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

14-20 September 1915: Gifford House

(c) Surrey Flying Service

(c) Surrey Flying Service

The Wandsworth Borough News of 17 September reports on 70 wounded soldiers being entertained at Winchester House, which was the Putney Constitutional Club.  The soldiers came from Gifford House, which was being used as an auxiliary hospital from King George’s Hospital at Waterloo.  Entertainment included tobacco or cigarettes on arrival, followed by bowls or billiards.  Prizes were pipes and tobacco and there was then a concert, including singing, “humorous sketches were immensely enjoyed”, recitals and “exceedingly clever ventriloquist sketches”.  When the soldiers reached their transport, more cigarettes were apparently showered on them, having been bought specially by club members.

Gifford House was a mansion on Putney Heath, the site is now part of the Ashburton Estate, bordered by Innes Gardens, Tildesley Road and Putney Heath.  The house was originally built around 1760 and had a range of occupiers, including James MacPherson and Baron Charles Joachim Hambro, before being purchased by the Charrington brewing family in 1892.  The Charringtons carried out extensive remodelling of the house, including adding the ballroom for 120 people, but moved to Ashburton House around 1910.  The Duchess of Westminster occupied briefly around 1913, but the house appears to have been empty when it was offered up as a location for a hospital.

Patients in the hospital were expected to follow military rules for discipline and routine.  According to Cpl William Lunn, whose reminiscences are included in the book “The Queen Alexandra Hospital Home: A History”, the patients all wore uniform and provided their own cutlery, as it was part of their kit.  Patients who were able to regularly headed for London after breakfast, as they were usually allowed to travel for free, but they had to be back in good time.  “We had to be back by 1900 hours.  Many who were late climbed in over the fence – legless or not… I was caught more than once – and sent back to Roehampton [Queen Mary’s Hospital] as punishment, but they did not have room for me and so I returned to Gifford House.”

Gifford House continued to be a hospital until 1919, when it became the Queen Alexandra Hospital and Home for Discharged Soldiers In memory of Lady Ripon”. It formally opened under this name on 9 July 1919 and stayed until 1933, when it moved to Worthing – where it remains.  Many of the QAHH’s old photographs are available online here.

Wandsworth Borough News available on microfilm.

Queen Alexandra Hospital Home: A History available for reference use in the Heritage Service

15-21 June 1915: Deaths of Council Staff and a Putney Teacher Joins Up

The meeting of Wandsworth Borough Council on the evening of 16th June had to deal with what course of action to take in the event of staff being killed whilst on active service.  Three deaths had been officially reported to them so far, these were listed as Private William George Daborn (2nd class clerk, Rating Department), Sergeant F Beard (store-keeper, Tooting Depot) and E Smith AB (road sweeper).  Sergeant Frederick Beard was with the 24th County of London Regiment, Private Daborn with the 23rd County of London Regiment and E Smith was an Able Seaman.  With a name like Smith it’s obviously difficult to find more information about him, but he may well have been this man as the date of his death fits.  The Council decided that on the notification of each death they would pass a resolution of Condolence to the families and appreciation of the service of the men.  It was also decided that dependants of employees killed whilst on active service would continue to receive allowances from the Council for 26 weeks.

Advice received from the Local Government Board and discussed at the meeting was that the Council should avoid appointing new members of staff whilst the war was ongoing.  Instead they should try to re-employ retired staff, or those who weren’t eligible to join the Army.  The meeting noted that Wandsworth Council was already doing this, and further recommended that heads of departments should be given the authority to fill vacancies by hiring women.  Concerns over how to fill vacancies presumably tied in to the fact that the Council was very much encouraging local recruitment, the battalion correspondence file contains a list – produced on 21st June – of staff in the Borough Engineer’s department who were apparently eligible for military service.  One hundred members of staff were listed, with approximate age and how they were employed, with notes including whether or not they had already been rejected for military service or not – see the images below.

 List of WBC staffList of WBC staff detail

Elsewhere in the borough, an entry in the school log book for Putney St Mary’s school on 15th June records that Frank Jefcoate, a student teacher who had been absent at teacher training college, would not be returning to school as he had recently gained a commission.  Jefcoate later transferred to the Royal Air Force and was killed in a flying accident in Egypt in February 1919 (the log book also records this), having been mentioned in Dispatches and awarded an MBE.

18-24 May 1915: Formation of the Wandsworth Battalion

20th May 1915 saw the first meeting of the Wandsworth Battalion recruitment committee, held in the Town Hall.  The request from the Army Council and Lord Kitchener to raise a battalion was reported at the Council meeting on 5th May, and this was the first meeting about doing so. The first decision taken by the meeting was to form a Committee, in fact to form two Committees – both a General and an Executive Committee.  It was also considered important to establish that the name of Wandsworth would be attached to the battalion if they raised, say, less than 1000 men.  Councillor Prince also suggested that the various wards of the borough should be identified with the battalion by name, this was to receive consideration rather than being automatically approved, presumably due to the earlier concerns over numbers, and in the end only the borough name was recorded.  Officers of the Battalion were to be Wandsworth men only, this was clearly felt to be important to maintain a properly local battalion and also to encourage local men to join up and to be supportive of the endeavour.  A recruiting officer had already been found, and the Mayor (Archibald Dawnay) was sure than in a large borough like Wandsworth 150 men could be found from each ward.  There had already been a hundred applications to join the battalion and when it reported the meeting, the Wandsworth Borough News further encouraged all man of military age resident in the borough to join up. The same day also saw the regular meeting of the Putney Relief Fund Committee. Numbers applying to the Fund for help had reduced considerably since the early days of the war and only 5 applications were being considered at this meeting.  Four of them had applied at least once before, although one of them was turned down on this occasion as her distress was held not to be caused by the war.  That applicant returned in subsequent occasions and was granted relief, all the way through to July 1916 when the minutes stop, and two other applicants this week also continued to rely on the committee.  They were Harriet Andrew, Marie Gibson and Margaret Kelly. Harriet Andrew is probably the same one who lived at 125 Lower Richmond Road in 1911, she was a widowed needleworker who was living with another, older, woman and very probably would have suffered in the reduction of available work – laundries in Battersea also reported a downturn in business as a result of the war.  The other two applicants have proved difficult to find more information on, as the minutes don’t give addresses.  The other applicant who received a positive outcome this week was Elizabeth Pigott, enquiries were to be made about her circumstances by Miss Kitson and Miss Lecky (of the Eileen Lecky Clinic) and if those proved favourable was to receive an emergency payment.  She was eventually granted 13s a week for two weeks and referred to the Fulham committee instead. For earlier meetings of the Relief Fund committee, see this post. Wandsworth Battalion minute book, ref: MBW/2/25/1 Putney Relief Fund minute book, ref: MBW/2/32/3 Wandsworth Borough News available on microfilm

12-18 January 1915: Putney Relief Fund

At the end of September, the Putney Relief Fund made its first payment, (see this post for details). Since then the numbers applying had dropped, the meeting on 14th January 1915 had 9 applications to deal with – considerably less than when the Fund first opened. One of the names was still the same, Alice Barham had originally been given some money until her sons in Canada could be contacted, but at the end of October she had to apply again and was being granted 2/6 per week. The Committee recommended that she contact her son at Salisbury but had been granting her a weekly allowance ever since. On 21st January this was suspended for the time being, her name does not re-appear in 1915 and there is no record as to why they stopped the allowance. Hopefully one of her family was able to help her or she managed to obtain work.

Other applicants had to find work, Mary Brown’s case had been adjourned from the previous week until the Committee heard from her employers – presumably to ensure that her hardship was due to the war. A workroom had been set up at the Wesleyan Central Hall in Tooting and employment was to be obtained for her there. One case, that of Mrs Featherstonehaugh, was eventually referred to the Central Committee for the borough and then to the Committee at Assington. Assington was presumably where the headquarters of the Prince of Wales Relief Fund was based. Interestingly, unlike all the other applicants, Mrs Featherstonehaugh is only ever referred to as such – all other applicants are referred to using both names – and she received more support than the majority, getting £1 a week whilst the most received by another applicant this week was 13s. Her full name was Emily Featherstonehaugh, she lived in Warwick Mansions on Lower Richmond Road and her husband Thomas was a commercial agent for silk. Full case details are not given in the minutes, so it is impossible to tell what caused difficulties for any of the applicants – it could be that business dried up due to the war, or that men who joined the Army were not able to send pay home immediately. The Committee was very clear that distress which was not caused by the war was not their responsibility, any applications which they deemed to fall in to that category were turned down.

The Putney Committee also reported on matters decided on by the Borough Executive Sub-Committee with other issues relating to who received money. The question over how to deal with men who had served for a short time then discharged from the Army as unfit was reported as having been referred up to the Central Committee for a decision. If applications from men who had been employed in hut building were received by the Ward Committees then they were recommended to refer the men to the Distress Committee as relief works were being opened. The minutes do not say what the “hut building” was, nor do the minutes of the Executive Committee – although there were earlier notes of men being given work to do in clearing vacant land for cultivation. It is possible that the huts were for the 3rd London General Hospital, but there is no evidence to back that up.

Minutes of the Putney Ward Relief Fund, ref: MBW/2/32/3

Minutes of the Relief Fund Committee, ref: MBW/2/32/2

Guest Post: Researching William Mills: librarian, soldier, airman

Earlier this year Putney Library ran a series of behind-the-scenes tours in response to a request from our Friends’ group. In preparation for these I visited Wandsworth Heritage Service, hoping to draw on the wealth of archive material there to add a historical dimension to the tours. It was a chance sighting in one of the archive items – the library’s salaries book for the 1910s – which set me on the trail of William John Mills.

The salaries book [1] is a handwritten week-by-week record of the payments made to each staff member, signed to confirm receipt. W.J. Mills appears in the very first entry in the book, in April 1910. Then aged fifteen, and employed as a junior assistant, he was paid 9s 6d per week. By the summer of 1914 he was earning 17s 3d, but from September onwards he is recorded as being paid 10s 3d, with the added note “whole pay less army pay while on military service.” His mother, Ada, signed on his behalf. (As noted in a previous blog post [2], the Council had resolved to make up the difference in salaries of those staff serving with the military.)

Entry in the Putney Library Salaries book

Entry in the Putney Library Salaries book

This pattern continued through to 2nd June 1917, when Mills’s name is crossed through in red, and payments ceased. Fearing the worst, I asked the heritage staff if they could find any record of his death. The result was rather surprising, as the following entry was found in the Council minutes [3] over a year later, on 16 October 1918:

Death of Lieut W J Mills, Northumberland Fusiliers, attached RAF on 3rd September, former junior assistant Putney Library – shot while flying on Western Front.

I was able to locate Mills’s RAF service record [4], which had been digitised and was available for download from the National Archives. His more substantial army record [5] was not, but unlike many it had survived in hard-copy and I was able to view it at Kew. From these records we now know the following of the life and career of William Mills:

He was born on 6th October 1894, the eldest son of John and Ada Mills. In 1914 the family was living at 59 Mexfield Road, East Putney [6]. On 3rd September 1914, just a month after the outbreak of war, William enlisted as a rifleman – service no. 2648 – in the18th Battalion, London Regiment (London Irish Rifles). A territorial force, his unit was garrisoned in the UK throughout 1914 & 1915, but in April 1916 they embarked to Le Havre to join the British Expeditionary Force in France. William’s casualty record reports that in May he was hospitalised with measles. Then, on 28th June he was wounded in action: a gunshot wound to the forehead, but he recovered to return to his unit on 16th July.

On 28th October he was promoted to Lance Corporal, and just weeks later, in December 1916, he returned from France to take up place at officer cadet school (at Fermoy in Ireland), which led on 26th April 1917 to his appointment as Temporary 2nd Lieutenant with 20th Bn. Northumberland Fusiliers (1st Tyneside Scottish) [7]. As an officer, his service pay now exceeded his former council wage, hence the cancelled entry in the salaries book.

Mills spent the remainder of 1917 as an infantry officer, with his unit again garrisoned in the UK. Then, in early 1918, he was attached to the fledgling Royal Air Force. He trained as an observer and gunner before returning to France in April 1918 to join No. 10 Squadron, RAF. It was there that he was wounded on 3rd September (four years to the day after he enlisted), and he died from his wounds the following day. His death was recorded in the minutes of the Putney Library sub-committee [8]:

Putney Library Sub-Committee minute book

Putney Library Sub-Committee minute book

Death of Lieut. W.J. Mills

The Librarian reported that Mr. W.J. Mills was a junior

assistant in the Library until September 3rd 1914 when he joined His Majesty’s forces as a private in the London Irish Regiment [sic] later obtaining a commission in the Northumberland Fusiliers. On September 3rd 1918 while attached to the Royal Air Force as an observer he was shot while flying behind the German lines and died from wounds on September 4th 1918.

Resolved that the Committee received the sad information with deepest regret and that the Librarian be instructed to report the matter to the Libraries’ Committee. [8]

This in turn led to the Council minute noted earlier. Mills is buried at the British military cemetery at Esquelbecq in northern France [9].

The Mills family remained in Mexfield Road: the electoral register lists Ada at the address until 1947. William’s youngest brother Frank appears in the last register before the outbreak of war in 1939 but does not return afterwards, although Ancestry [10] records that he died in 1995 at the age of 93.

In 1923 the Library Association commissioned a roll of honour in memory of the British librarians – over 80 in all – lost during the Great War. This memorial is now located at the British Library, as are a number of photographs of those recorded on it, including William Mills [11].

Terry Day, Putney Library


[1] MBW/5/6/16

[2] https://ww1wandsworth.wordpress.com/2014/10/06/6-12-october-1914-rifle-ranges-and-recruits/

[3] MBW/1

[4] National Archives AIR/76/349

[5] National Archives WO 339/82293

[6] The 1911 Census records that the Mills family then lived at an address in Stanbridge Road.

[7] Army List, December 1917, 944f.

[8] MBW/5/6/11

[9] http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/25340/MILLS,%20WILLIAM%20JOHN A photograph of the gravestone can be viewed at http://twgpp.org/information.php?id=3064762 Puzzlingly, both sites list his unit as 20 Squadron RAF although his service record clearly shows 10 Squadron.

[10] http://search.ancestrylibrary.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?new=1&gsfn=frank+brigginshaw&gsln=mills&rank=1&gss=angs-g&mswpn__ftp=&msbdy=1902&pcat=ROOT_CATEGORY&h=832229&db=ONSDeath93&indiv=1&ml_rpos=1

[11] https://m.facebook.com/britishlibrary/photos/a.10150448376867139.414095.8579062138/10150471969397139/?type=3&theater

29 September – 5 October 1914: Relief Fund payments

Applicants details, September 1914

Applicants details, September 1914

Over the last few weeks there have been a lot of mentions of the Prince of Wales National Relief Fund and the local Relief Funds. Each borough set up committees as part of the national effort, which co-ordinated local collection and distribution of relief, or money to help relieve hardship caused by the war. Wandsworth Heritage Service only holds one local committee book, for the Putney Ward, and so far committee meetings had been very much administration and fundraising related. The Putney Committee met in Putney Library and was chaired by Alderman Lindsey, with members including Eileen Lecky (see here for more about her and her work), the local councillors and Rev Canon Rivington, vicar of St Mary’s Putney. A register of assistance had been prepared and enquiries made round all the charitable organisations in the area to gather more information. In order to deal with applications for employment the committee had started to use the windows of the Board Room in the Library to advertise vacancies for temporary servants and charwomen.

The local committee met on October 1st and the minute book records the first applicants and the decisions made. There were 45 applicants, six of whom had their applications turned down as their case was not due to the war. A further six were declined as “undeserving”, and one case was considered both undeserving and not war-related. Fifteen were placed on the unemployment register to help them find work – three of those were given some money in the interim, and in one case it was actually the applicant’s mother who went on the register, whilst in other’s both husband and wife were placed on the register. Some applicants had already found work and their applications were withdrawn. Eight applications were referred to the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Family Association (who still exist today, see www.ssafa.org ), one to the Putney St Mary’s Relief Fund and one awaited a decision from the Putney Benevolent Society. That left five applications, two of which were adjourned for further investigations and one of which has the intriguing entry of “Chairman to see Borough Engineer and endeavour to get husband reinstated on the Wandsworth Borough Council staff”.

Of the 45 applications only two were granted financial help without also having to find work. Gertrude Hannah Brookes was to be allowed 5s per week temporarily and her child was to be fed at school – a somewhat mysterious entry in a few weeks refers to contacting the “Roumanian minister” with reference to her case. Alice Barham was granted 5s for one week and her sons in Canada were to be contacted to see if they could assist. A labourer would have averaged from 14s to 22s a week in 1914, so the amounts being given out were not large, and the fact only five people were awarded any relief at this point shows that it was not an easy process. Less than two months into the war the effects on ordinary people were starting to show, particularly with the amounts of people who were out of work.

Putney Ward Local Relief minutes, ref: MBW/2/32/3