Seven headmasters saved from conscription (for the present)

With the implementation of conscription, additional pressure was placed on the educational system with teachers, ancillary staff and older students potentially at risk.

Higher Education Sub-committee


The Sub-committee have approved the postponement until after the war of the scholarship of Ernest H Austin, who has been called up for Military Service.

School Management Sub-committee


The Board of Education, by arrangement with the Army Council, have agreed to postpone the embodiment of seven Head Masters for the present. In the case of three Head Masters and one Assistant, who are not certified for general service, the Committee also understand that they will not be called up without further reference to the Board of Education.

By-Laws and Attendance Committee


The following have been called up for Military Service:
Mr E J Hale from 22 May
Mr E Hunt from 10 June
Mr M O Scown from 15 June…

The Sub-committee have made temporary arrangements for Mrs Scown to act as Attendance Officer for part of the Windsor District, and the remainder of her husband’s district has been assigned to the Easthampstead District.

Two other Officers of military age (Mr Edwards and Mr Barton), both of whom had attested under the Group System, have not yet been called up.

Berkshire County Council: Education sub-committee reports, 15 July 1916 (C/CL/C1/1/19)

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.

15 women placed on farms in Berkshire

The numbers of men who had joined the armed forces created vacancies it was hard to fill in schools and on farms. Vocational training for schoolchildren was almost wiped out. Meanwhile Reading University was at the forefront of training women to take the pace of absent men on local farms.

Report of Education Committee, 29 April 1916


The Chairman has attended a meeting called by the Lord Mayor at the Mansion House on 19 April for the purpose of considering a Scheme for systematic naval and military training of boys on voluntary lines.

On the suggestion of the Chairman, a small Sub-committee has been appointed to go into the matter and report to the Committee thereon and on any suggestions made by the Lord Mayor.

The Sub-committee appointed are as follows:
The Chairman of the Committee
The Vice-Chairman
The Principal of the Reading University College
with power to add to their number.

Higher Education Sub-committee report, 29 April 1916


H Humphries, a Pupil Teacher at the Roysse’s School, Abingdon, has enlisted although not yet 18 years of age, and the Sub-committee are in communication with the parent as to the payment of the fine under the terms of his agreement.

School Management Sub-committee report, 29 April 1916


The Sub-committee have decided that all members of the teaching staff on Military Service, including those enlisting after 6 November, shall be retained on the nominal teaching staff of their respective schools during the period of the war…


The Managers of Earley Schools have agreed to amalgamate their Infants’ Department with the Mixed School for he period of the war; and this was carried into effect on 1 April.


The Sub-committee have decided not to take steps to fill vacancies caused by the enlistment of manual instructors. The following Centres are now closed: Bourton, Faringdon, Hungerford, Crowthorne, and Wokingham. Those at Abingdon, Wallingford and Didcot will be closed when the Instructor is called up.

The Sub-committee have approved a class in gardening at Wokingham St Sebastian’s School. The proposed class at Holyport has been postponed owing to the depletion of the staff through enlistment.

Report of Agricultural Instruction Committee, 29 April 1916


The Berkshire Committee on Women and Farm Labour, to whom a grant has been made in aid of the training of women for farm work, has submitted a report for the quarter ended 31 March, 1916. The financial statement which accompanies the report shows that there is a balance in hand of £9.13s.0d out of the grant of £50 already made by the Council.

The Committee have, up to the present, placed 15 women on farms in Berkshire. Of this number, 8 were trained at the Reading College farm, and 3 received their instruction from the farmers by whom they are now employed. Four other women, whose services are already bespoken, are receiving instruction from farmers and will shortly be ready to commence work.

Reports of and to Berkshire Education Committee (C/CL/C1/1/19)

An experiment training women in light farmwork

Reading University pioneered the recruitment of women to work on farms, as the County Council’s Agricultural Organiser reported. However, he was unconvinced by proposals to settle Belgian refugees on a lavishly stocked smallholding.

On account of the members of the staff of the analytical department of the Faculty being absent on military duty, the College had had unfortunately to temporarily close this branch of the work….

The members of the Berkshire Agricultural Instruction Committee will be pleased to hear that an effort is being made by University College to assist the farmer in the difficulty of the scarcity of labour by training women in milking and other light farm work, and drafting them out to different farms. This work was started purely from an experimental standpoint. So far the venture has been justified, and to such an extent that the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries are taking a lively interest in it. Should the demand for the services of women for farm work increase it might become necessary to extend the facilities for training them, and it would appear that it is at this stage that the Berkshire Agricultural Instruction Committee could co-operate in the scheme, should such necessity arise…

I interviewed Sir Richard Paget, the Chairman of the above Committee, together with Monsieur de Meyer, the Belgian Agronome, in regard to the utilisation of families of refugees for the purpose of demonstrating Belgian intensive methods in this country. In brief I was informed that there were very few agricultural refugees in England, and the Committee desired to place no less than 15 families in one colony. This of course, apart from other considerations, is impossible on account of the necessary housing accommodation not being available. To satisfy the conditions laid down by the Refugee Committee in regard to even one family would seem to be too big an undertaking financially for the Berkshire Agricultural Instruction Committee. Should such a demonstration holding be attempted, it would be necessary to set aside approximately 8 acres of land equipped with suitable buildings for family and stock, livestock and implements. Manure and seed, and a subsistence allowance for the holder’s family would need to provided during the first year. Moreover, a portion of the land would be set aside for market garden purposes and would need to be equipped with suitable frames and steam pipes. In so far as one can judge at the present stage, heavy expenditure would appear to be necessary, and even supposing that such expenditure would rank for Government grant on the usual basis, it is doubtful whether the finances of the Berkshire Agricultural Instruction Committee alone, without other assistance, would permit of the suggestions as set out in Sir Richard Paget’s circular letter being adopted…

G S Bedford
Agricultural Organiser for Berkshire
University College, Reading
1st April 1915

Report of the Agricultural Organiser to BCC’s Agricultural Instruction Committee (C/CL/C1/1/18)

The National Relief Fund tackles the abnormal conditions caused by the war

The local authorities of Berkshire all responded to the likely economic impact of the war in a pre-Welfare State society. The government had sent out a circular urging councils to consider the distress likely to be caused by the war, and Berkshire was not slow to respond. A meeting convened by Sir Robert G C Mowbray, Chairman of BCC, was held at the Assize Courts, Reading, on Saturday August 15, 1914, at 11 am. The official minutes of the meeting record:

The following resolutions were unanimously adopted:
I. Moved by the Chairman, seconded by the Lord Lieutenant [J Herbert Benyon], That it is expedient to form, in accordance with the circular from the Local Government Board dated 8th August 1914, a Committee to deal with the abnormal conditions arising out of the war, and that the Committee be called “The National Relief Fund – Berkshire Committee”.
II. Moved by the Chairman, seconded by Mr H G Willink. That the National Relief Fund – Berkshire Committee consist of
The Lord Lieutenant
The Member of Parliament for the three County divisions and for the Borough of Windsor
The Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the County Council

The Chairman and Vice-Chairman of Quarter Sessions

The Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Berkshire Education Committee

The Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the following County Council Committees:
Finance Committee
Highways Committee
Public Health Committee

The Chairman and Vice-Chairman and one other representative appointed by the Berkshire Insurance Committee

The Mayors of Abingdon, Maidenhead, Newbury, Wallingford, Windsor and Wokingham

The Chairman of the following Rural District Councils:
Abingdon RDC
Bradfield RDC
Easthampstead RDC
Faringdon RDC
Hungerford RDC
Cookham RDC
Newbury RDC
Wallingford RDC
Wantage RDC
Windsor RDC
Wokingham RDC

The Chairmen of Boards of Guardians who are not Chairmen of District Councils, but who are resident in the County, viz Abingdon, Bradfield, Hungerford and Maidenhead

Two representatives of the Soldiers and Sailors Families Association together with not exceeding five women to be selected by the Committee

The Chief Constable of Hungerford

III. Moved by the Chairman, seconded by Sir R B D Acland, KC. That the Mayors of the Boroughs in the County and the Chairman of the Urban District Council of Wantage and the Chairmen of the Rural District Councils in the Countty, be requested to form local Committee to act in conjunction with the National Relief Fund – Berkshire Committee.

IV. Moved by the chairman, seconded by the Lord Lieutenant. That Mr Francis H Wright, Registrar of University College, Reading, be asked to act temporarily as Honorary Secretary of this Committee.

More detail is to be found in a report printed by the Reading Mercury. The local committees were charged with investigating economic conditions, and which businesses were likely to close.

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