Catherine Byland

Bank: Westminster Bank

Place of work: Reading branch

Died: 10 February 1943


Catherine Elizabeth Byland was born in London on 27 November 1895, the daughter of Richard John Byland, a printer, and his wife Elizabeth Mary. She was educated at Wandsworth Technical Institute and Putney Secondary School, after which she became a 'learner' (that is, apprentice) at the Post Office. 


She joined the staff of London County Westminster & Parr's Bank at its Reading branch in April 1918, one of many women recruited during the First World War to replace male bank clerks who were away on military service. Most left after the Armistice, but Miss Byland remained, becoming a long-serving member of staff at the branch. A colleague later recalled, 'while of a naturally quiet and reserved disposition, her capability for steady and accurate work soon won for her the respect and admiration of her colleagues.'


Although there were a number of women working for Westminster Bank in the 1920s and 1930s, they were generally confined to back-office duties, and not allowed to serve customers at the counter. This rule was relaxed during the Second World War, as male staff shortages forced the bank to allow women to take on customer-facing duties. In consequence, from Autumn 1941 Miss Byland took on the role of cashier at Reading - 'and in this capacity made many friends among the customers of the branch.'


At around teatime on 10 February 1943 a lone German plane dropped four bombs on the centre of Reading, killing 41 people and injuring many more. One of the dead was Catherine Byland. She was 47 years old. Her family suffered a further loss three days later, when her father, who had been ill for several weeks, also died.

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