In November and December 1918, our banks wrote to all their men in the army, navy and air force, asking whether they intended to return. Some did not. They had entered banking as teenagers, and in many cases it had been their parents’ choice of profession, not their own. Having seen different worlds and developed new skills, some wanted alternative careers. Others had left the banks as office juniors or apprentices, and were now army lieutenants or captains; seasoned leaders of men who couldn’t imagine returning to desk-bound clerical work. In some cases, family circumstances had changed. One of our men left the bank to go into the family business, filling the place left by an elder brother who’d been killed in France.
No man need feel himself in honour bound to rejoin the Bank, should his interests or inclinations draw him in another direction.
London County Westminster & Parr's Bank letter to staff, December 1918
Although most of the banks had continued to pay part-wages to their staff on active service, they wanted to be clear that this did not place men under any obligation to return. They had hired many capable new employees in the intervening years, and had no interest in reclaiming men who would rather be elsewhere.
The vast majority did want to come back. Nobody knew what the post-war future held, and those with secure jobs to come back to were the lucky ones. They were known as ‘slip’ men, because the Ministry of Labour would certify their employment status with a release slip. This gave them priority over men who were otherwise in the same demobilisation category as them.
The first bank men to make it home were those who had been prisoners of war or internees. Many of them were back in Britain by December 1918 or early January 1919, not yet officially demobilised, but on leave. Some were in very poor health and needed time to recuperate, but others were anxious to resume normal life as soon as possible. EA Holmes of Hathersage branch was one. He had been a prisoner in Germany since May 1918, and got back to England at the beginning of December. Although suffering from occasional headaches, his health was good, and by the end of the month he was helping out at the branch, assisting with the very busy six-monthly balance.
Other men started arriving home early in 1919, and by the end of the year almost all were back, either picking up where they’d left off, or striving to carve out new lives for themselves.