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Gladys L. King and Lena Frances Campbell.

Gladys L. King (seated) and Lena Frances Campbell (standing) at the Beaver Hut, 1919.

Gladys Lilian King was born in Exeter, Devon to Joseph and Mary King. In 1911, King emigrated to Canada to work as a secretary but returned to England in 1915 to do war work. She became a member of the Women Police Service during the war and worked in factories and hostels before becoming employed at the “Beaver Hut,” a refuge for Commonwealth soldiers. King worked at the Beaver Hut from September 30, 1918 to August 21, 1919. When the Beaver Hut closed at the end of the war, King took up police work in Reading. In 1940 she gave up police work to become the full time female probation office, a position she held until her retirement in 1949. King died in Reading on June 4, 1970.

Among the Beaver cover.In 1919, King published a memoir titled "Among the beavers: Canadians and others. Being a personal narrative of the work done by the Military Women Police in and around the Beaver Hut in the Strand, London." The book's seventeen chapters discuss both the difficulties and the rewards of life at the Beaver Hut during the first world war and what caring for its populous entailed. In 2014, the Women's History Review published an article on King's memoir, providing an "edited transcription of a previously unpublished war memoir."1

King describes her work as “a women’s book, written for women," but recognized that "there are hundreds of other women and men, too, who will be interested in the ‘Hut’ which has been a shelter to so many of their boys when on leave in London." Below are excerpts from her work.

Flyleaf note.Flyleaf: A note on the flyleaf includes King's signature and a note: "This history is sent to you [Lady Aberdeen Library on the History of Women] in revered memory of Lena Frances Campbell (Sergeant C.) Called to Higher Service on September 21, 1953. N.B. My very dear friend and coworker, over the years, for a period of 36 1/2 years. Gladys L. King. Fremington. 62, Tilehurst Road, Reading, Berks. England."

          Memoir title page.   Memoir introduction page.

The title page of King's memoir (left) [transcript] and a brief note from King on the contents of the work (right) with King's handwritten initials.

The sordid side of life will be depicted herein, but I trust you will realize that even the most sordid incidents are lighted up with the spirit of love and helpfulness. Often when my colleague and I have felt the stress of our work, this thought has comforted and cheered us, that whenever we have been of assistance to any man, we have been but the instruments of God, answering a mother's prayer.

Dealing with Drunkenness

"The Stores are at the end of the Bridge down below, on a level with the dormitories. A lift, or elevator, is used to convey stores up and down, a distance of about 12 feet … my colleagues and I have rescued men the worse for drink, from falling down there in the dark. They had wandered up the back stairway from the dormitories. One we found on the very edge of the parapet swaying to and fro. It was a delicate task to approach a man in this situation, for fear of startling him. My colleague advanced towards him slowly, saying, 'Hallo, Canada! What are you doing here?' 'I’m going to fall down this place,' he answered in a dazed sort of way. 'Oh no, you’re not, you are coming into the Canteen to have supper!'" (pg. 8)

Memoir page 15.

A common cause:
King discusses the ways in which women were united during the war years. [transcript]


A Busy Life: King discusses her duties, including patrolling and caring for the families of soldiers [transcript]:

Among the Beavers pages 21 to 23.

The Hut Sister: A "Temporary Mother and Permanent Friend"

          Hut Sister, page 78.Hut Sister, page 79.


"You will be interested to hear that I left the Beaver Hut officially on the 21st of August, and that evening I started to put my notes together. I commenced my book on the 29th of August, and finish it now on a beautiful September morning, with the first sharp nip of Autumn in the air, Saturday 20th, 1919."

Gladys in Reading.

From left to right: John Gore Micklethwaite, Esq., Recorder of Reading; Gladys L. King,  Senior Woman Probation Officer, Country Borough of Reading; H.E.C. McIlroy, Esq., Chairman, Probation Committee; and H.V. Kersley, mayor of Reading. April 21st 1949.

"Ere I close, I must mention that our success in dealing with the ‘boys’ was in itself a tribute to all mothers, because through them they had learned to look up to and respect their sex."

                                                      - pg.137

1 Scollan, Maureen. "Gladys Lilian King and the Work of the Women Police in London's Strand 1918-19: a memoir." Women's History Review 23.2 (2014). 256-271.

                                                                                                  Page source: GA35

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