Happy the man who can reflect that when the call came that his King and Country needed him, he was not found wanting. Virtue may have to serve as its own reward in many spheres, but the motherland has never been a niggard in giving her gratitude a tangible form. True, something like a million gave their little lives when called upon; but are not their names inscribed on multitudinous war memorials at every street corner? Are not their sorrowing dependents saved from the wolves of poverty by kindly Pensions Boards?
Some, by bodily infirmity, or other disability were prevented from meeting the hated Prussians face to face. To these fell the humbler task of defending the domestic hearth from the depredations of domestic Prussians. Take the case of Mr. C. E. Penny, as recorded in the Daily Mail of April 13th, 1922, under the caption, “Man who broke a Strike.” When the supreme call came in 1914, Mr. Penny joined the Royal Army Service Corps, but invalided out within a few months, volunteered for the Civil Service. In the strenuous years that followed it was he, who on behalf of the Ministry of Food, prosecuted nearly 50,000 profiteers. This should have been enough to earn imperishable glory for any man, and at least a humble niche in the National Valhalla. But his most brilliant work was yet to come. During the railway strike of 1919, “it has been said that it was the marvellous transport scheme which he evolved that broke the strike.”
“He had a genius for organising transport. In his little office he had a table resembling genealogical trees, and poring over these various lines of lorry transport he saw that no department went unprovided for. The rest of his time was spent in visiting every corner of the country during that strenuous period.”
Can any reward be too high for a man like that? Well, yes, it can ! There are certain recognisable and reasonable limits. He was given a position in the Board of Trade’s Food Department. Here at last he could rest upon his laurels, assured at least of a competency and comforted in the tangible recognition of his country’s gratitude. But alas, the Daily Mail, with a brevity almost brutal, tells us in the same sentence, that “he left about a month ago owing to departmental economy.”
The worst is to tell. He left his boarding house in Clanricarde Gardens on April 7th, and left a note in which he stated he was one of the thousands of workless and penniless men. He was found dead in bed in an apartment house in Brighton, with a tube attached to a gas bracket in his mouth. Let it never be said that Capital forgets those who serve it well and truly in its hour of need !
W. T. Hopley