6-12 April 1915: The Board of Guardians and War issues, and local football

This week’s South Western Star carries a report on the fortnightly meeting of the Battersea and Wandsworth Board of Guardians.  Many of the issues the Board had to discuss arose out of the war – either directly or indirectly.  A large number of staff had applied for increased pay as a result of the increased cost of living (a problem shared by the local councils as well), although as it was not all staff an amendment to grant the requests was not passed.  Staff also caused concern when Mr Rees questioned the age of a man hired on a temporary basis – on hearing that he was 27 the response was to ask why he was not in the Army, and on discovering that he was from Alsace one member commented that he was from the Blue Alsatian Mountains (a song, the words can be found here) and Mr Rees commented that he ought to be “over the water”.  Mr Rees was clearly a keen supporter of the war, as he also moved that 120 beds at the Swaffield Road institution should be offered to the War Office for wounded soldiers.  The beds in question were currently allocated to the elderly and the proposal was to transfer them to the main building, as there were 300 spare beds there and it would then be possible to create a separate entrance for ambulances – there were already wounded soldiers at St James Hospital, who had been admitted in March.  Both this and another motion by Mr Rees were passed, the second motion proposed creating a return which would show how many people of military age were currently employed by the Guardians.  This motion proved slightly more controversial, as both Mr Winfield and Mr Archer thought it was akin to conscription and forcing men to go to the Front.  Mr Winfield would prefer the Government to be responsible for conscription, whilst the Guardians could hold men’s jobs.

The South London Press demonstrates that other aspects of life carried on much as usual – the end of the football season was drawing close and the paper was somewhat disparaging about the South London amateur leagues:

The homeless West Norwood team may fulfil their remaining Metropolitan League fixtures, but as nobody, player or otherwise, takes any interest in the games, it does not matter… the group of clubs forming [the League] have no trophy, no medals, no subscriptions, indeed nothing but a private arrangement for matches among themselves.

Perhaps the only positive in this report was for the Tooting club, who beat Croydon by 4 goals to 1, three of those goals being scored by Honor.

South London Press and South Western Star available on microfilm

Wandsworth Board of Guardians full records are at London Metropolitan Archives, copies of the 1915 minutes are at the Heritage Service, ref: WCU/1/23

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15-21 December 1914: First meeting of the Battersea Recruitment Committee

The first meeting of the Battersea Recruitment Committee took place on Wednesday 16th December. The formation of the committee had been a little controversial when discussed in Council the previous week, and one of the first things the committee did was to define their object so that their purpose was clear to the public (in many ways, committees have not really changed).

The Committee decided it was not their job to force men to join the army and that they would nto approve of any employer discharging staff for that purpose – this seemed to be due to the fact that a recruit joining in this manner would “not be worth his salt”. What they did want to do was encourage the young men of the borough to remember that they were members of a “nation of freedom and liberty” and it was their duty to defend these things, this would prove that conscription was not necessary. The Committee were also anxious to ensure that dependents left behind did not suffer, this was to be done in as personal a manner as possible – as opposed to official – so that they would feel pride in the sacrifice their young men were making. With this in mind, the Committee planned to lobby the Government to give proper compensation to dependents of those killed or injured in the war. In a time before social security and a free NHS, the risks of losing the main wage-earner in a household still included ending up in the workhouse, so this could be a major concern.

The Committee also hoped to arrange recruiting marches in the borough, and planned to get local organisations involved in helping with recruitment. There were no plans for recruiting a local battalion yet, this not happen until spring 1915 so we will be coming back to the Recruitment Committee at a later date.

Elsewhere, the Town Clerk was writing to the Central (Unemployed) Committee to say they had posters about opportunities for women’s emigration but none of the application forms. F W Farmiloe Ltd, a paint & varnish manufacturers in Nine Elms Lane reported that business had decreased 40% and that 67 of their men had joined the Army, although they had also made 16 dismissals. Mr Holliday, a pawnbroker on Battersea Park Road, reported regularly that business was down, whereas for many of the manufacturing companies in the area – particularly engineering or chemical works, as noted last week – the reports stated that business was up and extra hands had been engaged.

Battersea Borough Council minutes, 1914-1915, ref: MBB/1/15

Central (Unemployed) Committee letter book, 1913-1915, ref: MBB/8/3/3

6-12 October 1914: Rifle Ranges and Recruits

Wandsworth Borough Council met on 7 October. It was recorded that sixty-six members of Council staff had either joined up or been called up, and the Council confirmed the decision made in September to grant all those men a leave of absence and to make up the difference in their salaries so they were not out of pocket.

At a previous meeting the Council had decided to allow the Wandsworth Rifle club to open their ranges on Sundays. At this meeting the Club had applied for permission to drill at Garratt Park, where the range was, for about an hour on Sunday mornings and permission was duly granted. Other Rifle Clubs were following suit – Streatham Rifle Club asked for permission to set up a range on Lonesome Shoot, Greyhound Lane to open between 9am and 11.30pm. Again, permission was granted on the condition that firing ceased at 11pm. Balham and Southern Rifle Club granted permission to the Balham and Wandsworth Branch of the Home Defence League to use their range at the Borough Engineer’s office on Balham High Road and the Council agreed to keep the range open for the same hours as Lonesome Shoot.

Other institutions in the borough were also losing staff to the Forces – several members of Battersea Grammar School staff had joined up, as had over 90 Old Boys by the time the Michaelmas term magazine was written. Several of those pupils were named in the write up of each house, although perhaps L Backlake would prefer not to have been immortalised in his school magazine as a “bit of a slacker at times” who had joined the Queen’s Westminster. Of the ninety plus former pupils in the Forces, ten were in the 23rd County of London, based just down the hill from Battersea Grammar School and the territorial force mentioned a few weeks ago. A School Cadet Corps had been formed and encouraged all pupils to join up, the magazine points out that many boys were almost old enough to join the Territorial force of the New Army and that others would also be before the war was over. Presumably by the time the magazine was published they had realised it wouldn’t “be over by Christmas”.

Wandsworth Borough Council minutes 1914, ref: MBW/1/14

Battersea Grammar School magazine, ref: S21/2/12/5

8-14 September: Battersea Borough Council responds to the outbreak of war

Battersea Borough Council held their first meeting since the outbreak of war on 9th September. In fact, two special meetings were convened for that evening, the first was to deal with reports from the Committees and the second to consider the war. The Committees were largely reporting on schemes of works to do with the Central (Unemployed) Body, which was a London wide body set up to help create jobs – work on the Latchmere Estate was done using labour via the Central (Unemployed) Body, and one of the schemes agreed at this meeting was to finish laying out the Latchmere recreation ground. Another scheme agreed was the building of a Municipal Rifle Range – why or where is not given.

Letter calling a Town Meeting on the War, signed by Mayor John Archer

Letter calling a Town Meeting on the War, signed by Mayor John Archer

The Mayor reported that he had been asked by the Lord Mayor of London to call a Town’s Meeting on the events leading to the war and to urge recruitment, he had also been approached by the Colonel-Commandant of the 23rd County of London Battalion to help in assisting recruits.  The day after the Council meeting that Town Meeting was called for 18th September, the Council having agreed to grant the free use of the Town Hall for it.

Several Council employees had obviously already been called up, as it was also discussed how they ought to be paid whilst on active service. The Council agreed that every facility should be given to those who wished to join, and that they ought to be paid the difference between their Forces salary and their Council salary, with the job kept open for them to return.

The second Council meeting of the evening duly considered their position on the war, and referred all matters to the relevant Committees. The minutes do not go into detail about their considerations, but fortunately the South Western Star was present at the meeting and can supply more information! Thirty-eight Council employees had either been called up or enlisted, and several Councillors expressed the hope that more would volunteer. Another Councillor took this to mean that the Council should not employ any able-bodied men young enough for active service, and argued strongly against that position and in favour of ensuring that no soldier’s family would have financial difficulties. There was a lot of concern about the National Relief Fund and especially over the fact it did not benefit civilians – a local scheme ought to benefit all those locally in distress. Councillor Raynor said that all money given was for the relief of all distress, and that any employer saying to an unmarried man “if you don’t enlist I’ll sack you” was contemptible, then asked why it was that only workmen’s sons were forced into the army. That comment, not recorded in the minutes, caused outcry amongst members and the gallery, and another Councillor accused him of raving. The Council then referred the matter of paying any of their employees who joined the Forces to the Finance Committee. How best to pay Council staff will be discussed a lot in future.

Battersea Borough Council minutes, 1914-1915, ref: MBB/1/15

South Western Star, 11 September 1914