The Bulletin of the Birmingham Branch of the WFA
Compiled by Bob Butcher
DID YOU KNOW?
Note: German pioneers were equipped with saw-edged bayonets. Allied propaganda depicted these as ‘barbaric Hun devices’ although they obviously had a practical use. (Ed)
Early in the war certain British regiments formed divisional pioneer battalions e.g. 4th Bn (Pioneers) Coldstream Guards, 17th Bn (Pioneers) Northumberland Fusiliers. It was intended that half the personnel should have been used to pick and shovel work, the remainder being tradesmen such as joiners, bricklayers, etc. Otherwise the battalions were similar to ordinary battalions. They were trained for entrenching, road making and demolition and were also used for bridging and making camps. The infantry L of C defence troops were unable to provide sufficient working parties so early in the war, some regiments formed labour battalions of men not fit for front line service. These units were subsequently absorbed by the newly- formed Labour Corps.
The Ministry of Munitions was therefore established in June 1915 and became responsible for the design, manufacture, testing and supply of all munitions. Unlike the War Office, it had access to almost unlimited finance and acquired great powers. Its activities included the acquisition and control of raw materials, finance, contracts, labour, welfare, wages and
much else. It could order manufacturers what to make and set up government `national factories', mostly for the manufacture and filling of shells. When it was thought that munitions workers over-stayed their dinner breaks in pubs, the Minister secured an amendment to licensed hours by enforcing an afternoon break in opening hours. In the Carlisle area the whole of the drinks industry was nationalised. Both these measures continued until quite recently.
The story of the Ministry is undoubtedly one of success although for political reasons, the earlier measures taken by Kitchener and the War Office have been overshadowed. Towards the end of the war, the Ministry commenced the compilation of an official history which has recently been reprinted and become available to the public for the first time. It took twelve full sized volumes to record just how good it had been, but then the first Minister was Lloyd George and the last Winston Churchill.
On 5 June 1915 the Birmingham Munitions Tribunal heard the following case. Four canal boatmen working for a Birmingham manufacturing firm had given fourteen days notice that they would quit unless their wages were raised. Their action was part of a more widespread strike. There was very high inflation during the First World War so big pay rises were needed just to keep in pace with it.
Shortly before the fortnight strike notice was over the employers agreed a ten percent pay rise and the strike threat was lifted. However their firm gave these four boatmen a week's notice. They appealed to the Birmingham Munitions Tribunal claiming victimisation.
The representative of the firm that had employed the four men told the tribunal that what had happened was coincidence. They had come to a policy decision to stop directly employing canal boatmen and use outside contractors instead.
The tribunal decided that the four men had indeed been victimised. It fined the company five pounds (about five hundred pounds in our terms) of which three pounds was to be given to the four men, each getting fifteen shillings compensation for lost time.
but I cannot get in touch with your spirit', He said he saw a ghost called Edward with a pointed beard, and that a 'spirit woman' had died of heart trouble. Leaf told the witness to put her fingers on his palms and as she did he mumbled. A second witness woman had also visited his house and paid him five shillings. Mr Denman convicted Leaf of fortune telling and fined him £25 plus five shillings costs, or two months in gaol.
The next spiritualist put on trial was Olive Bush, thirty-four, an American dressmaker and milliner alias Madame Start. At her request her trial was adjourned so that she might consult a solicitor. She was given bail with two fifty pound sureties.
Agnes Constance Macdonald, forty-four, alias Madame Vox, a palmist was then tried. Earlier evidence had been given but at this hearing a woman witness told of having visited Vox and signed a document. The defence solicitor said that it said that Vox did not wish to deceive or impose on anyone. Mr Denman said that one could not 'contract out' of the law. A woman who had accompanied the previous witness said that Vox had said that she would marry young, her husband would have a legacy ten years later, she would have one five years later, and they would have two children. She paid two and six for this prophecy. Mr Denman fined Vox £15 and £5 five shillings costs.
Susan Fielder forty-three, was then tried. A woman witness had seen her on 3 February and paid for a palm and crystal reading. Fielder told her of a fair man who was abroad in khaki and was a Lieutenant, of a fat dark married man, and that she would have 'the time of your life'. Mr Denman convicted Fielder and said that in her case there were no extenuating circumstances but 'only revolting and objectionable features, which could only be regarded as
dangerous, wicked and horrible'. He
sentenced her to two months in gaol without the option of a fine.
The last spiritualist to be tried at this hearing was Annie Elizabeth Brodie, aged forty-four, alias Madame Leslie. Apart from being a paid spiritualist it was said that she had been convicted at Dublin for keeping a disorderly house, and had been expelled from the last Bristol International Exhibition. She denied these charges but was sentenced to two months in gaol without the option of a fine.
Looking at these cases Fielder was imprisoned without the option of a fine because her prophecies were seen as encouraging immorality. Brodie as a convicted brothel keeper, was also imprisoned without the option of a fine. Leaf and Macdonald were given the option of paying a heavy fine or of imprisonment because their visions were less harmful or merely silly, and they were otherwise seemingly respectable people. Bush was treated with kid gloves as an American citizen.
1 A stern Calvinist Scot, he went to France in November 1914 with the 5th Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) and received a facial wound. He became well known as the head of a national institution, was knighted and became a government minister. Who was he?
2 Who commanded the Canadian Corps when they captured Vimy Ridge?
3 'Tell any politician a military secret and he will go straight home and tell his wife, except who will tell some one else's'. Who said this of whom?
4 Who was Secretary of State for War on 4 August 1914?
5 What post did Winston Churchill hold immediately before commanding a battalion in France?