Strangely perhaps, the years of World
War One were a time of growth for Rotary. In 1914, only Britain and
Canada were immediately affected by hostilities, and later, in April
1917, the United States. When the war ended, British Rotary had grown
from 9 clubs to 22. In North America there were similar increases.
The formation of the B.A.R.C. in May 1914 probably helped to unify
and keep strong the existing clubs, and help too in the formation of
new ones despite the war. One side effect of the outbreak of the war
was the delay in spreading Rotary to Europe and beyond, especially to
Australia. Walter Drummond from Melbourne had spoken to Paul Harris in
Comely Bank, Chicago, about the possibility of starting Rotary Clubs
in Australia but this had to wait till 1921. Another effect of the
war was to isolate British Rotary from the North American organisation
and in particular, attendance at Conventions. In fact, a handful of
British Rotarians did manage to attend, among them the comedian, Reg
Knowles of the London club who went to Atlanta, and Thomas Stephenson
and Andrew Home Morton who went to Kansas City in 1918..
In Britain there were already over 46 members who had joined up by
January 1915, and by the end of the war the number had reached 195.
Edinburgh members at the outbreak of the war each contributed ten
shillings to the National Relief Fund and many then toured the area on
recruiting drives. Both the Glasgow and Edinburgh Clubs actually
helped to raise their own battalions with the Edinburgh one fully
manned (and clothed by Rotarian Alex Wilkie) ready by April 1915.
Manchester, London and Glasgow Rotarians formed groups of Special
Constables to support the police, and all the clubs worked ceaselessly
to provide comforts for the wounded.
With the involvement of America in
1917, the Atlanta Convention was nicknamed 'The Great Patriotic
Convention' and delegates were told of various activities by U.S.
clubs in campaigns for food, clothing, tobacco and reading material
for the troops and especially in the raising of Liberty bonds. In a
similar way, the Kansas City gathering of 1918 was called 'The Win The
Rotarians returned from the war. Chicago lost three, Andrew Lowndes,
D.E.Whipple, and Douglas Wray, while Manchester recorded the death in
action of Rotarian C.Taylor, one of at least a dozen Mancunians called
to the colours, and one of a dozen British Rotarians who lost their
lives during the conflict. Edinburgh was the most grievously
affected, losing seven members. It is perhaps worth observing that,
being working businessmen, many of the early members were much younger
than is the case in many clubs today!