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eggydread

Homeless Veterans

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centurion

It's nearly 50 years ago so I hope memory still serves but I can remember a paper at Leicester University that argued that the biggest problem was amongst the British officer intake after 1915 as a great many had their chance for further education interrupted by being called up and a large number of these served in the ranks before being commissioned (by then unless you had been in an OCU at school or university you had to go through the ranks and on to a cadet battalion to get your commission) and were trained only in being an officer and then were out on the street with no special skills, lots of others in the same situation, raised expectations and no money. If you'd been fortunate enough to be in a branch of service that gave you useful civilian skills you might be better off (so for example ex ASC officers seem to have been sought after by the retail and distribution industry) you had more chance but if your main skill was infiltrating a platoon into the enemies' defence in depth then there were a lot like you and not much call for your services.

Not a new problem - the same situation existed with junior officers and NCOs in 1814/15 although in much smaller absolute numbers and a great number went off and served in the armies of the likes of Bolivar or the Carlists. This sort of opportunity did not exist so much in the 1920s (although I believe that some ended up training some Chinese warlord's troops). However I think the German officer corps was in a worse bind in post WW1.

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seaJane

Thanks very much to those who have followed my diversion into officer unemployment from the original posting query of veterans' homelessness.

eggydread, as original poster I hope you will forgive me in that I have taken the thread slightly off topic :)

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hooge1

Its highly unlikely you will get an accurate figure of this problem. For the many Britain was an austere place to live at that time, if you had work it was long hours, hard and not much at the end of it. A lot of militancy in Britain amongst the working class existed then, many believe a revolution would have taken place had not the Great war intervened. A lot of veterans were given cheap passage to places like Canada & Australia to start new lives a (government backed incentive). It was certainly no land fit for heroes, no welfare state so if you couldn't get work there was a big prospect you would find yourself homeless.

I think for a lot of returning veterans it was probably a bitter pill to swallow, that not a lot had changed., that combined with begging for work off those who had not served. On a psychological point (combat stress etc) I think the difference between to day and then., a lot of men were in the same boat. if you wandered the streets at night because you couldn't sleep, there were many others in your street doing the same thing.

I do believe for the working class that life was austere from the day you were born, and this conditioned you to a different mental robustness; a mental robustness which saw men through battles like Passchendaele and the like, and also helped deal with the stress of returning after the war. Although there is no doubt suicide would have took its toll amongst veterans but to what extent may never be known. And to think at the end of all this they saw there sons off to another World War, after they had fought the war to end all wars. Certainly a fascinating part of our history, whilst the sufferings of the Great War are well documented what happened after has gone largely unrecorded and that is a great loss.

Regards

Nick

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John Gilinsky

This thread is extremely interesting if not fascinating personally and academically. As an historian of shellshock in the CEF and the origins and early history of the social medical welfare state in Canada the particular question of housing for post-war veterans especially if they were disabled in any manner and to any substantive degree beautifully manifests the actual societal expectations, politics, mores, beliefs about veterans, etc.... One point to remember: soldier colonies or housing soldiers by placing them on the land as settler colonists was considered in 1915 Great Britain for both some disabled British veterans including going to Canada, South Africa and Australia in particular. The whole issued of "soldier / veteran disability" is fascinating and of course fraught with unresolved historical questions. In Toronto during the height of the Great Depression in 1934 when a Toronto Branch Canadian Red Cross Society Soldier's Club was opened as an explicit effort to address homelessness amongst especially disabled CEF veterans such men could only stay for a few weeks at a time at the new club due to the heavy right from the start heavy demands made on being admitted to this soldier's club. In 1966 the City of Toronto bought the building for immigrant and refugee women, children and families promsing that the remaining then WW1 veterans living there would be accommodated elsewhere in city subsidized housing. Questions of intergenerational veteran competitiveness for limited state basic necessity funds, goods and services along with other state deemed deserving those in need such as immigrant / refugee families etc.... still need serious asking, research and answering.

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edwin astill

Lawrence's book 'The Mint' shows that many ex-officers joined up for the ranks.

Edwin

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David Filsell

Tramping with Tramps is readily available from Abebooks.

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mancpal

Fascinating so far.

Might be a little off topic but it may be worth looking up Sgt John Hogan VC. I can't remember if he was actually homeless but he was selling boxes of matches on Market St in Manchester during the '20s. I think the matches might have been the "big issue" of their era. For those who don't know Hogans story I won't ruin the end. The only other thing I will say is that he didn't receive a VCs headstone until the late 90s and only after a campaign brought it to public attention. (Chadderton Cemetery, Oldham).

Land fit for heroes?

Simon

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John Gilinsky

Hi Simon in Manchester and re: Sgt John Hogan VC (brave man indeed!). Can you please tell us what sources exist for the last decades of this man's life (presumably some newspaper stories of course....) especially regarding his socio-economic, housing and employment statuses from November 1918 till when he died of cancer in 1943? Tx, John

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mancpal

John

I wish I could reveal sources but simply can't remember!

As I remember Hogan was selling matches (presumably as a scheme to help veterans) when he was noticed by a passer by who happened to recognise him and subsequently had his story published highlighting the plight of veterans (might have been Daily Express). It appears a former officer came forward to offer him both work and shelter.

With regard to him finally receiving his military VC's headstone I think it was in the late 90's and was covered by both the Oldham Chronicle and Manchester Evening News. Wish I could offer more assistance

Simon

I've just noticed Royton Local History Society have some info on Hogan though they say his headstone "was replaced" in 1996, in my memory I didn't think he had a military headstone at all before '96. I could be wrong, it's not infrequent!

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John Gilinsky

Thanks Simon for the quick reply. I also saw the Royton Local History Society web comment about his headstone being replaced in 1990s due to the stone sinking or equivalent which certainly could have and of course happens irrespective of age given the plots especially for other ranks in major cemeteries: poor soil, little or not vegetation to protect against erosion etc.... and simply naturally weathering (I won't forget climate change to cover all my bases!:)). Does anyone have details then about ex-Sergeant Hogan of the Manchesters and his post-Armistice November 1918 life?

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