South Staffordshire Water Archives

South Staffs Water and the First World War

Whilst a great deal of information survives about the Company’s involvement in World War Two, records of employees who served in the First World War are somewhat more difficult to locate. There does not appear to be a roll of honour or indeed any documents which list the names of men who enlisted in the armed services, who were wounded or perished in the conflict or who returned to their duties with the Company following the armistice in November 1918. Of course many firms went to great lengths to honour their employees who served, often in the form of a monument in stone or bronze or maybe a wall mounted plaque, however no evidence has been found that South Staffs commissioned anything similar. It is of course possible that no employees were lost during the war, although this seems unlikely. Perhaps the Company was able to retain a high proportion of its staff due to the essential nature of its activities in maintaining water supplies to a heavily industrialised region of the country.

Scouring the board records for the years 1914 – 1918 there are of course references to the impact of the conflict such as the requirement to make additional water supplies available to military camps and munitions factories and to make war bonus payments to its employees who were feeling the effects of inflation brought on by wartime shortages. A resolution made in 1914 records the decision by the directors to ensure that any serviceman returning to the Company following the end of the war would be entitled to his old job back. A later board minute approves the issue of uniform clothing to female employees who had been recruited as waste inspectors, a job that had previously only been carried out by men. There is clear evidence that the Company was short of water resources during the war. Reservoirs frequently emptied and it was found necessary to limit supplies to some districts during night time periods. Measures were taken to obtain emergency supplies from wherever they could be found, such as coalmines and neighbouring undertakings with spare capacity. Interestingly, despite the prevailing wartime conditions, the Company found it possible to pursue its submissions to parliament for permissions to proceed with capital works such as new pumping stations, reservoirs, trunk mains etc. These were the precursors to the explosion of building and mainlaying projects that ensued during the inter war years under the supervision of the then Engineering in Chief, Fred J Dixon.

Following the recent First World War centenary it is perhaps appropriate to explore the reasons for the apparent lack of information about the Company’s employees' involvement in the conflict. An attempt will be made therefore to piece together information about those employees who did enlist in the armed services in order to compile a permanent record of their contributions. This will be achieved by probing the Company’s own archives and exploiting the vast amount of information now available on line and in record offices, military museums and other repositories.

Database of Company Employees Who Enlisted In The Armed Services