Home Front Hedon in WWI

Less than a week after the troops arrived sentries were posted on the roads around Hedon stopping cars at night with a red light, raised rifles and a shout of ‘Friend or Foe’. This caused some confusion until things settled down, but luckily nobody was shot!

On the same day a meeting was held in Hedon where Dowager Lady Nunburnholme pledged to equip the Metropole in Hull as a hospital and started to recruit for a St. Johns Ambulance force. The civilians had to get used to the new Defence of the Realm Act that also brought in blackout regulations and, less than a week after the start of hostilities, T.W. Bellaby of the Old Hall had been fined 4s for showing a light. Right through the war the regular and special police were very strict on the blackout with billeted officers being fined as well as Robert Ellerton the Post Master, Mrs. A.B. Iveson and Mrs Leonard of the New Hall. Mabel Leonard was fined 4 Guineas (nearly £250 in today’s money!), a Major in the 2nd Leicester’s stationed at Paull but billeted on Fletchergate, fined 10s 6d (just over £30 today), and an allotment owner was fined for allowing his bonfire to burn after dark!

Another new regulation that locals had to contend with was that cycles had to display a red light or reflector at the rear after dark. Many fell afoul of the police enforcing this.

Those left at home wanted to do their bit, and did so with gusto.

The newly formed St. John’s Ambulance and Red Cross units gave lessons in first aid. The ladies of the town soon had knitting circles going and by January 1916 they had supplied every Hedon man on active duty with a package of woollens, and they continued this throughout the war.

Special Constables were recruited to combat the rise in crime and disorder, including H. Richardson, H, Johnson and Councillor A. Park, and 22 had been recruited by the end of the war. A Sea Scout Group was started too. The Boy Scouts had only been set up by Baden Powell in 1908 for boys between 11 and 16. They were received by Col. White at Lambert House and the other ‘great and good’ of the town where they demonstrated their first aid skills. Councillor Park was impressed with their fireman’s lifts as he was the Chairman of the Hedon Volunteer Fire Brigade that was set up in 1915. The Group were entertained to tea by Mrs. White after their exertions.

In November 1916 a Hedon Platoon of the 1st Battalion of the East Yorkshire Volunteer Regiment was formed under the command under Lieut. Stonehouse. It was a sort of ‘Dad’s Army’ made up of those under 18 and over 40 and those that had exemptions from enlistment. They had weekly drill and were linked with the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry for training where a Sergeant Major had them square bashing and arms drills along with shooting practise and route marches around the area. They were also regulars at the head of the many parades through Hedon during the war.

Fund raising became a large part of the entertainment in the town. Money was raised for the Red Cross, St. John’s Ambulance, Sea Scouts, fire brigade and of course to provide comforts for the troops. Col. White of Lambert House and Mr. Park of Ivy House regularly offered their house and grounds for events. There were several YMCA Huts in the area that were for the troops but locals helped provide entertainment for the soldiers, and themselves, using the huts. A War Savings Committee was set up to promote the selling of War Savings Certificates. I card was obtained that could be filled with 6d stamps. When all 31 spaces, 15/6d (around £45 in today’s money), had been filled they could be exchanged for a Savings Certificate. After 5 years this would then be worth £5 – the equivalent of £145 today! Not a bad deal. The stamps could be bought at the Post Office or better shops.

The Church Clock was stopped striking in 1916, and the Evensong service at St. Augustine’s was moved to the afternoon so as to save showing lights.

A Sea Scout and Wolf Cub group were started and acted as messengers etc., and participated in every parade. A Local Food Control Committee was set up and it regulated the price of things such as milk, butter and coal. The Mayor, Alan Park read out on the steps of the Town Hall, on Empire Day, the King’s Food Saving Proclamation. Hedon became a depot for the National Egg Collection Scheme. This was set up following comments of the editor of ‘Poultry World’ to provide nourishing eggs for the wounded at home and in France.

By 1917 food had become a problem. While not rationed it was controlled with Local Food Committees set up to regulate the supply and cost of food. Meat, milk, bread etc. were particularly monitored. The public were exhorted not to waste food and grow their own. Hedon Corporation made available 9 acres of land for allotments and part of the Race Course was dug up to serve as allotments too. Seed potatoes were offered to grow and advice was given on how to get the best out of the land, such as potato spraying demonstrations. In 1917 the avenue of trees that led down Thorn Road to the Old Hall were mainly felled and coal was strictly controlled too.

There were many fund raising events to cover the cost of these initiatives such as the Mayor, Alan Park, opening his gardens one evening a week and holding an open air concert. A ‘Mother Humber’ fund was started, as well as National schemes such as the War Savings Bonds.

When conscription was brought in many appealed to a tribunal that they should be exempted. The Clerk and Bailiff appealed his call up in December 1916, and he was supported by the Mayor saying that as several men had already gone and that the workload had increased he couldn’t be spared. When this didn’t work they said that the man’s four brothers had already joined, three were dead and one still in France. This still didn’t cut any ice and he still had to go. The night soil collector in Hedon also lost his appeal in 1917. In 1918 a 19 year old also was denied at his appeal. His argument was that he was a rulley man that distributed goods from Hull around Hedon, and he had a defect in one eye. A 28 year old was successful in his appeal because he was a motor lorry driver that moved corn and feed stuffs to a depot in Hedon from Hull and then around Holderness and had the contract to provide feed for the 600 horses of the Hull Corporation and the NER Co.

There were also several cases of families being charged with aiding and abetting in the desertion of soldiers. The police were regularly rounding up absentees and deserters and handing them over to the Army.

And of course, there was the regular news from the front to be absorbed daily and information regarding loved ones away.