Several of our banks issued staff magazines, and these became a vital means for far-flung colleagues to stay in touch.
County & Westminster Magazine
The first of our constituent banks to begin publishing a staff magazine that lasted more than a handful of editions was London & County Bank, which started its County Magazine in 1907. Not long afterwards this bank merged with a competitor to become London County & Westminster Bank, and the magazine became County & Westminster Magazine.
The Magazine is one of the most interesting things I get out here, for I often think of the comfortable old days and like to hear how things are going on and read of men you know in the service.
Signaller FL Lapper writing to former colleagues at Southend branch, 1916
By 1914 the magazine was carrying photographs, cartoons, stories, jokes, poems, sports reports and news of staff transfers. At the outbreak of war it seamlessly turned to reporting colleagues' exploits in uniform. As the war progressed, it printed obituaries, including photographs, of many dozens of colleagues.
It continued to be issued throughout the war, and - with a name change to The Westminster - long afterwards, all the way to 1968, when the bank became a founding part of the new NatWest.
Parr's Bank Magazine
The success of County & Westminster Magazine was noted by the staff of other banks, and at Parr's Bank a group decided to try publishing one of their own. With help and advice from the editor at County & Westminster Magazine, the first edition of Parr's Bank Magazine appeared in January 1914.
Events soon overtook the new enterprise. Only three editions appeared before Britain was at war, and the magazine became a vital channel for news about colleagues in distant places. It carried articles about wartime experiences, both in uniform and as civilians, as well as poetry and comment. Large portions of each quarterly edition were given over to extensive quotations from letters from colleagues on active service. In order to fit them all in, the font size was reduced.
Compared to County & Westminster Magazine, this was a fledgling publication. Illustrations were expensive, and with a less established list of advertisers and subscribers, it could not afford many. Nevertheless, as news began to arrive of colleagues who had fallen, the magazine endeavoured to publish their photographs.
In autumn 1915 the magazine's own editor left to go on military service. The magazine had already accepted subscriptions and advertisements for the following year, so colleagues agreed to continue without him. As conditions worsened, however, fewer people could spare the time to work on it. Paper and printing prices also increased, reducing the viability of the enterprise. The November 1916 edition was printed on much poorer-quality paper, and it was announced that it would be the last, at least for the duration of the war.
Ulster Bank's Passing Events
Unlike other banks' magazines, Passing Events was conceived specifically as a way of keeping in touch in wartime. Its story started in autumn 1916, when two paste room officials started a monthly periodical for fellow staff, called Cash Office Gazette. It was initially typed and illustrated by hand, but aroused such interest that permission was obtained to use the bank's gestetner, so that more copies could be produced. The significant decision was taken to produce enough copies to send one to each colleague who was away on military service.
Difficulties soon arose and Cash Office Gazette folded, but the idea of a magazine to stay in touch with absent friends had caught on, and a successor was quickly established. The first issue of Passing Events appeared in February 1917. Its editor declared ‘Passing Events is unique, so far as we can find out, in that it is the only magazine issued by a bank specifically for its fighting men – other journals there undoubtedly are but those are merely the continuation of old established magazines issued generally for their respective services’.
Passing Events continued to appear for the rest of the war. It grew from two or three pages into a substantial 21-page magazine, covering – in a chatty, light-hearted style – staff appointments and transfers, branch openings, the experiences of men on service, contributions of prose and poetry, and commentary on developments in banking and economic affairs.
The magazine's final edition appeared in January 1919. In it, the editor noted that ‘born purely as a war journal for the purpose of trying to bring some cheer to our ‘boys’, whether on the battlefield, in the hospital, or in the camp, the original object of its foundation has now practically ceased to exist’. He thanked all his correspondents from the past two years, and remarked that ’while I shall miss those bright and friendly letters I rejoice in the knowledge that so many will be found once more as co-workers in the old UB.’