The First World War at The Florrie

The outbreak of the war 1914

The outbreak of the First World War did not appear to have a significant effect on the younger membership of the Institute, although the Committee reflected ‘In one way we have been hard hit, and that is in the loss, for a time at any rate, of a very large number of those who have grown up as members of the Institute. We miss their familiar faces and can only hope they may be restored to us in all the vigour of their youth and strength. They deserve well of their country and of their native city.’

At this time, around 230 past and present Institute members had joined the Forces. ‘We think it due to our subscribers and friends to let them know, that they may have been instrumental, through the Florence Institute, in making so large a number of patriotic citizens and soldiers, and that it is due to the latter that their brave efforts should be placed on record. We do not claim that our results have been exceptional, but we think we compare favourably with any other similar Institute in or out of Liverpool. All our seniors have enlisted or volunteered for foreign service. No pressure of any kind has been used, but every encouragement has been given to members to offer their services. A very pleasing feature is the large numbers of letters received from the various camps in Great Britain and Ireland, and from the Continent and the East. Several of our members left early for France and Belgium, and have suffered the untold miseries and hardships of a winter in the water-logged trenches. Yet we have not received a single complaint, nothing but cheery optimism, and a firm conviction that we are going to win, and that they are doing their best to achieve this desired result. Think of the pleasure of keeping in touch with the soldier who, after doing three days in the trenches without sleep, writes home that they have named their dug-out the ‘Midland Adelphi Hotel’, that the banqueting hall is not so large as the Liverpool one, but it is very comfortable! It makes one feel that the City has good cause to be proud of her sons. We sincerely regret to have to record the death of Captain Andrew T.S. MacIver, who was the Commanding Officer of the Cadet Battalion, and as such took a keen interest in ‘B’ Company whose headquarters are at the Institute. Deep sympathy is felt for our Superintendent in the death of his son in France. One other member of the Institute has fallen. We mourn the loss of these fallen heroes.’


in 1915 the shadow of the war continued to loom large. A significant number of the City of Liverpool Cadet Battalion joined the Senior forces, and the report announced the death of former Company Commander Lieutenant Tharrat, who ‘was on board the ill-fated Hospital Ship ‘Anglia’, torpedoed in the English Channel.’

The Superintendent and an unnamed member of the Committee kept in touch with virtually all recent Florrie members in active service. At Christmas the Committee agreed that ‘appropriate’ Christmas cards should be sent out to all such members, ‘That this was appreciated there can be no doubt, judging from the many letters received from the boys themselves. The warm affection of members towards the Institute had been shown again and again. The expression ‘’The good old Florrie’’ is perhaps the most common in all their letters, and conveys the strong feeling they have towards the Institute.’ For Florrie boys at home, the war brought with it benefits of steady employment, which led to the Institute’s Employment Department being discontinued, ‘as work at the Docks and elsewhere has been plentiful and lucrative.’


This year ‘about one hundred and fifty Christmas cards were sent to our men serving in all the theatres of war. Letters from soldiers testify to their pleasure on receiving these seasonable good wishes from their old Institute.’ However, the increasing length of the Institute’s casualty list caused great regret, and the report included a list of servicemen who gave their lives with an asterisk. ‘We feel the loss of these promising youths very keenly. The majority of them were regular in their attendance at the Institute and keen on attaching themselves to one or more of the Club activities. Our sympathies go out to the parents of these brave boys who in the face of the gravest danger never hesitated about doing their duty, and we feel sure this knowledge will be a consolation in their deep distress.’ Reverend A T Hall and his brother Captain Douglas Hall M.P receive a special mention for their personal war-effforts, which included the presentation of a Motor Ambulance and the original Barge Ambulance.


Unsurprisingly, the tone of this year’s report is solemnly reflective, as it concludes ‘The past year has, perhaps, been the most difficult in the history of the Institute.

Events outside its control have had a huge impact on the Institute, although its services remain in great need:  ‘Naturally, owing to the war, there has been a steadily diminishing number of Senior Members, and almost an entire lack of voluntary workers. Under these circumstances it has been difficult to get leaders for the various activities of the Institute, and many of the classes have had to lapse for the time being. This is regrettable, especially in view of the fact that the general membership has during the winter months been even greater than it was in the years previous to the War.’ Nevertheless, the report appeals to members and their parents ‘to interest themselves in the Cadet movement, and point out to their sons the many advantages of belonging to a Cadet Unit, as they will probably have to join His Majesty’s forces later on.’


In the immediate aftermath of WW1, the Institute’s fortunes had not yet recovered from the impact of war. ‘The past year has been, if anything, more trying and critical than the year before.’ The continued lack of voluntary workers caused much distress and a huge question mark hung over the future of Institute, ‘Indeed, unless more help is forthcoming it is hard to see how the work of the Institute can be adequately performed.’ The Gymnasium lost instructors due to military duties and influenza, whilst small numbers led to the suspension of swimming. The Cadets also suffered a blow: ‘‘The connection between the Florence Institute and the City of Liverpool Cadet Battalion, which has existed for many years, was severed at the end of 1918. This event, though for some considerable time forseen to be inevitable, caused many regrets on both sides. In regard to the future, it has been in contemplation to establish a company of Naval Cadets; and with the end in view enquiries have been made as to the feasibility of the scheme.’

As former members returned to Liverpool there was some good news on the horizon. Two Institute members started courses at the University of Liverpool and Liverpool School of Art, assisted by public funds. Interest was been revived in Boxing, which was attributed to its popularity in the army  ‘the Florence Boys took to the sport; and at the Union of Boys’ Clubs Boxing Competition, the finals of which took place at the Liverpool Stadium, we were fortunate enough to secure four wins and three runners up..’ Football, despite being threatened with suspension, survived. Although handicapped by players having to work overtime at their day jobs, ‘the league position of the Florence Boys at the end of the season was very satisfactory.’


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