, a long-talked of experiment which had been introduced a few days before publication, and which had met with “a certain amount of criticism and even covert hostility”. This experiment was the introduction of female orderlies, previously considered a male job and one which some were obviously reluctant to see taken over by women. The Hospital had been one of the first to foresee an upcoming shortage of both RAMC men and trained nurses, so had encouraged the recruitment of VADs when other institutions were less keen. The article praises VADs for freeing up specialist nurses to go elsewhere, and now for doing the same for orderlies. Some of the men who were under 19 when they first enlisted had been freed up to join the hospital ships, which were apparently coveted posts. Some were referring to the new orderlies as “the orderlettes”, with a cartoon in a later edition of the Gazette showing “Orderlettes” and “Orderlims”, but overall the work was appreciated.

The Gazette also contains hospital statistics, including from the kitchen and the linen stores. This was the main kitchen, there was also an officers’ ward kitchen, an infirmary kitchen, the nurses’ kitchen and kitchens for the orderlies and sergeants’ messes. The main kitchen cooked for the patients, for two diets – Special and Ordinary. Patients on an Ordinary Diet got meat such as roast beef, mutton, boiled beef and stewed steak. Special included roast and boiled chicken, fish, beef tea and chicken or mutton broths. In one day, the hospital got through 700lb of meat for ordinary diets, 100lb of fish, 100 chickens, 600lb of potatoes, 350lb of cabbage, 100lb carrots, 100lb turnips and 50lb of onions. On average, 50 gallons of milk were used each day. The Stewards’ Store issued still more food – 1000lb of bread passed through every day, as well as 100lb of oatmeal and 23lb of tea, and in a week they distributed 2 tons of potatoes and 400 siphons of soda water and lemonade. The article goes on to give details of the supplies that the laundry and other departments responsible for cleaning got through, and finishes with a check on the consumption of tobacco. In an average morning, 5500 cigarettes were given out and 92oz of pipe tobacco – the write wondered if this was enough to roll into “one fabulous fag [to] stretch from here to the trenches at the Front”, and hoped a reader might let him know.

3rd LGH - Night Arrival of Wounded Nov 1915One of the illustrations, by C R W Nevinson, shows the Night Arrival of Wounded, and is above an article on the homecoming of Prisoners of War to the hospital on October 7th. Patients came in through Clapham Junction and were transferred over to the hospital by car or ambulance, and on this occasion each of the men arrived was given a rose and helped in to one of the waiting cars. The giver of the rose was a Mrs Dent, with her husband Lancelot she had started a volunteer transport between the station and the hospital – covered by another article in the same Gazette. Stretcher bearers included men who had to stay at home for various reasons, and would now leave work to come and help with the unloading. In a year, the volunteers had moved 45,715 men – 13,452 of them on stretchers.

3rd London General Hospital Gazette available in the Heritage Service

9-15 November 1915: John Burns and Recruitment

The correspondence file relating to the Battersea Battalion contains a letter addressed to the Director-General of Volunteer Recruiting, forwarding a copy of a resolution made by Battersea Borough Council at their meeting of 9th November. The resolution ran as follows:

That this Council having approached Mr Joh Burns, M.P. in order to induce him to use his great influence in Battersea to encourage recruiting within the Borough, and Mr Burns having refused to receive a deputation from this Council on the matter and having refused in any way to assist recruiting, the Council’s disappointment with, and disapproval of, Mr Burns’ attitude towards recruiting be placed upon the public records of this Council.

Further, that copies of this Resolution be sent to Mr John Burns MP, the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for War and the Director-General of Volunteer Recruiting.

On 22nd October the Mayor, T W Simmons, had written to all members of the Council to inform them that the Borough Recruiting Committee were carrying out Lord Derby’s scheme for recruiting, which included a personal canvas of every eligible man in Battersea. Political Agents were to be involved in arranging this, hence the desirability of securing the support of the local MP, but on top of that it was felt that the scheme was of national importance and “no step should be left untaken to secure its success”. The Recruiting Committee hoped that the public support of John Burns would lead to more men enlisting, and proposed to send a deputation to see him to secure his co-operation. A public meeting was also to be held to discuss the Derby Scheme, and the correspondence file also contains letters sent to local ministers to make announcements at Sunday services and encourage the congregations to attend, and to volunteer as canvassers as well. The file also contains both fliers and posters for the public meeting.

John Burns resolution

John BurnsJohn Burns responded to the request for a meeting with a letter on 2nd November, quoted in the Council minutes – the original is not in the Battalion file. His response was that “as no public advantage can result from complying with the application, he respectfully declines the request”. Acknowledgment letters of the resolution are in the file, none have additional comment beyond receipt of it. Burns was opposed to the war, appointed as President of the Board of Trade in February 1914, he had resigned from the Cabinet two days after war broke out. His son, John Edgar Burns, volunteered soon after the outbreak of war and saw action in what is now Israel, as well as Egypt, before being invalided home with shell-shock.  He then decided to work to commemorate those who had died fighting and worked for the British Graves Commission in France (now the Commonwealth War Graves Commission) and died in 1922, due to long-lasting effects of his war-time experiences.

More information on John Burns can be found here or on the Dictionary of National Biography (Library card log-in required – type Wandsworth followed by library card number).

Battersea Battalion correspondence file, ref: MBB/8/2/15

2-8 November 1915: Tooting Military Hospital

The Tooting and Balham Gazette of 6 November carried several notes relating to the Tooting Military Hospital, including notes on the entertainment of the troops there by two groups of local pupils. The first group were pupils of the Misses M Pinnell, the Red House, Burntwood Lane and the second were pupils of Miss Emily Clifton, Garratt Lane. Miss Clifton’s group also distributed over 900 cigarettes and ten pounds of chocolate, bought with money raised by the pupils and the girls of Mrs Piper’s laundry.

Tooting Military Hospital had originally been the Tooting Home for the Aged and Infirm, and was on Church Lane. On 27 May 1915 the minutes of the Wandsworth and Clapham Union Board of Guardians record that the Military were to take over the building from 1st June that year. The existing patients were to be transferred to Mitcham Workhouse, Swaffield Road institution or St John’s Hill Infirmary, and some of the staff were also to transfer to Swaffield Road. It would appear that the Board actually offered the building up, as the Local Government Board wrote to them on 17 May to express their appreciation of the patriotic action.

St Benedict's Hospital, 1930s - the former Tooting Military Hospital

St Benedict’s Hospital, 1930s – the former Tooting Military Hospital

After the war, the hospital was taken over by the Department of Pensions, and in 1931 re-opened as St Benedict’s Hospital, run by the London County Council. It’s difficult to find much more detail about military hospitals (this post on the Scarletfinders website explains why) – a search on the National Archives catalogue for “Tooting Military Hospital” comes up with three records relating specifically to it, one a medal card and the other two relating to the Committee on the Treatment of British Prisoners of War (see here and here for details).

Silver War Badge medal card for A M Hallen

Silver War Badge medal card for A M Hallen

The medal card is for Agnes Hallen, who seems to be also listed as having received a Silver War Badge, the card for which is available via AncestryLibrary and says she was a Sister in Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service – her other medal card says she was “Nurse and Sister-in-Charge” at Tooting Military Hospital. At the time she received the Silver War Badge, she is listed as living at 8 Montserrat Road in Putney – although no other record of her at that address survives and further details about her are difficult to trace. The Silver War Badge was designed to honour those who had been discharged because of wounds or illness, so that former military personnel could wear it to deflect criticism for not being in uniform. Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service still exists, although it is now known as Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps (QARANC).

Tooting and Balham Gazette available on microfilm

All Wandsworth Libraries have access to AncestryLibrary.com which includes medal cards