Thursday, 26 March 2015

Bedford Women's Liberal Association

F.G.Kellaway MP (Wikipedia)

Wednesday 26th March 1915:  The Bedford Women’s Liberal Association held its annual meeting and sale of work yesterday. The nature of the Association’s work has naturally changed since the outbreak of war. It has made garments for soldiers and Belgians and has subscribed to a motor ambulance for the front. The Recreation Committee has held whist drives and dances for the entertainment of the younger Liberals, from which a total of £18 has been subscribed to various war related charities

Mrs T. Lee Roberts, speaking from the Chair said that although the “cloud of war”  had come upon them she had never lost hope, “as long as they had a sailor King, with fine commonsense and justice, an energetic Queen, a level-headed Prime Minister, a diplomatic Foreign Secretary, a sound Chancellor, and a lively and far-seeing First Lord of the Admiralty, they would not go wrong. With Field-Marshall Lord Kitchener, and all their generals, and so many brave soldiers and sailors fighting for them, they might look forward to an honourable peace. They as women, though they could not go to the front, must do their best at home.”

The chief speaker was Mr. F. G. Kellaway, M.P.[1], who addressed a number of local issues. The question of charges for postage on parcels was a difficult one, as the Postmaster-General’s main concern was to ensure the provision of munitions; it would be hard to apply pressure to reduce postage charges if this would put additional pressure on the service. Mr Kellaway had received many complaints about billeting money and had taken up a number of cases with the War Office.

The early closing of public houses had been sharply criticised by the Committee of the Trades’ Union Club in Bedford, but he did not agree that this was simply a response to  pressure from the temperance movement; in fact the Justices had acted at the request of the military authorities and “the first and only consideration in this hour of national peril must be the well-being of their soldiers. Because a man could not get his usual drink at 10 or 11 o’clock if he were an Englishman, with the real British spirit in him, he would say he would go without his drink so long as their men were made fitter for the struggle”. It should not be argued that this was unfair on the civilian population as the distinction between the Army and others was becoming ever more narrow, with the majority of Bedford working men fighting the Germans as much as the men in the trenches.

Mr Kellaway also spoke about wages and food prices. He believed that every firm working on Government contracts had a duty to see that its men were properly paid so that they could afford the increased prices. He felt the majority of men in Bedford were getting a fair wage, but had heard of cases where this was not so. A guinea a week was not enough given the higher price of food, and he hoped any employers who were not paying their labourers adequately would act without the need for pressure to be applied through official channels.

Source: Bedfordshire Times, 26th March 1915

[1] Frederick George Kellaway (1870-1933) was the Liberal Member of Parliament for Bedford from 1910 to 1922.

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