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geraint

Profiteering

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geraint

Have come across quite a few reports on profiteering, and I would appreciate similar reports from various parts of the UK regarding this. As the U boats tightened their grip, food became scarcer and food control in both quality and quantity; as well as control of retailing became more important. These are some local examples

A local petty sessions fined a grocer 10s for selling tea at 4s per pound, contrary to the going legal rate of 3/8 per pound. The tea sold was inferior, and should legally have been sold at 2/8.

Same day, another grocer fined the same for selling tea at 4/4 per pound. Both grocers were caught through a 'sting' operation.

Same day, a baker fined the same for selling under weight loaves of 3, 5 and 7lb loaves, wheras they were legally required to be 2, 4, 6 or 8lb loaves. Fined a further 5s because the loaves were sold 'hot', meaning that when cooled, they would be even lighter.

Similar anecdotes welcomed!

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jim_davies

Stamford Mercury, spring and summer of 1918

Numerous articles on "milk prosecutions" of dairymen selling milk with higher than allowed percentages of water, and to small percentages of milk fat, and of bakers for "exposing to sale loaves not of the proper weight".

Given the shady business practices of some folks, I wonder whether this was necessarily "war profiteering" or business as usual for some.

Jim

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geraint

Absolutely Jim!

Here's another

Major Harry Trevor of Maesmor found guilty under The Feeding of Game Order 1917 of feeding his pheasants with prohibited, food grade grain. Fined a massive £10 with 5/6 costs.

His Gamekeeper fined an unspecified sum for selling 80 rabbits amongst the community instead of providing them to the Regional Food Control Committee.

It's a laugh a minute in the local papers as human nature strives to make ends meet!!

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John_Hartley

Has to be speculation about what was what - but my grandfather came out of the war a wealthy man. Before the war, he was book-keeper for a cotton firm. By 1919, he was a director and appears to have had large sums of money. In cash.

I suspect that, firstly, the main company in the UK was able to take very full advantage of government orders for their goods. But, second, there was a subsidiary company in Belgium. My guess is that this continued to trade in the German occupied area, no doubt supplying goods to the occupier. It would also seem that grandad's share of the profits was kept for him in the Bank of Courtrai. I only have his private notebook to go on but he seems to have withdrawn this, in cash, in January 1919. In total, his investments, seemingly always in cash, around 1919 totalled about one million pounds at today's prices. I conclude that, whatever actually went on here, it certainly wasn't kosher.

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River97

This has been going on for centuries. I don't know what they did but family legend has it that my great, great grand father (mothers side) did rather well for himself during the war as well.

In total, his investments, seemingly always in cash, around 1919 totalled about one million pounds at today's prices. I conclude that, whatever actually went on here, it certainly wasn't kosher.

So, John it's your shout at the bar then. biggrin.gif

Cheers Andy.

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geraint

I second that Andy!

Excellent story John! You're very brave putting it up publicly! Not only were the larger companies involved, but the small family shops and businesses as well.

Here's another two

Two Corwen grocers fined 15s each for "allowing part of the sugar supply allocated for jaming and bottling" to be sold for other purposes.

A local hotel fined 10s for selling a meal with meat; on a Wednesday, contrary to the local order that stipulated that meals including meat may only be served on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

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centurion

The case of Herr Possehl from Luebeck is interesting. He owned steel works in both Sweden and Russia. His Swedish plants supplied material to both German factories and his Russian ones and Possehel grew richer as the war progressed but was eventually arrested and charged with treason. His defence was that if he hadn't continued to have operated in Russia the Russians would have confiscated his factories and run them anyway - by continuing to run them he was still earning money for the Fatherland. He was acquitted, It is said that the Kaiser who knew Possehel had intervened - he certainly approved of the verdict.

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CarylW

............Two Corwen grocers fined 15s each for "allowing part of the sugar supply allocated for jaming and bottling" to be sold for other purposes.

.

Found this little ditty about sugar in The Referee 1916

Demerera! Demerera!

That's the sugar now for me

Demerera! Demerera!

Grandma took it in her tea

I can see now with memory's eye

As I glance the years adown

Spoonful of it golden brown

Used for pudding and for pie

Demerera! sweet your away!

While the price of white is up

Golden brown shall fill my cup

Demerera, boom de-ay!

Personally I prefer brown sugar, but back then refined 'anything' was more expensive and desired wasn't it.

Caryl

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Moonraker

See

my earlier, wordy post

(Scroll down to the bottom half of Post 6.)

The alleged offences took place before the period specified by Geraint, but the inquiry into Sir John Jackson took place in 1917.

Moonraker

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geraint

That's a good one Moonraker. The closest I got to construction camp builders associated with profiteering was to reports of Beaufort Beatty supervisors at Kinmel Camp during the 1919 riots ensuring that a train of 25 horse drawn waggons loaded with supplies (including beer and whisky) left the camp as the riots erupted, left for Rhyl, and were forwarded westerly to Llandudno. Only 14 arrived at Llandudno.

That was very sweet of you Caryl!

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centurion

[/i]Personally I prefer brown sugar, but back then refined 'anything' was more expensive and desired wasn't it.

Some 'profiteering' from Danish neutrals here but the German stationmaster would have been helping the war effort for his country:

Same newspaper as above:

Organised attempts to smuggle metals and rubber into Germany in railway cars crossing the Danish frontier, which were lately discovered, led to the arrest of some Danish railway officials, and yesterday the authorities arrested Herr Ehlers, the German stationmaster of the German frontier railway station at Hvidding. The plan adopted by the smugglers was to collect metal and rubber at small country places and then send it across the frontier. All frontier traffic has now been placed under the control of the military.

Refined sugar was originally intended for tea as it didn't add any 'exotic' flavors as would brown (nicer in coffee), however I think any sugar was prized, refined or not, in the time of shortage. With its larger crystals (allowing a slower more controlled rate of dissolving) specialized preserving sugar would have been more expensive and harder to dissolve in tea but much better than nothing. In WW2 a similar situation existed and I've been told that some of my family who farmed in fruit growing areas and made much jam [preserves] (my Grandmother was particularly noted for her jam years after the war) were given special vouchers or dockets to draw preserving sugar as using up the fruit was seen as contributing to the nations food supply (a sort of extension of 'dig for Britain') but by then the authorities were wise to some of the fiddles and the sugar had to be drawn from a special depot and the jam made accounted for (mind you I suspect a few teaspoons went into tea cups).

Smuggling was widespread (as is often the case in wartime) in WW1. Some was 'official' ie blockade busting and often involved suborning officials in neutral countries but other cases were purely private enterprise. The latter were not always welcomed by either side. Smuggled goods have to be paid for by the smugglers as well as by the eventual recipients. Given the problems of spending a belligerent's currency without awkward questions being asked some form of barter was often adopted and the material used to buy the contraband might be of strategic value were as the contraband might be an expensive luxury. One notorious case at the time involved a Swiss company in which a number of prominent French and German entrepreneurs had large, effectively controlling, interests. This company was buying German steel (with the German government's knowledge) and selling it in France and in return was selling chemicals, imported through France, in Germany (without the French government's official knowledge although some ministers were later accused of being up to their necks in it). When it came to light long and tedious enquiries were held in France but did not end in prosecutions, the French premier was strongly against public trials (allegedly because he or relatives had profited from the arrangement).

A major instance of corruption in the French armaments industry that did see trial was the affair of M.Deperdussin the original owner of SPAD who was found guilty of siphoning off millions of Francs from government contracts. His sentence is somewhat revealing - instead of his going to jail for a long time it was argued that this was a first offence and so he was given a form of probation and retired to the country to enjoy his millions.

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CarylW

..........Refined sugar was originally intended for tea as it didn't add any 'exotic' flavors as would brown (nicer in coffee), however I think any sugar was prized, refined or not, in the time of shortage. ...........

Of course, but refined sugar was more expensive than Demerera. Market prices from that period:

Sugar: Home refined in fair request: Tate's cubes 31s: nibs 29s and 6d: crushed 28s 6d: fine granulated 28s 6d: standard 28s:

Lyle's granulated No 1 28s:............Demerera mostly sold, good to choice yellow, 27s to 27s 6d: mid greyish yellow, 26s 9d: low to mid yellow, 26s to 26s 6d............

Geraint, apologies. Just noticed in your secondary subject line, the dates 1917-1919, and I posted something from 1916!

Caryl

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geraint

Pas problem!

The only reason I chose 17-19 is because minor food profiteering really took off, and there appeared a glut of petty court cases against retailers. Expansion's a good thing! (Waistline post Christmas though isn't!).

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CarylW

Pas problem!

The only reason I chose 17-19 is because minor food profiteering really took off, and there appeared a glut of petty court cases against retailers. Expansion's a good thing! (Waistline post Christmas though isn't!).

Removed the 1916 case because I think I was including smuggling alongside profiteering, (seasonal befuddlement) Although sometimes connected, two different subjects and to make up for that here are a few cases of profiteering from the latter part of 1919 when the Profiteering Act applied and local tribunals were set up. You're right, some of them are petty and sometimes it looks like a bit of a witch-hunt, or maybe some element of personal vendetta against the local traders, although not so much the case here but in other cases printed. One wonders

These are from the Manchester Guardian

"Randolph the Fearless"

"Excited Tradesman removed by police

There was a lively scene at a meeting of the Oswestry Profiteering Sub-committee last night

when Randolph Fear, a local tradesman was charged with overcharging for oysters. He became very excited

stating that he refused to provide invoices as he had been ordered to do so and branddisihing a cheque book

he exclaimed; "I am Randolph the Fearless, and have a cheque here for £100

for the parish church" He was removed by the poliice and the case was reported to the General Committee"

"£15 fine for 1d overcharge"

A fine of £15 for an overcharge of one penny on a bottle of stout and for failure to exhibit

a price list in the taproom was imposed by Wirksworth (Derbeyshire) magistrate yesterday on

William Elliot, landlord of the Homesford Cottage Inn, near Ambergate

The evidence showed that when two hosiery workers objected to pay more

than the maximuum price the landlord abused them and ordered them out of the house

"£50 fine for overcharge of 4d"

The British and Argentine Meat Company Limited, were fined £50 at Cardiff yesterday

for an overhcarge of 4d. on a half shoulder of mutton, and the manager of the shop in question, was fined 23s of

aiding and abetting

Also several cases of drapers up before tribunals for overcharging for material or cotton

and this one for overcharging for chips and peas

"Charge for chips and peas"

"A Manchester complaint dismissed"

"The question of a reasonable price for chipped potatoes was discussed yesterday before the Food and Drink Committee. The complainant was a Mrs Amy Thomas of Gorton and the respondant the propreieter of the Central Cafe, Cannon Street Manchester

Mrs Thomas's case was that she sent a girl to the respondant's shop for chipped potatoes and peas, and that the two nportions of potatoes at sixpence each which the girl brought back in a basin were too small for the money.

The potatoes were returned to the cafe by another woman and a formal complaint was made to the assistant at the counter

The proprietor of the cafe admitted that a mistake had been made by the assistant

He valued the potatoes - which were produced in court and had been preserved by being kept in the icehouse - at eightpence, and in reply to Councillor Lundy, a member of the Committee, he said they would be sold for sixpence in pre-war days

The Chairman said the Committee had decided that the establishment was not a profiteering shop. He himself went into it. At the same time he did not blame the complainant for her action. They found that a mistake had been made by an assistant and that the shilling would be refunded to the respondant"

Caryl

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geraint

Caryl

Poor old Randolph Fear! Seems like a nice bloke, sorely tempted; then remorseful at having been caught. The committee in the chip shop found in favour of the shop - not necessarily blaming profiteering for genuine mistakes. Though it does seem as if such small scale profiteering was very prevelent throughout Britain.

I know that all these instances are very small scale and insignificant; but I do think that it does illustrate a facet of life during the war which improves our understanding of the bigger picture.

:thumbsup:

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centurion

Though it does seem as if such small scale profiteering was very prevelent throughout Britain.

I know that all these instances are very small scale and insignificant; but I do think that it does illustrate a facet of life during the war which improves our understanding of the bigger picture.

I would suspect that many cases were due to an over complex set of regulations, inadequately thought out and/or explained, and subject to complaints from anyone who enjoyed reporting petty infractions. A chain of supermarkets might today make considerable profits from a fractional overcharge per item but the overwhelming retail sector in those days was made up of little sole trader shopkeepers. How many chips in a portion - no one's going to get fat on that.

A retailer might overcharge a stranger but I suspect that was (and possibly still is) not unusual but regular locals would know what the score was. I'd be more impressed by evidence of a large scale black market in commodities such as occurred in WW2

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CarylW

...................I know that all these instances are very small scale and insignificant; but I do think that it does illustrate a facet of life during the war which improves our understanding of the bigger picture.

:thumbsup:

Yes they do and I find all aspects of the home 'scene' and the local newspapers fascinating. Noticed a few of the larger scale retailers accused of profiteering too. Boots for 'overcharging' of Dillwater, athough think they later appealed and won, and Liberty's for the price of wool. Although I don't know how big Boots were at the time,

One thing I can't get my head around is the fact that with such shortages during the war and immediately afterwards surely retailers were forced to put prices up to survive with their purchase of goods for sale costing more and difficulties obtaining stock

Must have been a very fine line between making a profit during war, making a profit from war and profiteering. Must read up - maybe political? I'm surprised how hefty some of the fines were too!

Caryl

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CarylW

Came across a newspaper report from August 1918. Looks as if having a trip to the seaside was more expensive and blamed on profiteering.

Headlines:

"Dear Holidays"

"Visitors To The Seaside Writhe Under Oppressive Prices"

"SHAMELESS EXACTIONS"

Down by the sad sea waves, there are ditto moments, even for the happiest holidaymakers

They come when, turning their backs on pier and promenade the visitor seeks the shopping portions of the town. With heavy sighs they walk from shop to shop, trying to buy food or other necessaries at reasonable prices - and generally trying in vain.

Back from Brighton, a correspondant from the Daily Sketch voices his complaint thus;

"Everywhere I went I found everybody trying to get out of me as much as they possibly could"

"Profiteering in fruit and Rents"

"When I went to buy a little fruit I had to pay 9d.for three small apples, one of them no bigger than a walnut. Cabbages were 6d. each"

Rents of course are heavy, as much in some cases as 50% more than in pre-war days but that is largely due to the rush of rich people to Brighton, content to pay extortionate prices for houses in a raidless area

"In a booksellers' I picked up a poorly printed pocket edition novel, dirty and discoloured through its long sojourn on the shelf. They wanted 1s 6d. for it. I wouldn't have given them sixpence - microbes thrown in"

"Eastbourne's Little Exhortions"

"At Eastbourne whither visitors have flocked in large numbers, tradesmen are making hay while the sun shines

For fruit high prices are asked, apples and plums being marked up at amything from 1s 6d. to 2s 6d. per lb. Vegetables are uncomfortably dear.

Landladies are asking 25s. a week for a small room - and getting it. This is without any board of course"

Caryl

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geraint

Very interesting detail Caryl., and your statement "making a profit during war...making a profit FROM war" is also most pertinent.

I read an open letter in The Denbighshire Free Press recently, by the father of a 21 year old veteran, who joined up in 1914, demobed in 1919, and returned to his previous employer was only paid £3/10 per week, whilst those "who had shirked" were paid £5 per week for the same work. Again 'profiteering' of a different kind.

G

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truthergw

Very early in the war, 1915, the women of Glasgow organised rent strikes. There had been a large influx of people looking for work and landlords had taken advantage of the increased demand by raising rents. After quite a bit of trouble, the government finally fixed rents at the pre-war level.

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geraint

bump -referencing a new thread! :glare:

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Coldstreamer

bump -referencing a new thread! :glare:

Where's the thread link please ?

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