Peace in a fortnight

The peace negotiations were ongoing. J H Thomas was the MP for Derby.

18 March 1919

Lloyd George begged to stay in Paris for Peace Conference, & have peace in fortnight. Labour member Mr Thomas flew over to consult him!

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/9)

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The agony and sorrow and sacrifice through which we have passed

The Rector of Remenham had strong views about our defeated enemy, and about domestic politics.

Rector’s letter

Since I wrote last month events connected with the War have moved with startling, dramatic rapidity. Bulgaria, Turkey, Austria, had collapsed, and then on November 11 Germany, the last of our enemies and the worst, whose conduct has been stained with iniquity and brutality and loathsome disregard of the obligations of honourable warfare, was overwhelmed. And now hostilities have ceased, and we breathe freely once again. We trust that, when the actual terms of Peace are settled, the wrongdoers will be adequately and justly punished; and that the foundations of righteousness may be firmly laid among the nations of Europe. On Sunday November 17, we held our Thanksgiving Services to acknowledge the good hand of God upon us, and, while our hearts were lifted up to him in profound gratitude, the agony and sorrow and sacrifice through which we have passed solemnised and, I believe, hallowed our worship.

The country on December 14 will be faced with the responsibility of a general election, and for the first time women will have the parliamentary vote. Let us pray that they may exercise it wisely, and I believe they will. The present Coalition Government, composed of Unionists and Liberals, will appeal to the nation for a fresh mandate to empower them if returned to office, to negotiate the terms of Peace, and, after Peace, to grapple with the grave problems of reconstruction that await solution. Old party divisions will for this election be put aside, and the Government will ask the country to support the united Coalition. The forces opposed to them, as far as I can judge, will be independent Labour and Socialism, and as their interests are confessedly sectional, they are not likely to safeguard the well-being of the nation, at this critical juncture.


Remenham parish magazine, December 1918 (D/P99/28A/4)

Free to leave internment

The Cusden brothers from Reading had spent the entire war cooped up in a German internment camp. Now they were free. Albert was interested in the revolutionary movement and headed for a day in Berlin; back home he would become a member of the Labour Party, and 30 years later his wife Phoebe, as mayor of Reading, would welcome German children from war torn Dusseldorf to the town.

Spandau-Ruhleben 21 November 1918

Der hier internierte
A. E. Cusden & R. G. Arthur
Ist heute aus dem Englanderlager Ruhleben nach Berlin von neun bis sechs Uhr nachmittags beurlaubt worden.

Der Kommandant [signature]
Feldwebelleutnant

Der Soldatenrat

Pass for Albert and a friend to leave the camp at Ruhleben (D/EX1485/4/6)

Down with Capitalism, Militarism, and War!

Advertisements for local left wing parties reveal a lesser known aspect to local life including attitudes to the war.

The Independent Labour Party
is an International Socialist Party. Down with Capitalism, Militarism, and War! Up with Socialism and the Brotherhood of all nations!

National Socialist Party, Reading branch.

All unattached SOCIALISTS are invited to join the above branch, the members of which recognise the necessity of the success of the Allied Forces in the present struggle to ensure the early realisation of Democracy and Socialism.

British Socialist Party
is opposed to Imperialism, Capitalism, and war, and is working for an immediate peoples’ peace.

The Voice of Labour Is like one crying in the wilderness. It is crying out against High Prices: it is crying out for more wages by which to pay the high prices: it is crying out against the people who are making the prices high. These people do not heed the cry, they meet the demand for more wages then just put a little more on the goods than they have paid in extra wages.

Give up crying out and do something!

The people must –

Control raw material.
Control production.
Control prices,

For the benefit of the whole community.

The only way – join the Co-Op.
The Stores that are owned and controlled by the Members, and do your duty.

The National Federation of Discharged and Demobilised Sailors and Soldiers
125 Friar Street

The Reading Branch, in conjunction with many others, is demanding that the Government shall increase the separation allowance to soldiers’ and sailors’ wives and their dependants owing to the increased cost of living; also that discharged men should be more fully represented on Pension Committees and other bodies dealing with such matters. Lord Rhondda on his death-bed sent this message to the Natioanl Baby Week. “The care of the children is a sacred duty.” How can the wives left at home to keep the home fires burning feed and clothe the babies on the present miserable allowance? We want all discharged men to join us to help us in this good work. Also to wake up the Pensions Ministry. A member speaking in the House of Commons said, “There are 2000 clerks at Chelsea dealing with 12000 pension cases weekly. That means one case per day for each clerk, yet it often takes twelve to fourteen months to get a man’s case settled.” Come along to help us to get a move on.

The Reading Worker: The Official Journal of Organised Labour in Reading and District, no. 21, September 1918 (D/EX1485/10/1/2)

“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)

Playing at soldiers

Berkshire Education Committee was interested in national proposals for a scheme to train teenage boys not yet old enough to join the armed forces. A committee comprising councillor and chair of the committee, H G Willink and Messrs Mansfield and Childs of Reading University reported back. Their main concern was that the men most suitable for running such a programme were away at war, but they also felt that younger boys should not be militarised. Another big issue was the connection between social class and officer status.

Report of Cadet Training Sub-committee to the Education Committee

First report of the Special Sub-committee appointed on 29 April 1916 by the Berks Education Committee to consider the Lord Mayor of London’s “Scheme for the National Organisation of Cadet Training”.

We have met and considered this Scheme; and have also had before us a detailed Scheme of the Essex Education Committee “for the formation and organisation of Cadet Units”.

While not prepared to recommend either Scheme in its entirety, for reasons which will appear, we desire to express our appreciation of the aim underlying both, and to state that in our opinion there is need for some well-considered system by which lads below 18 years of age may not only gain the benefits of discipline but may also undergo a training which will exercise and develop their intelligence. We are convinced that this is essential if the youth of the country is to be adequately prepared either for future naval or military service or to be efficient and useful citizens of the Empire.

The Lord Mayor’s proposals fall under two heads, viz:

1. The establishment of a “National Cadet Council”, with certain relations to other authorities and with a quasi-subordinate system of City and County Cadet Committees…

2. The early introduction of a uniform system of training, upon lines following generally those of the Australian Cadet Scheme (which is established by law) but on a voluntary instead of a compulsory basis.

Under such a Scheme, lads above elementary school age and under 18 would be organised as Senior Cadets, who would receive a minimum of training in Physical Drill, Company (and some Battalion) Drill, Field Training, and Musketry. Boys from 12 to (say) 14, or Junior Cadets, would undergo a training which could only be called military in the sense of being preparation for military work. It would consist of Physical Exercises and Marching Drill, together with any two of the following: Miniature Rifle Shooting, Swimming, Organised Games, and First Aid. Senior Cadets to have a simple uniform, but Juniors none.
As regards the relations with existing formations – OT Corps would not come under the Council at all, the Boys’ Brigade, Church Lads’ Brigade, and YMCA, as well as the Boy Scouts, would remain separate, but close communication between them and the Council would be encouraged; and no objection is raised to lads or boys passing to or from them and Cadet Units, or even belonging to one of them and to a Cadet Unit also.

Note: The Essex Scheme, which contains no reference to the Lord Mayor’s proposals, invites “the co-operation of District Educational Sub-committees, School Managers, Teachers and others, with a view to the formation of Cadet Units”, the membership age to be from that of leaving the elementary school till 19, but no admission after 18….

The Scheme … lays down an elaborate curriculum of instruction, to be given in connection with the Evening Continuation Schools…

One further point may be noted. The Australian lad of 14 receives a “Record Book” in which his military history is entered up to the age of 26 years, and individuals unable to produce a Record Book with a clean service sheet are debarred from any service under the Commonwealth Government. There would, however, appear to be insuperable difficulties in the way of including this valuable feature in any voluntary Scheme, at any rate before the system was in practically universal operation.

Taking the Scheme as its stands, we are of opinion, in regard to the first “head”, that the establishment of some such central consultative body as the proposed “National Cadet Council” is desirable, provided that its functions are in the first instance confined to inquiry, ventilation and discussion; and do not extend to an immediate setting-up of a definite new Scheme, still less to its actual bringing into action.

We give due weight to the objection that the absence on active service, or the employment on other war work at home or abroad, of so many of the men best fitted to construct or introduce a system of such importance is a serious obstacle to arriving at a satisfactory decision upon the best lines for it. But we also feel strongly that the present united spirit of patriotism in public opinion ought to be utilized before reaction sets in, as may very likely be the case when the end of the war comes into sight…

The important point to bear in mind is that no new Scheme can be satisfactory which will not fit into a general plan for National Training for Home Defence, or which will in any way prejudge the question whether such training is to be on a voluntary or compulsory basis….

There are certain points which to us seem fairly clear, and which may be worth stating, if only to elicit discussion.
(more…)

Air raids teaching the country we are at war

The Bishop of Peterborough wrote to his son Ralph with some thoughts on domestic politics, as well as the stoic response of the British to air raids.

The Place
Peterborough
Feb. 15 [1916]

My darling Ralph,

We are all right here, in spite of Zeps, which have been busy enough everywhere, & have done a certain amount of damage – & killed unoffending people – but it is a good thing in one way, as it is really beginning to teach “the country” (& by that I mean the country-people) that “we are at war”. But the British public take the “raids” with calm, brave endurance, & disappoint the Huns by not shewing any terror!

You seem to have plenty to fill your time, & it must all be most interesting to you, & I wonder what the next move will be. They say that Kitchener has come back from the front with new hopes for a less prolongation of the war, than the three years that he gave it at the beginning. But we must not have “peace at any price” & that is the danger. There is a growing feeling that Sir E. Grey has done his work & ought to “go”, & that he & Askwith … & Haldane are the “traitors” who should be watched! So the Labour Party say – & the politicians maiming the force of the fleet, & letting contraband through Holland & Denmark to Germany, deserve to be shewn up & checked. This money-grubbing has not been chocked [sic] up yet & will take much to kill it – and so we go muddling on.

I am very sorry your dear old General Callwell has been sent off to Russia, as I fear our letters to you will probably miss the “bag”, now he has gone…

You will have heard of poor Ivar Campbell’s death. Sybil is dreadfully cut up. Pum [Lady Mary] was with her yesterday, & I saw her last week. She was so entirely devoted to Ivar, & feels her life “quite empty” now he has gone.

Meg is very anxious about Jim, & the loss of the “Arethusa” is a great shock, & a real loss – a mine did it – & ten lives lost….

Letter from E C Glyn to his son Ralph (D/EGL/C2/3)