On 11th November 1919, a year after the signing of the Armistice had brought an end to the hostilities between the Allies and Germany, a two minute silence was observed across the country. While this marked the anniversary of the end of the war and became the first national day of remembrance for those who had died, support and remembrance for the troops on a more local and community level had been taking place throughout the war years.
This can be seen in the records of Moseley Road Friends’ Institute, which opened in 1897 and was one of a number of Quaker initiated centres across the city of Birmingham, run by volunteers and established to provide adult education, missionary and social work activities for the benefit of the local community. Moseley Road Men’s Early Morning School, along with other adult schools, had fostered a strong sense of community and fellowship since its opening, not only through education but also via numerous social, musical, horticultural, sporting and other activities. It is not surprising then, that members of the school remaining in Birmingham during the war wanted to demonstrate their support and friendship to those who were fighting.
In October 1914, a member of the Early Morning School suggested that they should send ‘a letter of brotherly love’, signed by the Institute’s President Barrow Cadbury, to each of its members who had been called up (Early Morning School minute book, 1912 – 1915, MS 703 (2014/2015/082)). This is the first of many instances recorded in the Early Morning School minute books which indicate that members kept those who had joined the armed forces in their thoughts. Each Sunday, a list of their names was put up on display in the crush hall at the Institute. Each month, the names of scholars who were on leave and had taken the time to visit the Adult School were noted in the minute books. Letters received from individual soldiers were replied to by members of the Early Morning School Monthly Meeting Committee and letters of good wishes were sent at Christmas and New Year. A list of names and addresses was maintained as the Committee attempted to keep track of where the Early Morning School scholars had been posted so that they could correspond with them. There are various versions of this list, the latest one dated July 1918, and arranged by country (France, Italy, Egypt, India, Salonica, Mesopotamia and Home) to which the scholars were posted. As news from the front slowly arrived home, minutes were added each month recording the names of those scholars reported missing in action, taken prisoner or killed and letters of condolence were sent to families of the dead.
In September 1917, the Men’s Early Morning School decided to invite the rest of the Men’s Adult School, as well as the Women’s Adult School to a United Memorial Service in memory of those who had died in the war. Other branches of the Institute were asked to hold memorial services at the same time. The service took place on 21st October 1917, led by the President, Barrow Cadbury, and his wife, Geraldine Cadbury, who also gave an address. Described in the minutes as,‘a very impressive meeting’ (Early Morning School minute book, 1915 – 1918, MS 703 (2015/082)), the annual report for that year notes that the service,
…very impressively brought to our attention the heavy losses we have sustained. Not the least impressive part of the ceremony was the slow reading of the large list of names of those who had passed away while serving in the Army.
(Friends’ Institute Moseley Rd. Men’s Early Morning and Adult School Annual Reports 1888 – 1960, LF 18.6)
The large list of names (pictured opposite) was part of a bigger plan to create a permanent memorial to all those members of the Institute who had been killed as a result of the war. In fact, as early as November 1915, it was suggested by a member of the Men’s Early Morning School that,
…in honour to our scholars, we should have a permanent roll of honour in a frame to be hung up in the crush hall.
(Early Morning School minute book, 1915-1918, MS 703 (2015/082))
In January 1919, Barrow Cadbury reported to the Committee that he would provide a plaque with the names of the Institute members lost through the war. It wasn’t until November 1920, that the Early Morning School was able to confirm that all its scholars who had survived the war had returned home. The unveiling of the memorial took place on 20th February 1921, with Barrow Cadbury present. The memorial still hangs in Moseley Road Institute.
Eleanor (Project Archivist, Birmingham and Warwickshire Quakers)