13-19 June 1916: Coping with a husband in the Forces

The Batstone family, as mentioned in this post, kept the majority of their letters and many diaries, which give a great insight into how one family dealt with the war. They had two young children when Walter was called up, and in this week in June 1916 he was away training whilst Maree tried to handle things at home.

Maree Batstone only wrote one diary entry this week, which started with her receiving two letters from her husband Walter in the morning and afternoon posts. Walter was training in Edinburgh, based in Bruntsfield School, and in his letter explained that he had “been re-drafted + Am now in the 9th draft (when last I sw you I was in the 7th).  Dye & I & abot 12 men are on the board tonight as drafted with the 9th draft, isn’t it amusing.  I am afraid I have this job at any rate tomorrow – I shall be glad when it is over”.

According to Maree’s diary, the “job” was that of Orderly Corporal – meaning long days, Walter even includes a schedule of his day for her, starting at 4.45am. At 5.30am he had to do the rounds to ask is anyone was going sick and take details, at 6am they had to attend at Gillespie School with a list of defaulters (this is James Gillespie’s School, which is 5- 10 minutes walk away).  By 7am he was making out sick reports in triplicate and breakfast was at 7.45am.  Lights out were at 10.15pm, after a day of sorting mail and other duties – “you are always on duty and liable to provide men for any emergency – today, two men to fetch beer for the sergeants mess”.

His second latter was dealing more with family business and answering questions she had sent him, including whether or not he required his birth certificate. There was also a complicated answer to a question about the family account with the piano tuner, where it was not clear if the account had been paid – something that became more complex due to all discussions having to be done by post.  Maree appeared to be struggling slightly with their daughter Molly, who was a toddler, Walter’s response was hopefully lighthearted: “Am so very sorry you are having such a beast of a time with Molly – she is a naughty little swab-hound and ought to be spanked, can you pack her off (as a boarder) to Em’s School?”

The rest of Maree’s day revolved around cycling into town to get Devonshire cream for her Aunt Emily’s birthday, shopping for her mother, and trying to put the children to bed early – slightly disturbed by a visitor coming after they had been bathed.

Letters from Walter Batstone to Maree, ref: D211/2/1/16

Maree Batstone’s diary, ref: D211/18/2/14

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21-27 March 1916: A Wandsworth Family

Maree Batstone’s diary entry for 23rd March 1916 begins: “Very cold, wet day, snow fell often”, and continues on to record various domestic concerns and the health of her two daughters.  Her husband Walter came home at “8.30, he had been enquiring about joining a regiment, he will probably be called up on Sat or Mon and will then not be able perhaps to choose a regiment, so he had been to Scotland Yd recruiting office and another, heard that Royal Garrison Artillery men are beasts, went to Kingston to be medically ex’d but too late, talked to a sergeant there.  Wonders if he will join Queen’s Westminster or London Rifle Brigade”.

Maree and Walter were living in Croydon at the time, but Walter grew up in Baskerville Road, Wandsworth Common, and the family later moved back there, which is why they’re featured this week. The couple married in 1907, after a four year engagement, when Maree was 23 and Walter 26.  By 1916 Walter was 35, Maree was 32 and they had two daughters, Frances and Mollie, born in 1909 and 1915.  Walter was a chartered surveyor in the family firm, Batstone Bros, based in the City.

In many ways, the Batstones are an ordinary family, but from the point of view of our blog they are of huge interest as they kept all their letters and diaries. Wandsworth Heritage Service has family letters for their parents, aunts, uncles and children, from the 1840s to the 1960s, including most of the letters written between Walter and Maree – first during their engagement and then whilst Walter was training and subsequently in the trenches in France.

Walter went to Oxford on 31st March with the 29th Royal Fusiliers, writing: “There are 6 of us here and so far they seem very nice men.  We are I believe all te tees one I imagine is a married man but am not sure.  I have got bad news – we are supposed to be moving from here to Edinborough in a few days time”.  In his later letters, he goes to talk more about his fellow soldiers (and to spell his location correctly), and we’ll be coming back to those and to Maree’s letters to him in future weeks.

Walter, Maree Batstone and children, c1917

Maree Batstone’s diary, 1916, ref: D211/1812/14

Walter’s letters to Maree, 1916, ref: D211/2/1/16

7-13 March 1916: Battersea Polytechnic’s Women Students

The March edition of the Battersea Polytechnic Magazine carries updates from students and former students, including the seventh edition of the Roll of Distinction of those serving. There is also an update of the roll of honour, giving details of two former students who had been killed – Victor Haskins and Thomas Turland.

Part of the Polytechnic was the Training Department of Domestic Science, who had been actively involved in the earlier campaign to make shirts for soldiers and many of whom were now working as VADs, nurses, or in other war occupations.  The magazine has a list of what former Domestic Science students were doing, it includes two who were working as “Instructresses in His Majesty’s Commisariat Department” (this seems to have been part of the Army Service Corps) and several who were working as VADs in various hospitals around the country.

One of the hospitals listed was the VAD Hospital, Clapham Common. There does not appear to be a great deal of information about the hospital, it as at 9 Cedars Road but is not listed in any directories at the time.  The Imperial War Museum holds a souvenir embroidery from the hospital, which is referred to as the 3rd London Red Cross Auxiliary Hospital.  The Red Cross has lists of their hospitals from the war, and the Cedars Road hospital is referred to as having been accepted by the War Office through the Red Cross.  More information on Red Cross hospitals can be found here.

Photographs of the hospital and nurses are at Lambeth Archives and can be found on their photo page, where it is referred to as Battersea Auxiliary Hospital – showing that the name was a bit variable!

The student who was based there was called M Holman.  The Red Cross have lists of VADs online, including several M Holmans, but we haven’t been able to match their records to a VAD who was at Cedars Road.  Several others were at the First London General Hospital in Camberwell, which is also where Vera Brittain served initially so for an account of life as a VAD in London you might want to consider reading Testament of Youth.

Battersea Polytechnic Magazine, ref: S14/5/9

22-28 February 1916: Tales from the Battersea Tribunal

After the controversy over the No Conscription Fellowship having their hall booking cancelled a couple of weeks ago, and the introduction of the Military Service Act on 27 January, it might be expected that the Tribunal meetings this week would be particularly keen to disallow claims. Conscription did not actually start until March, so all those coming before the Tribunal were still coming through the Derby Scheme.

Neither the meeting of 22nd January or that of the 24th granted full exemption to any of the applicants.  The write up of the Tribunal in the South Western Star does not supply the names of the majority of claimants, but it gives enough information that the details in the minutes can be matched up and a fuller picture can be put together of the men before the Tribunal.

Cases before the Tribunal included that of Arthur Bridge, a Battersea alderman, who was applying on behalf of his son, Arthur Stanley (known as Stanley). Bridge was a coal merchant who supplied Morgan Crucible’s Battersea works – which were engaged on munitions work.  He said that they were so short-staffed that they did not have enough men for their craft, his son had been apprenticed and was able to be second hand on a barge or tug.  In the 1911 census Stanley is listed as  clerk at the coal merchants, so had obviously had to do extra duties due to the war, the Tribunal minutes list him as a “manager” and his solicitor claims that he manages the transport.  His claim was disallowed and went to the appeal, reported back on at the Tribunal of 18th March.  The appeal only gained him three months, presumably as this was considered enough time for someone else to be trained in the work.

Several of the cases before the Tribunal were ones in which employing women instead was suggested. Dr Pearson of Bolingbroke Grove applied for exemption for his chauffeur, John Hayler, as he needed him for business and his “wife objects to a lady”.  The newspaper reports that the Tribunal were unsympathetic to this claim and laughed at the objection, saying that the country needed his man – the claim was disallowed.  John Hayler’s military service record survives, showing that he was married and had three children, which should have allowed him to go into a later Group.  A man seeking exemption for his son, who was a driver, said that “women are not a success as drivers of motor cars”, which was not queried by the Tribunal, instead they pointed out that his son had papers stating him to be medically unfit and therefore the matter was already taken care of.  The Tribunal also suggested that A I Biscuits should hire women in the factory when they refused exemptions for a mixer and a brakesman – although the firm’s owner, Mr Dunmore, argued that women were not able to do the work as it involved bags of flour weighing two cwt.  Price’s Candle Factory argued that their export ledger keeper could be replaced by a woman but it would take two years to train and that there was no-one else suitable for the role, the firm was carrying out important contracts for the Government but the application for exemption was disallowed.

 

Battersea Tribunal minutes, ref: MBB/2/25/2

16-22 November 1915: 3rd London General Hospital – women, supplies and transport

The November edition of the 3rd London General Hospital Gazette includes an editorial on “Our New Orderlies”, a long-talked of experiment which had been introduced a few days before publication, and which had met with “a certain amount of criticism and even covert hostility”. This experiment was the introduction of female orderlies, previously considered a male job and one which some were obviously reluctant to see taken over by women. The Hospital had been one of the first to foresee an upcoming shortage of both RAMC men and trained nurses, so had encouraged the recruitment of VADs when other institutions were less keen. The article praises VADs for freeing up specialist nurses to go elsewhere, and now for doing the same for orderlies. Some of the men who were under 19 when they first enlisted had been freed up to join the hospital ships, which were apparently coveted posts. Some were referring to the new orderlies as “the orderlettes”, with a cartoon in a later edition of the Gazette showing “Orderlettes” and “Orderlims”, but overall the work was appreciated.

The Gazette also contains hospital statistics, including from the kitchen and the linen stores. This was the main kitchen, there was also an officers’ ward kitchen, an infirmary kitchen, the nurses’ kitchen and kitchens for the orderlies and sergeants’ messes. The main kitchen cooked for the patients, for two diets – Special and Ordinary. Patients on an Ordinary Diet got meat such as roast beef, mutton, boiled beef and stewed steak. Special included roast and boiled chicken, fish, beef tea and chicken or mutton broths. In one day, the hospital got through 700lb of meat for ordinary diets, 100lb of fish, 100 chickens, 600lb of potatoes, 350lb of cabbage, 100lb carrots, 100lb turnips and 50lb of onions. On average, 50 gallons of milk were used each day. The Stewards’ Store issued still more food – 1000lb of bread passed through every day, as well as 100lb of oatmeal and 23lb of tea, and in a week they distributed 2 tons of potatoes and 400 siphons of soda water and lemonade. The article goes on to give details of the supplies that the laundry and other departments responsible for cleaning got through, and finishes with a check on the consumption of tobacco. In an average morning, 5500 cigarettes were given out and 92oz of pipe tobacco – the write wondered if this was enough to roll into “one fabulous fag [to] stretch from here to the trenches at the Front”, and hoped a reader might let him know.

3rd LGH - Night Arrival of Wounded Nov 1915One of the illustrations, by C R W Nevinson, shows the Night Arrival of Wounded, and is above an article on the homecoming of Prisoners of War to the hospital on October 7th. Patients came in through Clapham Junction and were transferred over to the hospital by car or ambulance, and on this occasion each of the men arrived was given a rose and helped in to one of the waiting cars. The giver of the rose was a Mrs Dent, with her husband Lancelot she had started a volunteer transport between the station and the hospital – covered by another article in the same Gazette. Stretcher bearers included men who had to stay at home for various reasons, and would now leave work to come and help with the unloading. In a year, the volunteers had moved 45,715 men – 13,452 of them on stretchers.

3rd London General Hospital Gazette available in the Heritage Service

30 March – 5 April 1915: Wage Increases and the Wonder of the Telephone

Following on from local arguments (see here for more information) about what the women in the Tooting workroom should be paid, the Tooting and Balham Gazette reported that when the Queen had visited the workroom she had expressed the opinion that 10s a week “seemed scarcely sufficient renumeration…in view of the increased cost of living”.  This apparently caused her to intervene and increase the number of hours offered, as the paper reported that the pay may be raised by up to 15%, whilst the number of hours possible increased from 40 to 46 hours a week.  The newspaper also reflects on the overall effect of the war on Tooting:

Remarkable as it may appear at first sight to be, the war has been something of a blessing in disguise for Tooting.  It was anticipated a few months ago that in the early part of the present year a great deal of distress would arise in Tooting owing to unemployment through the war.  Quite the contrary has been the case, and, as a matter of fact, just now there is a scarcity of labour, and many employers, especially traders, are very much agitated in their minds as to how they are going to “carry on” owing to the lack of workers and assistants.

The newspaper also reports on a recent recruiting rally held at Tooting, with a military band – apparently a successful rally as the recruiting sergeant was very pleased with the results and informed the paper that over 800 recruits had passed through his hands since the outbreak of war.

On a more day to day note, there is a report on a recent meeting of the Balham and Tooting Traders’ Association, which mainly focused on the paper presented by Mr T Ball on “The Telephone as a Useful Adjunct for the Little Shop”.  Printed immediately beside this is an advert for Tom Ball & Co, 161 Balham High Road, asking “Have you rung up Streatham 1795 yet?” and explaining how the telephone is part of their service to the customer.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, Mr Ball’s talk was mainly enthusiastic about the possibilities created by having a telephone in the shop, summing up that telephones can: “save you time; save your money; bring you business; save life; bring you pleasure”.  Perhaps the 30% of the Association who were not yet on the telephone took note.

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