Tuesday, 16 September 2014

The League of Those Determined to Help

From the Daily Mirror, 16th September, 1914

Those Sub-Committees

A CERTAIN substantial suburb which, before the war, was mainly given up to golf and flirtation, is now (we found on visiting it last week-end) entirely composed of persons determined to help, at any cost to their neighbours and themselves, especially their neighbours.

The League of Those Determined to Help was not immediately formed at the outbreak of hostilities.  It was, indeed, for the purpose of forming such a league, and so of putting an end to the hostilities that had already outbroken in the suburb, that a meeting was called, last Sunday.  This meeting was to gather in the large drawing-room of the chief resident of the suburb; and, after a deadly but decisive contest as to who the chief resident was, it met at Mrs. X.’s, the other claimants for chief-residency being conspicuously out of action.  Thus an opportunity was provided for uniting all the spontaneous Determination of the neighbourhood into one fixed effort to Help.

For, until then, we must confess that there had been nothing but an anarchy of Committees and Sub-committees in the suburb.  Each person present, on that Sunday afternoon, seemed to be President of a Committee, or Vice-President of a Sub-committee.  We ventured to ask those near us what they were doing to help.

The first lady said: “Oh, you must help us.  We have a League for the Orphans of Soldiers who Died before the War.”

The second said: “Ours is the best-and most practical work.  We are sending tea-leaves to the Fleet.”

A younger woman remarked: “We are helping the jilted fiancees of men at the front.”

A lady knitting hard by the window added: “Surely the main thing is to help the men first. Their relatives can wait.  We are supplying eight dozen pair of night socks a day for the front.”

“For the front, for the front, for the front”— the words formed a sort of refrain.  But now the chief resident was beginning her Determined Speech.

The gist of her speech was that all the Committees and Subcommittees should be amalgamated into a Determined League, and that then the League should offer its services to the War Office, in all or any of the capacities for which its Committees and Sub-committees had been formed.  The answer was hourly expected, but meanwhile the Determined Helpers were not to cease committing and sub-committing.  They were to go on with the tea-leaves and night socks and the rest, until it was known what was wanted.  They were to take all the money they could get.  .  .  .  “Anybody who did not help at a time like this  .  .  .  Coward  .  .  .  Skulker  .  .  .  Let no women, however foreign, speak to any Englishman who didn't help.  .  .”  And so it went on.  We began to feel shy.  “What are you doing?” said someone, savagely.  We feebly replied: “Listening.”  There was a tremor of scorn.

But yesterday in remorse we offered some money to the Determined Ones.

A telephone message came in reply:  “Thanks so much, but we're disbanded.”

“Disbanded?  What do you mean?”

“Well, the War Office message came to-day.  It ran: ‘Please don't Help.  Enlist.  Or else send money to the Prince of Wales’s fund.’”

Poor, poor Sub-committees!    W. M.

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