Exhibition: Barings and the First World War

4: Barings' staff in the office

We are now reduced to a very elderly party, old crocks who ought by this time to have been on the shelf. - Gaspard Farrer, June 1915

The First World War had a huge impact even on those members of staff who, for whatever reason, did not actually see active service abroad. By mid-1915 more than half the male staff had gone and there were more women than men in the office.

Many of those who remained in London took on duties relating to the war. For instance, before joining the Navy in mid-1915 Windham Baring manned a search light on a high building every other night. Staff who received exemption from war service were encouraged to join volunteer corps such as the City of London National Guard.

While some aspects of the firm's work, such as the issuing business, were effectively put on hold during the war, other elements became increasingly busy, notably Barings' work for overseas governments. Barings had to apply for exemption from military service for key individuals and the criteria grew stricter as the war progressed.

On 14 March 1916 Barings wrote "The pressure of work has been largely increased owing to the fact that BB&Co Ltd are the London Bankers of the Russian, Italian and Portuguese Governments, whose accounts have assumed very large figures, in view of their military and other requirements, and necessitate constant attention. The payments on account of the Russian Government in particular have reached enormous proportions and command the undivided attention of the two principal clerks in the office and three others, two of whom are women clerks. The Clerk who is directly responsible for keeping the accounts of the Russian and Italian Governments is the one remaining unmarried member of the staff who is within military age. He is 36 years of age, and has no military training. He is at present performing very efficient duties on behalf of the Allies..."

Staff were also constrained at home by an increase in the cost of living. This was recognised by the partners, who introduced a cost of living allowance for staff. This amount received was dependent on salary. This allowance continued in the years immediately after the war.

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