Friday, January 10, 2014

Hayes Labour attiude to WW1

It is clear despite a significant minority of the Labour Party opposing World War One, The vast majority of the British Labour Party ended up supporting the War, and it seems this was reflected locally in Hayes, West Middlesex.

While there may have been concerns about the War by Hayes Labour Association founder Percy Langton accusing the “gutter press ” of having “done more to bring about this war than the Kaiser.”
The German invasion of neutral Belgium and abuses of Belgium civilians had swung support to the pro War lobby

Former Hayes Urban District Labour Councillor, Henry Palmer, who had by 1915 emigrated to Canada stated
“We are fighting a just and right war and one that was forced on us to keep our honor we were bound to help the weak and those of us who have to give up our sons to go, know that if they never come back they died doing their duty for their country. Both of my sons have gone and if they never come back I say God’s will be done
Henry Palmer; Stratford Canada
December 1915

Henry Palmer, like so many paid a heavy price for his beliefs, both his sons were killed William Alfred Palmer (Eastern Ontario Regiment) 26th April 1916 Lieutenant Henry Arthur Palmer (Central Ontario Regimen) 30th September 1918.

Likewise Uxbridge Councillor and Uxbridge Independant Labour Party Secretary, L.W. Spencer was killed

At Uxbridge, Labour Councillor Robert Hudson got caught up with the jingoism of the day in stating that “We are all British before Party” 

A more main stream Labour Party view of the War was stated by Labour Perspective Parliamentary Candidate for Uxbridge Parliamentary Division (which included Hayes) Harry Gosling at a meeting in Harefield in late1918
“I hate war and militarism but I would object to anyone taking a liberty with me (?) I believe country was absolutely right in the action it took, but it need not mean that they should go on fighting for ever and ever, the war must be settled”

In Hayes the immediate impact of the War was improved wages offered by the factory owners, (and huge numbers of women rushed to new jobs - soilders complained about their pay compared to these young women workers pay) as the factories switched from consumer goods to War goods. This no doubt also muffled opposition to the War in Hayes

But as food prices rocketed and rents doubled, there was growing support for the stance of those that protested, such as the local National Union of Railwaymen’s branches protest at price of food “ which they viewed with alarm and extreme dissatisfaction the present high prices of food “
On Rent’s, Labour Councillor Juan Drenon was at the forefront of the campaign to expose “profiteering” by Private Landlords. It was stated that “Rents in 1915 were 3s above that charged pre-War”

Councillor Drenon in a blistering attack in July 1915 stated,
The patriotism of many so called patriots, starts and ends with their pockets. It was the same with the coal owners who grew fat out of the country’s needs and risk the country’s safety rather than give the colliers a living wage”

By November 1915, Councillor Drenon was so concerned about the situation with regard to rents that he called for the establishment of a Tenants Defense League similar to that established elsewhere.
Elsewhere, in West Middlesex the harsh treatment and eviction of those with husbands and sons in the Armed Forces was typified by the heartless eviction of Mr and Mrs Fort aged 73 and 69 respectively, residing at Copthall Farm, Ickenham, who had five out of six sons in the army and one son in a restricted occupation. This eviction was not uncommon and showed the scant regard business showed to the poor during the War.

Little wonder, that the Hayes Labour Party was also supportive of the principle of £1 a week for soldiers and their dependents .

A unique letter home from Reginald Hamaton of Hillingdon who was in the Army of Occupation in (Cologne) Germany in January 1919, shines a small light on the situation in Geremany.
“We are very lucky here as we are in Jerry’s peace time barracks, and have nice single cots, pillows, and soft beds, plenty of coal for the fire, “bags” of electric light, etc. We are not allowed to walk or talk with the civilian population…..I suppose this is the place where they make the Eau de Cologne, but I have not seen any about. Of course, I cannot speak any German, and it is hard to understand the people, but they are very nice and treat us very good – far better than I thought would be the case. It is funny to see Jerry’s bicycles with the patent spilings for tyres. As you know, he has no rubber, and his motor lorries have iron tyres, and it makes the people look when they see all ours using rubber. 
Another thing they are very short of soap”.

At the end of the War what is of note is the refusal of the Labour councilors and therefore the Hayes Urban District Council to mark or participate in the victory and peace celebrations carried out by nearly every other council in the country