Saturday, April 28, 2012

Dr Ethel Bentham MP - Lessons From the Titanic - Labour 1912


On Sunday evening (6th May 1912), at the weekly meeting of the Uxbridge Independent Labour Party (ILP), held at the Rockingham Hall, Uxbridge. Dr Ethel Bentham was the speaker, and took as her subject “The Titanic and its lessons.” Mr (Robert) Hudson presided over a fair attendance.

The Chairman, in his opening remarks explained that the White Star Line was owned by the Oceanic Steam Navigation Co. – an organisation which is rather more American than British and was typical of the international character of modern capitalism. He pointed out that that when Mr Pierpont Morgan took over the old company, together with several other British Lines each shareholder of £1,000 was given practically £10,000, receiving £4,000 in cash and £6,000 in stock, and the workers had to make up the additional interest on the bloated capital.

The capital of the Oceanic Company was £750,000 and the dividends last year amounted to over 30 per cent. They could imagine only too well how that money had been earned, with the wretched pay of the stokers, the under-equipment of ships, and the like. (Hear, hear.)

Dr Bentham said that the loss of the Titanic seemed to have taken hold of the public imagination and the Press had exploited the incident with extraordinarily zeal. Some of them might wonder if there would have been so much fuss made if the passenger list had comprised merely so many emigrants, instead of having such a proportion of millionaires.

She had been over these big liners, and always wondered what would happen to the steerage passengers who were placed right down in the bowels or the ship, so that their chance of escape was not one-tenth

Of that of the people who were favoured with quarters on the upper decks. These ships had also reached a pitch of abominable luxury for the well to do, which could only be compared with the worst days of decadent Rome. Was it not extraordinary that one man should be able to pay £900 for a five days’ trip, simply in order to keep himself aloof from his fellow human beings!

But the whole cause of the event was deep-rooted in our social system and presented lessons far-reaching, wherever they like to turn in studying the present state of things. Take, for instance, the fact that more money was paid in royalties upon the coal used in one ship for a single voyage that was received by the whole of the stokers for their wages in using up that coal during the voyage.

Such things would continue to happen so long as these companies remained in private hands, to be used without reference to public needs and regardless of the welfare of the people employed. The speaker felt she could not blame the officials who had to do the best for their shareholders; the blame was to be placed upon the industrial system of society, which allowed such work to be done merely for private profit, rather than in the interests of the community as a whole.

They would find similar results in every trade carried on in the same way; the miner had to risk his life with poor equipment, just as the painter might be injured for life by using a rotten ladder, or the dressmaker having her health undermined by working long hours with very insufficient food and amidst insanitary conditions. For similar reason the working classes suffered from consumption at six times the rate of other classes and died at far earlier ages and suffered more accidents. These things would continue until the people demanded the nationalisation of the railways, shipping, the mines and the land, and have these worked in the interest of the nation and not the profit alone.

Several questions were asked at the close, and the speaker thanked for her address.

Uxbridge Advertiser 11 May 1912

A Titanic Disaster benefit match was held at Harefield, Middlesex. Where the  village team met their deadly rivals in deadly conflict namely Harefield Asbestos f.c asbestos team 5th May in drizzling rain Walker, Gomm, Hatch, Phipps, Fensome, Gomm, Wiggins, Mason, Gregory (Man of the Match), Gurney and Taylor.

Dr Ethel Bentham MP (Labour - Islington East)

Dr Ethel Bentham was born at 82 King William Street, Central London on 5th January 1861 daughter manager at Standard Life Assurance.

She grew up in Dublin, Ireland and witnessed appalling poverty.

Dr Bentham attended the London School of Medicine and after qualifying retuned to Rotunda hospital in Dublin to qualify as a midwife

She entered into General Practice in London before moving to Newcastle where she entered into a GP practice with Dr Ethel Williams in a poor area of the City. living at 46 Walker Terrace, Gateshead.

In 1907 Dr Bentham fought as a Labour candidate for Westgate South ward.

Dr Bentham joined Independent Labour Party in 1902, Fabian society in 1907.

While in Newcastle Dr Bentham became active in the peaceful National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies, campaigning for "Votes fo for women" .
Moving to London she was in 1909 elected a Labour Councillor in the Borough of Kensigton.

On the death of Ramasey MacDonald's wife she established (His wife had died from blood poisoning in 1911)  The Margaret MacDonald and Baby Clinic in North Kensington at 12 Telford Road, 1924 the Clinic moved to 92 Tavistock Road.

Dr Bentham was active in the Women's Labour League from 1913. She helped and carried out medical examinations for Mrs Pember Reeves (Fabian Women's group) research report "Round about a pound a week" (1913) which concerned women in Lambeth.

In the report, Pember Reeves argued for a series of government reforms including child benefit, free health clinics and the provision of school meals.

Dr Ethel Bentham became a Quaker in 1920 .

Dr Ethel Bentham then fought Islington East as a Labour candidate in 1922, 1923 and 1924,  elected in 1929 as part of the second Labour Government. She became the first women doctor to be elected to parliament first  and the first female Quaker.

Friends with Marion Phillips and Mary Longman lived at there house at 74 Lansdowne Road.

While in London lived at 61 Lansdowne Road, Holland Park

Labour MP Dr Ethel Bentham never married and dedicated her life to the poor, she died 19 January 1931, just after her 70th birthday at 110 Beaufort Street, Chelsea cremated three days later, cremated at Golders Green and internment at Jordan's.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Class and the sinking of the RMS Titanic

This week we have been treated to the story of the RMS Titanic, which sank in the North Atlantic 100 years ago on 15 April 1912. The Titanic has gripped the popular imagination for decades – the story filling books, radio plays and, more recently, even a 3D film. For some, the story resonates because it involved so many aspects of human behaviour from heroism to cowardice, sacrifice and selfishness.

Interest in the Titanic surged when, on 1st September 1985, the wreck was finally located. Thereafter, intensive investigations in dangerous waters, allowed a range of scientists, including social scientists to reconstruct her last journey. As such, another story has emerged.

We can now be certain, for example, that working class voyagers faced a greatly reduced chance of leaving the sinking Titanic alive.

For many, the tragic loss of the Titanic is based on snippets of history learned at school or garnered from films.

Legends persist that: ‘the band played on’ as the ship sank; the Captain went down with his ship and ‘women and children first’ was the overriding principle in filling the lifeboats.

While the first two are true, the women and children first policy was not adhered to. In fact it was class that determined if one lived or died on that freezing and frightening night.

When the “unsinkable” Titanic hit the iceberg at 20 to midnight on 14th April 1912, she was approximately 400 miles east of Newfoundland, but by then class had already played it’s part.

The Titanic ship had been built at Harland & Wolf shipyard at Belfast, at a cost equivalent to £100m today, but by a workforce divided by religious bigotry.

Eight shipbuilders died during the three years - 1909-1911 it took to build. The first to die was Samuel Joseph Scott at just 15 years of age. Some 246 were injured during the same period with 28 severe, involving loss of a limb.

Harland and Wolff factored into its shipbuilding contracts deaths such as Scott’s by building in a death fatality rate of one per 10,000 tons of ship. She was to be built, according to the agreement between owners White Star and Harland’s “barring no expense”. This included loss of life and limb for those who built it.

She finally set sail on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York having cost the equivalent of £250 million pound at today’s values. The Titanic was an impressive achievement nonetheless weighing 66,000 tons and extending 285 metres long. She was lit by 10,000 light bulbs. The crew of 918 was drawn predominately from the ports of Southampton (4 out of 5) and Liverpool, while many of the restaurant staff came from France and Italy.

The 1,315 strong passenger list was similarly diverse. It included some of the wealthiest people in the world, with a first class suite costing up to £870. Below decks were over one thousands emigrants, mostly in Third Class steerage. They paid £7 a ticket with the aim of emigrating to America having sold all they had to afford the passage. Many of whom were Irish (113) Swedish or Syrian. These steerage passengers had births on decks F and G in the hull of the ship and shared two baths.

Such were the class divisions on board that the doors between the various levels and classes were permanently locked.

When the Titanic hit the Iceberg, which brought her down, the crew were instructed to began evacuation into lifeboats from both sides of the ship. Those into the first six lifeboats were exclusively first class passengers. Whilst on the port side first class women and children were given priority, on the starboard, it was reported that first class men made their way into the lifeboats regardless of rule or myth.

Shockingly, the third class, steerage passengers, deep inside the ship were not woken or informed of events. No alarm was ever raised in third class. Those third class passengers that attempted to ascend to the deck were told according, to witness Annie Kelly (who later became a nun) to return to their births

Those who did manage to make it out and up onto the deck found gates locked against them and there were even reports of crew members with guns obstructing progress to the lifeboats.

It is clear from the evidence, that the third class passengers who did survive, were only able to do so by by jumping from the ship and scrabbling on board the last (often full) lifeboats then edging towards the sea.

Colonel Archibald Gracie testified at the American inquiry that a "mass of humanity" from steerage poured up onto the boat deck, but only after all the lifeboats had gone.

Those who question whether Class played a part in the survival chances of passengers on the Titanic simply need to consider the facts now known. Thirty seven per cent of the first class passengers perished in the freezing waters whilst 63% survived. Of the 440 male third class passengers onboard, just 59 survived [13%].

While five out of six children from first class survived, less than a third of the children of third class passengers survived.

Compare these statistics to the plight of the nine pampered dogs on board, two of whom were saved, statistically proving you had more chance of survival as a dog on the Titanic than a working class male passenger.

The Class nature of the tragedy is also reflected in the plight of the crew. Of the 918 members of the staff and crew only 215 survived,

Just one lone restaurant worker survived and maybe highlighting attitudes to foreign workers, not one of the thirty-seven Italian waiters survived.

The White Star Line that owned the ship and employed the crew who had done their best to evacuate, had even less regard for their staff after the tragedy. They not only sacked all the workers on arrival in New York, but incredulously back dated their dismissal to the 15th April the actual time of the sinking. This left many penniless and some were forced to beg.

When the list of those who died was posted it would be the working class areas of Southampton that would be hardest hit.

Two Inquiries were convened to examine the event. They concluded that excessive speed was to blame for the sinking. Class bigotry was once again to hand as not a single third class passenger was called to give a testimony.

Michael Walker

Hayes People's History

April 2012

Monday, April 09, 2012

Brothers Ernest & George White - Killed Together at Vimy Ridge April 1917


Ernest and George White, sons of Samuel George and Emily White 20 Lawn Road, Uxbridge, Middlesex, England. both 10th Company 4th Battalion Canadian Machine Corps, Canadian Expeditionary Force, killed on the attack on Vimy Ridge 11th April 1917.

All four White sons enlisted at Calgary in 1914, Ernest and George were "killed side by side in the line at Vimy Ridge".

A surviving Brother (Harry White) became a stationmaster in Ottawa and another brother lived in Vancouver, while a sister remained in England.

Tragedy hit the family again when the youngest brother (fifth) was killed in World War II

On retirement in 1956, Harry White of 63 Sweetland Avenue travelled to visit his remaining brother in Vancouver and his sister in England.

William (Walter?) Ernest White (age 20) Canadian cemetary No2 Neuville St Vaast born 18 July 1896 Killed 11 April 1917 Vimy Ridge

William George White (age 33) Givenchy Road Canadian Cemetery Neuville St Vaast born 27 January 1884 killed Vimy Ridge 11 April 1917

Herbert Samuel White
born 18 August 1888 Buckinghamshire, england
died 16 Feb 1962
 Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry enlisted May 1915
Buried  Forest Lawn Cemetery, Burnaby, British Columbia
Next of Kin in 1915 Emily White
1527 27th Avenue Calgary Alberta
 Herbert Samuel White Original overseas unit 56th Canadian Infantry Battalion. Joined the P.P.C.L.I. in the field June 10, 1916. Struck off strength July 2, 1917.
Compassionate discharge after the deaths of his brothers Cpl. William George White (434115) and Pvt. Walter Ernest White (434353) both of 10th Coy. Canadian Machine Gun Corps on April 11, 1917 at Vimy Ridge.  Returned to Canada where first born child (December 25, 1918) was named Patricia after the battalion.  Worked as a mail carrier in Vancouver until retirement.  Died 1962.  Daughter Betty served with the Canadian Army as a nursing sister in England while Son Victor served in Royal Canadian Air Force during second world war.

1919 Clagary Herald

WHITE, Geroge and Ernest - In loving memory of George and Ernest White killed in action at

Vimy Ridge, 9th April 1917 (Poem) Inserted by their loving brother, H.S. White 1622 n52p0737

Twenty-eighth avenue southwest, Calgary.

Vimy Ridge - April 1917 - 95th Anniversary - A Nation Born

As 5,000 young Canadians gather at the site of the famous battle of Vimy Ridge, France to remember the 3,600 men killed and 7,000 wounded the 9th to 12th April 1917.

Significantly, the capture at great cost of Vimy Ridge by the Canadian forces represents the rise of Canadian nationhood and the maple leaf as the national flag.

On this 95th Anniversary of Vimy Ridge, we also should recall those sons of Hillingdon residents who gave their lives fighting for Canada and remember the thousands of Canadians stationed around Hillingdon during World War One, the Canadian miners and lumberjacks at Denham Camp (Buckinghamshire) and the Canadian hospital in Uxbridge High Street which opened in January 1916

The Canadian Tunnelling Corps (Canadian Miners), and Canadian signalmen at Denham camp, Buckinghamshire (July 1917) and the Canadian Foresters at Windsor Great Park

Canadian Hospital at Hillingdon House and Canadian Club at 156 or 158 Uxbridge High Street opened in January 1916.


Ernest and George White sons of Samuel George and Emily White 20 Lawn Road, Uxbridge Middlesex both 10th Company 4th battalion Canadian Machine Corps, Canadian Expeditionary Force, who both died on the attack on Vimy Ridge 11th April 1917. Four White brothers Joined Calgary 1914


The Palmer Brothers from Hayes, Middlesex, England sons of Hayes Labour Party founder and first Hayes Labour Councillor Henry Palmer died fighting in the Canadian Army.

William Alfred Palmer, Eastern Ontario Reg (Killed 26 th April 1916 buried Woods Cemetery, Belgium).

Lieutenant Henry Arthur Palmer, Central Ontario Reg (killed 30th September 1918 buried Cantimpre Canadian Cemetery, Nord France)

Death of Private Herbert Frank M Newman
(photo right)

After having risked the dangers of war for four years Private Herbert Frank M Newman, younger son of Mr William Newman of Harefield Road, Uxbridge (previously Holley Cottage, Brickfield Road, Uxbridge) was siezed with influenza and after only three days illness passed away in camp at Bramshott.
The Deceased was thirty years of age, previously employed at an Uxbridge Mill he went to Canada seven years ago, and when War broke out he "answered the call" and had been on active service with the Canadian Forces
(25th Battalion Canadian Infantry (Nova Scotia Regiment)
practically ever since. He was wounded but had recovered and was looking forward to an early return to civilian life when he was seized with illness which so suddenly proved fatal. Much sympathy is extended to his young wife and other relatives in their bereavement. wreaths from nurses and staff Canadian Hospital Bramshott, staff at Boxmoor Wharf and comrades at Bramshott camp.

With full military honours, the funeral took place at Hillingdon Cemetery on Wednesday morning. The coffin covered with a union jack, was borne to the cemetery on a gun carriage, and the cortege was met by a Canadian Army Chaplin who impressively conducted the service,

Following the service, volleys were fired over the grave and buglers sounded the last post (picture of Private Newman ) (Advertiser & Gazette 28 February 1919).

Private Herbert Frank Newman born 30th November 1888,
died 07/02/19195ft 6 inches, complexion dark, tall, Brown eyes, Black hair, scar on right forefinger. Joined up Lindsay, Ontario, Canada 18th March 1915. 25th Battalion Canadian Infantry (Nova Scotia Regiment),
Occupation Miller
Husband of Gladys P.J. Newman, of 53, The Lynch, Uxbridge, Middlesex.

Canadian Sports Day - England 1917

Dolphin Ground, Slough Saturday September 20th 1917. Canadian Lumberjack and Military Sports including Baseball match Canadian Foresters (Smith's Lawn) V ? ? Another ??? ? Log rolling, log sawing, chopping, best turned out, Logging Team