“A communal store would have destroyed any idea among the workers that the rich could get supplied at the expense of the poor”

Union members in Reading were vigilant in the cause of rationing.

Reading and District Trade Union Branch News and Notes

General Workers’ Union

The way in which members are subscribing towards the children’s entertainment is extremely gratifying, showing that our members realise that they owe something to the youngsters whose fathers are away doing their duty.

The entertainment will be held in our hall towards the end of January…

At the District Council on December 15 … Bro. J R Clynes, MP, attended to answer an adverse and critical resolution which was on the agenda on the Food Control business. After his speech, which gave a good deal of information which his critics were not possessed of previously, the resolution was lost by a large majority.

No doubt he has a very difficult task to perform, but with our knowledge of his ability and steadfast work in the interest of the workers we do not doubt that his position has and will result in benefitting us all as consumers.

As a Union we are doing all we can locally to tackle the food question here. Bros Knight and Russell have had interviews with the District Food Commissioner and the Mayor, and also have attended a Conference with the Food Control Committee and representatives of the traders, and it is hoped that with the cooperation of the people of Reading there will soon be in operation a scheme which will ensure the equal distribution of available tea, butter, margarine, and lard. It is a pity the idea of a communal store was not accepted for this scheme. It would have been an interesting experiment, and would have destroyed any idea among the workers that the rich could get supplied at the expense of the poor. However, we must all co-operate, and not fail to report any case of departure from the regulations to the Food Control Secretary.


The Reading Worker: The Official Journal of Organised Labour in Reading and District, no. 13, January 1918 (D/EX1485/10/1/1)

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£500 towards the war effort

A school war savings group reached a milestone.

December 14th 1917

The School War Savings Association this week reached a total of £500 in savings.

Cookham Alwyn Road School log book (88/SCH/18/1, p. 307)

Credit is due to the children for often denying themselves some little treat for the benefit of the men who have done so much for us

Many schools sent “comforts” (food, clothing, books, even cigarettes) to soldiers and sailors. Children at Sandhurst also collected for comforts for those serving at home, while those in Burghfield provided various things for wounded soldiers, ranging from eggs to splints made in their handicraft classes.

Mrs Bland’s School, Burghfield
The Managers regret that they are shortly to lose the services of the Head Teacher, Miss M F Jackson, who in the time that she has been here has won their regard and esteem, and has made many good friends. She is engaged to be married to Sergeant Major Edward Mobbs of the Canadian Forestry Corps, who not content with depriving the neighbourhood of so many beautiful trees, is to carry off our good teacher. He only went to Canada about 13 years ago, after 12 years in the Coldstream Guards, and his family live at Tunbridge Wells.

School Efforts

The chestnut campaign has resulted in the collection of 1 ton 3 cwt of “nuts”, and application for their removal has been sent in.

During the period January 1916 to 31st July 1917, no less than 1660 splints and surgical appliances have been made by the boys in Mr Staveley Bulford’s classes in the Handicraft Room, and have been sent in for use in the war Hospitals or abroad.
The children of the CE Schools have up to date sent 1957 eggs and £1.9s.1d in cash for the use of the wounded soldiers, and have been awarded a “War Badge” as a recognition of their efforts. Credit is due to the children (and in many cases their parents) for often denying themselves some little treat for the benefit of the men who have done so much for us.

Lower Sandhurst
December 13th 1917

Sold flags at School on behalf of the Home Defence Comforts Fund. Amount realised in the one day £2. 4. 9 which was sent to Mrs Russell, the Organising Secretary.

Burghfield parish magazine, December 1917 (D/EX725/4); Lower Sandhurst School log book (C/EL66/1, p. 418)

Sleeping accommodation for the soldiers in the winter months

Groups associated with an Earley church were homeless after their premises were taken over for soldiers to sleep at.

The Military Authorities have taken over the use of the Mission Room, Cumberland Road. This means that the Sunday School, Mothers’ Meeting, Clothing Club and Scouts have to find a home elsewhere. Their purpose is to provide sleeping accommodation for the soldiers in the winter months who have been bivouacking in the College grounds on Whitley Hill, and so far we are glad that they should be undercover. But for ourselves it is not very convenient. Application has been made to the Education Authority for the loan of a hall or classroom in the New Town school and if this is granted our trouble will be ended.

Earley St Nicolas parish magazine December 1917 (D/P192/28A/14)

Air raid drill in Reading

Battle School continued to prepare for the air raids which never in fact materialised.

Battle
7th December 1917

Raid Drill was taken on Tuesday.

Redlands
Dec 7th 1917

150 of the boys attended a meeting in the Girls’ Dept. The meeting was addressed by the Rev. Wickham Legg and Miss Danker. Subject was “War Savings.”

Reading: Battle Infants School log book (SCH20/8/2, p. 307); Redlands Boys’ School, Reading: log book (86/SCH/3/30, p. 330)

Working at the RAF

A teenager’s first job was working at the Royal Aircraft Factory in Hampshire.

December 7th 1917

Joseph Scott has left – being 14 – and obtained work in R.A.F. at Fanbaro.

Ascot Heath Boys’ School log book (C/EL110/4, p. 90)

“Men are just now scarce” at home

The shortage of men at home was being felt in churches as well as in the secular world.

We wish to appeal to the men of the congregation to ask them if some could not volunteer to help in the Boys’ Sunday School. Besides the original men teachers who remain, we have now the assistance of several ladies, but the numbers have lately grown, and there is room for more helpers. In the old days of this parish there was a large company of men Sunday School teachers. Of course, men are just now scarce, but even so, those who remain at home might try and take their share in the work of the Church equally with the women.

Assistant Curates just now are very scarce. Efforts are being made to obtain one, and we shall probably have to be content with only one during the War.

The attendance at the Friday Women’s Service has slightly increased, and we hope will increase still further. More and more is there need of our prayers about the War, for all who are engaged in it, and for all who suffer through it, and it is by prayer that we can maintain our own faith in these days of strain and trouble.

Newbury St Nicholas parish magazine, December 1917 (D/P89/28A/13)

“She is going to work at the military aircraft factory”

The high wages on offer in munitions factories even to untrained young girls attracted one young monitress, or trainee teacher, to abandon school work.

Abingdon Conduit Rd Infants School
3rd December 1917

Ivy Middleton (monitress) left without notice as she is going to work at the military aircraft factory.

George Palmer Boys’ School, Reading
3rd December 1917

His Worship the Mayor, F.A.Sargent Esq., and Mr Baseden, H[ead] Master of Swansea Rd School, addressed a joint meeting of Girls & Boys re Work of War Savings’ Association, from 10am to 11.

Log books of Abingdon Conduit Rd Infants School (C/EL4/2, p. 175); and George Palmer Boys’ School, Reading (89/SCH/8/1, p. 147)

“Hearing of the death of her husband”

A married teacher had the news she would have dreaded since her husband joined up.

26th November 1917
Mrs Concannon excused this afternoon, on account of hearing of the death of her husband, killed at the front.

Newbury St Nicolas CE (Boys) School log book (90/SCH/5/3, p.39)

The stress of war conditions

Coal Clubs, where poorer families paid in throughout the year in order to ensure a supply of winter fuel, were often run by parish churches.

ST LUKE’S COAL CLUB

Owing to the stress of war conditions, we have been asked to issue the Christmas Coal Tickets at an earlier date. I have arranged, in consequence, that the children may fetch their tickets from the School on Monday, November 26th, and the following Mondays.

Maidenhead St Luke parish magazine, November 1917 (D/P181/28A/26)

“We do not want to reconstruct with a pair of scissors, or with a paste-pot and a lump of putty, but with a pick-axe!”

Reading leftwingers hoped for a big change in life after the war.

Reading Branch ILP

We have held one good meeting at Workers’ Hall on Sunday, November 25, when W N Ewer gave an interesting and useful address on “The Work of the ILP during the coming period of Reconstruction”. The speaker was careful to point out that “Reconstruction” does not mean the methods of hedging and trimming generally associated with the two political parties, but a real system of “Revolution”; or, as he put it, we do not want to reconstruct with a pair of scissors, or with a paste-pot and a lump of putty, but with a pick-axe!…

At our branch meetings we have discussed many subjects including “Fusion of the ILP and BSP”, “Militarism in the Schools”, “Food Profiteering”, “Trade Unionism at the Cross Roads”, and the “Censorship of Leaflets”.

The Reading Worker: The Official Journal of Organised Labour in Reading and District, no. 13, January 1918 (D/EX1485/10/1/1)

Swollen tins of rotten food

Reading-born internee Albert Cusden (one of four brothers in the Ruhleben camp near Berlin) wrote to one of his younger sisters to report that some of the food sent by the family was not fit for consumption.

Nov. 23rd 1917
Dear Lucy

Latest letter received, Len to Arch dated Oct 8th….

Now and again a tin turns out bad. Such a tin is usually somewhat swollen and so is regarded with suspicion from the start and is opened very gingerly. The remarks that are passed in the neighbourhood of such a tin as the aroma gets around are quite interesting.

We are all four keeping well. Have received thick boots from the Savoy as well as the clothing mentioned so you can rest assured we shall be all right this winter…

With love to all
Your affectionate brother,
Albert

Letter from Albert Cusden in Ruhleben to Miss L Cusden, 57 Castle Street, Reading (D/EX1485/4/4/8)

In these anxious days we need a mental tonic

Morale as well as money was raised by fundraising entertainments.

ENTERTAINMENTS.

Two most successful and thoroughly enjoyable concerts, organised by Mrs. Cross, were given in the Sunday School on November 22nd and 23rd. We offer our warmest thanks to Mrs. Cross and to the ladies and gentlemen from Fern Hill who so kindly entertained us. In these anxious days we need a mental tonic, and to have our thoughts diverted sometimes from the food problem and other war difficulties. It must be gratifying to our entertainers to have caused so much pleasure; no wonder enthusiastic cheers were given for them at the close of each performance. Again, we say, many many thanks. The proceeds, amounting to about £17 (after deducting expenses) will be given as to £10 to the Cranbourne branch of the Voluntary War Workers Association, and the balance will be given to the Fund for providing the Christmas presents [for soldiers and sailors].

Cranbourne section of Winkfield District Magazine, December 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/12)

Meeting a husband home on leave

Two married teachers met up with their soldier husbands, home on leave.

Maidenhead
22nd November 1917

Mrs Wells had leave of absence this afternoon because of her husband’s military leave.

Emmer Green
22nd November 1917

Mrs Hussy, infants’ teacher is away on leave, to meet her husband, a soldier home on leave.

Log books of King Street School, Maidenhead (C/EL77/1, p. 405); and Emmer Green CE School (R/ES8/3, p. 137)

16 sacks of chestnuts

More Berkshire children had been collecting horse chestnuts.

November 21st 1917

16 sacks of chestnuts have been sent to the Minister of Munitions.

Wokingham Wescott Road School log book (C/EL87, p. 180)