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The City and the Great War

21 August, 2014Liam Mandeville

August marked the 100th anniversary of the United Kingdom declaring war on Germany, following the latter’s invasion of Belgium. Among the commemorative ceremonies and reflections held across Europe in early August, many buildings in the Square Mile joined the likes of the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace to switch off their lights for a full hour, to honour the sacrifice made.

The First World War was arguably the first to touch every aspect of life in the UK and its dominions. Men and women from every walk of life signed-up to serve King and Country, from shipwrights and factory workers to solicitors and doctors. In this regard, the City of London was no different; its contribution no less.

The Daily Telegraph ran a very interesting article about the financial professions’ involvement in the War. More than 1,500 stockbrokers alone were posted to France in 1914, forming their own regiment – the London Stock Exchange Battalion of Royal Fusiliers. 400 never returned.

Such a loss of professional life would have its own effect of course. The London Stock Exchange closed for six months according to the Telegraph, causing a near recession in the British economy. Rules introduced to safeguard financial institutions in 1918 remained in place until the deregulation of the 1980s.

In an age where the reputation of the financial services industry remains under the spotlight, it’s important to remember the financial services professionals who, among millions of others, made the ultimate sacrifice.