Supporting the War Effort

As the First World War continued, local authorities across the country co-ordinated attempts to support the war effort.

At the start of the war one option many authorities discussed was using elementary schools as makeshift field hospitals for those who had been wounded in combat. Voluntary Aid Detachments were set up to help assist professional nurses both at the front (although this was initially discouraged) and at the hospitals at home. There was also the issue of where new recruits would stay prior to being posted abroad or elsewhere in the UK. In Cardiff it was decided that in emergency situations public buildings be used as accommodation (RD/C/1/9).

Many employees who continued to work for the local authorities were offered War Bonuses. These were incentives to encourage them to work overtime, often compensating for holidays lost and for the rising cost of living essentials. Those who did not serve in the armed forces either abroad or at home were encouraged to work in factories that produced munitions and other materials for aircraft, ships and tanks. Those men who had joined the colours would be replaced by older men or women.

Once the possibility of air raids by German bombers and zeppelins had emerged, the local authorities were instructed to dim or extinguish street lights and arrange for the sounding of alert sirens.

Charities were set up to support those who served in the armed forces and their relatives and loved ones. In Aberdare, the National Fund for Comforts of Troops suggested that St David’s Day should be marked as a Flag Day, and that street collections be made for the benefit of the Fund (UDAB/C/1/9).

Aberdare UD flag day

In addition to charities, local authorities encouraged some facilities such as schools to put money towards a War Savings account. Towards the end of the war tanks that had already seen service were sent around the UK, where the public could see and sometimes ride a tank provided that they pledged money towards War Savings. At the same time the national government was offering War Loans, encouraging people to invest money towards the war effort.

During the later years of the war some materials were rationed, either because it became harder to obtain them, or because they were needed for military purposes. In Barry the authorities decided not to use crude tar for the purpose of road maintenance as some of its by-products were to be used in the production of explosives (BB/C/1/20). As it became more difficult to import or manufacture food, the authorities encouraged residents and landowners to grow food in allotments. As well as people and buildings, the armed forces also took civilian vehicles and used them, mostly in transport roles. In Caerphilly the South Wales Transport Company informed the local authorities that their vehicles had been commandeered by the War Office, but were still hoping to commence services in the Caerphilly area (UDCAE/C/1/18). In Gelligaer the hire of a steam roller was discussed (UDG/C/1/11), although it would appear no action was taken.

The local authority minutes held at Glamorgan Archives reveal the breadth of involvement by local councils in support of the war from the home front.

Andrew Booth, Relief Records Assistant

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