Lloyd George becomes new UK Prime Minister
Nationally, the mood of popular support for the war in Britain changed following the Battle of the Somme. As the casualty figures – one million British Empire dead – began to emerge, rumours of poor leadership grew. Discontent led to the then Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, being forced to resign. He was replaced by Lloyd George, whose red-tape-cutting approach brought initial success when combating the German submarine attacks that were threatening British food supplies.
Locally, there was much preoccupation with changes to the Defence of the Realm Act. On 18 December 1916, Twickenham Urban District Council called a special meeting to discuss “amendments to the Defence of the Realm Regulations, with a view to maintaining the food supply of the country, and exercising the powers given under the regulation as regards any land, to consider a report of the Public Health and Allotments Committee, and to pass such resolutions thereon as might be deemed necessary.”
It was resolved that various sites would be given over to allotments, including an old gravel pit on Whitton Dean, Bandy Close Pleasure Ground, adjoining the line of the London & South Western Railway, and land on the north west of Wellesley Road opposite the Metropolitan and City Police Orphanage. Plots of ten rods* each would be available at rents of 6p per rod, payable in advance, with the hope of seeds to be supplied at cost price.
[1 rod = 5.02 meters]
Local newspapers, constrained by legislation that restricted reporting on the war or anything deemed damaging to the war effort, focused on issues connected to foreign nationals. One reported that a Mr Mead, alias Frederick Faecks, formerly of Royal Parade, Kew, committed suicide while under arrest for being an enemy alien and failing to notify the authorities of a change of address. Mead was additionally charged with bigamy and impersonating a Baron. Meanwhile a Belgian refugee, Fernand Folien, living at Salisbury Road, Richmond, was charged with theft, wearing a Royal Flying Corp badge without authority and failing to notify the authorities of his move from an address in Barnes.