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Home > Archive > First World War Service Records 1914-19

First World War Service Records 1914-19

Archive catalogue reference: M5/708-710 (These files are searchable under the title of 'European War 1914-1918' in the archive catalogue)

On 10 August 1914, the Court of Directors minutes announced that the Governor “…had granted leave with full pay to as many clerks as could possibly be spared to serve in the Defensive Forces of the Country…”.

Those who were granted leave by the Bank to enlist in His Majesty’s Forces are included in these records. As well as their position in the Bank, each entry contains brief notes about their war service, including where they served, promotions, awards received and if they were injured or killed. 71 members of the Bank's staff lost their lives during the First World War.
Amongst the records, of particular significance is the entry for Captain Eugene Paul Bennett, an Assistant from the Accountant's Department who was appointed as both a 2nd Lieutenant and Acting-Captain during the war, and who was awarded the Military Cross for his efforts in the Battle of Loos. He was later awarded the highest military honour of the Victoria Cross, for his heroic and quick-thinking actions at the Battle of Le Transloy in 1916. The Bank’s Court declared on 4 January 1917, ‘That the hearty congratulations of the Court be conveyed to Captain Bennett with an expression of their high appreciation of the conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty which have gained for him this honour.’ According to the Bank of England’s Unpublished War History 1914-1921, military awards to members of the Bank included twenty Military Crosses. Three members of staff were also awarded the Croix de Guerre, and an O.B.E and C.B.E were awarded to two other members of staff. 

There is also a detailed entry in Volume 2 (M5/709) relating to W.C.A Meade who was reported to have drowned in the Indian Ocean as a result of a seaplane accident in April 1917. But included with his entry is an extract from a letter he sent to his parents which describes his survival following the air-crash. This includes details of his two mile swim to an uninhabited island, his rescue and subsequent meeting with the local people of the Maldives.

The impact of the war on the Bank is illustrated by a change in the workforce between 1914 and 1918. In August 1914, women clerks at the Bank numbered just 66 and their work was predominantly typing and counting notes. As a result of the enlistment of many of the  Bank’s junior male clerks, the number of temporary and permanent women clerks increased to a peak of 2,463 in June 1919. The responsibilities of the women clerks was also changing. An extract from the Committee of Treasury minutes on 28 October 1914 discusses that as it was now, 'desirable to employ women clerks permanently on the coupon work of the Securities Office, the Committee agreed to recommend to the Court of Directors that the staff of the Women Clerks Department be increased by eight clerks.’

Following the First World War, a list of all the Bank staff who served in His Majesty’s Forces was displayed on the walls in the Bank’s entrance. During the re-building of the Bank between 1921 and 1942 by architect Herbert Baker, the names were re-inscribed onto the Bank’s new entrance walls. 

The entries in the Service Records are alphabetical. Although the entries primarily cover the First World War period of 1914-1918, they do also contain updates for certain soldiers up to 1919. They do not contain the names of every member of staff who was granted leave.

First World War Service Records 1914-19, volume 1 (A-G) (12MB) 

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