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Desmond7

Federation formation

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Desmond7

I know a mumber of members have expressed interest in this organisation in the past. Some have badges, others are interested in the social/political aspect ... I've had this in my sights for some time and thought it might be useful to forum.

The subject of post/late war political affiliations/class consciousness amongst such men seems to be something of an unresearched area. Hope this helps anyone interested.

The brackets and caps are mine. I have another report of the Comrades of the Great War - a branch of which was swiftly organised in Ballymena just one week later. The 'Comrades' seems to have been a much more 'establishment' organisation with plenty of 'officer' influence.

I will post it, if there is anyone who would be interested.

As the report of this meeting shows, it wasn't only after the war that soldiers fell into poverty etc. It seems clear that many of the heroes of Mons and the Marne etc were getting a raw deal from a very early stage.

Des

August 23, 1918

Irish Federation of discharged and demobilised sailors and soldiers.

Branch formed in Ballymena (Northern Ireland for those who don't know!!)

Intro text: Purely local stuff, chairman's welcome etc. written in that wonderful journalese beloved by weekly editors of the time.

The Meat:-

Mr. H. M. Dixon (Belfast) organiser Northern Divisional Council, who was cordially received explained the history of the association which originated in Englland in 1916.

There was a great and growing discontent in England over the scandalous manner in which discharged men were being treated.

It was found that many of the men who had fought in the great battles at Mons and at Ypres had to beg admission to the workhouses. In 1916 there were some fabulous profits being made in England whilst the men who went to the front and had returned to civilian life had been issued with a TOTALLY INADEQUATE PENSION, bundled out of the army and left to work or starve.

Many of them were disabled and could not find work and they ACTUALLY STARVED. There were cases of men who had won honours in the field having to sell newspapers in the streets.

The men saw that if they wanted their interests looked after they would have to ORGANIZE. After the war there would be five or six million soldiers in England and the organisers of the federation saw that altogether the Fderation would be about 10 or 12 MILLIONS strong, counting sisters and mothers etc.

The Federation came into prominence in 1917 when the Government passed a bill calling discharged men to the colours. In the Review of Exemptions Act the Government had power to recall discharged soldiers and sailors and if it found them fit to fight again, send them back to the front.

They (these recalled men) did not refuse to fight again, if necessary, but they considered it a rank injustice that they would have to go back while there were still thousands of fit men going about England.

Their (the federation's/soldier's) case was taken up by several MPs who were successful in haviog that clause (of the act) rescinded. They had now over 400 branches in the United Kingdom and a membership of something like a million.

The Belfast branch of the Federation had secured advances in pension for over 100 men and employment for 100 others. The men bring their cases to the Federation and those in charge investigate the case and find out what the man is entitled to.

The state of many of the men was DEPLORABLE many only being able to secure casual work, their pensions at the time being wholly inadequate to EXIST on.

No employer would take on a disabled man when he could get an able-bodied one. The consequence would be that after the war men of the men who had faced the rigours of war at the front would come back only to succumb at home.

They could see every morning, men hanging around the gates of the shipyard begging for work. The Government have produced a training scheme for discharged men and they had also offered a sum of £25 to start a man in business. But taking into account the high cost of material, no man could, at present, start with £25.

Some of the men solved the problem by starting on the idea of partnership and many had not taken advantage of the Government's offer. There were no facilities for the training of discharged men in Ballymena. They were entitled to it because they had fought as hard as their English Comrades.

Continuing, Mr. Dixon discussed the separation alowance allotted to the wives and children of fighting men. He stigmatized them (the allowances) as totally inadeuate to meet the demands upon the household purse at the time.

Mr. Dixon urged the men to organise a local branch and resumed his seat amidst great applause.

A Branch of the Federation was formed with office bearers being elected.

Ends

Edited by Desmond7

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Desmond7

And on August 30 ... scandal and intrigue.

'Comrades of the Great War'

Similar local guff ...

and then ...

Col. McCalmont MP (who had commanded 12th Royal Irish Rifles & later a Guards btn.??) who was announced to preside at the meeting, said that the meeting was arranged with the assurance he would take the chair.

Of course, at that time, he was not aware that there was any organisation of discharged men in Ballymena. The Federation (see above) had, he understood, already started a branch and he thought it woild simplify matters if he would not take the chair.

(The reason for his reluctance to chair the meeting will soon become apparent)

He proposed that Mr. Lancashire (Chairman of the Urban Council) take the chair.

This was seconded by Mr. Jack Anderson, one of the discharged soldiers present.

(See thread " Officers Servants" for fuller details on this man. Suffice to say he had been 'servant ' to a local officer KIA on July1/16 and had himself been badly wounded.

Having taken the chair, Mr. Lancashire asked Col. McCalmont to address the meeting.

Col. McCalmont said he apologised for being there at all. He apologised on the previous day also, and he did so really on the account of their own member (MP) Major O'Neill. (Dunno what that's about!)

Nitty gritty now:-

It was entirely essential that the discharged men should be organised. There were many cases in the past where some sort of organisation could have prevented a great many abuses. As long as the war was on there was nothing too good for a soldier. He was the fighting hero.

But after the South African War people began to be forgetful with the result that many soldiers found their way into workhouses or pauper's graves.

It had been suggested that he (McCalmont) knew that in taking up the matter (of ex-servicemen) in Ireland he was acting for political motives. He had also been accused of having offered money to persons to promote his political desires.

He wanted to be perfectly clear about the Federation. It had been said that he wanted to BREAK IT UP and that he had OFFERED MONEY to a soldier to leave the Federation and join the Comrades.

He absolutely denied that. His object in coming to the meeting was to see that the discharged serviceman gets a good run for his money

AT THIS POINT McCalmont does a hatchet job on the Federation.

The Federation was run by two members of the Liberal Party Messrs. Hogge and Pringle, neither of whom had any experience and it had not the interests of the general public (!!!!).

In his opinion, the Federation had not got that backing which would make it a success.

There was one objection, and that was with the Federation there was a ban on officers becoming members or taking any part in the management of it.

His own opinion of the British soldier was that he thought his officer should bear with him in any movement for the improvement of conditions in civil life. He had actually been told in his own constituency that his services were NOT required, which put him out of court so far as the discharged soldier was concerned.

(I ASSUME the Federation had told McCalmont they wanted nothing to do with him??)

AT this point, McCalmont faced questions from the floor. The reporting is 'muted' and I suspect more may have been said and in a rather more heated fashion than is apparent here. Anyway, here goes ...

EX-Pioneer Wylie (wounded and discharged after serving with the Old Comtemps.) asked Col. McCalmont why he had COME EVER HERE to advocate for the Comrades and why he did not give his sympathy to the Federation?

Col. McCalmont said he did not know why Pte Wylie would say 'come over here'. He was as much an Irishman as Pte Wylie and it was surely not a crime to be in one's own country.

(SUGGESTS a certain degree of animosity, I believe)

The meeting concluded.

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Desmond7

Request to Moderators:-

Reckon I've posted this is the wrong section! Any chance of a quick transfer to 'Home and POWs'?

I'm intrigued by the antipathy which obviously existed between the 'Feds' and the 'Coms' and I may get more feedback of similar situations in the proper section.

Apologies.

And if McCalmont WAS 'at his work' ... does anyone have any info about it? Long shot ... maybe Markinbelfast???

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marina

Tommy - Rudyard Kipling

You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all:

We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.

Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face

The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.

For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"

But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot;

An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;

An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool -- you bet that Tommy sees!

Nothing much changes - I remember reading about ther plight of English sailors after the defeat of the Spanish Armada - many reduced to begging in spite of frantic representations to the Queen. I think the Admirals tried to help the men.

Marina

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Terry_Reeves

Des

Thanks for the article.

I posted a brief history of the formation of ex-service organisations on the forum in Chit Chat, Dec 2002. You are right to say that The Comrades were more of an establishment organisation, for reasons which are apparent in the post. It will also help to explain why establishment figures were keen to promote The Comrades. The Search facility will bring it up using "Comrades of the Great War".

Terry Reeves

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Canadawwi

Sorry if my comments aren't completely related, but my thoughts....

In the Canadian newspapers, the "raw deal" was also evident during the war years. I have articles such as "$50 for a lost eye" and other such outrages that resulted when men attempted to collect pensions.

In the case of administrative difficulties in dealing with pension authorities, it was noted in one war time article that the publication of the complaint in the paper helped resolve the problem. This was great, but certainly not of much help to those who didn't contact the papers.

Marika

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Yorkshire Andy
Tommy - Rudyard Kipling

You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all:

We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.

Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face

The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.

    For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"

    But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot;

    An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;

    An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool -- you bet that Tommy sees!

Nothing much changes - I remember reading about ther plight of English sailors after the defeat of the Spanish Armada - many reduced to begging in spite of frantic representations to the Queen.  I think the Admirals tried to help the men.

Marina

And, of course, at the end of the Peninsular War and, I am sure, at the end of other conflicts as well.

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