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For the banks there were new controls and new responsibilities and we were called upon to help the British government raise funding through war loans and war savings certificates. The first war loan was issued in November 1914. We invested 10,000 (worth over 837,000 today) in that loan, and went on to support the second and third war loans too. We bought stock, promoted and managed subscriptions and offered loans to our customers so they could subscribe more. The scale of our involvement was significant. In 1917 we handled applications for the third war loan worth over 507,000, a sum representing 67% of the total raised on the Island.

Here on the Isle of Man, one particular feature of the war was the establishment of large alien internment camps at Peel and Douglas. We provided the island government with the lending needed to build the camps and also managed the camp bank accounts. The construction of the camps, together with the billeting of soldiers at Ramsey, brought much new money to the Island. Agriculture prospered during the war, and the Island’s produce exports kept the insular economy relatively buoyant. The tourists, however, did not return. The restricted steam boat services and ever-present danger of submarine attacks put paid to tourism, forcing us to close our sub-office at the Crescent in Douglas which had previously been crowded with visitors during the season.

Meanwhile, we were also losing experienced staff. Two of our clerks joined the forces as soon as war was declared and others quickly followed. By 1917 all of our staff who were eligible for, and not exempt from, military service, had joined up voluntarily. Most of them kept in close touch sending letters back to the bank and visiting their former colleagues when home on leave. As our staff numbers depleted and the additional work created by wartime requirements mounted, the demands on those that remained increased. The twice annual balance days were particularly onerous, when all the branch books had to balanced and the figures passed to head office for compiling the bank’s balance sheet. Even whilst away in the trenches staff on military service remembered their colleagues back home, one writing in 1917: ‘You will now be starting your busy time in the bank. I hope you have a successful balance this half. It will be hard work for the men who are left now as I suppose you are still as busy as ever.’ Bonuses began to be paid to staff in recognition of the ‘exceptional work performed’, but the strain was beginning to tell and by early 1917 with so many experienced men away we were contemplating the employment of women for the first time.

In February 1917 our first female staff member, a typist and shorthand clerk, was recruited to help with correspondence. Bank bosses took the step grudgingly, insisting that ‘every endeavour be made first to secure a suitable man’. In England and Wales banks were already employing large numbers of women, but we remained cautious, appointing Frances Crellin, a relative of our head office ledger keeper. She stayed only a few months, but other women soon followed. Florence Quine was appointed as a lady clerk at head office in June 1917, and in April 1918 two more women joined her. A few weeks later, in June 1918, Margaret Callow became the first female clerk to work in one of our branches, when she was hired by our Ramsey office. After the war most of these women left the bank and it was not until the Second World War that we employed women in significant numbers and they began to find a permanent place in our workforce.