air raids, charities, Edgar Sutton, enlistment, Police, rationing, recruitment, Special constables, Tettenhall Urban District Council, Wednesfield Urban District Council, Wolverhampton Borough Council
The majority of the First World War period appears in the sixth minute book of Wednesfied Urban District Council (Dec 1912 – February 1918).
In common with Wolverhampton and Tettenhall Councils, Wednesfield was also concerned with employing new Special Constables to replace those police officers who had enlisted in the Army. On 17 August 1914, the Council resolved to put a notice “on the door of the Council office” asking for suitable men. By 28 February 1916, the Council received a circular from the Stafford Police concerning steps to be taken “to warn the District in the event of Air Raids.” It was agreed that the Surveyor would make arrangements with one of the local works to use a hooter to warn of air raids. This information would be produced as a hand bill for members of the public. But by 11 September 1916, a communication from the County Chief Constable states that “no warnings of approaching enemy aircraft will be given from the Telephone Exchange or the Police except on conditions that no sound alarms of any sort are to be allowed.”
The Council also supported the effort to raise funds for the “relief of distress caused by the War. A County meeting at Stafford, which was referred to in the minutes of 17 August 1914, had resolved that money would be paid into the Prince of Wales’s Fund, through the Chairman of the Urban District Council, with “all needy cases [being] relieved from this Fund.” Mention was also made on 9 November 1914 of Belgian refugees, although nothing was resolved.
The Council was also keen to support its employees and their families. On 12 October 1914,
it was unanimously resolved that the Council pay Mrs Evans, wife of one of their employe’s [sic] who had gone to the War, such a sum not exceeding ten shillings per week from the time he went until further resolved by the Council as will with what she is receiving from other sources make up the sum of One pound per week.
On 9 October 1916, the Council received an application under the War Charities Act 1916 for a small sum of between £10 and £15 for “the benefit of Joe and Fred Ball who had received serious injuries in the War.” The Council’s motor tractor driver, Edgar Sutton, asked on 8 November 1915, to be released from his role so that he could enlist, but they resolved that, as he was “engaged principally in removing night soil and other sanitary work and no other driver being available”, they could not spare him. Similarly when the Surveyor and Inspector reported on 6 November 1916 that he had been called up for military service, the Council resolved “that his services are absolultely indispensable and that he be furnished with a copy of this resolution if necessary.”
On 4 January 1915 it was resolved that the Chairman, S. Sidebotham, be appointed the Council’s representative on the District Committee of the Wolverhampton (Outer) Recruiting District Committee of the Staffordshire Territorial Force Association. Recruitment and enlistment was also addressed in the meeting on 19 July 1915, when the Clerk drew attention to the National Registration Act 1915 “and pointed out the duties of the Council thereunder.” He suggested dividing the District into four sub-districts corresponding with the polling stations at elections, so that the names and addresses of men in each sub-district could be gathered. The Council had to bring on extra staff to compile the Register, and there were discussions around accommodation and furniture for these staff. By 13 September 1915, the work had been completed. By 8 November 1915, the Council appointed the members of the Local Tribunal to decide recruiting questions, with Mr Beech, Kiteley, Roberts, Sidebotham and Smith constituting the committee.
Other issues that are touched upon throughout this period is the growing of food locally, and the arrangements for recognising those men who have received honours during the War.