THE POSITION OF THE GARDENERS
At the meeting a question was raised as to the position of market gardeners who join the Volunteer Training Corps. Major Baker, who is the chief recruiting officer for the Worcestershire area, gave the meeting to understand the War Office would permit no departure from the general rule that men of military age and physically fit who join the corps must sign an undertaking to enlist if called upon to do so. Exceptions are made in certain cases eg employers of labour whose factories would be closed if they went on service. He held out no hope of any relaxation of the rule in favour of market gardeners. He made it quite evident, however, that the military authorities, altogether misunderstand the situation, for they compare “the smallholder”, as they call him, with the worker in the factory, and think the positions are analogous.
A WRONG CONCEPTION
We who live in the Vale of Evesham of course know that this conception is wholly wrong, but the public must unduly blame the authorities for their ignorance. It is not reasonable to expect military men in London to be conversant with the peculiar conditions of tenure which obtain in this particular locality. After the meeting it was pointed out to Major Baker that a man who left his land ran a very great risk of losing the capital, which he had invested, not in the freehold of the ground itself, but in the improvements that have been effected upon it in the way of cleaning, planting and general cultivation. The majority of these men feel they cannot enlist, especially when there are so many men about who can go without risking anything: and frankly, it must be admitted, that there is a great deal of force in their argument. They would of course be quite ready to go if it was a matter of vital necessity. In the meantime, however, they are debarred from receiving any training in drill and musketry through the medium of the Volunteer Training Corps. The position is absurd on the face of it. It is only right to say, that when these facts were laid before Major Baker, he very readily agreed that there was a great deal to be said in favour of allowing the gardeners to join the corps, and he promised to lay the facts before the authorities.