These days, happily, most companies are usually quite happy to have members of staff serving as reservists, conscious of the extra training and experience this will bring to their workforce. This situation has not always been so, and until quite recently many employees had to keep their service in the reserves a secret form their employers for fear of pressure to leave either the military or their jobs. Often these private companies argued that the reason for this was that the employee was an important part of their work force and couldn’t be pared for training or if war were to be declared. Tonight we are looking at one such case which comes down to us in the form of a letter written in 1929 to the officer commanding the Royal Army Service Corps in Croydon:The letter comes from a company called Gowllands Limited who made lenses and ophthalmic instruments:The letter concerns a new employee of theirs, J Plumb, who the company felt was too important to their workforce to be called up from the reserve:Sadly the second page of the letter is missing and it is not quite clear if the man in question was serving as a member of the Territorial Army and was part of the country’s reserve forces or had previously been in the army and had now left but was liable to call up if war were to break out as an old soldier. I have tried to track down the piece of legislation or a report on the change to the status of reservists that the letter refers to, but so far I have drawn a blank.
The company ‘Gowllands’ is still in business today and still makes lenses and ophthalmic equipment in Croyden.
Mitcham Road barracks is also still in existence and is today a base for the Army Reserve and as of November 2017 held the following units: C (Kent and Sharpshooters Yeomanry) Squadron, The Royal Yeomanry, 150 Recovery Company, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, and the Mortar Platoon of B Company, 4th Battalion, Parachute Regiment.