The Settlement and the War

Autumn Term 1914

Godolphinites, Past and Present, may like to hear something of what the settlement is doing in connection with the war. Those who read the October School Sheet found init a fuller account than can be given here of all the new work that has been undertaken. This can only be a summary of it for those who have not the time or the energy to read the School Sheet.

The Settlement is busier than it has ever been before. A soon as the war broke our Miss de Burgho Hodge was approached by the Soldiers and Sailors’ Families Association, and she consented to give the Settlement as the headquarters for both the Camberwell and Peckham Branches, and to lend them the trained Settlement workers to organise their work and sit on their committees. As soon as this arrangement was made, before anything was ready or any helpers had arrived, three hundred Reservists’ wives came clamouring to the doors of the Settlement demanding immediate help! The four unfortunate Residents who were at the settlement were worked as they had never been worked before; but offers of help from old and new friends were coming in every hour, and in a couple of days the Settlement was full, and a band of from fifty to sixty out-workers had collected.

All through August and September the work was overwhelming. Every day wives and mothers of soldiers and sailors applied in their hundreds for help. Every morning they filled the garden and the two clubrooms. The two largest offices in the Settlement were given over to Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Families Association work, and there the Residents toiled from 9.30am to 10.30pm, and thought the work would never end. It was of course new work to everyone, and they had to colect information as best they could about army pay, pensions, Record Offices, and separation allowances. Money at the rate of about £50 a day was paid out, but there was no fear of shortage of funds, as the S.S.F.A. receives grants from the Prince of Wales funds, as October the work became a little lighter, partly because the separation allowances were coming through, and so fewer women were applying for help, and partly because both Settlement Residents and out-workers had had time to gain some experience, and the work was therefore better organised. By the end of October there were some 3600 cases, and as long as recruiting goes on the numbers will increase, so there is still plenty of work to be done.

Besides all that it is doing for S.S.F.A., the Settlement has given two of its best workers to help the Mayor of Camberwell in the administration of the Prince of Wales’ Relief Fund. Miss Livingstone sits in state at the Town Hall as secretary of the Central Committee, and Miss Cowie at the Free Library as secretary of the Peckham sub-Committee. It will interest Godolphinites to know that Miss Janet Douglas, of Talbot House, is secretary for the Camberwell Sub-Committee. They consider applications for help from people, other than the relatives of soldiers and sailors, who are in distress because of the war, and, among other things, arrange for the setting up of workrooms for women and girls who have been thrown out of work. Although there is not as yet much unemployment in Camberwell among men, a terrible number of women, girls, and young boys have lost their work on account of the war.

In the midst of all this new work the Settlement had to remember its regular work, and to see that that did not suffer. Invalid children need help, and hungary school children need meals just as much in war as in peace, so the Invalid Children’s Aid Association and the School Care Committees have to carry on their work, although they are short of workers and accommodation. The Clubs, too, have been re-opened – with so many boys and girls out of work they are of more value than ever – and a new Mothers’ Club for the wives of soldiers and sailors has been started.

There is, of course, the eternal question of finance to be faced. It was a big strain on the resources of the Settlement to have the houses full through August and September, a time when usually only three or four girls are in residence and expenses are low. Thanks to a very generous response, both by Old Girls and outside friends, to an appeal sent out by Miss Hodge in the first week of the war, that difficulty was tided over. But now there is the permanent upkeep of the Settlement to consider. It would be terrible if it were crippled for lack of funds now, when it is doing so much valuable work, and any falling off in the subscriptions of the Old Girls would cripple it. Please remember that, in spite of Red Cross work, Belgian Refugees, and the many new calls on your possibly diminished purses, you are responsible for the Settlement, and that it needs your help now as much, if not more, than ever. You may feel proud to know that, because of the help you have given it in the past, it was ready when the war came, with its useful accommodation and experienced workers, to be of real service to it country.

N. Thomas