“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)

Advertisements

“The imperfect supervision of the weak-minded, which has been one of the consequences of the War, may lead to a great national disaster”

Attitudes towards people with learning difficulties 100 years ago may seem uncomfortable today.

Report of Mental Deficiency Act Committee, 12 April 1919

The committee have received an important circular from the Board of Control, dated 8th March 1919, from which the following paragraphs are extracted:
“…
The Mental Deficiency Act had only been in operation for a few months when the outbreak of War and the concentration of the national energies and resources on War activities seriously hampered its administration. It is now of the first importance that full effect shall be given to its provisions….

The demobilisation of the Army and the return of industry to its normal course will bring serious dangers to light. So far as males are concerned, the majority of the mentally unfit have, during the War, been left amongst the general population, or have been discharged to civil life after a brief Army experience, as unfit to stand the strains of War. A fair percentage of these are congenital defectives whose potentialities for reproduction are unimpaired, and whose inability to perform the duties of parenthood properly is admitted. For this reason, and also as a precaution against the possible risk of transmission to their progeny of the parental defect, every effort should be made to deal promptly with such of them as become liable to be dealt with under the Mental Deficiency Act. The necessity for the existence of adequate measures for the protection of young defective women, on demobilisation, is obvious. Many such, owing to the present scarcity of labour, are now employed, but they will be the first to receive discharge, and the first to be thrown on their own resources, when more efficient labour is available, and the demand for female employment is reduced.

There is unfortunately no doubt that the imperfect supervision of the weak-minded, which has been one of the consequences of the War, has resulted in a substantial increase of venereal disease among the population, and that the provision of effective control is an essential and urgent step needed to avert a great national disaster…

Berkshire County Council minutes (C/CL/C1/1/22)

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)

A resignation at the Berkshire National Relief Fund

Changes were afoot at the Berkshire Committee of the National Relief Fund, which made small grants to individuals who were in reduced circumstances due to the war.

9 February 1918

The following letter from Mr F H Wright resigning his position as Hon. Secretary was read:

Jan. 12th 1918

Dear Sir Reginald

I think the time has arrived when I should resign the Secretaryship of the Berkshire National Relief Fund. You may remember that I undertook this Secretaryship at the pressing request of Sir Robert Mowbray when the war broke out in August 1914, and that I devoted the latter part of my summer vacation to the organization of that work. when I undertook the work, it was on the understanding that I might not be able to help after the College Term began, but the invaluable assistance rendered me by the Assistant Secretary, Miss Gladys Pott, enabled me to retain the nominal Secretaryship so long as Miss Pott was Assistant Secretary.

As you know, Miss Pott had to resign last year and inasmuch as there is no room available at the Shire Hall, where all the books and papers referring to the Fund are kept, it would appear to be better for the Secretaryship to be taken over by one of the County Officials and I am given to understand that Mr Chambers would be willing to undertake the work.

Believe me to remain
Yours faithfully
(Signed) Francis H Wright

Registrar

Resolved: That the resignation be accepted with regret and that the Hon. Secretary be instructed to write to Mr Wright expressing the great appreciation felt by the Committee for all that he had done in organising and carrying on the work of the Committee.


Correspondence from the Foreign Office, the Government Committee and Mr Aldridge of Spencers Wood, relative to the case of Mrs Louise Swain, was read.

The Secretary reported that the Chairman and Mr Benyon had authorised a temporary allowance of 10/- a week for one month until Mrs Swain could obtain work.

A further letter was read from Mrs Swain stating she had been unable to obtain work, and after Mrs Swain had attended before the Committee, it was resolved that the allowance of 10/- should be continued to her for a further five weeks.

Application for a grant for the purpose of ploughing and fencing land at Lambourn was received from Mr E C Jennings of the Sheep Drove, Lambourn, and after his letter had been read and considered the application was refused.

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

Training is given free to disabled soldiers who are unable to take up their old employment

Big problems were faced by former soldiers who had been sent home because they were no longer medically fit to serve, often because they were now permanently disabled. The Burghfield parish magazine offered advice:

Discharged Soldiers and War Pensions

A man’s discharge dates, not from the day he leaves the colours, but from three weeks afterwards, ie. from three weeks after his return home. For those three weeks he should receive his pay, also a gratuity of £1 and an allowance of 17/6 in place of plain clothes, and also any arrears that are due to him. If a wife or dependant is receiving an allowance it should be continued, and the ring paper not withdrawn, for two weeks after the expiration of the three weeks. if the pension which is due after discharge is not paid, application should be made to the War Pensions Sub-committee, either through Mr and Mrs Willink, who are serving on it, or to the Secretary of that Sub-committee at the Shire Hall, Reading, any day except Monday or Wednesday.

If there should be a delay in the issue of the pension, this Sub-committee has power to give a returnable grant till the money is forthcoming. Training is given free to disabled soldiers who are unable to take up their old employment. The following are some of the trades being taught: Engineering, including Aeroplane work, Building and House Decorating, Printing, Furniture, Leather Goods and Boot and Shoe Making, Cane and Willow Industry, etc. A form is issued for each disabled soldier to sign and fill up, so that his case may be investigated should there be any distress or need.

MGW

Burghfield parish magazine, December 1917 (D/EX725/4)

What if discharged disabled soldiers and sailors apply to the workhouse

There was fear that wounded soldiers unable to work might find themelves in the workhouse.

5th June, 1917

A circular letter from the Local Government Board was read with reference to discharged disabled soldiers and sailors asking the Guardians to communicate at once with the Local War Decisions Committee should any become changeable.

A letter was read from the Local Government Board offering no objection to Dr W H Bush’s duties being carried out by D.A.B. Gemmell during the former’s absence on military service.

Wantage Board of Guardians minutes (G/WT1/23, p. 239)

Should PoWs repair the roads?

Berkshire County Council’s Highways and Bridges Committee told the councillors of the impact of the war on the county’s roads.

Report of Highways and Bridges Committee, 6 January 1917

ESTIMATES, 1917-1918

The Committee propose to frame their Estimates for the financial year 1917-18 on the policy adopted for the year 1916-17, which aimed principally at keeping in good condition the main tarmac trunk roads in priority to other roads, and doing a liberal amount of tar-spraying. Owing to the enormous amount of heavy military and other traffic which is constantly damaging the roads, the high cost of labour and materials, and war conditions generally, it becomes increasingly difficult to even carry out the restricted policy except at a comparatively high expenditure.

MILITARY TRAFFIC

Ascot and Blacknest road.
The Committee understand that a recommendation by the Road Board for the payment of a substantial amount to the County for making good the damage done to this road is at present receiving consideration by the War Department.

Military Requisitions.
A requisition has been received from the Military Authorities for the carrying out of road improvement works at Northcourt Avenue, Reading. An estimate of the cost has been forwarded to the Finance Committee.

Census of traffic. In view of the damage which is still being done to main roads in the county by military transport traffic, the Committee have arranged for a month’s census of traffic to be taken at points on the Bath Road and the Reading and Ascot road.

POST-WAR ROAD IMPROVEMENTS

The Chairman of the Committee and the Acting County Surveyor attended a Conference at the offices of the Road Board on 27 November last on the question of works of road reconstruction and improvement likely to be undertaken at the conclusion of the war, or works which it might be desirable to promote to afford employment for capital and labour. Highway Authorities were asked to co-operate with the Board in preparing a schedule of works. The principle generally agreed upon was that such works should be confined to the strengthening and improvement of existing road crusts only; and should not include widenings or construction of new roads.

The Committee propose to furnish the Road Board with a list of roads in Berkshire which will probably need reconstruction or resurfacing. The Board have been informed that the Council do not, of course, bind themselves to carry out all or any of the works included in the list.

STEAM ROLLERS

It is anticipated that the first of the three new road rollers on order to replace those taken by the Military Authorities will shortly be delivered, but some time must elapse before the remaining two are received, as the manufacturers are busily engaged on war orders, and can only proceed with County work on a certificate from the Ministry of Munitions.

PRISONERS OF WAR

The Committee have had before them a resolution passed by the Kent County Council suggesting the desirability, in the national interests, of utilising the services of prisoners of war for the repair and maintenance of highways, and are making enquiries in the matter.

ROAD SERVICE IN FRANCE

In connection with the organisation of a special Corps of experienced Engineers and Workmen for road work in France, a list of eligible employees has been supplied to the Road Board.

BCC minutes, 1917 (C/CL/C1/1/20)

Should price rises mean OAPs got extra help?

The Berkshire branch of the National Relief Fund met again at Shire Hall, Reading, to discuss applications for financial support due to the circumstances of the war. The committee would go quiet after this with a minor meeting on 3 June 1916 with no substantive matters discussed, and no other meetings until 1917.

4 December 1915

Miss Pott reported that no further application had been received from Mrs Pounds of Peasemore; that Mrs Forrester had found employment in one of Boots’ supply stores in the London district & was also in receipt of an allowance from the Central Bureau for the Employment of Women; & that the grant of £100 asked for had been received from the Government Committee of the NRF.

Applications for relief were reported from
Brandon, Maidenhead. The applicant being resident in Buckinghamshire, his application had been refused.
Chapman, Theale. Reported that the local Committee recommended that no further relief be give,
Patterson, Maidenhead. The Chairman reported that he had authorized a further grant of 10/- per week for 2 weeks so that the allowance would continue until January 2, 1916, after which the applicant would be in receipt of other monies. The Committee confirmed the Chairman’s action.
Turner, Wantage. Resolved that the case be referred back for further information, and be decided by the Chairman upon the facts supplied by the Local Secretary.

Miss Pott reported that the Abingdon Secretary had written to ask whether the Committee would give relief to Old Age Pensioners in consideration of the rise in cost of living. That she had laid the letter before Mr Nisbet, the Local Government Board Inspector, who had replied that the Government Commission of the NRF had decided against relief being given on such grounds; & that a copy of Mr Nisbet’s letter had been sent to Abingdon.

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

“Why is the atmosphere of life more cheerful nearer to all the horrors and ugliness of modern war than it is behind?”

Ralph Glyn had political ambitions, and the College constituency in Glasgow was being nursed for him. He had narrowly lost the 1910 election to a Liberal (he was a Conservative/Unionist). While serving in the army he delivered a lengthy statement to those he viewed as future constituents. Unfortunately for him and all his work, the constituency was abolished before the 1918 election. The paper itself, however, is an interesting insight into the views of an intelligent officer into attitudes at home and at the front.

GHQ
MEF
November 1915

I have been asked by one or two friends in the College Division to write a letter that may be a link between so many old friends of those former days, when Peace was not understood, and myself. To do this as I would wish by personal letter my work here will not allow. I must ask everyone who reads these lines to believe how sincere are my wishes for as happy a New Year as these days permits to be theirs.

I write these lines because I have always been open with my friends in Glasgow, and I believe you will all understand how it is impossible to write “news”.

There are many who have been all the time in France, or in Gallipoli, whilst some have been in both theatres of operations; but there are few officers now who have not spent some time at home, either wounded, or on leave or duty, and so it is possible to take a comprehensive survey of men, matters and means.

The newspapers are the only medium between the Public and events that happen behind the veil of the censor. Letters from friends and relations pass from the Front to those at home producing for a period a clear gleam of light – sometimes too vivid – of what is fact and reality at one small point of that vague term “The Front”. The days are shortening, the winter with all its horrors is close upon us and we are all well aware that if only something could be lifted the Future would be brighter and more easy to face. To arrive at any satisfactory conclusion we must try and see things as they are – undisguised but very possibly naked and ashamed. No time should be lost in establishing both at “the front” and at “the back” a “New Feeling” based upon the firm belief that at last true bearings have been taken, the clouds have lifted and the sun seen long enough to enable the exact position of the ship to be located, and that each and all having but the one port open to them are determined, in spite of all stress of weather, to reach their destination without undue delay.

Why is the atmosphere of life more cheerful nearer to all the horrors and ugliness of modern war than it is behind? There is nothing in any trench in France or Gallipoli to equal the gloom of many a house at home. The individual man is happy when he knows he is doing “his bit” and has that feeling down his back of something worthy of accomplishment being well done. But this same feeling should animate those miners, munition-workers, ship-builders and all that other host at home, whose work is as vital to the war’s success as any gallant action in the trenches. Why is there this feeling of unrest and mistrust in so many quarters? “Out here”, be it in France or Gallipoli, this war acts in one way all the time and without variation. The Regular Army has almost ceased to exist as it was before the war. Officers and men have fallen and others have taken their place. The tradition of a great regiment holds all the new comers in its sway and the magic mantle of “esprit de corps” stirs through the new blood of the recruit, officer and man, tempering and making him part of the original stock. The Reserve ceased to exist when war began; because by our system the fighting force of the country, Regular and Reserve, were and are one and indivisible. Any gunner will tell you that had it not been for the “dug out” the new armies could not have been born. The “dug out” has much to bear from the gibes of younger men who too often assume that all “dug outs” must be musty and old, stupid and out of date, but he can console himself with the knowledge that without him the Regular serving soldiers could not have kept the machine running.
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Questions about the National Relief Fund

The Berkshire branch of the National Relief Fund met in October to discuss various policy matters, such as whether the fund could help refugees as well as locals, and what would happen to the money afte rthe war.

2 October 1915
Shire Hall
General Committee:

The Chairman reported that after an interview with Sir Ernest Hatch of the Belgian Relief Committee the Berkshire NR Committee had decided that the local conditions did not permit the formation of a County Committee for providing occupation for Belgian Refugees.…

The Chairman …. drew attention to the value of the information supplied by the Clerks to the Boards of Guardians who would be asked to continue that information so that lists of persons in receipt of Poor Law Relief might be kept up to date.…

Mr Mount MP … desired to lay stress upon the paragraph [in the committee’s first annual report] expressing the hope of the Committee that the National Fund would be husbanded for use after the immediate termination of the war…. for future emergencies.

The General Committee authorizes an application being made for a further grant of £100 from the National Relief Fund.

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

A long road still to travel

Members of Maidenhead Congregational Church had to face the fact that life was different in wartime. Particular difficulties were faced by Belgian refugees, who spoke little or no English in a less globalised world than today.

THE HOLIDAYS.
There has not been the usual spirit of happy freedom for any of us in this year’s holiday month. Some have not felt able to leave home at all, and others have been compelled to be content with a shortened time of leisure. But we shall do well to use every means to maintain our ordinary level of health and spirits. If “business as usual” is not an attainable ideal, we must try to live up to “health and nerve as usual.” It may be that we have yet a long road to travel before we see the end of the present horrors. It may be that anxieties and fears are yet to come to us in intensified forms. We must keep up heart. There is of course enough in the possibilities of everyone of us to make us depressed, if we calculate all the possibilities of evil, and sum them up into one terrifying spectre. There is nothing the heart of man needs more than a message of courage and confidence. And we can only get it out of faith, it grows as a blossom upon the plant of faith. Only as we learn to trust in God’s love, and become sure of the gracious purpose, can we maintain our hearts in balance and in peace.

OUR BELGIAN REFUGEES.
Some of our friends have been inquiring why the men of our Belgian household have not found some remunerative employment during these many months. As a matter of fact, they have not been altogether idle. Mr. Dykes kindly found them work on his farm for awhile, but the experiment was not wholly a success. The language difficulty was a serious handicap, they were quite unskilled in farming occupations, and there were other hindrances. One of them was for a time engaged in a local builder’s yard. At the time of writing one is at work for a boat builder in Oxford, and if the arrangement seems likely to continue, perhaps his wife and two little girls may join him there.

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Distress due to the war

The Berkshire branch of the National Relief Committee met again at Shire Hall to consider applications for help from individuals who had fallen on hard times due to the war.

21 August 1915

The Sec: reported that Mrs Forrester’s case had been taken over by the Central Bureau for the Employment of Women upon the advice of the Professional Classes Sub-committee of the NRF Committee in London.

That the grant to Mrs Pounds had now been paid in full.

That Ross of Clewer was being relieved by the SSFA.

The Sec: was empowered to renew the weekly grant to Pounds if the application were received & no change had occurred in the applicants’ circumstances.

Applications for relief were reported as follows.

Patterson, Maidenhead. The Chairman reported a grant authorized by himself of 10/- weekly for 3 months. Such grant was confirmed by the Committee.
Haines, Earley. Resolved that the case was outside the scope of the Committee.
Tame, Denchworth. Reported by the Sec: as having been referred to the SSFA.
Stallwood, Maidenhead. Resolved that no grant be given.
Pocock, Chieveley. Resolved that there being no evidence of distress owing to the war no grant be given.
Sadler, Beedon. Resolved that as the payment of debts does not come within the scope of the operations of this Committee, no grant be given.
Chapman, Theale. Adjourned for further information to be obtained from the local sec: & the SSFA.

Berkshire branch of the National Relief Committee: minutes (C/CL6/4/1)

A Belgian finds work at a brewery

At Bisham Abbey, Florence Vansittart Neale’s daughter’s path to nursing the wounded was making progress. Meanwhile one of their Belgian refugee friends had found work.


27 March 1915

Bubs received papers from hospital to be filled up….

Jean came back & said his father had got work at brewery.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale (D/EX73/3/17/8)

“Reformed” Belgian deserter seeks shelter in Bisham

The voluntary work of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey continued with the local Red Cross branch providing clothes for displaced Serbians, and a stray Belgian needing help.

19 March 1915
Red X meeting. Settled ask for grant to send clothes [to] Servia [sic]!…

Julian returned! Said he was reforme’. Wanted to stay here to find work! We told him impossible. Wired to Salvation Army for orders about him.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale (D/EX73/3/17/8)

No help for unemployed Belgians in Berkshire

Berkshire County Council was unwilling to help Belgian refugees when they were struggling to keep their own services going.

6 February 1915
EMPLOYMENT OF BELGIAN REFUGEES

The Chairman stated that he had received a notification of the appointment of a Commission to advise and assist Local refugee Committees in organising schemes for the establishment of workshops for Belgian refugees, and to exercise a general supervision. Under the scheme it was suggested that Employment Committees should be formed on the lines of the Old Age Pension Committees. These Employment Committees would require clerical and other assistance, and it was suggested that Local Authorities might be willing to allow members of their staffs to help the Committees to carry on their work.

He proposed, with the Council’s approval, to reply that owing to the depleted condition of the Council’s staff in consequence of the war, it would be quite impossible for their officials to assist the Employment Committees in the performance of their duties.
The Council approved of the proposed reply.

Berkshire County Council minutes (C/CL/C1/1/18)