23-29 March 1915: Recruitment, Allotments and Suffragists

We’ve been focusing on Battersea slightly more over the last few weeks, mainly because the records for Battersea have more detail in them for February and March 1915.  There was still plenty going on across the rest of the borough, including a meeting of Wandsworth Council on 24th March.

One of the items considered by the Council was a letter from the Executive Committee of the Metropolitan Boroughs’ Standing Joint Committee, which raised concerns over the local government election due to take place in November 1915.  They were worried that men who were away on active service with the Forces would be unable to stand as Councillors or Aldermen and wanted the Local Government Board to remove all disqualifications, including the one relating to residency.  The Council agreed to make representations agreeing with the letter.  It wasn’t just their own numbers that they had cause to discuss, a letter from the Local Government Board pointed out the importance of releasing men as far as possible from other occupations to join the Forces.  Councils were encouraged to hire older men to replace recruits or “where conditions allow, women workers”.  Wandsworth Council responded by putting notices in all their offices encouraging men to join up and specifically pointing out that wages would be met.  Not only that, but they recommended that no other men who were of an age to join up should be taken in to the Council’s service.

Councillor Foot raised the matter of a petition submitted to the London County Council by residents of Roehampton, asking that the LCC obtain allotments in the area and asked the Council to support it.  According to the Wandsworth Borough News, the petition was read out and the reasons for it included that no house or cottage occupied by the working class in Roehampton had sufficient ground to grow vegetables.  Rents and the cost of living were high, but wages lower than that paid to the more metropolitan worker.  Councillor Foot felt that the Council should support the petition as it was to use ground for productive purposes, and Alderman Cresswell seconded him – noting that Southfields allotments were greatly appreciated.  An amendment was put forward after debate to make no order in the matter, and this was the motion which won.

The Borough News also reported on a meeting of the Wandsworth Committee of the London Society for Women’s Suffrage, which had been held at the Town Hall – also on 24th March. Lady Frances Balfour spoke, and remarked that since the outbreak of war, the question of suffrage had been scarcely mentioned.  The suffragists felt that this was not a time to press their claims, but she thought that “they would never have to refute that old and curious fallacy that women have nothing to do with war”.  Women were assisting in keeping soldiers well supplied, and working in factories making ammunition and explosives, as well as hundreds of nurses volunteering for service.  Details of the activities of members of the Wandsworth branch were also given at the meeting, although the paper mainly reports on the headline speaker.

Council minutes, ref: MBW/1/15

Wandsworth Borough News, 26th March 1915