As the Centenary unfolds, a range of newspaper and other records will appear here to give an idea of how the war was revealed at home primarily focused on Kent for our purposes .... fairly random. If you have other snippets to share, please let us know using the dedicated email account:
The Western Front "stabilised" from January 1915 to the end of 1916 but fighting continued throughout the period, with some particularly large and hard-fought battles, intended to make a breakthrough. Many of these "breakthrough" battles have become part of the language of the First World War. See map - clickable. The conflict now straddled the globe where the European Empires touched. Increasingly, the Home Front news also included accounts of naval battles around the globe, lost naval and merchant ships, and submarine attacks and losses.
Thankfully, the Kingsdown with Creekside Benefice suffered no losses during February 1915. This may, in part, be due to the relatively static position along the Western Front and the randomness of actions seen by military units as each side probed for local tactical advantage from trench to trench. The regular exchange of artillery shelling and sniping took its toll along the whole Front.
This was also the period during which the "Race to the Sea" took place. Both sides needed to secure their northern flanks and ensure that access to the sea remained open (or closed, depending on your view-point). For British forces, this was of acute importance as any food and other essentials available locally were fast disappearing. The passage of shipping was also crucially important to Britain and the Commonwealth.
Children to work on the Farms. The realisation that we were "in it for the long haul" led to more frequent debates locally and nationally about the shortage of farm-workers because so many had volunteered to serve in the new territorial formations ("the Colours"). Calls to allow children of school age (12 years old or more) to work on farms gained some ground. Debates also included the question of the role of women and, more worryingly, the (lack of) protection for women and their children when the breadwinner signed up. There were cases reported to the House of Commons where women and children were being evicted from tied cottages - one case quoted in Parliament came from Goodnestone (near Ashford). In Lynsted, matters come to a head with a Parish Council meeting minute later in the year in October seeking freedom to use child labour as the rural workers "Joined the Colours".
This period also saw calls in the House of Commons for information regarding disease, illness, and occupational injury that included frostbite (a report of 17th February pointed to a total of 9,175 cases up to 24th January). Measures were to be put in hand to improve the soldiers' lots with waterproofs, etc.)
Reported in the South Eastern Gazette on 2nd February 1915: CHILDREN ON FARMS. The deficiency of labour for farming purposes was considered at a meeting of the Council of the Central and Associated Chambers of Agriculture [Maidstone], held at the Surveyors’ institution on Tuesday. The Business Committee presented a report stating that a letter had been received from the board of Agriculture, in which it was intimated that the Board were satisfied that the deficiency of farm labour had become very serious in certain districts, if not throughout the country generally, and that the time had arrived when farmers must take concerted action to deal with the situation, if they were to carry on their business with profit to themselves and in the interests of the nation. The Board suggested the formation of a committee in each country.
Pending discussion at the next meeting the report was formally received.
The Education Committee reported their opinion that boys of 12 years of age employed solely on farms might be exempted from school attendance during the war, but that they should afterwards return to school at the earliest possible period. The committee hoped that the boys exempted might be enabled at some subsequent period to attend continuation classes or agricultural or other suitable schools.
Lord Channing, who moved the adoption of the report, said he did not see why the boys of England should not be called upon to take their share of public duty in the present crisis. The report would dispose of any idea that they wished to cut short the educational life of the rural child in order to get cheap labour for the farms.
Mr. Wood, speaking as a representative of Kent farmers, urged that girls as well as boys should be included in the recommendation of the committee for school exemption. In hop districts girls were as useful as boys.
The Chairman, Captain Bathurst, M.P., supported the suggestion. Not many years ago our young women did admirable work in milking cows. They could not take up any more patriotic task at present.
A letter was read from the Board of Education stating that they had no power to give any general directions overriding the ordinary law with regard to school attendance, but that the local education authority was under no obligation to take proceedings for non-attendance if they were satisfied that there was a reasonable excuse.
The report was adopted with the substitution of the word “children” for “boys.”
A report of the Dairy Products Committee was adopted expressing the opinion that, with the present and increasing price of feeding stuffs, milk sold under contract was, in many cases, being produced at a loss.
IF YOU WANT TO READ MORE ON THIS TOPIC, WE HAVE CREATED A DEDICATED PAGE TO CONTAIN THESE AND OTHER REPORTS ON THE POSITION OF RURAL CHILDREN DURING THE WAR
House of Commons Debate reported in The Times on 5th February 1915: "WOUNDED SOLDIERS' LOSSES. Mr H. BAKER (Accrington, Minister) informed COLONEL WARDE (Kent, Medway. Opposition) that the question of the constant loss of kits, money, and private property of soldiers, taken from them when wounded, was under consideration, and orders had been issued with a view to preventing such losses. But when a soldier arrived in a hospital wounded the first consideration was his wounds, and when the pressure was great it might not always be possible to make sure that no irregularities took place."
Reported in The Times of 6th February 1915:
ENGLAND IN TIME OF WAR TIME. XXV.-KENT AND ESSEX. - THE CHANGES IN SOCIAL HABITS. (FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT.)
Throughout these south-eastern counties the police continue to report a notable diminution in crime, ever since the beginning of the war. They attribute it to three causes. First, the keeping of better hours, after the darkening of the streets and the early closing of public houses; second, the new consciousness of national duty and the impulse of patriotism; and third, the greatly increased prosperity of many of the poorer classes and the absence of unemployment. The whole subject is one of extra-ordinary interest, and worthy of the attention of sociologists.
The increased prosperity of the farmers and certain classes of labour in Kent and Essex is undeniable, Market dealers and shop-keepers in all the principal towns of both counties agree generally that never has the community as a whole been more prosperous, never has money been so plentiful or unemployment so rare. This, of course, is very largely due to the billeting and victualling of troops in these districts, but it is also directly due to the separation and other allowances spent locally by the wives and families of soldiers. There is food for reflection of several kinds in this economic aspect of the situation, as it prevails over a large portion of our eastern and southern counties. Here the war has brought increased comfort and a larger leisure to many. Thousands of families are now enjoying unaccustomed ease on the 9d. a day paid by the military authorities for the lodging and attendance (without meals) of billeted soldiers or the 3s. allowed for an officer. The effect of these new and unexpected sources of income must be considerable, and unless those who now benefit by them are taught to look upon them as windfalls, and to use them as provision against a rainy day, many of them must find it hard hereafter to return to ordinary conditions of wage-earning. One curious and unexpected result of these piping times of war in certain districts is that the very prosperity of the farmers, local manufacturers, and working classes to some extent hinders recruiting. At Canterbury, most of the money is spent for the immediate benefit of local trades and industries. This means an increased demand for indoors and outdoor labour of many kinds, and a corresponding diminution in the readiness of certain classes of employers to encourage their men to join the Army.
Another result of the war, interesting socially as well as economically, is that the agricultural and artisan classes in many parts of the country are giving up beer and taking to rum. This is not, as some might suppose, in patriotic imitation of Thomas Atkins at the front; it is the natural result of the war-tax on beer. Your beer-drinker, especially in rural districts, does not lightly regard the disturbance of his established order. In Kent, he declares that beer has never been worth 3d. a pint and that it is not worth it now. He shows the courage of his convictions by spending his accustomed 2d. on rum, and professes himself none the worse for the arrangement. Consequently the maltster’s trade suffers and the average brewer’s output has been reduced by 30 to 40 per cent. Here again we find several interesting consequences following on this increase of the beer tax, which brewers say levies a total revenue of £5 10s. upon every quarter of barley, worth 34s. One is the notable impulse given to the “home brewing” of ale for private consumption, which, in its turn, means less hours at the public house and for many a working man more in his own home. Another is that the supply of “brewers’ grains,” one of the staple foods of dairy cattle in Essex, has been reduced to an extent which necessitates increased imports of maize, rice bran, and other foodstuffs from abroad.
Interesting too, both in their social and the economic aspects, are the results of the various street and shop lighting ordinances, imposed by order of the military authorities and by the police, along the seacoast and in the inland towns of Essex and Kent. The general disposition of all classes is to comply promptly. But the British yeoman, even at the height of his patriotism, is never disposed to surrender absolutely his right of private judgment in question which affect “the ordinary avocations of life and the enjoyment of property.” He knows that these, according to the wording of the Act, “will be interfered with as little as may be permitted by the exigencies of the measures required for securing the public safety and the defence of the Realm,” and, looking at the matter dispassionately, he thinks and says that many of the regulations fail to fulfil that reasonable promise. In districts which (so far as it is given to the plain man to understand these things) are neither defended ports nor “proclaimed areas” many doubt the legality of these measures, as imposed by order of the military authorities, having regard to the wording of Regulation 7A of the Defence of the Realm Act, and to the fact that the existing published Order of the Secretary framed under that Regulation refers solely to the Metropolitan District of London. The question is not likely to be raised, because the great body of the public intends, come what may, to support constituted authority in all thinks, even though there may be serious doubts as to the intelligence which lurking somewhere in Whitehall directs its activities."
Hansard Report on House of Commons Debate on 8th February 1915 (vol 69 c242 242)
§ 70. Mr. GOLDSTONE asked the Under-Secretary for War whether certain men of the Royal Garrison Artillery at present stationed at Garrison Point Fort, Sheerness, have been refused the leave of absence promised some time ago; whether he will state what is the reason for this refusal; and whether men concerning whom no complaint has been made are being penalised because of the failure of a few of their comrades to return to duty at the expiration of their leave of absence?
§ Mr. TENNANT - The men were divided into batches for the purpose of Christmas leave. Almost all of the first batch overstayed their leave three or four days. In consequence of this the second batch were warned, but they also overstayed their leave. As a result of this disregard of orders, all leave was stopped except in the case of those men who had passed their drills.
Reported in the South Eastern Gazette on 9th February 2015: FAVERSHAM BOROUGH - The annual Licensing Sessions for Faversham Borough were held on Wednesday, the Mayor, Dr. A.K. Alexander, presiding. Supt. Lawrence reported that the whole of the licensed houses (42) had been satisfactorily conducted during the past year. The number of persons proceeded against for drunkenness was 32, showing an increase of 10. Six were residents and 26 non-residents; 24 were convicted. (For the last ten years the average number proceeded against was 60).- The Magistrates renewed the whole of the licenses.
FAVERSHAM COUNTY. The annual Licensing Sessions for the Faversham County Petty Sessional Division were held on Thursday, Lord Harris (chairman) presiding. Supt. Lawrence reported that there were 52 licensed houses, which had been satisfactorily conducted with one exception, viz,. the Teynham Arms [on the site of today's fish and chip shop, Crispins], in which case there had since been a change of tenant. The number of persons proceeded against for drunkenness was 15, an increase of three compared with the previous year. Of this number 11 males and two females were convicted. Only two were residents. The Chairman congratulated the licensees on the satisfactory conduct of their houses and also paid a high tribute to the behaviour of the military located in the district. The licenses were all renewed with the exception of that of an on-licensed beerhouse at Teynham, which will be considered at the adjourned meeting on March 4th.
[4th March Licensing Sitting: The Adjourning Licensing Sessions for the Faversham Petty Sessional Division were held on Thursday, when the license of a beer-house at Barrow Green, Teynham, held by Charles Percy French, was under consideration. The sale of beer is carried on in connection with a grocery and butchery business. Application for renewal was made, but the Bench, after hearing evidence, decided to refer it to the Compensatory Authority on the ground of redundancy.]
It is a sobering fact that hospital care before the National Health Service was largely dependent upon charitable support - this was not just a war-time occurrence. So, Teynham and Lynsted singers threw in their lot ... Reported in the South Eastern Gazette of 9th February 1915: "TEYNHAM AND LYNSTED CAROL SINGERS. The Teynham and Lynsted Carol Singers have forwarded a cheque for £17 9s. 6d. To the Faversham Cottage Hospital as a result of their Christmas effort."
INVALID SOLDIERS (NERVE STRAIN). House of Commons Debate: 11th February 1915 [vol 69 c722 722]
§ 74. Mr. DUNCAN MILLAR - asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether the Red Cross military hospital which has been opened in Lancashire for the reception of uncertifiable soldiers suffering from nerve strain is solely under War Office control, or whether it is visited by Lunacy Commissioners and under lunacy administration?
§ Mr. TENNANT The hospital referred to is an exclusively military hospital, and the reception, care, and discharge of the soldiers admitted are under the sole control of the War Office. The soldiers are not certified and are not under lunacy jurisdiction. The premises, however, are the property of the Board of Control, and some members of the board visit the institution from time to time in order to supervise such matters as supplies, heating, repairs, and the maintenance of the premises, but they in no way concern themselves with the treatment of the patients.
[Society Note: Located in Moss-Side, this hospital had 500 beds for the most protracted cases only - the first admission was on 21st December 1914. Officers were housed separately.]
Reported in the Dover Express on 12th February 1915: This son of a clergyman distinguished himself and lived through the war. "Mr. J.E.S. [John Eric Sidney] Green, M.A., and Fellow of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, son of the Rev. S. F. and Mrs. Green, late of Charlton, and now at Luddenham, near Faversham, was some little time ago granted a commission in the 15th Battalion of the Rifle Brigade (The Prince Consort's Own). He has now been promoted captain.
MEDAL CARD: Took his Commission as 2nd Lieutenant in 4th R.B.D.E followed by promotion to Captain in the 6th R.B.D.E. attached to the 18th Rifle Brigade. "Military Police Assistant Commissioner". Theatre of War - (1) France. Officer Commanding indicated on 20th March 1919 he qualified for the 14-15 Star for "normal role of officer". EF9 returned completed 7th August 1925. Address: 81 Mayors Road, Sydenham, S.E.
[Society Note: 30th October 1915 his father resigned from Luddenham on the grounds that the place was TOO DAMP!]
Reported in the Kent Messenger of 20th February 1915: The Sittingbourne Voluntary Training Corps, despite the inclement weather, had a march-out to the village of Greenstreet on Wednesday evening [17th February], for the purpose of assisting in forming a new corps at that place. The Commandant (Mr. W.S. Cowper) was in charge, and on arrival the President (Brigadier-General P.D. Jeffreys) inspected the men. Afterwards a meeting was held, at which the speakers were the General, Mr. Cowper, Mr A.A. Richards (Secretary of the Sittingbourne Corps), Mr. P.D. Selby, and latter's son, Lieut. Selby, R.N., of H.M.S. Lion, who came in for a great reception. As a result of the meeting a section of the Sittingbourne Corps will be formed at Greenstreet, and staff-sergeants of the Dublin Fusiliers will undertake the training, as at Sittingbourne.
House of Commons Debate on 17 February 1915 vol 69 c1126
§ 59. Mr. ANDERSON - asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been drawn to ejectment proceedings at Newport Pagnell petty sessions against Frederick Tysoe, an agricultural labourer, now fighting in the trenches in France; whether he is aware that the man's wife, about to be confined, is to be turned out with three young children; whether he is aware that the number of such cases is increasing; whether he has read the proceedings of the Shrewsbury branch of the Farmers' Union where the president encouraged farmers to eject the wives of enlisted men if cottages were needed for other workmen; and whether steps will be taken to put a stop to these evictions of soldiers' wives?
§ The PRIME MINISTER - I have no information regarding the particular case to which the Hon. Member refers. But the general question is not free from difficulty, especially in view of the importance of maintaining the supplies of agricultural produce, and will receive careful consideration.
This debate recurred on 23rd February 1915
HC Deb 23 February 1915 vol 70 cc165-6 165
§ 23. Mr. ANDERSON - asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been drawn to the legal case in which a jury at Dorchester, under the New Courts (Emergency Powers) Act, awarded £15 damages for trespass and wrongful eviction to William West, a farm labourer, now serving with the Colours; whether he is aware that much uncertainty exists among farmers and the wives of men who have enlisted as to the legal position in regard to ejectment; and whether, in view of the seriousness and complexity of the problem, the scarcity of rural cottages, the natural desire of the farmers to obtain and house labourers in place of those who have left, and the consequent danger of eviction of the wives and children of soldiers, he will grant time for discussion of the matter?
§ Sir H. VERNEY - The Government will welcome suggestions for preventing hardship arising in cases of the kind quoted by the hon. Member. Perhaps it will be convenient if, in the first instance, the question were debated on the Motion for the Adjournment.
In the same sitting.......
Reported by the Kent & Sussex Courier [A common topic of concern across Kent] - 19th February 1915. At the weekly meeting of the Tunbridge Wells Farmers’ Club on Friday evening (Mr. G.E. Davison presiding), there was an interesting discussion on the question of the employment of boys on farms during war time, owing to the shortage of adult labour, which has resulted from enlistment. The discussion arose out of the report of the recent meeting of the Central Chamber of Agriculture.
Commenting on the report, Mr. PARRIS said there was no doubt that the question of shortage of labour was one that would become increasingly difficult as the war went on. He pointed out that even if local education authorities were disposed to exempt boys of 12 years of age from attendance at school in order that they might go to work on farms, it was questionable whether it could done under the existing law. Of course, he went on, there were faddists who were entirely opposed to children being taken away from school at 12 years of age and put to work, but they did not realise that we were passing through a very great crisis, in which any kind of labour on farms would be of great use to the community. It would be a great benefit to girls in the future if they could be taught milking and other light duties on farms and so replace man’s labour. It was not a question of the farmers getting cheap labour, but of getting any labour at all.
Mr. O.T. CORKE was strongly averse to the use of child labour as suggested. He thought children of 12 would be of very little use on farms. The age between 12 and 14 was when a child learned most. The children would suffer for the rest of their lives if this step in the wrong direction were taken.
Mr. E. LE MAY said one would think they were suggesting that the employment of child labour should be a permanent affair. They were suggesting it as much in the interest of the children themselves as of the people as a whole. The community must be supplied with food. At present we were able to keep the avenues of our food supply open, but did not know how long that would be so. The first duty of every country was to provide food for its people. The country would have to make greater sacrifices before the war was over than the children were being asked to make now. If farmers said that the labour of children over 12 years of age would be useful they must have it. He pointed out that there was no suggestion that a boy of 12 should be compelled to work on a farm. E would only do so if fit and willing.
Mr. G. DAVISON, senr., endorsed these remarks, and said much useful light work might be done on farms by lads of 12 or 13 years of age. The food of the nation was the first consideration.
Mr. W.T. TEMPLER said that while he agreed that the food supply must be maintained, he was in sympathy with Mr. Corke’s opinion that the children’s education should not be interfered with. In view of the unexampled crisis, he thought some arrangement might be made whereby children might work on farms without their education being materially neglected. No doubt the interests of the children needed carefully safeguarding.
Mr. E. LE MAY moved the following resolution: “In view of the fact that the production of food is the first consideration in the crisis in the affairs of the country, and on account of the shortage of labour in agricultural districts, children of 12 years of age and upwards should be excused attendance at school if they can be employed on the land.”
Mr. A. COSHAM seconded, and also suggested that women might do more work on the land.
Mr. R.W. DENYER said he was extremely surprised that at a time like the present the Tunbridge Wells Farmers’ Club should devote their attention to such a small matter. It was in truth a “childish” question. There were much more important matters to be dealt with, and the question of child labour on farms was not worth of that Club. They were proposing to take away the best part of a child’s life, and there was no reason for doing so.
The resolution was carried with some dissentients.
The Faversham and north East Kent News reported on 20th February. "KENT HEAVY BATTERY. NEW OFFICERS. Mr. E.J. Howard, son of Captain John Howard, R.N., of Rushett, Norton, has been gazetted a 2nd Lieutenant in the Kent Heavy Battery (TF) He is the second officer the Battery has gained recently from Norton, Mr. A.F. Rickards, of Norton Court, having been gazetted 2nd Lieutenant a few weeks back.
Although he has been serving now for some little time we have not previously mentioned that Captain Arthur Neame is also an officer in the Kent Heavy Battery. Captain Neame, formerly, of course, held a commission in the old Faversham Volunteer Corps."
Reported in South Eastern Gazette on 23rd February - At the monthly meeting of the Kent Education Committee held at the Sessions House yesterday (Monday, 22nd), Mr. W. Berry (chairman) presiding the Elementary Education sub-Committee reported that they had before them in December past a resolution from the Sevenoaks Branch of the National Farmer’s Union, requesting that children should be granted exemption from school attendance after their twelfth birthday for employment for agricultural purposes during the period of the war. The Committee then informed the applicants that, while sympathising with the object in view they could not see their way to adopt the proposal. Similar requests or suggestions have been received from other quarters. In the case of the Hoo Guardians the following letter had been received:-
The Guardians of this Union beg to thank you for your letter of the 19th inst., in reply to their request that that boys might be allowed to leave school at the age of twelve years. They hope, however, that the matter may be reconsidered. They think that the committee, in declining to act as desired, scarcely seem to appreciate the serious position of matters. The potato planting season is coming on, and the women who have usually done the work appear to be in such good circumstances through payments derived from the State that they do not now care to work.
The Sub-Committee, while they earnestly deprecate the withdrawal from school of children under fourteen years of age, otherwise than in accordance with the by-laws, feel that the demand for child labour cannot but increase, and that the matter is one which calls for the early attention of the Committee. So far as they have discussed the matter the sub-committee are of opinion that no relaxation in the enforcement of the by-laws in order to allow of the extended employment of children should be made before the approach of summer, and that if any be then made it should be accompanied with a condition that any child released for employment must work only under the supervision of its parent or some other approved guardian.
The Chairman moved the adoption of the report.
Lord Northbourne said the report was a little inconclusive in that it made no reference to remarks which the Chairman himself made, which led them to believe that he was not unfavourable to some relaxation of the rules. The question of labour in some parts of the county was an extremely serious one, and if, as they were all agreed, it was a matter of national importance that at this time the soil should be cultivated to its utmost he saw no alternative but to employ In the near future, children who were old enough and sufficiently strong to perform small agricultural operations. He moved:
“That it is desirable in the present crisis to offer, under certain circumstances, facilities for the employment of children between the ages of 12 and 14 in agricultural operation, and that the Elementary Education Sub-Committee be requested to report to this Committee what modification, if any, of the existing by-laws can be made to give effect to this change.”
Mr. Tapp enquired if this was an amendment to the Committee’s report, but Lord Northbourne said he did not intend it to be. He considered it was a matter of urgency, an he would, if necessary, move that the Standing Orders be suspended.
Mr. Tapp: I have never heard of anyone moving the suspension of the Standing Orders to discuss a matter like this.
The Chairman intimated that he would be prepared to accept the motion as an amendment.
Lord Northbourne: Very well, I will move it as such.
Mr. Tapp thought that the difficulty which was being experienced in getting agricultural labourers was not due to any actual dearth, but to the miserably low wages which they were being paid. There was at present a considerable amount of employment in the large industrial towns, and labourers were leaving the country and going to those places, where they could earn more. He (the speaker) would rather see Lord Northbourne compelled to till the ground that allow a child of tender age to perform any work of that description (laughter).
Miss Wigan: I have seen Lord Northbourne plant a tree, and he did it in a very workmanlike manner (renewed laughter).
Continuing, Mr. Tapp said that already children had too few opportunities in the matter of education. Now an attempt was to be made to exploit their labour because the capitalist class declined to introduce better conditions in respect of adult labour.
Mr. Lawrence Mitchell remarked that, no matter what wages were paid, they could not get the labour. Personally, he did not believe in the humbugging talk that a boy could not be employed at 14 years of age. He pitchforked out of the City of London at the age of 14; and he did not know what would have become of him if he had remained at school until he was 18 or 19. They talked about being patriotic, but were they going to allow the widows, those sons had gone to the war, to starve? He would willingly support the amendment of it was made to apply also to urban districts.
Mr Watts urged that if children were taken away from school they would never have an opportunity afterwards of retrieving the ground which they would have lost so far as their education was concerned. He would rather see the women do light agricultural work than the children.
Mr. Cobbett Barker said he was not a hidebound theorist on the question of the employment of children. The time might come when both women and children would have to do more than they were doing at present.
Mr. Plumptre thought there was a certain number of boys who would be much better kept at school, but there were a great many who could be usefully employed on farms without any material loss to themselves.
Sir Mark Collett was in favour of the stronger physically developed boy being allowed to leave school for two summers prior to his reaching the school age, on condition that he put in the two winters at school afterwards.
After further discussion the amendment was negative on the casting vote of the Chairman.
The Sub-committee’s report was then adopted.
23rd February 1915 - South Eastern Gazette, p2.
A White Paper issued by the Board of Education shows the extent of the movement in rural areas for the exemption from school of boys below leaving age, in order that they may be put to work on the land and remedy the shortage of labour caused by the war. The Board has been in communication with the County Councils or Education Authorities in Cambridgeshire, Derbyshire, Kent, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Somerset, Staffordshire, West Sussex, and Pontypridd.
In some cases the local authorities ask for relaxation of the by-laws to enable boys of 12 and 13 to be exempted from school. In other cases they complain that when boys stay away and the authority prosecutes the parents the magistrates refuse to hear evidence and dismiss the summonses. The position taken up by the Board of Education is that there is no reason for any change in the law, and that exemption from school should be an exception rather than the rule. The local Education Authority is not bound to summon parents for non-attendance of boys, and the Board suggest that in individual and exceptional cases absence should be acquiesced in. The Board offer no remedy for the dismissal of summonses by Magistrates.
The general attitude of the Board may be gathered from their reply to a request from the Derbyshire Education Committee that boys over 12 years of age should be exempted, even if they had not passed the fifth standard, on the ground of the dearth of farm labour. The Board state:-
“The only reason alleged for an alteration in the by-laws is that there exists in some places a dearth of farm labour, and that the services of boys of 12 would be very useful.” It appears to the Board that this is a proposition that might have been, and probably was, true on many occasions before the war, and quite irrespective of the war, and it does not appear to afford any sufficient justification for a proposal to interrupt the education of children at the age of 12, which have not even passed the fifth standard ......
“Before deciding not to enforce attendance in a particular case, the Board consider that the authority should satisfy themselves that there is a pressing need in the public interest of agricultural labour, that that need cannot be supplied either by utilising the services of children who are already exempt from school attendance or by employing adult labour, and that the child selected for employment is a child who can be permitted to leave school with the least possible prejudice to his educational interests.”
The Board hope that Magistrates will not refuse to go into the merits of summonses for non-attendance.
Reported in the Kent Messenger of 27th February 1915 - "CORPORAL W. BRADFORD, D.C.M. Corpl. W. Bradford, of the 2nd Highland Light Infantry, was, when the war broke out, a postman at Teynham, having previously served seven years with the Colours. He is, however, a Canterbury man, and his younger brother is with the Kent Cyclist Corps. Writing to his young lady at Snodland, the Corporal tells in modest terms of some of his experiences. At the battle of Mons he was in the trenches for 62 hours at a stretch, under heavy fire, but it is, we believe, for work done on November 14th, then the Germans were defeated near Ypres, that he has, more especially, been awarded the coveted honour. He had a very narrow escape then when on patrol duty, and, later, nearly the whole of a trench from which he was firing was blown up by shell fire. He was bruised by the fall of earth, and the three men next to him were blown to pieces. The two officers were also killed. "My Company Sergeant-Major," he writes, "has also been awarded the D.C.M. All the men - 13 in all - who were left in the trench with me have congratulated me - saying I saved their lives by making them hold the position under an artillery fire which was nothing more nor less than murderous. I am proud to say that my regiment has not lost an inch of ground during the whole of the war. We have got officers whom anyone should be proud of, and I am sorry that so many of our young promising ones have been killed."
GERMANS ATTACK WITH FIRE BOMBS.
PARIS, Tuesday, Feb. 9. The following communiqués were issued to-day:—
No event of importance has been reported. In the afternoon of yesterday we exploded in front of Fay, south-west of Péronne, a mine gallery
we reoccupied a mill in which the enemy had succeeded in installing himself.
Soissons has been bombarded with incendiary projectiles. Along the whole of the Aisne front and in Champagne our artillery effectively countered the German batteries.
In the Argonne the struggle begun around Bagatelle developed in one of the thickest parts of the forest, and consequently assumed a somewhat confused character. As a whole the respective fronts have been maintained on both sides.
The forces engaged on Sunday did not exceed three to four battalions on each side. In the course of yesterday only one of our battalions was fighting.
In Lorraine and in the Vosges mere were artillery engagements.—Reuter.
where some soldiers of the enemy were working.
In Belgium there was an intermittent artillery duet. Ypres and Furnes were bombarded. The Belgian artillery destroyed a farm, the defenders of which fled along the Bethune—La Bassee road.
26th February – Kent & Sussex Courier
Archdeacon A.T. Scott presided at the monthly meeting of the Borough Education Committee, which was held at the Town Hall on Monday afternoon.
The School attendance Sub-Committee reported on investigations made into the question of the irregular attendance of children at some of the local elementary schools. The School Medical Officer reported to the Sub-Committee that he had examined 1,060 children during the past year, and that 1.9 per cent of this number had been excluded from school. The Sub-Committee expressed the opinion that these figures were very satisfactory. The return of average attendance presented by the Town Clerk (Mr. W.C. Cripps) showed percentages varying from 82.6 to 86.7 from December 18th to January 22nd. Warnings were issued to 34 parents.
Alderman H. ELWIG enquired what were the reasons for the irregular attendance of children?
Councillor J.G. PASSINGHAM, Chairman of the Sub-Committee, replied that medical men had given certificates, and the Sub-Committee could not over-ride what was done in that respect. Although he hoped the impression was wrong, the Sub-Committee feared that the Magistrates did not entirely support them with reference to the fines inflicted for non-attendance at school. It was ridiculous for the Sub-Committee to spend a lot of time going thoroughly into the cases, and then, when the matter came before the Magistrates, the cases were adjourned for a month, or the fines, if any, were imposed, were not enforced. He was hoping that something could be done by the Education Committee to give the School Attendance Sub-Committee more power for dealing with cases of irregular attendance, which had a very prejudicial effect on the Government grant. Up to last August the attendance was very good, over 90 per cent. He could not say if the war had had any effect on it.
Alderman H. ELWIG said the matter was s serious one. He had been told that the children sent home under medical orders had a considerable bearing on the decrease.
Mrs. G. ABBOTT said some of the cases of non-attendance were due to children being sent home on account of uncleanliness. That ought to be speedily remedied. She suggested a memorial to the Borough Magistrates asking them to support the Education Committee.
The TOWN CLERK said his experience was the magistrates were very hard on local authorities who tried to press cases. The tendency of the present day was not to punish anybody for anything (laughter). The only people treated badly were those who obeyed the law.
The CHAIRMAN: Can’t we do something by means of a little moral pressure on parents?
Councillor PASSINGHAM: We want the fines for non-attendance enforced.
The matter then dropped.
The Tunbridge Wells Workers’ War Emergency committee wrote asking the Committee to exercise their powers to feed hungry school children in the town. They were given to understand some time ago that there was no need for this action, but children were being fed at the present time by private charity, so obviously the need existed. Moreover, the private charity was in need of funds.
Alderman ELWIG said it was only recently reported that there were no cases of underfed school children.
Mrs. ABBOTT: That was three or four months ago. Since then the rise in the prices of provisions and coal has entirely changed the position.
Alderman ELWIG pointed out that there was no lack of employment in the town.
Mrs ABBOTT: But wages have not risen. She moved that another return be asked for from the head teachers and the Distress Committees, in order to ascertain if the need now existed.
Councillor Colonel HUNTER seconded.
The proposition was lost by six votes to four.
“The Committee, in December last, had before them a resolution from the Sevenoaks Branch of the National Farmers’ Union requesting that children should be granted exemption from school attendances after their twelfth birthday for employment for agricultural purposes during the period of the war, and the Committee then informed the applicants that, while sympathising with the object in view, they could not see their way to adopt the proposal. Similar requests or suggestions had been received from other quarters. The Hoo Board of Guardians hoped that the matter might be reconsidered. “They think that the Committee, in declining to act as desired, scarcely seem to appreciate the serious position of matters. The potato planting season is coming on, and the women who have usually done the work appear to be in such good circumstance through payments derived from the State that they do not now care to work.” Upon this the Sub-Committee remarked that while they earnestly deprecated the withdrawal from school of children under fourteen years of age otherwise than in accordance with the bye-laws, they felt that the demand for child labour could not but increase, and that the matter was one which called for the early attention of the Committee. So far as they had discussed the matter the Sub-Committee were of opinion that no relaxation in the enforcement of the bye-laws in order to allow of the extended employment of children should be made before the approach of summer, and that if any be then made it should be accompanied with a condition that any child released from employment must work only under the supervision of its parents or some other approved guardian.
The report having been moved for adoption by Mr. BERRY, Lord NORTHBOURNE initiated a discussion with reference to the shortage of agricultural labour and the necessity of relaxing the bye-laws in order to enable children of from12 to 14 years of age being released for light farm work. His Lordship proposed an amendment for a reference back to the Sub-Committee to consider and report what facilities could be given in this direction in the present crisis, and Mr. H. PAYNE seconded.
Messrs. TAPP and H.T. WATTS raised very strong protests against anything being done which would allow of child labour, and the former pointed out that the Committee had no power to alter the bye-law.
Upon being put to the vote there were nine for and nine against, and by the casting vote of the Chairman the amendment was negative, at the same time it being stated that the matter would come before the Sub-Committee.
The report was then confirmed.”
------------------ [IN THE SAME EDITION]
TONBRIDGE PETTY SESSIONS. TUESDAY.- Before Mr. C.W. Powell (Chairman), Alderman F.E. East, Mr. W. Baldwin, Mr. A.F.W.Johnson, Mr. A.J. Isard, Mr. G. Paine and Mr. F.D. Draper.
ABSENT FROM SCHOOL. Frederick Twiner, Bickley Cottages, Tonbridge, George Tanfield, 128, St. Mary’s-road, Tonbridge; and Jonathan Ridge, Lodge Oak Lane, Tonbridge, were summoned for failing to send their children to school regularly.
Mr. W.Swale, School Attendance Officer, stated the facts of the cases.
Mr. Tanfield stated that he was not aware his boy was staying away until the officer informed him of the fact.
The Bench made orders for attendance in each case.