1914 – the first volunteers | RBS Remembers

RBS remembers

1914 – the first volunteers

An employee of Manchester & Liverpool District Banking Co on a wartime visit to his old office in King Street, Manchester © RBS


As soon as war broke out, men who served in volunteer battalions – sometimes called 'Saturday afternoon soldiers' – were immediately mobilised. Among them were many bank workers.

Others wished to volunteer as soon as possible, giving the banks no time to confer between themselves about how to handle this unprecedented situation. As a result, each bank’s board made its own decisions, and there was no consistency between banks in how staff were treated upon joining up.

All the banks wanted to be patriotic, and certainly didn’t want to look like they were standing in the way of willing recruits. On the other hand, they couldn’t afford to lose all their men at once. The government was relying on banks to manage national resources, to maintain public calm and to support the economy’s transition to a war footing. This was no time to try coping with a heavily reduced staff.

Most banks made it clear at an early stage that employees needed permission from head office to join up. They wanted to take an overview of how many men had already gone from an office, and how many more could possibly be spared. London County & Westminster also took into account the applicant’s likely usefulness to the army, prioritising applicants who already had military training, and suggesting that those with no such experience would be doing more for their country by staying at work, where they had real expertise.

Nevertheless, by early September 1914 around 10% of bank staff had been given permission to join up. In one of our largest constituents, London County & Westminster, 283 men had already gone from a total of 3,250. Another 530 had applied, and were waiting for the bank to give its approval. 




Alan Gordon August 04 2014 10:16AM

they gave their tomorrows so we could have our today


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