The American Ambassador and Peabody Trustee during the First World War played a key role in encouraging the US to support the Allied campaign

We are very proud of our 152-year connection with the US Embassy and American Ambassador, which is maintained through initiatives such as our support of the Fulbright Research Award which is aimed at tackling child poverty, and our exchange programme with Peabody, Massachusetts.

From 1862 (when the Peabody Trust was founded) until 2007, the American Ambassador was a Trustee of our organisation. We now offer the US Ambassador the role of Honorary President — and I am delighted that the current Ambassador, Matthew Barzun, accepted this role at the end of last year.

With this year marking 100 years since the beginning of the First World War, I decided to do some research into Walter Hines Page, a Peabody Trustee and the American Ambassador during the war.

The Life of Walter Hines Page

Walter Hines PageWalter Hines Page (pictured right), previously a journalist and publisher, was appointed as Ambassador to Britain in March 1913 by his good friend President Woodrow Wilson. The outbreak of war put a strain on Page and Wilson’s friendship — while Wilson stuck solidly to neutrality, Page thought that the war was an attack on democracy and that the US should support the Allied campaign. He enthusiastically lobbied the US government, until the US joined the war in 1917.

The following year, Page had to resign from his duties as Ambassador due to illness. He returned to the States and died in December 1918. In London he is remembered, on a plaque in Westminster Abbey as “The friend of Britain in her sorest need”, and on a plaque on his old London home, near our Grosvenor estate in Grosvenor Square (pictured left).

Peabody and the First World War

Walter Hines Page worked determinedly to bring America into the First World War. One hundred years on, it is important to commemorate and remember the men and women who sacrificed so much to support the war effort. More than 2,500 Peabody residents fought in the First World War, and tragically around 350 lost their lives on active service.  

Today, permanent war memorials can still be seen on several of our estates, including the Rosendale estate (pictured right), which I had an opportunity to visit recently. It was fantastic to meet Rosendale residents and to hear them share their memories and stories.

During the First World War, tenants set up a “Tommy and Jack Fund” to raise money for residents who were serving in the forces. Some of the money raised was used to fund the memorial, which is in the form of a lych gate and lists the names of 35 men from the estate who died serving their country.  

Looking forward

August 2014 will mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War.  We are planning to commemorate the centenary in a number of ways, and are keen to hear from residents their stories about relatives who were involved in the conflict, and also life on Peabody estates during this period.

If you have a story you'd like to share, please contact us via the form below.