A Record of the Naval, Military, Social, Commercial and Industrial activities of the
citizens of Liverpool, Birkenhead, Bootle and Wallasey.

Reproduced from the 'Liverpool Courier' - a special report in 76 parts

 

THE TOWN HALL SOLDIERS' AND SAILORS' FAMILIES RELIEF ORGANISATION.

06 Apr 1920 Part LXIV (64)

   The immensity of the task we have undertaken in attempting a record of Liverpool's Part in the War must be equally apparent to those who have followed these articles in detail, and to those who have been content to glance at them in passing. Although more than sixty articles have appeared we are only just able to visualise the end of the story, and many important branches of Liverpool's war work still remain to be described. In one respect these articles will have achieved a useful purpose; they will enable future generations to discover without trouble the achievements of their forefathers during the most tragic five years in the world's history. Herein they will find a record of services rendered to the nation which but for these articles would be buried in departmental reports, forgotten save by their authors, and fading even from the memories of those who took the most active part in the proceedings which are recorded.
   The Town Hall Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Organisation is an example of the readiness with which the citizens if Liverpool, inspired by the Lord Mayor, sprang into activity to rectify governmental deficiency. On the August Bank Holiday of 1914, the vast majority of the people in these islands were hoping that war would be averted. By midnight on that day we were at war with Germany. On the following morning the Army Reserve was mobilised, and during the day the Territorial Forces were also embodied. In Liverpool alone some thousands of homes were thus bereft of the breadwinner, and, as in the vast majority of cases the household was dependent for its existence on the weekly wages of the one who had been called away, it was not long before distress began to prevail to an alarming extent. For whatever may be said as to the efficiency of our national military machine, it must be admitted that as regards its provision for the dependents of those whom it withdrew from civil life it was entirely inadequate and unsatisfactory. It may be that it was impossible to avoid the chaos and confusion which occurred, but it seems clear that it was largely due to lack of forethought on the part of the military authorities, and that is to some extent borne out by the fact that the West Lancashire Territorial Association, which was responsible for the payments to the dependents of those who had been embodied under its flag, was able to discharge its obligations long before the Regular Army organisation had done so.
   Before we had been at war for a week the Liverpool Town Hall was thronged with the wives of men who had been "called to the colours," clamouring for help and advice. Mr. Herbert R. Rathbone, who was then Lord Mayor, was naturally deeply desirous of relieving the urgent necessities which existed; and as it was impossible for this to be done blindly and promiscuously, steps were taken to create an organisation for the purpose. As there was no effective Liverpool branch of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association, the Lord Mayor, after consultation with the local representatives of that national body, asked Miss Eleanor Rathbone to make arrangements, in conjunction with the Territorial Associations for West Lancashire and West Cheshire, to deal with cases of immediate need. An office was opened in Commutation-row for the registration of applications, and just one week after war had been declared, the work of dealing with these was in full swing - a striking proof of the readiness of the official element in Liverpool to grapple with the problems arising out of the war.
   By the end of the first week the number of applications was so large that it became evident that the organisation could not remain on a temporary basis, and steps were therefore taken by the Lord Mayor to form an organisation under the title at the head of this article. The magnitude of the work which devolved upon it is shown by the fact that in the first eight weeks the applications for assistance numbered no less than 11,600.
   The Governing Body of the organisation was constituted as follows:-

Committee for 1914.

Chairman:

The Right Hon. the Lord Mayor, Herbert R. Rathbone, Esq.
Deputy-Chairmen:
Colonel Wilson, V.D.
Miss Eleanor Rathbone, C.C.
Hon. Treasurer:
Sir James Hope Simpson.

Hon. Secretary.

Miss Macadam.

   The Countess of Derby.
   Sir Norman Hill.
   Rear Admiral Sir. H.H. Stileman, R.N., Senior Naval Officer Port of Liverpool.
   Colonel Field, Royal Marines.
   Colonel Langdon, Royal Naval olunteer Reserve.
   Lt.-Col. Harvey Gibson, West Lancs. and West Ches. County Territorial Association.
   Captain Sergeant, R.O.
   Miss Margaret Beavan, the Invalid Children's Aid Branch Office of the S.S.F.O.
   Miss Belcher, the Transvaal War Fund.
   Mr. Briscoe.
   Mr. J.B. Drewson, the West Derby Committee's Branch Office of the S.S.F.O.
   Miss Edith Eskrigge, Head Superintendent of Visitors, S.S.F.O.
   Mr. Harold Grisewood, the Central Relief Society.
   Mrs. Jardine, the Royal Patriotic Fund.
   Miss Florence Melly.
   Mr. F.J. Marquis, the University Settlement's Branch of the S.S.F.O.
   Mr. T.A. Moulton.
   Mr. O'Dowd.
   Mr. Mitchell. 
   Mr. F.W. Rathbone.
   Rev. T. Parnell Rowe, M.A., the Garston Committee Branch Office of the S.S.F.O.
   Miss Simey, the Victoria Settlement Branch Office of the S.S.F.O.
   Before proceeding to an account of the services rendered by the organisation it is desirable that we should explain the principles which animated those who were responsible for the conduct of its affairs.
   The first - the bedrock principle - was that the organisation existed not to dispense "charity," but to discgarge the debt which the nation owed to the gallant men who had gone or were about to go overseas.
   The second principle enforced by the Association was this: that families should be enabled as far as possible to maintain their pre-war standard of living, and that when the Government payments were inadequate to achieve this, the Association should supplement them to enable it to be maintained. How clearly this was in the minds of the members of the Committee is shown by the following paragraph taken from an interim report dated September, 1914:-
   "The general aim of the Committee will be to secure that the wife and family should, if funds permit, enjoy an income of not less than three-fourths of that which came into the home before the husband enlisted. This assumes that the absence of the male head of the family involves a reduction in family expenditure of one-fourth."
   It is gratifying to learn that the Committee did not content themselves by dealing with the results of the Government's shortcomings, and the following paragraphs from their report are indicative of the efficacy of their efforts in improve the conditions established by Government regulations:-
   "Almost from the beginning of their work it was obvious to the Committee that certain changes were imperatively needed in the War Office and Admiralty arrangements, and through the medium of Lord Derby they were able to bring their views immediately and effectively before the authorities. No doubt similar representations were also received from other parts of the country, and it is very satisfactory to be able to report that all the reforms asked for were among those that have recently been granted. The Committee pleaded:-
   "1. That the soldier's allotment should be made compulsory while he remained in England and not only when he was on foreign service, and that it should be paid through the Paymaster, and not left to the man to send or not, as he chose. This is already recorded as being done as from September 7th. Unfortunately, however, the reform thus secured has been by the latest information rescinded, having apparently been reported as ultra vires by the legal advisers of the Crown.
   "2. The Committee have repeatedly urged the evil of the monthly payment of separation allowances, pointing out that the great majority of Reservists' and Territorials' wives were not accustomed to monthly payments, and that many of them seemed unable to average their expenditure over the month wisely. They urged, therefore, that the payment should be made weekly, and that it should be made through the post office, and the opinion of the postal authorities in Liverpool was early obtained as to the desirability of this course and the ease with which weekly payments might arranged for. A definite refusal to make this change was first given, and it was suggested by the War Office that the money should be consigned to the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association or other recognised agencies, and should by them be paid out in weekly sums to the families, a plan which would have entailed an enormous amount of work upon our organisation and similar bodies, which have already been heavily over-burdened.
   "The new arrangement that has now come into force provides that after October 11th the payments shall be made weekly and through the post office, upon the same method as that in practice with regard to Old Age Pensions, viz.:- that the money is paid upon production of the Ring Paper, no money order being sent. This obviates the very considerable risk of the money order being lost of stolen.
   "3. Very urgent representations have been made in every possible quarter as to the need for separation allowances for the wives of sailors, who have hitherto been dependent upon whatever allotment, if any, their husbands chose to make them, the maximum allotment that it was in his power to make being, in all but the higher ratings, entirely insufficient for the support of a family of even the humblest position.  The allowances now announced for sailors' families will place them, if the sailor makes a reasonable allotment out of his pay, in a position as good as, or in some cases slightly better than that of the soldier.
   "In addition to these reforms the grant of separation allowances to mothers and dependents other than wives, and the higher scale of allowances paid to soldiers' wives is likely in the immediate future to modify greatly the work of the Association and to make the larger part of it unnecessary.
   "Under the improved scale the large majority of the 11,000 applicants dealt with by the committee during the last two months will be placed in as good or better positions during the war than that which they occupied previous to it."
   We have already explained that the Association opened an office in Commutation-row for the receipt of applications for assistance. The rush being overwhelming, the premises of the Friends' Meeting House in Hunter-street were obtained, but even these were inadequate, and it became necessary to utilise the offices of the University Settlement, the Victoria Settlement, the Invalid Children's Aid Society, and the Central Relief Society. All the applications were recorded in duplicate, and one copy of the form was sent to the Central Office for registration. After verification of the statements made and due consideration of the facts, the committee decided as to the grant to be made in each case, and the case was then usually remitted to one or other of the 24 District Offices from which, as far as possible, all payments were made by the visitors. This brings us to the consideration of the immense labours which have been rendered by a large number of men and women who, to the number of 600, gladly responded to the call of the committee for practical help and service in this great undertaking. Many of them gave their whole time to the work; others one or two days per week; and it was thus ensured that each family receiving help was visited weekly on the same day by the same person. The control of the visiting arrangements was vested in a District Head, and the names of those filling these responsible positions in the earliest months of the war are appended:-
District                                  Head Visitor
A . . . . . . . . .            Mr. W.H. Blenkarn.
B . . . . . . . . .            Mr. F.J. Marquis.  
C . . . . . . . . .            Mr. F.J. Marquis.  
D . . . . . . . . .            Miss Birt.
D1 & D2 . . .             Miss Manning.
E1 . . . . . . . .            Mrs. Everett.
E2 . . . . . . . .            Mrs. Leggatt.         
F . . . . . . . . .            Miss Parry.
G . . . . . . . . .            Miss Mumford.
H . . . . . . . . .            Mrs. Hanley.
H1 . . . . . . . .            Mrs. Sutton Timmis.
H2 . . . . . . . .            Mrs. Hall.
H3 . . . . . . . .            Mrs. Owen.
J . . . . . . . . . .           Miss Eva Melly.
K . . . . . . . . .            Miss Beavan.
L . . . . . . . . .            Mrs. Morrison.
M . . . . . . . . .           Mrs. M. Rathbone.
N . . . . . . . . .            Miss Phelps.
N1 . . . . . . . .            Mrs. Atkinson.
O1 . . . . . . . .            Miss Hayworth.
O2 . . . . . . . .            Miss Fletcher.
P . . . . . . . . .            Miss Simey.
Q . . . . . . . . .            Mrs. Anderson.
Q1 . . . . . . . .            Mr. Wallace Smith.
R . . . . . . . . .            Mrs. Holmes.
S . . . . . . . . .            Mr. R. Waterman.
T . . . . . . . . .            Mr. J.B. Drewson.
 
 

READ Part LXIII (63) THE SEAFORTH SOCIAL CLUB.

READ Part LXV (65) THE TOWN HALL SOLDIERS' AND SAILORS' FAMILIES RELIEF ORGANISATION

 
 
 
 

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