Continuing from previous blog posts, Bilston Urban District Council covered the following war-related topics during this period:
On 14 December 1916 the General Purposes Committee raised the issue of war bonuses for employees who were taking on extra work. This matter was adjourned. On 22 February 1917, the Council agreed to appoint Councillors W. Wilkins, S. Cornfield, S. Thompson, W. T. Fellows and H. York to a National Service Committee. On 15 March, the Estates Committee granted the use of the Council Chamber and the Library for “staff engaged in preparing for the canvass of the town.” The Council had a few discussions about the make-up of the local Military Service Tribunal for men to be excused or exemption from military service. On 19 April 1917, the General Purposes Committee agreed to appoint Mr D. H. Martin of Handsworth to represent Labour, in place of Mr G. Tarratt.
There is also mention of a local Prisoner of War camp in Ettingshall. The main Council resolved to undertake sanitary services at the Camp on 26 April 1917. In May, there was a discussion with the Captain of the A. S. C., Derby about the cost of the refuse removal, “namely at 10% on the actual cost.”
The Council was keen to support its employees who had enlisted, stating on 15 March 1917 the “that no objection be offered by the Council to enrolment”. By 18 October 1917, they were discussing the production of a Roll of Honour listing the names of all serving employees, to be hung in the Council Chamber. The Council also reported on employees who had already enlisted. For example, on 26 April 1917, they noted that “Satisfactory reports were received of the services of the Engineer of the Council, Lieutenant V. Turner, now on road service in France.” One of Turner’s assistants, Lance-Corporal J. S. Colbourne, was home on leave “awaiting the conferring of a commission upon him.” Bilston Council were also asked on 19 April 1916 whether they would be willing to employ conscientious objectors on national work, such as fire brigades, civil hospitals or asylums. This request was refused, on the grounds “that friction would result amongst their employees.”
As well as military and recruitment matters, the Council also discussed matters closer to home, including rationing and food shortages. On 22 March 1917 the Council was asked “to co-operate in a campaign for reducing the consumption of food throughout the country.”
By 17 May 1917, the number of Belgian refugee families in the area had been reduced to two. This meant that the Chairman of the Belgian Refugees Committee (C. W. Harris) suggested that use of the present Hostel be disctonited, and the families be moved to unoccupied rooms in the house at Hickman Park. This was agreed by the main Council on 24 May 1917, “provided that they can make satisfactory arrangements with the tenant Mr R. Lees.”
Enemy air raids were also discussed. It was noted on 13 December 1917 that the Government “had decided to make ex. gratia awards in cases where personal injury had resulted in death or permanent disablement, and where the injured person or his dependants, as the case may be, are unprovided for.” Details of the scheme were included in the minutes.
Finally, the people of Bilston were praised by the Mayor of Wolverhampton on 28 February 1918 for their “excellent results…in connection with National War Bonds during the Wolverhampton Tank Bank Week.”