Second World War - Emergency Arrangements

In 1938, German troops crossed the Austrian frontier and  the UK government passed The Emergency Powers (Defence Act) of August 1938 which empowered the British government to take certain measures in defence of the nation and to maintain public order. Subsequent to those events, and following the declaration of War in September 1939, the Bank's Management Committee discussed various issues relating to the accounting records, the security of its premises and employees, and the staffing of its Head Office and branches. The extracts from the Bank's archives that are listed below give an insight into the problems considered.


Other topics on this website relating to the Bank during the Second World War are:


Inspection of Aircraft Parts by the Bank's staff 


Bank's archives re the staff's Inspection of Aircraft Parts


Hours of Business - 1939 to 1945


Hours of Business - 1947 Review


War Savings Campaigns


Combination of Branches


Passbooks related to accounts transferred between branches


War Damage to Branches


War Damage to Head Office


Proceedings at Court - frauds attempted against the Bank during the War



National Emergency Arrangements

(Finance & General Purposes Sub-Committee: October 17th 1938)

Your Sub-Committee have had before them particulars of the arrangements made in respect of the Head Office and branches in consequence of the recent national emergency and approved the same. Arising therefrom, consideration has been given to the desirability of making duplicate records of annual balances, transactions, etc, and the storing of same, with deeds and other securities, at a suitable place in the country. The General Manager has been directed to confer with the Town Clerk thereon and present a report in due course.


Air Raid Precautions and Storage of Duplicate Records

(Finance & General Purposes Sub-Committee: December 19th 1938)

Your Sub-Committee have considered a report from the General Manager hereon and have approved the arrangements made with regard to air raid precautions in respect of Bank premises and training of the staff.

Your Sub-Committee still have under consideration the question of storing of vital records and documents, and the General Manager is making inquiries into this matter.


Air Raid Precautions

(Finance & General Purposes Sub-Committee: February 20th 1939)

Your Committee were informed on the 17th October last that consideration would be given to the question of the suitable storage of duplicate records and documents in case of emergency.

In this connection your Sub-Committee have examined different alternatives including the possibility of storing such records and documents at a suitable place in the country, such as Ludlow and the provision of bomb-proof store-rooms nearer at hand, such as in the embankment of the reservoir now under construction at Kingstanding.

It is considered, however, that both these schemes would entail considerable inconvenience and expense and your Sub-Committee have arrived at the conclusion that a more advantageous and convenient course would be to make arrangements for the interchange of duplicate records between the Branches, which procedure, they are informed is being adopted by certain of the joint stock banks. The General Manager has been instructed to arrange accordingly.

The General Manager has also been authorised to arrange for the removal and replacement of the glass laylights at the Head Office by a non-splinterable substitute frames, as the ordinary glass installed at the present time might easily prove a source of danger.

Your Sub-Committee recommend that the above-mentioned actions be confirmed.


Air Raid Precautions

(Finance & General Purposes Sub-Committee: April 17th 1939)

Your Sub-Committee have had comprehensive reports from the General Manager with regard to the arrangements made at the Head Office with reference to refuge rooms, the equipment thereof and the training of the staff in regard to air raid precautions.

The General Manager has also reported fully with regard to the arrangements made for the provision of refuge rooms at branches.

With regard to the evening branches at Wells Green and Tower Hill, the General Manager has been directed to arrange for the construction of suitable shelters on these sites, each to accommodate 12 persons.


Air Raid Precautions - Store room for material, etc at Head Office

(Finance & General Purposes Sub-Committee: July 17th 1939)

A plan has been prepared by the City Engineer and Surveyor for the erection of a store room at the rear of the Bank on land belonging to the Public Works department at a cost of 275.

Your Sub-Committee recommend that such store room be provided at the cost mentioned and erected under the supervision of the City Engineer and Surveyor.


Staffing of Branches, etc

(Report by General Manager: November 13th 1939)

On the declaration of war, 21 of our staff enlisted. To avoid filling such posts I arranged to eliminate certain routine work and reduced the staff at certain Branches on the assumption that our normal transactions would fall. Returns for the month of September confirmed my opinion.

The reduction in Joint Stock Bank hours, however, compelled me to engage 5 temporary clerks to deal with the banking of cash at Branches where only 2 clerks are employed.

The conversion of three Evening Branches to Daily openings called for a staff of 6 officers. These were found by using the entire staff of Reserve officers.

To help the City Treasurer and Town Clerk in their organisations for A.F.S. and Report Centres, I loaned 9 officers of experience from the 6th September, but had to engage temporary clerks to replace them.

This was followed by a request for my assistance in the payment of A.R.P. and A.F.S. wages to over 7,600 persons each week. This additional work counterbalanced the reduction in normal Banking transactions, and, consequently, Branches had to be restored to full strength, necessitating the engagement of 12 temporary clerks. These 12 clerks would not be required if this extra work did not fall upon the Bank, and therefore I consider that the cost in wages of such 12 clerks is a proper charge upon the A.R.P. and A.F.S. Services and should not be defrayed out of Bank funds.

Ten days ago I was pressed to arrange for the collection of evacuation fees at Branches, and consented to do so. I was told that some 15,000 contributors would have to be dealt with each week, nut no indication could be given as to the districts where pressure was likely to be the greatest. The Chairman and I decided that Branches in the evacuated areas (especially those staffed by two officers) must have an extra clerk, and accordingly 20 temporary appointments were made. The system which has been introduced without any opportunity being given to the Bank to consider the same, is not suited to quick handling at counters, and is wasteful from the point of view of staffing. I have prepared a new and simpler scheme which can be worked along with our normal procedure for dealing with Corporation Accounts, and if this scheme is adopted the extent of additional assistance required will be less than at present. The expense of such extra assistance is not a charge which should fall upon the Bank, but one which the Education Committee or the appropriate Government Department should meet.


Staffing of Branches, etc

(Finance & General Purposes Sub-Committee: December 18th 1939)

The General Manager reported to your Sub-Committee that, in order to deal with the payment of Air Raid Precautions and Auxiliary Fire Service wages and the collection of Evacuation Fees, it has been necessary to engage extra temporary staff. In regard to Air Raid Precautions and Auxiliary Fire Service wages it has been agreed that the City Treasurer should reimburse the Bank in respect of 12 clerks at the rate of 2. 14. 0 per week.

With regard to Evacuation Fees, 20 clerks were originally engaged to deal with an estimated number of 15,000 weekly contributors. The returns show, however, that between 4,000 and 5,000 cases only are being dealt with, and the temporary staff has been reduced to 10 clerks, whose remuneration at 2. 14. 0. per week will be met through the Evacuation Expenses account.

To deal with the extra work involved in the sale of Savings Certificates and Defence Bonds, the General Manager has secured the temporary services of Mrs Baker at 3. 0. 0. per week. Mrs Baker was formerly chief cashier of the Bank and had charge of the issue etc of coupons during the Great War. Further assistance may be necessary in this direction if the work increases as a result of the Campaign.

For the three evening branches converted into daily branches six female clerks have been engaged and for the Safe Deposit Department one female clerk. These officers were engaged at the temporary rate of 2. 14. 0. per week, but on transfer to the permanent staff will receive 140 per annum.

For the new branches opened at Smethwick, Kitts Green and Halesowen, it is proposed to engage 6 female clerks.

Your Sub-Committee recommend that the various actions above mentioned in regard to the engagement of temporary and permanent staff as indicated above, be approved and confirmed.


Appointment of Acting Branch Managers

(Finance & General Purposes Sub-Committee: March 18th 1940)

Your Sub-Committee have given consideration to the position which has arisen in respect of enlistments of officers of the Bank in HM Forces, and the liability upon others to serve; and the consequent effect upon the staffing of the Branches.

It is clear that only two courses are open, viz, to amalgamate branches, and thus ensure a male officer in charge; or to staff some of the existing branches with females and with female Managers in charge. Your Sub-Committee feel that amalgamation of branches should only be adopted as a last resort, because of the misunderstanding which might arise through the temporary closing of a branch and amalgamation with another. There would also be a reduction in deposit and withdrawal transactions if amalgamation took place.

Fortunately, the Bank can rely upon a number of female officers and ex-officers who are sufficiently experienced to take charge of a branch, and, therefore, your Sub-Committee recommend this alternative in preference to amalgamations. Trustee Savings Banks similarly affected are adopting the policy of temporary appointments of female Managers.

To meet the present vacancies in the rank of Managers, it is possible to use male Cashiers, and this course will be followed until it becomes necessary to appoint female Managers. The male Cashiers acting as Managers would do so by rota for a period not exceeding six months at a time.

Your Sub-Committee are further of opinion that officers of lower grade while acting as Branch Managers should receive some additional remuneration for the duties and responsibilities of office, but consider that the payment should be by way of a weekly allowance, and not by increase of salary. They, therefore, recommend that, subject to the approval of the Salaries, Wages and Labour Committee, an allowance of 10/- per week in addition to normal salary be made to such officers acting temporarily as Managers, and that such allowance be paid also to such officers in charge of branches during holiday or sick leave of the regular Manager, providing the relief extends for a period of one week or longer.

It is not proposed to make any permanent appointment or promotion during the war, so that the claims of officers serving with HM Forces will not be prejudiced; but within six months after demobilisation the position will be reviewed, and such appointments or promotions made as may then be necessary.

Your Sub-Committee recommend that L A Wright, who has been acting as Manager for 7 months, shall be treated as an exceptional case and retained in that position for the duration of the war, and that he be granted an increase of 10 from the 1st April 1940, which will bring him to the maximum for the grade, viz, 385 per annum. In his case no extra allowance would be paid.

In the case of W A Camwell, who has already been approved on trial as Acting Manager, it is proposed to make the allowance to him of 10/-d. per week as from the 1st April 1940, but his salary of 270 will stand until the expiration of his 12 months' trial period, when the position will be reviewed.

In the cases of B P Hayward and J L E Edwards, who were in charge of evening branches and retained in that capacity when such branches were converted into daily branches, the Committee in October last approved an increase in salary of 10, but it is now recommended that that decision should be rescinded, and the officers placed on the same footing as others, and receive the allowance of 10/- per week.


Staffing and Control of Branches

(Finance & General Purposes Sub-Committee: May 20th 1940)

Your Sub-Committee have approved arrangements made by the General manager for audit clerks to carry out relief duties owing to shortage of male staff, and for the supervision and control of Branches to be exercised by Messrs Carver, Parsonage and H G Wright.


Safeguarding of Head Office Premises

(Finance & General Purposes Sub-Committee: June 17th 1940)

The General Manager has engaged two persons to patrol the Head Office premises each night, except Wednesdays. During Wednesday nights and at other times when the staff are not at work, a rota has been arranged whereby two officers will be on patrol duty, so that the whole period of day and night is now covered.,

With regard to the Safe Deposit Department, the General Manager is taking steps in consultation with the Chief Constable, to ensure greater control in the matter of access to the Safe Deposit and the use of safes therein. The two uniformed Commissionaires are now on duty in this part of the building, and two superannuated officers are taking over the ordinary work of the Commissionaires.


Fire Watcher and Patrol Duty at the Head Office

(Finance & General Purposes Sub-Committee: October 21st 1940)

Arrangements have been made for the voluntary undertaking of these duties by rota by male members of the staff, and the engagement of 2 men for night duties, except Wednesday, when the permanent staff undertake the duties. Arrangements have been made for the payment of appropriate meal and travelling allowances.

Wood Building for Branch Bank

(Finance & General Purposes Sub-Committee: October 21st 1940)

The City Surveyor has asked that the new wood building (still at the Contractors' yard) purchased for the purpose of a Branch Bank at Rubery, might be loaned to the ARP Services, who are urgently in need of such provision. This has been agreed to without charge. When the war is over, the City Surveyor will re-deliver the building and erect same to the wishes of the Bank and make good any repairs which may be necessary.

Fire Watchers at Head Office

(Finance & General Purposes Sub-Committee: December 16th 1940)

In order to comply with the law relating to this matter, arrangements have been made for fire watching to be carried out by the male staff by rota. During working hours, there is a full watchers' service and after working hours, four watchers are on duty for the remainder of the day, during the night and for the whole of Sunday. Desirable arrangements have been made for reducing risk as far as possible to the watchers on the roof.


Continued ....
BMB during the War