11-17 April: Holy Trinity School, Ambulances and Shakespeare

Holy Trinity School in Upper Tooting, was last mentioned on the blog with regard to the pupils knitting socks for soldiers in August 1914 – an endeavour which presumably continued but unfortunately isn’t regularly noted in the school log books.  The school was affected by the war in other ways, one of their teachers – D J Davies – was called up to the London Welsh Regiment in October 1914 and did not return to the school until February 1919, by which time he had been awarded a Military Cross.  He took a day off to formally receive it in June 1920.  Another teacher, John Moody left to go to Malta in September 1914 with the territorial army, he was killed on 1 July 1916 (the first day of the Battle of the Somme) and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.  Assistant A C Swain was called up in June 1916, returning to school in March 1919, and another assistant, B C Moore, went for medical examinations but was presumably found unfit to serve, as he remained the school for the rest of the war.

The pupils also continued to contribute to the war effort, including being part of the fundraising across Wandsworth Schools for an ambulance. On 17th April, the ambulance visited the school so that “the boys might see it and its arrangements before going to France”.

Ambulance S12-2-4

 

The Wandsworth Borough News referred to it as a “splendidly equipped ambulance”, having followed the progress of its fundraising in previous weeks. It was to be presented to the “Mayor’s battalion” and visited all the schools across Wandsworth.  The Mayor himself was unable to go with it, being occupied with the Tribunals, but Alderman Cresswell and Miss Edwards, who had organised the fundraising, went round the schools instead.

The ambulance wasn’t the only disruption to the timetable that morning. 2016 marks the four hundredth anniversary of the death of Shakespeare, and you would be forgiven for assuming that the tercentenary in 1916 was over-shadowed by the war and perhaps not marked.  In Holy Trinity School, however, it was marked with Shakespeare songs and recitations, and on the same day as the ambulance visited the last two lessons of the morning were cancelled for standards 1, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 in favour of a combined practice of the Shakespeare songs for the tercentenary.

Practice Shakespeare S12-2-4

Holy Trinity School, Upper Tooting, logbook, ref: S12/2/4

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17-24th August 1915: Wandsworth Battalion Send Off

The Wandsworth Recruitment Committee met on 20th August, to a report from the Mayor that the Battalion would, in all probability, be taken over by the War Office in the next day or two.  The War Office did not provide for the provision of bands for Service Battalions, so the Mayor has purchased the necessary instruments and the musicians in the regiment had undertaken the relevant duties, turning out a very successful band.  At the previous meeting the Mayor had reported on attempts to get the War Office to agree to a modified Cap Badge design, he had now had these authorised and would be able to supply them shortly.

Wandsworth Battalion Cap BadgeThe standard badge of the East Surrey regiment had the coat of arms of Guildford on it, Mayor Dawnay’s proposed version had the Wandsworth coat of arms and the borough motto “We Serve”.

Wandsworth Battalion send offFarewell Route Marches had already taken place, with Putney and District on 18th August, Clapham and Balham on the 19th, Streatham and Tooting on the 20th and Wandsworth still to come on Saturday 21st.  The Wandsworth Route March was to include a Tea and Send-Off before the march, which would go from the Drill Ground, Buckhold Road, past the Town Hall, Wandsworth High Street, Broomhill Road, Merton Road, Penwith Road, Earlsfield Road, Windmill Road, Trinity Road, Huguenot Place, East Hill, High Street and Buckhold Road to the Drill Ground.  The public were invited to the Drill Ground and handbills had been circulated by the boy Scouts along the route.  One of these handbills is in the Battalion correspondence file, asking residents to put up decorations and give the Battalion a resounding send-off.

As the Battalion was recruited and ready to do, this was the final meeting of the Battalion recruiting Committee and there are various summaries and accounts pasted in to the volume.  A list of subscriptions given for the Battalion includes a lists of names and amounts given, with “List 5” stating the total donated by local people as £862 16s 5d.  Amounts range from Sir William Lancaster giving £10 10s (his second donation) to a Mrs Hatfield giving 2s6d.  By List 6 the total was £1224 16s 11d and by List 7 it had reached £1251 9s 3d, including the Mayor having given a second donation of £200 and a third of a further £100.  The summary states that the War Office authorised the Mayor to raise a Battalion 1350 men and 36 officers, all Wandsworth men, in May and recruiting had commenced on 28th June.  10 recruiting offices had opened, with the very first recruit being an employee of the Council.  An additional company had been raised for Depot purposes, bringing the full strength of the Battalion up to 1600 men.  57 of the 230 applications for commission were nominated and 32 approved and gazetted by the War Office.  The correspondence file includes some details of those who applied, although only the first twenty or so rather than the whole 230.  The summary in the minutes finishes by noting that 113 Battalions had been authorised by the War Office to be raised by individuals and organisations, but Wandsworth held the record in completing a Battalion in such a short time.

Battalion Correspondence, ref: MBW/2/31/2

Battalion Minute Book, ref: MBW/2/31/1

A full history of the Wandsworth and Battersea battalions, written by Paul McCue, is available for loan from Wandsworth Libraries.

10th-16th August 1915: Wandsworth Battalion Recruits

Enlisting Flyer & ProofRecruitment of the Wandsworth Battalion had progressed well, in July the Recruiting Committee of Wandsworth Council had produced 15,750 handbills and posters which had been distributed throughout the borough.  The proof copy and the finished version are below.  This had resulted in over 900 men having signed up by the end of July and by 4th August, when they paraded at the Ram Brewery, there were 1020 men.

 

Now that the battalion was recruited, other concerns began to take over.  Subscriptions had been taken to support the battalion and equipment had to be acquired.  Bourn & Tant, Army, Navy & Hospital Contractors wrote offering to supply good with immediate delivery.  These included:

  • 2000 pairs of woollen gloves at 1/3½ per pair
  • 3000 navy mitts with thumb at 1/6½ per pair
  • 10,000 Best Fleecy Pants or Vest at 22/9 per dozen
  • 10,000 Army Grey Shirts at 2/4½, 3/6, 4/4½ each
  • 10,000 Khaki Shirts at 2/11, 3/9, 4/4½ each
  • 4000 Cashmere socks 6/11 a dozen
  • 4500 knitted socks 10/11 a dozen

The file does not record what, if any, of this list was ordered.  There is a copy of an appeal by the Mayoress to the ladies of the borough to not forget their own and to knit men’s socks.  “The Colonel writes: ‘Socks, Socks, Socks, we want 2000 of them, and presently gloves; at 6am the rifles handle very coldly, and finger ends get chilled.’

Not only did the men have to be equipped, but order had to be maintained in a battalion where all the men were local and might be expected to enjoy local amenities.  The correspondence file contains a list of the pubs in Wandsworth at the time, attached to a copy of a letter written to all the licence holders from the Adjutant of the Battalion.

I am instructed by the Commanding Officer to bring to your notice the fact of the absence of insobriety among the men during the formation of the Wandsworth Battalion

This reflects the very greatest credit upon the way in which Licence holders in this district have conducted their establishments, and I am further instructed to thank you for the great forethought you have shown in conducting your business, in regards to soldiers, which greatly assists in maintaining the character of your local Regiment.

Local pub landlords had perhaps been requested to not allow soldiers to get drunk in order to help keep the battalion popular locally, although no such suggestion is recorded in the minutes or the correspondence.  The letter even emphasises that it is their local regiment, presumably to keep them on side and remind them that slightly lower profits could be contributing to the war effort.

Both the equipment suggestions and the implied worries over insobriety suggest that raising a battalion in short space of time was no small task.  Wandsworth may have been one of the quickest to raise a battalion to full strength, but recruitment was not the only, and perhaps not the hardest, task involved in doing so.

Insobriety letter - recruitment file List of pubs - recruitment file

Members of the Wandsworth Battalion

Wandsworth Battalion minutes, ref: MBW/2/31/1

Wandsworth Battalion correspondence, ref: MBW/2/31/2

27 July – 2 August 1915: Patriotism and Can They Believe It’s Not Butter?

The meeting of Wandsworth Borough Council on 28th July was a largely uncontroversial affair, with the reports in the Wandsworth Borough News mainly covering Council decisions without any debate. Economy was driving many of the decisions made by the Council, as well as patriotism, with a decision to dispense with all members of temporary staff who were eligible to serve with the Armed Forces. An appeal by the Central Charities Committee of the Social Welfare Association for London to consider filling temporary posts with Belgian employees was met with a decision to do so only when the Belgians were not eligible to serve with the Belgian Army.

The decisions were partly fuelled by the need to save money but presumably also the enthusiasm for the local battalion, the newspaper reported that after 4 weeks nearly 900 men were wearing the uniform of the new battalion and it was expected to reach full strength in the next few days. Young’s had placed the Ram Brewery yard at the disposal of the regiment as a parade ground and Council support for the battalion included free use of the baths, as well as offices and support for the recruiting staff. A recruiting rally at King’s Hall, Tooting had produced 30 new recruits, all of whom were given a half-sovereign by the proprietor as a “reward for valour”.

A desire to help the troops was also behind another appeal in the Borough News, that of a Mr R Stanley Grint, Ilminster Gardens. Mr Grint was appealing for any bowls which were no longer required, or for funds to purchase new bowls, which could be given to the “Tommies” at the 3rd London General Hospital on Wandsworth Common. The hospital is perhaps the source of this advert in the paper:

Intelligent young men wanted age 17 and under 19 to serve for duration of War at a Military Hospital as Hospital Orderlies. Home Service. Pay 8s 2d per week, all found. Address: Sergt Major, Borough News, Wandsworth.

Finally, the paper did have one controversy to report on – the decision of the Wandsworth Board of Guardians to stop using butter and start using margarine instead. This a “war measure”, prompted by economy, but led to much argument over the merits of both substances. Miss Hill had been very against margarine, but had recently tried “Maypole” and claimed her family did not know the difference, whilst Mr W H Smith said that margarine was often supplied instead of butter in the best restaurants and he saw no objections to it. Other board members argued about the nutritional value, and if all officials should have the same restriction or merely the inmates and patients. Mr Couzens refuted the argument that some prefer margarine by stating he had tasted it last Tuesday and should certainly not prefer it to butter. Eventually the arguments for either, and the claims not to know the difference, resulted in the decision to use margarine.

Wandsworth Council minutes, ref: MBW/1/15

Wandsworth Board of Guardians minutes, ref: WCU

Wandsworth Borough Newa available on microfilm

6th-13th July 1915: Recruitment, No Holidays for Staff and Tooting Library clock

Recruitment continued across the borough this week, the Tooting & Balham Gazette carried an advert encouraging the men of Wandsworth to “Enlist at Once” and “Don’t Delay”.  Cautiously, it was advertised as being for Three Years or Duration of the War.  The paper also reported several successful recruiting meetings being held, including on both Tooting and Wandsworth Commons.  The Tooting Common meeting was due to have been addressed by Corporal Dwyer, the youngest VC in London, but the large crowds were disappointed as he was recalled to his depot the morning of the meeting and not granted permission to attend. Such meetings were not the only methods being employed to encourage recruitment, a meeting of ladies resident in the Borough had been held at Wandsworth Town Hall to organise women to encourage eligible men to join up.  The meeting was attended by the Mayor and Mayoress, with Lt Col Burton there to explain the scheme.

The effects of recruitment were clearly being felt across the borough, according to the other stories reported in the paper.  Staff employed by Wandsworth Borough Council were being told that the depletion of staff meant that no holidays were to be granted this year.  Instead, men were to be paid extra wages.  The Wandsworth Officers and Servants Committee, which took care of staffing matters, does not refer to this in its minutes for June and July 1915, being more taken up with temporary appointments and how to deal with the pension contributions of employees killed in action.  Presumably an action such as refusing holiday and increasing pay instead would have been decided by the Committee or the Council, so perhaps the newspaper was mis-reporting the decision not to give holiday pay to employees on active service.

This week also marks the centenary of the unveiling of the clock at Tooting Library and the memorial plaque to Rev J H Anderson.  Rev Anderson had been rector of St Nicholas Tooting and a local councillor, including having been Mayor of Wandsworth in 1904.  He died in 1913 and it was felt that he had made such a contribution to the area that there ought to be a permanent memorial to him – public subscriptions were collected and the clock made by Gillett & Johnston of Croydon, to a design by W & E Hunt, architects.  The clock and tablet were unveiled by Sir William Lancaster, the donor of the library and also a former Wandsworth mayor, with speeches from Councillor A J Hurley (also the proprietor of the Tooting and Balham Gazette, and perhaps the reason why the unveiling is so well covered), the current Mayor Archibald Dawnay and Rev Anderson’s son.  The clock is clearly visible in this 1960s image of Tooting Library.

Tooting Library 1968

Tooting and Balham Gazette available on microfilm

Officers and Servants Committee minutes, ref: MBW/2/9/2

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.

8-14 June 1915: The Wandsworth Recruiting Committee and the beginnings of the Battersea Battalion

The meeting of the Executive Sub-Committee for the Wandsworth Battalion took place on 14th June 1915, held at the Town Hall in Wandsworth.  This was the third meeting which had taken place, but the first for this particular sub-committee.  One of the first matters for discussion on their agenda was the appointment of a Colonel for the battalion, and they had two possible candidates.

The first candidate was Captain Burton, a 47 year old bachelor who was currently a non-gazetted Major.  Since the outbreak of war he had spent nine months in the Paymasters Office and had then been appointed second in command of the 12th Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment (Rotherhithe).  He was currently residing in the Charing Cross Hotel but would qualify for the position by living in Wandsworth.  Captain Gethen was 64 and had lived in Tooting Bec Gardens for twenty years.  He was a retired stockbroker, having also organised and recruited an 85 strong Mounted Detachment in the Boer War and was currently in charge of the Clapham Volunteers and an experienced Quartermaster.  The post went to Captain Burton, at which point the minutes begin to refer to him as Major Burton instead.  This was subject to confirmation by the War Office and the Major taking up residence in the borough.

Major Burton was to be present when officers were interviewed for the battalion, and several candidates were present at the meeting, including one for a captaincy and five for lieutenants and second lieutenants.  The candidates were interviewed, but no decisions were to be made for the present (further interviews take place next week).  The candidate for Captaincy was a Captain Hallett, who had lived in Clapham for twenty years and was 54, having retired from the Royal West Sussex Regiment in 1892 after 11 years as an officer.  The applicants for Lieutenants included:

  • Second-Lieutenant Hoare, of Nicosia Road, aged 30 ¾, who had previously been in the ranks of the Seaforth Highlanders and was now in the 4th Royal Irish.
  • R H Harker, Haldon Road, who was 28, married with two children and was sub-commandant of the Wandsworth and Earlsfield Athletic Volunteer Force. He had been recommended by Lieut-Colonel Haskett Smith as knowing the 1914 drill and having drilled a full company on several ocacsions.
  • Mr Courtenay Bishop, a 36 year old widower with one child who was resident in Victoria Road, Clapham. He was an engineer with the 1st Battalion Surrey Volunteer Force.
  • Second Lieutenant Greene, currently held an appointment with the 7th Dorsets but had been on active service in Northern France with the 15th County of London Regiment (Civil Service Rifles). He was 22, spoke French and had previously been a civil servant.
  • Mr GW Buchanan was the director of a building contractor who lived in Trinity Road. He was 31 and an instructor for the Signalling Company of the 1st Wandsworth Battalion Home Defence Corps, who had also previously spent 7 years with the London Scottish.

This was a busy week across what is now Wandsworth as the regular meeting of Battersea Borough Council took place, with the first reference in the minutes to the borough also being asked to recruit a battalion.  The Mayor was authorised to raise a local unit of infantry and the Recruiting Officer was requesting offices in the Lower Hall of Battersea Town Hall to use as offices and a store.  It may sound as if Wandsworth had been asked to recruit a battalion before Battersea, but this was the first Battersea Council meeting since 12 May, whereas Wandsworth’s Council meeting was on 19th May so the Council were able to authorise arrangements faster – the request to Battersea had already been in the local paper.  Battersea’s connections with the Forces also included the headquarters of the 23rd County of London regiment on St John’s Hill, a connection marked in the meeting’s minutes by an invitation to all members and staff of the Council to a memorial service for the fallen of the 23rd in St Mary’s Church, Battersea, to be held on 12th June.

Wandsworth Recruitment Committee minutes, ref: MBW/2/31/1

Battersea Borough Council minutes, ref: MBB/1/16