Dilemma of aliens' families in need

What should be done in the case of Luton wives and children of aliens who found themselves in difficulties through the arrest of their menfolk? Should they be helped - or allowed to starve?

They proved to be vexed questions at a meeting of Luton War Relief Committee. There was sympathy for the children but the attitude to aliens' wives ranged from sympathetic to "they shouldn't have married a foreigner".

The issue was raised by Mrs Haith in mentioning the case of a woman living in Luton whose husband had been arrested as an alien. The wife, a British woman, had been left with three children, all of whom were under school age. She had just enough money to last the week and did not know where her husband was. She asked if it was a case the committee could deal with.

Mr J. A. Burgess instanced a second case in which a woman was paying 10 shillings or 11 shillings a week rent and by the end of the week her resources would be exhausted. Mr G. E. M. Walker suggested it was a problem for a committee set up in London rather than the Luton committee.

"It seems to me they ought to tap the big German millionaires in London. They are the people," suggested medical officer Dr Sworder.

But Mayor Councillor W. J. Primett came back to the question of what these poor people should do in the meantime.

Mr George Field asked whether children recognised as British subjects, as in this case, could not get help from the War Distress Fund. And Mr Austin pointed out that as there were children involved and they must have something to eat. If he were the committee he would help them.

Town Clerk Mr William Smith replied: "All the same you are helping an alien enemy by helping his children, who are British subjects. Still I should do so." He said he would fight it out with any committee in London to help these cases, even after a British woman was foolish enough to marry a foreigner and should put up with the consequences.

The Mayor suggested housing Belgian refugees in spare rooms of families in need. But, as Dr Sworder pointed out, "it would be rather rough to put Belgians with Germans".

Eventually it was left to the members of the District Committee to attend to the cases until the Relief Committee met.

[The Luton News, October 29th, 1914]