Links with the Darkest England Scheme.
William Booth had a vision of rehabilitating what he termed the 'submerged tenth' of the population, outlined in his book 'In Darkest England and the Way Out'. Booth adopted the explorer Henry Stanley's analogy of Darkest Africa in European and American imaginations which he used as a parable to describe his perception of, and prescription for, the miseries which permeated the 'jungles of Darkest England'. That the Army's entire social scheme emanated from 'In Darkest England' is untrue; much of its social work began well before the book was published. Booth felt that a more comprehensive scheme was needed to rescue people in 'darkest England'.
The City Colony: William Booth wanted to establish, in city centre slums which he called the “Ocean of Misery”, a number of institutions: his “Harbours of Refuge for all those who have been shipwrecked in life”. Booth’s Army would take the destitute, feed and clothe them and provide temporary employment. They would then start on a programme of “regeneration of moral and religious persuasion”. Some would find permanent employment or return to their families from this first stage, but those remaining would graduate on to the second colony.
The Farm Colony: Stage two of the colony process. Hadleigh Land and Farm Colony in Essex equipped the ‘colonists’ with the necessary skills of agricultural employment in England. However, for those who wanted to travel further afield and take the emigration route to the British colonies, they were also taught further skills including, farm management, horticulture and cooking. It was an estate of vast proportions. With an initial 800 acres in 1891, it eventually grew to 3,200 acres, plus a further 200 acres of waste land, incorporating three farms and the ruins of Hadleigh Castle. By the end of 1891, cow-houses, sheepfolds, piggeries and stables were under construction, together with a dairy, a mill, and factories for farm produce, offices and stores. There were five dormitories to house the colonists with a dining room for 300, kitchen, pantries, wash-house and laundry – a far cry from the impoverished conditions that so many had been used to.
When the training was finished, the boys and men were free to choose whether they returned to their selected trade within Britain, if they were able, or take the assisted route out to one of the colonies. The numbers on each voyage to the colonies varied from a single berth to an entire chartered ship.
The Overseas Colony: Booth envisaged that the Army would “continue the process of regeneration, and pour them forth on to the virgin soils that await their coming in other lands, keeping hold of them free men and women; and so laying the foundations, perchance, of another Empire to swell to vast proportions in later times”. It was this element of the vision that, to some extent, collapsed. Regardless of this many thousands did emigrate.
From 1901, small batches of men from the Hadleigh Farm Colony had, after training, been despatched to Canada. The founder was firmly of the opinion that if a trained man (in agriculture or trades) was sent to the colonies, his presence would not only benefit the man concerned, but also the farm or institution taking him on. He had three principles to address:
1] The preparation of the colony for the people
The Salvation Army planned colonies in South Africa, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), Australia and Canada. Tracts of land were identified for the settlements, and staff were made ready, but not employed, to receive the colonists. However this was where they met insurmountable difficulties, largely associated with money. The scheme relied on charitable donations from the British public, which were few and far between. In addition there were political problems with the Australian and South African governments’ displeasure with large numbers of colonists being “offloaded” into their economy.
In 1903 the Migration Department was inaugurated (became Reliance World Travel Ltd, 1981; closed 31st. May 2001). A much larger programme of emigration was initiated, with almost 200 embarking in a single week in April 1904. An Emigration Advice Bureau was then set up, its rapid growth soon resulting in its moving into its own building at 27 Queen Victoria Street. In April 1905 three hundred migrants left for Canada. Will Crooks, then M.P. for Woolwich, addressed the emigrants: "You must all be grateful for the way in which plans have been carried out for you to leave the old world, which perhaps has been none too kind to you, and for sending you to the new world. Commissioner Lamb has taken considerable trouble to make every arrangement for your comfort."
Also in 1905, the Army chartered its own ship, the S.S. Vancouver, which sailed on 26th April to Canada with a 1,000 emigrants aboard. Many more such sailings followed on vessels that include S.S. Kensington, S.S. Southwark, and S.S. Ionian. The Bureau's continuing growth led, in 1907, to its move to even larger premises at 122 Queen Victoria Street where it was renamed the Emigration Department. In one year alone, 1908, 25,000 migrants left the UK to start a new life in Canada. It is estimated that between 1900 & 1914 200,000 were helped to start a new life in the new world (Coutts, F: (1974:114) 'No Discharge in this War', London, Hodder & Stoughton).
The Army addressed the issue of how much money was needed by migrants to allow them to live in reasonable comfort during their journey. Those who were assisted by the Army under the ‘Empire Settlement Act’ were often issued with a free railway ticket to the port of departure, and if they desired, would have been guaranteed work in the country they were emigrating to. In the main this would have been domestic work for the women and girls, and farm or industrial work for the men and boys.
Those who did go abroad spoke highly of the Army and the scheme. Letters often found their way back to The Salvation Army too. One young lad of 16 wrote:
“I’ve got a porthole, so I’m in luck, we’ve been out five days now and there’s a bit of a role on, several of our chaps are sick, but yours truly is A1, though not so daring at meal times. We saw an iceberg. We shall see land tomorrow. There are about 150 in our party and this afternoon our Conductor gave us all a new Bible each. An Army present from the General (God bless him). The other passengers looked on while we got them”.
The onward travel arrangements were always made while the colonists were sailing to their destination, so on arrival, at the respective ports, their new employers, invariably members of The Salvation Army, would be waiting. Letters published by the Salvation Army were naturally complimentary, but they revealed some realities of some of the conditions. A letter sent home to a Father read:
”It’s rough and hard, and, occasionally, a bit dangerous, but it offers a chance to a man to get his foot on a bit of land of his own, to own his house, and be his own master. A man who owns a farm is his own master in every way, and his comfort and happiness depend to a great extent on himself”.
At the end of the First World War, to help the plight of widows and their children, the Army arranged for a total of 1,769 women and 1,019 children to emigrate to new lives in Canada, Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. In the late 1920s, the Army arranged the passage of several consignments of emigrants to Australia on the Vedic. By 1938, the overall total of men, women and children settled overseas by the Emigration Department was almost 250,000.