We featured the school log book from the Cottage Homes in Amos Lane back in November 2012. We also hold minute books of the Cottage Homes Committee for the period covering the Great War, which further illustrate how it affected daily life.
The first mention of the War comes in the meeting on 3 September 1914, when it was (understandably) agreed to allow Lieutenant Willner, the Drill Instructor, leave of absence until further notice as he is “away on active service”. By 26 November, this situation was clearly becoming untenable, as Mr T. P. O’Hara (Mental Attendant at the Workhouse) was appointed Temporary Drill Instructor during Willner’s absense, at a salary of £20 per annum.
The Committee were also keen to look after “former inmates of the Homes now serving with the Colours”. It was agreed at a meeting on 21 December 1914 that any of these who might visit the Homes over Christmas should be “temporarily accommodated there.”
Other than these matters, there is very little reference to the War, as the Committee mainly deals with supplies to the Homes, appointment of staff, and reboarding of children.
One entry does stand out, however. On 19 July 1917, the Committee conveys its “congratulations” to the Homes’ Dentist, Mr Knight,
on the fortunate absence from his ship when it sank, of his son Midshipman G. V. Knight, of H.M.S. Vanguard. Mr Knight was about to leave a concert on an adjoining Man-of-War, to rejoin his own ship, when the catastrophe happened.”
It appears that the sinking of this ship was not down to enemy action, but in fact due to an internal explosion while the ship was at Scapa Flow. Although Mr Knight escaped the incident unscathed, it is estimated that around 804 men were killed, and it is described on Wikipedia as “the most catastrophic accidental explosion in the history of the UK”. This indicates how events abroad did still overshadow the day-to-day routine back at home.