Policing sexual morality in British ports in the First World War

The discourse of sexual morality in the First World War created a moral panic, not only in Britain, but across the Dominions of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland and India and later also in America. Sexual immorality was seen particularly in the port towns of Liverpool and Swansea. However, the police felt able to contain it to the houses of ill-repute in Liverpool:
"Disreputable Houses. Manchester and Glasgow are neither of them equal in population to this town (Liverpool). In the former there are *** houses of ill-fame, in the latter ***. In Liverpool there are not less than ****. I have already said that the tonnage of this port exceeds that of London. Our docks are at our doors, with 15 miles of quays. There is an average floating population of 20,000 seamen."[1]
As houses of ill-repute had to be registerd with the police, they were regularly inspected and this surveillance created some kind of safeguard to keep immorality within the dock area and segregated from the rest of the population.
Swansea was similar:
"workmen in the docks declared that the Swansea Docks were a hotbed of immorality, and much worse than ever before, and that there were girls to be seen from 13 years of age with drunken sailors day and night on board ships." [2]
The common factor in these well-established British docks was the mobile population of sailors who were said to encourage and maintain immorality in the local population. In Swansea, the local authority asked the Army to control the dock area, so preventing the spread of immorality by attempting to isolate it in the docks.
However, when 40,000 Canadian troops arrived in Folkestone in early 1915, the town was not a well-established port. It was a genteel holiday resort on the south coast, which had been connected to London by train in 1844, when the railway line was built. It was a port for crossings to Boulogne.
Below is a section of the barracks which housed the Canadian troops at Shorncliffe, 2 miles from Folkestone:
The Canadian troops were welcomed into the town, although they outnumbered the local population of just over 33,000 [3]. But as they were known to be well-paid, inevitably crime developed and the Chief Constable alerted the Watch Committee (responsible for appointing police officers) that prostitutes had arrived from London and immorality was developing. The fear that it would spread to the rest of the population of this genteel town was not lost on the police, they feared they had no means to confine it to the dock area. Unlike Liverpool and Swansea, the Canadian troops were based in Folkestone for the duration of the war, returning from leave in France: Folkestone was their home, unlike the floating population of sailors in Liverpool and Swansea.
From February 1916 the British government passed laws under the Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) to try to evict the prostitutes from towns which housed troops. They met with some success initially, as 37 prostitutes and brothel keepers were evicted in February 1916 from Folkestone. However, this did not satisfy the Dominions, who spoke of their outrage at the state of the streets, particularly in London. The Canadian Prime Minister, Robert Borden spoke for them all in April 1917:
"I do not think you will ever get Canada to send men Overseas to any war again unless we are assured that such conditions as have met our soldiers here will not meet them again. ... I think it is a horrible outrage that they should be exposed as they have been," [4]
He and other Dominion leaders were particularly concerned at the spread of venereal disease to the troops, as there was no cure for the disease at this time. They implored Britain to reduce the temptations to their troops. Canada's pleas were endorsed by the Australian Prime Minister who had been receiving letters from parents of their soldiers saying that while they expected their sons might be killed in the war and die as heroes, they were not expecting the disgrace of them arriving home, on demobilisation, with venereal disease.
The following year, in February 1918, the Dominions said they were "profoundly dissatisfied with the inaction of His Majesty's Government" as they could see no change in the situation from the previous year [5]. They wanted all women prostitutes to be interned. However, the Home Secretary, Sir George Cave, said the problem was no longer the spread of disease by prostitutes, 70% of the spread was now caused by the "amateur girls" over whom there was no control.
This is a synopsis of a paper presented at the Social Dynamics in Atlantic Ports XIVth-XXIst Centuries conference in Ostend, Belgium 24th - 26th April 2019 see http://porttowns.port.ac.uk/cfp-social-dynamics-in-atlantic-ports/
References and bibliography
Fraser, M. (2019) Policing the Home Front 1914-1918: The control of the British population at war. London and New York: Routledge Studies in First World War History. Ch 9, Policing sexual morality, pp. 162-191.
[1] The Police Review and Parade Gossip. An address to Police Recruits. 1st October 1915 p. 477
[2] The Police Review and Parade Gossip. Women Police and Patrols: Opposition to patrols at Swansea. 9th July 1915 p. 335
[3] Personal communication from Mark Ballard, Archive Services Officer, Kent History and Library Centre.
[4] TNA HO45/10182 Imperial War Conference: Temptations of Overseas Soldiers in London. 24th April 1917, p. 17.
[5] TNA HO45/10802 307990. War Cabinet 352 and 365. Extracts from the minutes of the War Cabinet meetings, Friday 22nd February and Wednesday 13th March 1918.

Policing sexual morality in English Atlantic Ports

Delighted that I've been asked to present a paper "Policing sexual morality in English ports in the First World War" at the Social Dynamics in Atlantic Ports XIVth - XXIst Centuries: VIth international colloquium of the governance of the Atlantic Ports at the Flanders Marine Institute, in Ostend, Belgium 24th - 26th April, 2019. With nearly 50 speakers it looks like an excellent programme and a chance to make new contacts. See porttowns.port.ac.uk/cfp-social-dynamic
For the conference programme see https://www2.uned.es/gobernanza-puertos-atlanticos/indexEn.html#

The police popular journal "The Police Review and Parade Gossip"

Popular journals are a good way to understand their target audience. In the case of The Police Review and Parade Gossip, it helps us to understand the work and lives of the policeman on the beat and his family. It was started in 1893 by the philanthropist and temperance campaigner John Kempster who invested his £500 savings because he saw a need for policemen on the beat to have a voice and to improve their standard of education and training. It became the most widely read weekly police journal during the First World War and was referred to by government for the views of policemen generally. Files in the National Archives at Kew have cuttings taken from the journal pasted in to letters and correspondence between ministers and civil servants about topical police matters.
Widely read and influential journals are important sources for historical research as they have to reflect the views of their readers, or they lose their target audience; they also help to form opinions through the articles they produce - so that they become a reflector and arbiter of opinions. No journal can afford to be out of step with its readers.
Researchers on police history have called the journal's editor enthusiastic and forceful, with the journal being a mouthpiece for the respectable, educated working man who served as a policeman and also had rights as a citizen. It encouraged the moral values of stability, self-improvement, thrift and sobriety and showed the policeman as respectable, self-disciplined and self-taught, which was close to the values the police as an organisation promoted. It also campaigned for better conditions of service for the policeman, such as the successful campaign for the weekly rest day, which became enshrined in legislation in the Police (Weekly Rest Day) Bill of 1910.
Below is the front cover of the journal, from the first publication after the Armistice in November 1918. Sadly it ceased publication in 2011 after over 110 years in print.
Further reading:
Fraser, M. (2018) Policing the Home Front 1914-1018: The control of the British population at war. Abingdon: Routledge, First World War History Series.
Clapson, M. & Emsley, C. (2011) Street, beat and respectability: The culture and self-image of the late Victorian and Edwardian urban policeman. In Williams, C. A. (ed.) Police and Policing in the Twentieth Century. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing Chapter 14, pp. 293-317.


Book publication "Policing the Home Front 1914-1918: The control of the British population at war"

My book is now through its proofs and is due to be published on 12th December. You can see more about my approach to writing the book on https://www.routledge.com/posts/14777?utm_source=Routledge&utm_medium=cms&utm_campaign=B181203509
It has been an immensely exciting project and will undoubtedly lead to further work on the history of the police in Britain.
To see the chapters and to purchase a copy go tohttps://www.crcpress.com/Policing-the-Home-Front-1914-1918.../9781138565241   

The police and food hoarding in 1917 and 1918


As the First World progressed into 1917 with a crisis of diminishing food supplies and soaring food prices, the discourse of food hoarding became part of the policeman’s role. Hoarding became prominent following Conscience Week on 11th February 1917 when Food Control Committees gave an amnesty until 25th February to allow the surrender of all hoarded food, which was to be sold and the proceeds given back to the person surrendering. But although the results were disappointing, the message that hoarding was a serious matter became well known and was everybody’s business to control it. But further measures were needed as questions in the House of Commons in March 1917 asked for stricter control noting that poorer people were becoming dissatisfied at seeing the indulgence of the rich [1]. A furore which spread across Britain and lasted for several weeks was created in the West Riding of Yorkshire by publication of an article showing the lavish diets eaten by the wealthy at The Ritz, this fuelled claims that hoarding by the rich was causing the food shortages. Later a stricter definition of what constituted hoarding was asked in the House of Commons [2], so that everyone could be aware of their relatives, friends and neighbour’s habits and could report them to the police or the food control authorities where they had suspicions that the law was being infringed.
The Food Hoarding Order of 15th April 1917 forbade anyone to “acquire any article of food so that the quantity in his (sic) possession or under his control at any one time exceeds the quantity required for ordinary use or consumption in his household or establishment”. Under the Order powers were given to Food Inspectors to enter any premises where they suspected hoarding, except by food producers and traders, but the Order was not implemented until early 1918, when the local Food Committees started to enforce it. Food Inspectors secured convictions, fines and in some cases imprisonment too, against hoarders.
The police were told that the Food Hoarding Order gave right of entry to premises where “an offence against the Regulations is being or has been committed”. Under Section 51 of the Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) [3], the police could enter the house or building to “examine, search and inspect” anything that they suspected contravened DORA Regulations, such as food hoarding, and an officer could seize anything he saw without written permission from the Food Controller or a Justice of the Peace. Whereas Inspectors appointed by the Food Controller or the Local Food Control Committee had the right of search and could seize articles contravening the Food Hoarding Order without a warrant, the police were warned that “violating … an Englishman’s right to the privacy of his hearth and home, is not to be lightly exercised”; and they would be well advised to act with the utmost discretion and with the permission of their superior officer before attempting such a move [4]. The police therefore mainly relied on tip-offs from the public, traders and others with close access to families to report hoarding. A whole system of checking and controlling the food supply and hoarding had been set up, involving specially appointed inspectors who could call on police help to bring convictions. Beveridge shows how publication of convictions of high profile figures (a best-selling novelist; an Earl’s daughter; a Member of the House of Commons) brought contravention of the Food Hoarding Order out into the open so that few could escape.
Bibliography and references
Fraser, M. (in press) Policing the Home Front 1914-1918: The control of the British population at war. Routledge, Research Monograph.
[1] House of Commons Debates 28 March 1917 vol 92 cc410-1
[2] Beveridge, W. H. (1928) British Food Control London: Humphrey Milford; Oxford University Press.  House of Commons Debates 14 February 1918 vol 103 cc280
[3] Defence of the Realm Manual 5th edition. Revised to February 28th 1918. HMSO p. 164
[4] The Police Review and Parade Gossip Police Law and Practice. Questions and Answers. 13872. Food Hoarding – Police Right of Search. March 28th 1918 p. 98