‘A Grateful Country Will Never Forget You’

Document: C. A. Glyde, Pamphlets for the People. No. 5, A grateful country will never forget you. Bradford, 1915. Warwick Digital Collections, Maitland Sara Hallinan collection

Available online: A grateful country will never forget you

The real enemy of the workers in every so-called civilised country is Capitalism and Landlordism, in the guise of rent, interest, dividend, and profit-mongering. (p. 12)

As war dragged on into 1915, the effects of wartime profiteering were plain to see. The cost of living was rising –  not only rents, but many other essentials. The assistance that had been promised to soldiers’ families was slow to come, and insufficient. More people had to seek aid from charitable organisations or the Parish, which meant being subject to them policing your behaviour and stopping support if you were accused of any ‘immorality’.

This pamphlet, published in Bradford by an Independent Labour Party councillor in June 1915, makes a case against militarism and documents the situation at that point. The author argues that  the romantic view of heroism and patriotism is used by the State for recruitment, but once the war is over, those promises to soldiers and their families, as well as all the workers involved in the war effort, are swiftly forgotten. He refers back to the case of soldiers who fought in Crimea and South Africa, “thrown on one side like sucked lemons”, rejected for jobs and receiving 5 shillings a week (about £15).

Separation Allowance rates. Imperial War Museum.

Separation Allowance rates. Imperial War Museum.

In March 1915, the separation allowance for a soldier’s wife was 12s 6d (£27). As Glyde argues,

Since the war started not only have many of the dependants of those on active service been half starved, but they have also been harried by charity visitors, some of whom have behaved worse than the most hardened Poor Law relieving officer. They have also been publicly exposed for their supposed drinking habits (…) Magistrates have passed restriction orders which prevented women from entering public-houses during certain hours of the day. (p. 9)

On top of this, the capitalists were exploiting the war situation to raise prices and extract more profit from the consumers’ pockets. In his example from a family of five living in London, Glyde shows that in the first five months of war the price of groceries and coal had gone up by about 20%.

In his conclusion, the author points out that the capitalists who now speak of ‘patriotism’ “know as much about the principle as a crocodile knows about arithmetic”, and their patriotism is sordid and selfish, creating exploitation, starvation, and exclusion.

The “Patriots” allow millions of human beings (…) to be herded together in slums. No attempt has been made to properly house these millions owing to the hostility of the slum owners and propertied classes. We were told that the money could not be found to build them (…) yet money can be found to run a war at a cost of three millions a day, and bomb shells are being used at a cost of £1,000 each. (p. 19)

Falkirk Herald, 24 April 1915: The War Relief Fund fails Glasgow families

A very important factor in boosting recruitment at the start of WW1 was the promise that soldiers’ families would be looked after, with the institution of a Separation Allowance. This was a meagre amount and many families had to rely on other forms of support. The Prince of Wales fund was one such initiatives, and national campaigns had been carried out to collect money for it. However, this was a centralised fund, and Scottish families soon found that it was much harder to get money from it than it was to donate to it! This article describes the establishment of a local fund to support soldiers’ families. A Liberal ex-Provost,  Samuel Chisholm was one of the founders.

Full text below. From the British Newspaper Archive.

Screenshot from 2015-04-24 15:59:16

GLASGOW AND WAR RELIEF. Prince of Wales Fund and Payment of Rents. Institution of Local Fund. As a result the dissatisfaction with the distribution of Glasgow contribution to the National Relief Fund a largely attended and representative meeting of citizens was held in the City Chambers. The object of the meeting was the establishment of a local fund, which is to be available for augmenting and supplementing the assistance now being given to the wives and other dependants of soldiers and sailors in cases where the separation allowances were not sufficient. The National Relief Fund in London had declined to supply the funds for the payment of rents of four shillings a week and under in necessitous cases, the sum required being approximately £5OOO per month. The Lord Provost was accompanied by the Duchess of Montrose, Lord Blythswood, Sir Archibald Campbell of Succoth; Sir Samuel and Lady Chisholm. Sir D. M. Stevenson, Bart.; Sir Archibald M’lnnes Shaw, Sir Chas. Bine-Renshaw. and others. Explaining the position, the Lord Provost said that after the outbreak of the war the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Families Association fell somewhat into the background before the Prince of Wales’ Fund, which, they were led to believe, would advance all the necessary money towards the relief of the dependants ofsoldiers and sailors. till a fortnight ago that fund supplied Glasgow alt the money needed, though some months ago the fund authorities intimated that they could not permit of rents being paid. One the greatest comforts to the absent husbands was undoubtedly the fact that they knew that, whatever happened, their wives and children would always have their homes, and the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Families Association felt that if any relief was to be given the relief in providing home was the most necessary thing to be given. They were, therefore, assembled to take steps to carry out what the Prince of Wales’ Fund would not allow them to do – to keep faith with the men who had gone to the front, for Glasgow citizens would nor allow any man come back and find he had no home to come to. (Applause.) GLASGOW’S REBELLION. Sir Samuel Chisholm, on behalf of the Glasgow Branch of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Families association, explained that the local Executive had protested and remonstrated against the withholding of money because part of it was to go in payment of rent. -A month’s grace was granted by the London Executive, who, however, repeated the injunction that rent was not to be paid. It was against that that the Glasgow Association had not only protested, but had now rebelled. (Applause.) They declined to accede to that for two reasons. First, because it was cruel and unjust to the women in question ; and, second, because they were certain that there was no surer way of restricting that recruiting for their Army which the welfare of the Empire depended than treating in this cruel way the wives and dependants of the soldiers and sailors. (Applause.) He did not believe there was any German spy the Committee, or any pro-German, but he thought that no German could devise a more effective way to stop recruiting, and injuring and impeding the action of our Army, than the action of the National Relief Committee in connection with their Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Fund. (Hear, hear.) Mr William Hutchison, LL.B., pointed out that they were not asking the public to pay the rent of everybody whose people were at the war, but of women who had no children and were getting 12s 6d a week, of mothers whose sons were the war, and those other dependants where the allowances were not sufficient. The action of the Prince of Wales’ Fund in refusing to pay the rents of these people might almost be characterised as another German atrocity. (Hear, hear.) LOCAL FUND INAUGURATED. It was moved Sir Charles Bine Renshaw that the meeting, being satisfied that there was urgent need for the raising of a fund in Glasgow, apart from the National Relief Fund, which would be available for augmenting and supplementing assistance given for the wives and children and other dependants of soldiers and sailors in cases where the separation allowance was not sufficient, request the Lord Provost to open such a fund, and commend it to  the support of the public. There was doubt, Sir Charles declared, that localities needed full freedom to consider local requirements. The proposed fund would be administered locally by those who had graduated in administrative difficulties. Sir Arch. M’lnnes Shaw seconded, and the resolution was adopted. DONATION FROM LORD NEWLANDS. Amid applause, the Lord Provost, having announced that Sir D. M. Stevenson had offered to contribute £6O a month long as it was required, read letter from Lord Newlands,  regretting his inability to be present, in the course of which he stated that it seemed to him monstrous that Glasgow herself should be allowed no voice at all in the allocation the immense War Relief Fund which the great generosity of her citizens had so  splendidly provided. Of all the claims which there were upon them in connection with war relief, there could be none more deserving than the maintenance of the homes of our heroes on active service. Those them who, unfortunately, could not keep the flag flying the front were bound to do what they could keep the homes going here. (Applause.) […] At the close of the meeting it was intimated that the donations to the new fund amounted £5021.”

Forward, 13 Feb 1915

More Trouble Brewing for the Working Class

This article in the Independent Labour Party’s newspaper, Forward, shows that at the beginning of 1915 there were clear signs that the landlords were organising to keep rent prices high by creating an insured compensation for unlet properties, and that Glasgow Corporation further exacerbated the housing shortage by rejecting the ILP’s proposal to build new houses with the surplus generated by the tramways.

Images from Glasgow Digital Library