Born in 1856, the eldest son of the Founder, William Bramwell Booth was appointed Chief of the Staff by his father in 1880. Constantly told, ‘Do something about it Bramwell’, he became adept at stretching the often meagre finances of The Salvation Army to meet its ever increasing commitments.
On October 12th 1882 Bramwell married Captain Florence Soper at Clapton Congress Hall. The congregation were charged one shilling for admission to the ceremony! In 1884 Florence Booth inaugurated the Women’s Social Work from a small house in Hanbury Street, Whitechapel. She continued to lead this pioneering aspect of The Salvation Army’s work for the next 28 years.
In 1913 Bramwell and Florence travelled to Scandinavia before going on to Russia with Commissioner Kitching. Foreign travel came to an abrupt halt in 1914 with the outbreak of WWI. The Army received widespread criticism for its attitude towards national enemies, for The Salvation Army was active in Germany and the bond between German and British Salvationists was strong.
As General Bramwell Booth said in his Christmas message of 1915; ‘Every land is my fatherland, for all lands are my Fathers.’ It was Bramwell that was largely responsible for the development of The Salvation army both in the United Kingdom and overseas. During his Generalship great impetus was given to missionary expansion and his councils with Officers and young people were of incalculable value.
In October 1927 Bramwell’s sister Eva presented him with a memorandum which sought to change the Constitution of The Salvation Army with respect to the appointment of its General. Bramwell was adamant that he would abide by his father’s wishes and that he would appoint his successor.
By October 1928 the General’s health was giving cause for concern and by the middle of November his health had deteriorated and his condition was critical. The required seven Commissioners addressed a requisition to the Chief of the Staff, Commissioner Higgins, that a High Council be summoned.
The High Council met at Sunbury Court on January 8th 1929 where it was proposed that General Bramwell Booth should retire from office. After two days of discussion a deputation visited the General with this proposal, but he would not relinquish his Generalship in the mistaken belief that he would soon be fully recovered and able to resume his duties.
On February 13th the High Council voted by 52 votes to 5 that Bramwell’s term of office as General should now end. Henceforth the General of The Salvation Army would be elected by the High Council.
On June 16th the family was summoned to his bedside, and on that Sunday evening the General was promoted to Glory. For the Friday and Saturday following his death, Bramwell Booth’s body lay in state at the Army’s Congress Hall. On Sunday evening 10,000 Salvationists and friends filled the Royal Albert Hall to bid farewell to their beloved General. Among the many condolences received by Mrs Booth was a message from His Majesty the King. The following day his coffin bearing the motto of the Order of Companions of Honour; ‘In action faithful, in honour clear.’ was interred at Abney Park Cemetery.
On April 29th General Bramwell Booth received the Prime Minister’s letter stating that the King had appointed him a member of the Order of Companions of Honour.
Mrs General Booth and familyEdit
In 1934 Florence and her daughter, Catherine Bramwell-Booth, joined with other Officers to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the Women’s Social Work. The celebrations included a return trip to Hanbury Street where the work was begun 50 years earlier.
Florence Booth was promoted to Glory in 1957 at the age of 96. The funeral service took place at Clapton Congress Hall where an address was given by her eldest daughter Catherine who next day, June 16th, led the service at Abney Park Cemetery as Florence was laid to rest in Bramwell’s grave.
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