Prince of Wales Relief Fund 1914


In August 1914 Fritchley Friends gathered together in the Meeting House to consider how far they could assist in relief work in connection with the "Prince of Wales Fund" . They wrote the following letter –

Fritchley, 10th of eighth month, 1914

The following Friends give in their names to assist in the relief work about to be undertaken in connection with the “Prince of Wales National Relief Fund" provided that the organization having control of the same is not under military direction and that our doing so is not to be understood as being in any way a substitute for military service or as an 'alternative service', an expression in the circular asking us to undertake such work, we regret Our services are tendered simply with the desire to meet an unusual degree of distress regardless of its cause.
One or two of our members have had to bear a little hard judgement from some of our neighbours because of being obliged to refuse to take part in the 'Red Cross' work. We feel that the Red Cross Society working under military direction is a direct help to military operations. We desire earnestly to do all we can to relieve suffering wherever it is, but feel restrained from in any way acting in conjunction with the military authorities.'

It was at this time, a number of young men from Crich, who opposed the attitude of local Quakers, damaged the shop of Thomas Davidson, a minister of Fritchley Quakers and they verbally abused several members of the Meeting. On the whole, the position of Friends regarding war, was not understood by the villagers but was accepted as yet another part of the make-up of this respected but uniquely religious body who were prepared to carry their beliefs into their daily life and to take the consequences.

Ref: “The Quakers of Fritchley” by Walter Lowndes 1986 (ISBN 0-9511295-0-3)

The following is the text of a letter addressed to the Press on September 12th, 1914, by the Right Hon. A. J. Balfour, M. P., explaining the aims and objects of the National Relief Fund : —

The administration of the Prince of Wales's fund has been the object of a certain criticism in the public Press, and I have reason to believe that this gives expression to a real feeling of doubt and dissatisfaction prevailing both among some of those who have contributed to the fund and among some of those who are, unhappily, suffering from the distress which the fund was designed to alleviate.

It is because this dissatisfaction is, I think, largely due to a misconception as to what the fund has done, is doing, and can do, that I venture to ask you to give publicity to this communication.

Let me begin by contradicting two errors which seem to have obtained a wide currency. The first error is that no part of the fund is to be used to relieve civil as distinguished from military distress – it being wrongly supposed that the whole sum subscribed is destined for the wives and families of soldiers and sailors.

The second error, equally baseless and even more absurd, is that among the civil population eligible for assistance women are not to be included. For my own part, it is the women thrown out of employment by the war who seem to have the strongest claims upon our sympathy and aid; and so, I believe, think my colleagues on the Executive Committee.

These errors of fact which an inquiry at the office of the Executive Committee would at once have corrected. But there are criticisms of a different kind which require more consideration. It is alleged that in the use of the fund there has been avoidable delays, as well as some mal-administration. I would ask those who wish to form a judgement on these points to consider the conditions under which alone any central fund for general purposes can give satisfactory results.

The advantages of a central fund are great. It makes possible a fairer distribution of our charitable resources between areas which are rich and areas which are poor, between areas which have suffered much from the ware and area which have suffered little or not at all. It also does something to diminish the evils of overlapping. But evidently it cannot be administered from the central office directly to individual sufferers. It must work through organisations which either already exist or which it brings into being. Now the creation of a new organisation, covering (as it must) the whole country, would not only be a work of extreme difficulty, but it would take much time.

The Executive Committee of the fund have been charge with dilatoriness. What would have been said of them if they had waited to employ their money till they had devised a new machinery for its distribution? Evidently existing organisations had to be used; and the only question was which organisation.

So far as (what may be called) the military side of our work, there could be no doubt. The Royal Patriotic Fund is a statutory body which deals with the dependents of soldiers and sailors who die in the war; the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association, or where it has for local reasons become inefficient, the Local Committee take up the work, and they also have been provided with the necessary resources.

I observe that cases of mal-administration on the part of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association have been referred to in the Press. I hope its critics will remember the conditions under which it works. It is carried on wholly by voluntary effort; in some parts of the country it has lost, during a period of peace, much of its efficiency; it has thrown upon it without warning a strain greater than it has ever had to bear; its work involves following up, often harder great difficulties the feelings of soldiers and sailors suddenly summoned to the colours.

It has in the last month, in addition to is old work, bee called on to deal with the Territorials and with the New Army. Now wonder that even the un-grudging labours of those who have devoted themselves to the work of the society have not suffered wholly to avoid errors both of omission and commission.

If now we turn from the military to the civil side of the fund's work, what organisation is available corresponding to those I have mention on the military side?

It must be observed that a central fund requires a central organisation in addition to local organisations (such as the Mayors Committee) which administer assistance in particular areas. Without some means of examining not merely the intrinsic merits of this or that scheme, and the reality of distress in this or that district, but also the comparative needs of different parts of the country so reasonable distribution would be possible. Where is this central organisation to be found?

There is but one, namely the Government Committee for the Prevention and Relief of Distress.

This has behind it, in addition to great primary resources, and official staff acquainted with the whole of England. The Local Government Board and the Board of Trade have unique means of informing the Government Committee about the needs of every area and the merits of every scheme; while the Government Committee possess unique advantages in dealing with the very difficult problems which the relief of industrial distress must always present.

The Executive Committee of the Prince of Wale's Fund have therefore requested the Central Committee to lay before them any schemes which they think the Prince of Wale's Fund should assist; and every suggestion made by the Central Committee for the mitigation of civil distress has been immediately followed.

The Executive Committee have been charged with “bottling” their money. They have done nothing of the kind. Already they have paid out more than £350,000 sterling which has been already distributed or is now in course of distribution.

As the schemes of the Central Committee for dealing with industrial distress matures; as the number of soldiers' dependants grows with the growth of our Army; as husbands and fathers die in their country's cause, so will the demands on the fund increase. None can guess how long the war will last. As I write the course seems favourable. But he must be sanguine indeed who thinks the contribution already received, magnificent as has been the response to the Prince of Wale's appeal, are in excess of the necessities of the situation.