In October 1915, a circular letter went to local authorities on the subject of Voluntary Organisations which resulted in the formation of county, city and borough Voluntary War Workers Associations. The minutes of the Wandsworth Association refer to a scheme for “co-ordinating and regulating voluntary work organisations throughout the United Kingdom”, with a Director General of Voluntary Organisations who would officially recognise groups who were working for Soldiers and Sailors requirements. The Director General’s main role was to organise donations gathered for troops and military hospitals, this article contains more information on charities during the war.
Both Battersea and Wandsworth formed Associations, with the first meeting of the Battersea one on 31st January. Wandsworth’s first meeting was in December 1915 and by this week they had got beyond the initial set up and decisions on committee members and had responses from local charity groups to the Voluntary Organisations scheme. Most of these charities do not have surviving records themselves, some of the groups are mentioned in the local papers but the Association minutes show all the different groups at work in the borough. The minutes for this week also show how much work has been done so far by the groups who had responded – although presumably there were others at work who had not yet done so.
The Clapham Women’s Liberal Association had been working since August 1914 and had dispatched 1000 articles to Queen Mary’s Guild and a further 400 to Lady Smith Dorrien. The Putney and Roehampton habitation of the Primrose League had three working parties and sent all completed work up to Primrose League headquarters. Several of the local churches had working parties, including St Mary Magdalene Wandsworth Common, St Margaret’s Streatham, St Stephens and the Church of the Holy Spirit, as well as there being a Parochial war work party in Clapham. Many of the church based groups were doing work for the Red Cross and Hospitals – the Clapham group had a depot at 43 The Chase, which worked in connection with the Red Cross working part of the Church of the Holy Spirit. Other depots were to be found in Streatham and Battersea, St Mary Magdalene, which parish was in both Wandsworth and Battersea boroughs, had a number of ladies who were working with those depots as well as having 4 working parties making items required for the 3rd London General Hospital. St Margaret’s Church was working with the Red Cross and the St John’s Ambulance Society.
Not all the working parties in Wandsworth supplied information about their activities, the Magdalen Hospital Working Party in Streatham was registered with the Central Workrooms of the Red Cross and St Stephen’s Church working party was listed without any further details. The Association decided that the Director General of Voluntary Organisations should be approached to find what was required at present and then the local organisations were to be asked if they could provide the same, as well as how much they could produce in the next four weeks.
Battersea’s meeting on 31st January had looked at the local depots, presumably with a view to organising them further. The hall at St Luke’s church was to be known as the Broomwood Ward Depot, St Luke’s Hall” and recognised as the only depot in the ward, and investigations were to be made to see if the Stormont Hall depot could be officially recognised as the only depot in the Bolingbroke Ward. The finance committee recorded that £34 8s 4d had been paid out to the Mayoress which had been used to purchase wool and needles to make mittens for the Battersea Battalion.
Wandsworth Voluntary War Workers Association minutes, ref: MBNW/2/32/1
Battersea Voluntary War Workers Association minutes, ref: MBB/2/35/1