The First World War and Queen Anne’s Bounty

Queen Anne's Bounty World War One memorial
Queen Anne’s Bounty World War One memorial

This is the first blog post in a series to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. The Library and Record Centre together hold substantial material relating to the War, which is summarised in the research guide available on our website.

The records include files among the archive of Queen Anne’s Bounty on the impact of the War. Queen Anne’s Bounty was founded in 1704 to augment the incomes of the poorer clergy of the Church of England, and remained a central body in church administration into the 20th century (it was succeeded in 1948 by the Church Commissioners). The files record how the Bounty Office adapted to wartime conditions and the consequences for its activities and staff (ref: QAB/7/12).

When War was declared on 4 August 1914 there were 38 permanent and 10 ‘supernumerary’ (temporary) members of staff employed by the Bounty Office, based at Deans Yard, Westminster, and many of these were members of the Territorial Army. By 9 December 1914 nine members of staff had joined the armed services. In common with the Civil Service, the Bounty Office continue to pay staff their peacetime salaries minus their military pay, while the remaining staff worked increased overtime and took fewer holidays to cover the work. The Bounty Office attempted to keep its remaining staff of military age and in a letter dated 29 February 1916 the Treasury agreed that, for recruiting purposes, the Queen Anne’s Bounty should be treated as a Government Department, which enabled them to secure exemption for three key members of staff. However, by May 1918 the remorseless pressure for recruits left the Bounty Office with no male staff under the age of 31, three exempted members of staff aged 31-41, 17 male members of staff over the military age of 41 and 12 female members of staff, a significant reduction from peacetime staffing levels.

Being a small organisation there was considerable contact with staff serving in the armed forces and the files contain correspondence received from locations including France, Italy and the Middle East, giving detailed accounts of their experiences, health and morale. For example Lieutenant Alexander Symons, a clerk before the War, was severely wounded on 28 August 1916 and awarded the Military Cross. On 19 December 1917 he wrote to Mr Le Fanu, Secretary and Treasurer of the Bounty, thanking him for sending ‘pipe and tobacco’. Some of the letters bear evidence of censorship.

Other material expressive of wartime conditions includes a copy of a War Office memorandum of 21 December 1916 concerning the inadvertent disclosure of military information to enemy intelligence through parish magazines, stating: ‘The clergy are to a great extent naturally ignorant of the various means the enemy employ to collect their information about our troops and dispositions’. In 1918-19 the Bounty Office produced a series of ‘Bounty Gazettes’ to those staff serving in the armed forces (ref: QAB/9/7). The first Gazette of 18 April 1918 referred to the impact of food rationing: ‘We grow somewhat thinner, physically, but that is because the Army must be fed and so we civilians are limited in the intake. Of course we grouse and say hard things of the Food Controller but that’s just the British way of letting off steam’. There is also correspondence concerning a Memorial Service for Civil Servants killed in the War held on 11 July 1918 in Westminster Abbey and attended by George V, which included an allocation of 10 seats to the Bounty Office with preference being given ‘to those who have served in the War, or who have lost relatives’ (ref: QAB/7/12/2). The final section of the files relates to the demobilisation and return of members of staff back to their posts following the Armistice.

Two members of the Bounty Staff died during the War, Captain Gaze killed on the Somme in 1916 and Rifleman Perry killed near Ypres in 1915, and a third, Private Goad, died in 1919 of illness contracted on active service. The memorial to those who died survives in Church House, Westminster.

Detailed descriptions of these files are available in the archives catalogue.


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