“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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“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)

A war bonus for carters

Another group of workers got paid extra during the war.

National Union of Vehicle Workers

We have to report further progress, the carters of the town and district having been granted a further 5 s per week war bonus, with an extra penny per hour overtime, which was paid from December 8.

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

“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)

Ashamed to be connected with strikers

Lockinge-born William Hallam, living and working in Swindon, felt strikers and trade unionists were behaving in an unpatriotic way.

20th May 1917

There was a Trade Union demonstration and procession round the Town. I left it severely alone. Thousands of our T.U. men are out on strike in different parts of the country and as I told some of our fellows I should be ashamed to be seen in anyway connected with them by young fellows in khaki who have come from all parts of our Colonies to fight for us; for hundreds come in every Sat & Sun from Draycott Camp. Australians, New Zealanders & Canadians.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

Unfit for peace

Maysie Wynne-Finch wrote to her brother Ralph Glyn to tell him of her joy at having her soldier husband home from the Front – and the excitement of experiencing air raids.

Sep.10/15
Cliffe Close
Highcliffe
Hants

My darling R.

…I am very sorry it’s so long since I wrote, I missed one mail & then last week I was hopeless as John got his week’s leave. Oh it was heavenly, only I didn’t know time could go so quick. I got a wire the 31st and he cane on Wed – no time for me to meet him in London. To my sorrow he caught a 5 a.m. train from Euston, having arrived 2.30 a.m. so he didn’t waste much time. The Parents fled as if we were plague struck. However they came here so are more than happy. Meg [her sister] has been splendid & fitted them in. John went back Wed evening & Meg & I came here that night. Addy is an angel & I am with her. Somehow I couldn’t face going straight back home. I am going on the 18th I think.

We are having great Zep days. On Tuesday we were just turning in when there was a noise & John said it was a gun – then we heard another & fetched Reg. We saw nothing & heard only a few more distant shots. It turned out they’d been over Kennnington. They destroyed some houses in the Old Kent Road. Fire engines were dashing about all night. Then Wed night seems to have been more exciting. There were 3 Zeps & everyone saw them for about 10 minutes, as our searchlights got them. Lord Colville writes to Addy & says for 10 minutes the sound of bursting bombs & guns was terrific – & they did a lot of damage – 15 people were killed by one bomb hitting a motor bus in the City. They caused several fires & one very large one close to the Bank. I suppose we shall have a spell of the devils for a bit. I wish we could catch them. So long as they don’t get our munition works it won’t matter much.

Dear old Sir Edward Goschen was here yesterday. We hadn’t met since Berlin. He has taken a house here. He brought word of these Russian successes in Galicia, he also said he heard on good authority that the Russians would be able to make an offensive on less than a month, & that their immediate reserve was a [division?] now ready. In fact he was so cheering I can’t believe him! Everyone seems to think we are going to make a big move in the west now at once. I suppose we ought & shall. John expected it. Meantime the new Guards Div. are still right back – not formed even, apparently they have no guns yet even. But that is probably not true & they are sure to be in any push, if there is one.

You seem to be fairly “in it” now. Your story of Coxson is priceless. How he must hate it. I wish your news was better – it must be so sickening for you all – especially seeing the awful price we paid & without the result. Now one wonders so what next. There seems precious little light anywhere just now. Every day I am getting more convinced there is going to be no big Fleet action, aren’t you? I’m afraid the Russians didn’t destroy the Nolke, but anyhow the Huns are properly taken on evidently.

I expect you’ll be sad about the Grand Duke. He wouldn’t change his C of Staff so was told he must or go with his own man, so he went. That’s the yarn I heard from Edmund Charteris, & he generally knows the right of things…

There has been great excitement at Cefre over these submarine [illegible] glass balls which are being washed ashore. At least that’s what they are said to be. They caught a submarine string on the sand of some Tripper beach in Anglesey the other day! 57 is said to be the number of Fritz’s we’ve now disposed of. Not too bad.

That Trades Union decision about National Service was pretty rotten, it shows how utterly unfit we still are for peace & how little better a year of war has made us. Dreadful. These boys here are splendid…

John has brought home a beautiful specimen of a rifle [bomb crossed through] grenade thing. They must be the devil.

Bless you darling. Take care of yourself…

Your ever loving
Maysie

Letter from Maysie Wynne-Finch to her brother Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/2)