“Those who have fought for the victory we have obtained have reason to expect better civil life”

A Reading book club discussed social changes to be expected.

7 March 1919

The 298th meeting of the club was held at Soundy’s on Friday 7th March 1919…

The host had followed the old practice of the club (unfortunately too frequently not observed of late) & had prepared a paper. His subject was “Some Labour Problems”, & he commenced by referring to the two International Conferences now taking place in Paris, viz the Peace Conference & the International Labour Conference. The former has spent considerable time in discussing the formation of a League of Nations with a view to securing the Peace of the world so far as warfare is concerned, but Soundy pointed out that there is another Peace that is possibly even more to be desired & one that will have more important influence on the future of the nations, viz Peace in the Labour world, & this is being discussed at the International Labour Conference.

After referring to the cost of the war & to the question of the nations recovering from its effect, both financial & industrial, he stated that this can be done solely by securing peace and cooperation between the parties representing capital & labour. Relations between employers & employed must be improved. Germany has found out that might is not right & the same principle must be brought to the front in the labour market.

To re-establish our own financial position exports must be increased, & to achieve this, the rate of production must be increased. So long as this is done & is kept up the rate of increase in wages does not matter. He referred to the conditions of labour to apply in the future, which are being discussed at the Conference, & also to the evidence given by the Coal Commission in this country. Where the highest wages have been paid the cost of production has been lowest & vice versa. No man will do his best, when he feels he is underpaid, but workpeople must realise that to get better conditions they must become better workmen, & Trade Unions must make their members realise this.

Those who have fought for the victory we have obtained have reason to expect better civil life & to achieve this there must be a better understanding between employers & workpeople, & an effective peace between capital & labour.

An interesting discussion followed & it was unanimously felt that the thanks of the Club were due to the host for his most interesting paper & for having once again kept up the old traditions of the Club.

Dodeka Book Club minutes (D/EX2160/1/3)

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‘Both the Kaiser & Lloyd George could be told a “thing or two” by the Dodeka Club’

The Reading Dodeka club debated contemporary issues once a month.

7 June 1918

The 291st meeting of the club was held on Friday June 7th 18 at Gibbons’….

No paper being forthcoming, the remainder of the evening was devoted to settling the “food questions” – “conduct of the war”, & “peace terms” – the general feeling being that both the Kaiser & Lloyd George could be told a “thing or two” by the Dodeka Club.

Dodeka Book Club minutes (D/EX2160/1/3)

The eternal question of Rations

The Dodeka Club in Reading debated rationing and conscription.

The 290th meeting of the club was held on Friday Ap. 5. 18 at Barkas’s…

There being apparently some misunderstanding as to the subject of the evening’s discussion, owing to more than one topic having been suggested, the host skilfully evaded the matter by touching on the “eternal” question of “Rations”. This, together with the possibility of some of our juvenile members being “conscripted”, provided food for an animated discussion, & at 10.50 a pleasant evening was brought to a close.

Dodeka Book Club minutes (D/EX2160/1/3)

Our economic policy has borne the heat & burden of 3 years strain

The thoughtful members of the Dodeka Bok Club in Reading discussed the possible post-war economy.

The 289th meeting of the club was held on Feb 2. 18 at Cresswell’s…
Cresswell then introduced as a topic for discussion, “Our prewar and postwar fiscal policy”, & in the course of his remarks asked – Does our prewar policy stand condemned? & stated that our general policy, although with defects, had borne the heat & burden of 3 years strain – not only in keeping our industries going, but making large advances to our allies, & London continued to remain the centre of the world’s finance, whilst other countries had had to alter or reverse their pre-war methods, & that our present difficulties were the direct result of war conditions, & would continue more or less acute until the war was over.

Our efforts should therefore be directed to finding out our defects & remedying such as far as possible.

He held the opinion also that as an island country we could not owing to climatic reasons become self-contained or produce all raw material necessary – nor did he agree with the idea of an economic boycott of Germany after the war, even if possible. Especially as each nation has, can & will continue to specialise in its own way & power.

It might be necessary to protect certain industries after the war from unfair competition, but not to the extent that some manufacturers have now, in order that the public should be exploited as they are today.

He confessed to the idea of a “League of Nations” appealing to him very strongly – but this to be effective should include all nations, & thought that such a League the best means to avoid an economic war in the near future. On the whole a too hasty reversal of our pre-war policy would appear to be unnecessary & unwise, & the superplan, he considered, would be to continue as we were in our general policy with an open mind & details could be adjusted from time to time as reason & need arose. A spirited & animated discussion followed.

Dodeka Book Club minutes (D/EX2160/1/3)

The quality and price of “Government Beer”

The Dodeka Club talked about various matters to do with food and drink. The members were mostly associated with a local Congregational Church, hence the reference to some being deacons, who held a position of some responsibility. The government had just introduced legislation weakening the strength of beer, while increasing taxes on it.

The 287th meeting of the Dodeka was held at Penfold’s on Nov 2nd 1917.

In the early part of the evening some considerable amount of discussion took place with regard to the quality and price of “Government Beer”. The secretary notices that the Deacon members took an animated part, and it was finally described as “Arms & Legs”.

Despite the restrictions of the Food Controller and other difficulties, the host provided very excellent refreshments…

The host having stated that sufficient notice of the meeting had not been given for him to provide a paper, a discussion took place regarding Government Methods, more particularly with regard to the Sugar Ration.

Dodeka Book Club minutes (D/EX2160/1/3)

“Much abuse of the manpower of the nation”

The Dodeka Club discussed government inefficiency in putting people’s skills to the best use.

The 283rd meeting of the Dodeka was held at Baynes’ on April 13th 1917.

Much interest was shown in the early part of the evening in Morris’s recent experiences with burglars, the full account of which was heard by many for the first time.

After refreshments the host called on Morris for the paper.

Morris, after explaining that he had been unable to prepare a paper suggested as material for discussion, the two topics had been prominently before the public during recent weeks, namely “Man Power” and “National Service”. The secretary, after some thought, concluded that the best title for Morris’s remarks would be (with apologies to Dickens), “The Art of Circumlocution, or How not to do it”.

Many instances were given of Navy business methods. Orders being sent for confirmation from Reading to Winchester, Winchester to Salisbury, Salisbury to the War Office, and being received back via the same route, thus wasting much valuable time. Instances were given of skilled mechanics being put to road making and men off the land being put to the work of mechanics, such as painting, etc. it was concluded that there was much abuse of the manpower of the nation, and that the War Office had no direct methods of dealing with any business.

Dodeka Book Club minutes (D/EX2160/1/3)

“A great want of confidence in Politicians, the War Office and the judgments of Tribunals”

Members of Reading’s Dodeka Club discussed the thorny question of conscription. The evening’s host was considering whether it was time for him to join up voluntarily.

The 282nd meeting of the club was held at Goodenough’s on March 2nd, 1917.

… Gibbons introduced a friend, Lt de Villiers…

…After refreshments the host suggested as a commencement for discussion the question of “National Service”, and pointed out that he personally was requiring advice as to the advisability of volunteering. The experience gained after the Military Service Act and the Derby Scheme gave one a great want of confidence in Politicians, the War Office and the judgments of Tribunals. The host feeling great doubt in his mind as to whether justice would be done to the great body of business men in the country.

Penfold started the ball rolling in the discussion, by asking if members were liable to prosecution under the Defence of the Realm Regulations, should any decision be arrived at, a military representative being present. Some discussion then took place regarding the action of Tribunals, the necessity or otherwise of National Service, compulsion and reduction of the number of shopkeepers. A very pleasant evening was concluded with some submarine stories of a rather fishy nature and a pun relating to Bagged Dads by Gibbons.

Dodeka Book Club minutes (D/EX2160/1/3)

What will America do now?

The Dodeka Club of Reading discussed tentative peace proposals put forward by the Americans, which they thought naive.

The 281st meeting was held at Johnson’s on Feb 2nd 1917.

The host took for the subject of his paper “America and Peace”, the paper being suggested by President Wilson’s peace notes and speeches. The host devoted his paper chiefly to the first and sixth heads of the American President’s note.

1st. No victory to be claimed by either side.

6th. The Freedom of the Seas.

With regard to the first, he contended that victory was essential to the allies, & that Wilson was a visionary. That the greatest argument in favour of this view was the American Civil War between North and South. Only by victory could German Militarism be finally stopped.

Regarding the sixth, some difficulty was expressed as to the exact meaning of the Freedom of the Seas, if it meant a reduction of England’s fleet, this fleet was essential to the life of an island nation.

The host felt the value of his remarks were spoilt by Germany’s new methods of submarine warfare against neutrals, and the discussion was largely devoted to the question of America’s new position.

What will America do now?

Dodeka Book Club minutes (D/EX2160/1/3)

The brotherhood of man will be realised after the war

The Dodeka Club members in Reading debated the future of the country once peace were declared. Some were optimistic, others took the whole question less seriously.

The 280th meeting of the club was held at Barkas’s on Jan 5th 1917.

After refreshments an exceedingly suggestive and interesting paper was read by the host entitled:- “After the war. What?” The host after suggesting that very altered conditions must exist after this titanic struggle, proceeded to argue on evolutionary lines. Religion would be deepened and become more spiritual. Science would become more closely allied with trade and manufacture and research would be increasingly applied to both physical and psychical conditions so as to finally bridge the gulf between religion and science.

Social endeavour would be greatly helped by the men, who, having met on the battlefield, would realize the brotherhood of man and so lose the distrust between class and class. The colonies would unite with the mother country and form a great Federal Council of free peoples, the greatest the world has ever seen, for the uplifting and true happiness of the human race.

An active discussion took place after the paper, the tine varying from a note of great levity to one of seriousness. It was suggested, in the words of Kipling, that “Pay, pay, pay” would be the most likely answer to the title of the paper. After discussing such questions as Labour unsettlement, cooperation and division of profits, reform of the tariff and an Empire Parliament, the discussion turned to the problem of how soon men would have wings, which quickly put a termination to the proceedings.

Dodeka Book Club minutes (D/EX2160/1/3)

A ‘League of Peace’

The members of the Dodeka book club in Reading had a particularly spirited debate on the idea of a post-war league of nations.

The 278th meting of the club was held at Baynes’ on Nov 3, 1916.

The host opened a spirited discussion on a ‘League of Peace’, the meeting becoming so interested that it did not break up until past its proper hour.

Dodeka Book Club minutes (D/EX2160/1/3)

The Force of Right vs the Right of Force

A Reading book and discussion club tackled a deep philosophical question about war:

The 277th meeting of the club was held at Penfold’s on Oct 6th 1916…

A very interesting paper was read by the host, Contrasting the Force of Right with the Right of Force, especially emphasising the mistake of Germany in relying upon the latter. A discussion followed.

Dodeka Book Club minutes (D/EX2160/1/3)

More business methods needed in the armed forces

The First World war was the first war to use airpower. Members of the Dodeka Book Club in Reading discussed a speech by Lord Montagu (1866-1929) which advocated the combining of the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Flying Corps, run by Navy and Army respectively.

5 May 1916


Hore started a discussion by reading a speech on Aviation recently delivered by Lord Montagu & Beaulieu. As an outcome of much talk it was felt that more business methods were needed in the administration of our Services.

Dodeka Book Club minutes (D/EX2160/1/3)

What might bring the war to an end?

Members of the Dodeka Book Club in Reading discussed the factors which they hoped would bring an end to the war:

7 April 1916
The 274th meeting of the club was held at Lewis’s on April 7th, 1916.

Lewis introduced as discussion, “The end of the war”.

He suggested five different factors, each of which might lead to a finish, but wilily left the decision of the matter to the members.

His 5 points were:

Lack of men
An efficient blockade
Financial staying power
Internal dissension
A decisive naval engagement

Strange to relate, the members were unable to fix a definite date for the cessation of hostilities, so that the question still remains a matter of doubt.

Dodeka Book Club minutes (D/EX2160/1/3)

Trading with Germany through neutral countries

The Dodeka Club in Reading discussed the economics of the war.

The 271st meeting of the club was held at Broad’s on Friday evening, January 7th…

After refreshments Broad said he had not prepared a paper but thought it would be interesting to discuss the “Financial aspect of the war, and whether our position is as strong as represented.” It proved an interesting topic for debate – covering a wide field such as “Gold reserve”, “rate of exchange”, “Trading with Germany through neutral countries” and kept the members busy talking up to the time of leave taking, and the secretary regrets his inability, not being schooled in shorthand, to do justice to the various arguments.

Dodeka Club minutes (D/EX2160/1/3)

The Germans are a “rotten lot” and there is only one place for them

The Dodeka Club in Reading turned their minds to a post war world, and the thorny question of whether we should make friends with our enemy. The Dodekans had a very low opinion of Germany, as will be seen from the debate.

The 268th meeting was held at Gibbons’ on Friday October 1st, 1915…

After refreshments the evening passed quickly in discussing the subject introduced by the Host: “Ought we to trade with Germany after the war?”

In opening, Gibbons said that Germany, by the inhuman methods adopted by them in the conduct of the war, and the atrocities which have been proved up to the hilt against them, not only in Belgium but in other spheres of the war zone, had placed them outside the pale of civilised nations. Their military methods were rotten and their commercial methods, like the Military, were rotten also. As business men there were few to touch them for working long hours, and low pay, but they had no idea of the word “gentleman”, and a “debt of honour” was not understood in Germany. Their signature was worth nothing, as they sign agreements only to tear them up when it suited their purpose. In the words of the host, they were “a rotten lot” and he felt strongly against trading with Germany in the futures as in the past. In Soundy’s opinion it was not only for the sake of Belgium we entered into the war – Germany was building a big navy in competition to our own and catching our trade throughout the world, which facts spoke for themselves.

Lewis stated that if a German hates – as he hates us – he hates for ever, and we should be wrong to trade with Germany to assist them once again to build up their army and navy for aggressive purposes.
Goodenough could imagine the difference in the control of the seas if in German hands, to that practised by us where every flag had its “right of way”.

From the general discussion one could safely draw the conclusion that in the opinion of the members present there was only one place for the Germans.

Dodeka Club minutes (D/EX2160/1/3)