“Profiteering seems to be the latest stunt”

The male friends of the Dodeka Club in Reading discussed what would be called spivs in the Second World War – people who abused the regulations to make money.

The 304th meeting of the Club was held at Cresswell’s on Friday 7th Nov 1919…

Cresswell then read a short paper on Profiteering. “Profiteering”, he said, “seems to be the latest stunt, & like most other varieties of this breed is the victim of exaggeration. No doubt in many cases advantage has been taken of the situation & too high prices have been charged, but when one looks at reports of the Tribunals the trivial results are far from convincing that the real culprits have been found.”

He referred to the unfairness of selecting one particular article from a varied stock & saying only so much profit should be charged upon it, when other goods in the same shop do not bear the same profit as the tribunal decides is reasonable for the article complained about, & stated that from some of the decisions of the tribunals, which have been published, it is doubtful whether they are sufficiently alive to what is really a fair profit as affecting a certain article or a certain trade to appreciate the difference in articles & trades…

Cresswell concluded his remarks with the belief that the chief way of bringing about lower prices will be by increased production & in consequence more competition based on a fair living profit will right many of the evils existing today.

An interesting and at times warm discussion followed. It was apparent that members were fully of the opinion that profiteers do exist even if there are none amongst the members of the Club.

Dodeka Club minutes (D/EX2160/1/4)

Persons who fail to apply for a ration card when required to do so, will find themselves unable to obtain regular supplies of food

Food was still in short supply, and there was a stern warning to anyone who mislaid their ration books.

We are warned by the Ministry of Food that we must carefully preserve the grey reference leaf (leaf 8A) of the present ration book. We shall be required to return the grey reference book to our Food Office when called upon to do so. The Food Office in each district will announce when the reference leaf should be sent in. then ration cards will be issued to us through the local Food Office to replace the present ration book. The card will contain spaces for the name and address of the holder, and the names and addresses of his retailers, and will have three detachable counterfoils for meat, butter and sugar which the older will be required to give to the retailers with whom he wishes to deal during the autumn and winter.

Any person who has lost his ration book should immediately inform his local Food Office. He must not wait until the Food Office ask him to produce his reference leaf; but he must inform them at once that he has lost the book, otherwise he will be unable to apply for one of the ration cards when required to do so. Re-registration will take place at the date in September to be announced later. Persons who fail to apply for a ration card when required to do so, and who are therefore unable to register at the required time, will find themselves unable to obtain regular supplies when distribution of rationed food on the new basis begins.

Remenham parish magazine, September 1919 (D/P99/28A/5)

“The case was not one in which the distress was due to the war”

The Berkshire branch of the National Relief Fund was still accepting applications for assistance from people whose lives had been disrupted by the war.

17 May 1919

The Chairman read the following report on cases dealt with since the last meeting [on 24 June 1918].

Mrs Coleman

Mrs Coleman was interviewed by the Chairman and Mr Bate as requested by the Committee at their last meeting and it was ultimately decided that Mrs Coleman should take a course of Business Training with Mr Taylor, Station Road, Reading. A sum of £30 was paid to Mrs Coleman in September, to cover the cost of the preliminary training and maintenance during such time, and in October a further sum of £37 was paid over. In January 1919, Mrs Coleman asked that a further £20 might be remitted to her and this was agreed to and paid over by the Government Committee. Mrs Coleman has now completed the training and is finding some difficulty in securing a situation, and on the 26th April asked for a further sum of £30 out of the balance of £163 now remaining. This application has been forwarded to the Government Committee before sanctioning any further payment of the grant.

Mrs Willis

In accordance with the instructions of the Committee at the last meeting, the case of Mrs Willis was referred to the Government Committee with a suggestion that a grant of a capital sum might be made in place of the monthly payment. The Government Committee were of opinion that the monthly grants should continue and Mrs Willis has continued to receive £2.2.0 per month. Whilst this grant continues it is doubtful if Mrs Willis will make any effort to render herself self-supporting.

Mrs Keefe

An application for assistance was received in January, 1919, from Mrs Keefe, 44 London Road, Newbury. Particulars were obtained and it appeared that the applicant was a widow who had had a small General Shop, but owing to heart trouble and difficulties due to the various rationing orders (mainly the former), she had given up the shop and taken lodgers. Subsequently the heart trouble increased and in consequence she was unable to work. These particulars were forwarded to the Government Committee who were of opinion that the case was not one in which the distress was due to the war and therefore not one which could properly be dealt with by this Committee.

Mr E E Bishton

Mr E E Bishton, Florence Cottage, New Road, Ascot, on the recommendation of the Repatriated British Civilian Help Committee, applied to this Committee for a grant towards the purchase of necessary clothing, which he required before he could commence work. Mr Bishton was interviewed by the Chairman and the Secretary, who authorised the supply of clothing to the value of £10.10.6, and also a temporary grant of £4.

In the case of Mrs Coleman it was resolved:

To recommend to the Government Committee that an immediate payment of £30 be made as asked for and that the balance of £133 with interest be retained for the present.

On the suggestion of Mr Slade it was agreed that the allowance to Mrs Willis should be continued for a further period of 3 months to give her the opportunity of finding suitable work.

If at the end of this period it was found that she would require a certain capital sum to enable her to set up in business, the Committee would consider the advisability of recommending the case to the Government Committee for a capital grant.

The action of the Chairman in the case of Mr Bishton was confirmed.

National Relief Fund: Berkshire Committee minutes (C/CL/C6/4/1)

Workhouse food

Workhouses were going back to normal now that the food supply was better.

17th February 1919

The following letters were read and ordered to be filed for future reference viz:-

1. From the Local Government Board (1) with reference to the rationing scheme and stating that it had been decided that Poor Law Authorities might now revert to the issue of the dietary tables in force before the introduction of rationing…


Minutes of Abingdon Board of Guardians (G/A1/33)

Discontinuing oatmeal

The food supply was now getting back to normal.

11th February 1919
re Dietary

Letter from the Local Government Board that the Guardians might now revert to the use of the dietary tables in use before the introduction of rationing.

Letter from the Matron re dietary suggesting the reverting to the old scale of bread for Breakfast and supper only, discontinuing oatmeal, the present allowance of bread for dinner to remain, and the Guardian approved the suggestion.

Faringdon Board of Guardians minutes (G/F1/44)

“The national health is at a low ebb, on account of war rations, & the influenza epidemic”

Four years of war shortages and the flu had combined to make a feeble nation.

30 January 1919

Notice sent out with regard to regulations for fasting in Lent, which are to be modified, as Mother has had it impressed on her by medical authority that the national health is at a low ebb, on account of war rations, & the influenza epidemic.

Annals of the Community of St John Baptist, Clewer (D/EX1675/1/14/5)

“It is even yet difficult to realize that the war is over”

Bracknell was starting to come to terms with the end of the war.

It is even yet difficult to realize that the war is over, and though, thank God, the fighting is ended we must remember that, for a long time to come, we shall have to keep to the food regulations, and the coupon books, and practice economy and war saving in every possible way.

One more name has been added to the Roll of Honour, Sergt. Gordon Court, who was killed on November 4th, just a week before the Armistice was signed. He had much fighting in the earlier part of the War, and then after some time of service in England he went out again a few weeks ago. It seems likely that his will be the last name to be added from this Parish, to the gallant company of those who have laid down their lives in the great cause. Fifty-seven names are on our list of fallen. We hope that we shall be able to erect some permeant memorial which will worthily preserve their memory.

We congratulate Sergeant Percy Smith, of the R.A.M.C., on the Military Medal which has been awarded to him.

In common with the rest of the country we have been visited with the plague of influenza, and it has caused the death of several persons in Bracknell, and its immediate neighbourhood.

Bracknell section of Winkfield and Warfield Magazine, December 1918 (D/P 151/28A/10/10)

‘Rather a rag after my “flue”’

The influenza epidemic meant that the toll of death was far from over.

22 November 1918

Submarines arriving at Harwich.

Have 10 gallons petrol a month for officers.

Felt rather a rag after my “flue”. Heard Fred Bennett died of it night before at Cliveden. He caught it at his brother Charlie’s funeral 10 days before. Fred in RFC looked so nice & handsome.

Canadians left 9.45. Captain C[arswell]. with them to Maidenhead.

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

Heavy demands on women’s leisure time

This would be one of the shortest hiatuses in civilian life of the war.

WOMEN’S OWN

The committee of the Women’s Own have very reluctantly come to the conclusion that it will be best to suspend the Wednesday afternoon meetings till after the war. So many of the members are doing extra work of various kinds that the numbers we are able to welcome seem hardly sufficient to justify the cost of heating the room in these days of rationing. We hope the women will soon be released from these heavy demands upon their leisure, and be in a position to rejoin us.

Tilehurst Congregational Church section of Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine (D/N11/12/1/14)

The distribution of meat to the public would be jeopardised if more butchers were called up

There were concerns that if butchers were called up no one would be left to prepare meats for sale to the public.

30th September 1918

The Committee nominated the Mayor as the representative of the Food Control Committee on the Committee recently formed to deal with applications for exemption before the Local Tribunal in respect of men engaged in food production and distribution. A deputation from the Butchers’ Committee attended the Committee, and submitted a statement showing that the number of slaughtermen and shopmen employed by the butchers in 1914 was 43; that since that date four butchers’ businesses have been closed down, throwing additional work upon the remaining butchers; and that the present staffs consisted of 14 employees which might, if exemption was not granted in certain cases, be reduced to ten; that the total number of registered customers served by the butchers was 21,474. The deputation stated that if the present staff was further depleted a very serious position was in sight and the distribution of meat to the public would be jeopardised. The Committee instructed the Executive Officer to send a copy of the statement laid before them to the Divisional Ministry of Food and to state that the Committee viewed the position with very considerable apprehension, and requesting that no time should be lost by the Ministry in taking up the matter with the Minister of National Service with a view of a stop being put to any further depletion of the present butchers’ staffs; and further that the Food Control Committee would not accept any responsibility for anything that might happen with regard to the preparation or distribution of meat to the public if there was any further depletion in the butchers’ present staffs.

The Committee approved applications by Mr Keen and Mr Love for permission to sell cooked meats and pies, which complied with the regulations, without coupons.

The Milk Winter Prices Order, 1918, was further considered and the Committee decided that the maximum retail price of milk delivered to purchasers for the months October to April next should be at a flat rate of 3s per gallon, and the Executive Officer was requested to notify the Ministry accordingly.

Newbury Borough Council Food Control Committee minutes (N/AC1/2/9)

Winter will come without fail and coal is urgently wanted

Coal was in ever shorter supply.

Coal

We have summer now, but winter will come without fail. And we are asked to use as little coal and coke as we can. Indeed, by the recent Coal Order, we are to be allowed considerably less than the amount which we have been in the habit of consuming. Nor is it at all certain that we shall be able to get even as much as the allowed amount, owing to shortage of production. Coal is urgently wanted in the War for our ships, for our troops’ comfort and conveyance at home and abroad, and for munition work in all its many forms. More than this, it is wanted for our Allies’ use in similar ways: and they will have to face the cold with a far shorter supply than ourselves. We must all, therefore, make provision for the winter in every other way we can. Fortunately, the devastation of the beautiful woods, now being affected in order to supply timber for War purposes, has its good side: and there are excellent opportunities of storing up large supplies of wood. We strongly advise everybody to do this as far as they possibly can. Those who can get peat will be wise to do so. And as to coal and coke, the Coal Controller urges all people with sufficient storage to get their full supplies as early as may be, that those who can only store small quantities, and must get coal often, and at short notice, may not be hindered in time of need.

Local Fuel Overseer

The parish may feel gratified that the Bradfield District Local Authority has had to come to Bradfield for its Fuel Overseer, and that Mr F T Wenman has been able to see his way to accept this important appointment. He has already held many posts, and rendered good service in the parish and district…. We wish him success in his new duties; and are sure that he will do his best to secure it.

Burghfield parish magazine, September 1918 (D/EX725/4)

Churches are to be rationed

Churches feared a chilly winter to come.

THE COAL SHORTAGE.

The shortage of coal may possibly be a serious matter for places of worship this winter. We are distinctly told that Churches are to be rationed, though the method has not yet been made public. Several months ago the deacons appointed a sub-committee to consider the question of our fuel supply and economy, and certain alterations in the method of heating our premises are recommended. When our Church was first erected no provision for heating was made; apparently in those days all places of worship were left at the mercy of the seasons, our fathers being content, it would seem, with an extra coat! But in these days a cold Church would be left empty. Hugh Bourne, one of the Primitive Methodist founders, on a freezing morning when then the chapel stove refused to draw, observed, “I never knew a sinner yet who was converted with cold feet.”

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, September 1918 (D/N33/12/1/5)

Sugar allowed for jam

The new sugar ration encouraged people to make jam.

19th September 1918
We got 12lb of sugar allowed us for jam to-day so wife went up to Burderop this afternoon and got about 5lb of blackberries.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

A race with winter

Coal shortages were a major challenge to the nation.

The Vicar’s Notes

The Coal Crisis (Appeal to Clergymen)

In view of the serious coal shortage, Sir Guy Calthorp, the Coal Controller, makes the following urgent appeal to clergymen of all denominations.

“ The country is faced with a serious coal shortage, and I appeal to clergymen of all denominations to do their utmost to bring the facts to the notice of their parishioners and congregations, with the view to enlisting the services of every man, woman and child in this country in one united effort to save coal.

“Coal is the key industry in Great Britain and the allies, and the outlook today is very much more serious than is generally realized. The Causes of the shortage are:-

1. The call to the Colours of 75,000 miners to meet the peril of the German offensive in March; and

2. The almost complete stoppage of the mines in Northern France as a direct result of the German advances in the west.

“Coal is the source of power; it makes gas, electricity and steam. It
drives the ships and drives the trains.

“The coal of England must be shared with our Allies – France, Italy and America. It helps to carry the American Army to France. It helps them to move their army while in France and it keeps their Soldiers warm.

“It is sold to neutrals to buy shipping to bring American troops over in exchange for food which would otherwise go to Germany.

“Coal is the source of power wanted to end the war. Coal burnt in a house is excess of absolute need is power wasted. It is, therefore, the duty of everyone to save coal, because to save coal is to save lives.

“Except among the poorest houses, there will not be a dwelling in Great Britain this winter with as much coal as it would like to burn. Self-denial is called for.

“England to-day is short of 36,000,000 tons of coal. By the system of household rationing we hope to save 9,000,000 tons of coal.

“Twenty-seven million tons, therefore, remain still to be found. This deficit can be reduced not made good only if miners get more coal and if householders use less than their ration. Even then the supplies of coal to industrial works will be short.

“This will mean that the woollen manufacturers, pottery manufacturer’s fabric dyers, bleachers, and others may have their business seriously curtailed, and their workpeople consequently must suffer.

“Notwithstanding economies already made in these directions, we are still on the danger line, and the facts cannot be too insistently and too often brought to the notice of the people of this country.

“The stocks of our munition works are being eaten into, gas and electric companies are crying for coal to build up their stocks against the winter months. These stocks are not being accumulated at the present time; they are being drawn upon, and we have not been able to fulfil our coal obligations to our Allies.

“The miners’ leaders have promised to do their utmost to induce the men to increase the output, and the public are being asked to do their part in reducing the consumption of coal, coke, gas and electricity to a minimum.

“It is a race with winter. The miners and mine managers and owners can help the country to win through.

“Every consumer should try to manage on three-quarters of his ration. The quarter saved will help to keep our brave soldiers warm.”

(Signed) Guy Calthrop,
10th September,1918. Controller of Coal Mines.

Reading St Mary parish magazine, October 1918 (D/P98/28A/13)

Internees allowed to purchase anything that can be purchased by ordinary outside people

A series of exchanges about food supplies at Reading Prison shows how internees could supplement the official rations.

30 July 1918
As bacon is now obtainable without coupons, some of the interned prisoners are asking if they may buy some, if they can get it.
Instructions requested please.
C M Morgan
Gov

Please state what articles of diet the Internees are permitted to purchase & whether there is any limit in quantity.
OFNT
6-8.18

They are allowed to purchase anything that can be purchased by ordinary outside people – except extra cereals, ie cake, biscuits; and their jam purchase is limited to 8 oz per head per week (in addition to what is issued to them).
C M Morgan
Gov
8/8/18

This may be permitted if it can be obtained locally and does not interfere with the supplies available for the general population in the neighbourhood.
OFNT
13/8/18

Reading Prison [Place of Internment] letter book (P/RP1/8/2/1)