The Soldiers Arrive

On 6th August 1914, just two days after war had been declared, the 4th East Yorks. Regiment and the East Riding Royal Garrison Artillery were mobilised and marched out of the city to set up camp on Hedon Racecourse. Hedon also became the garrison town for the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment - a training unit that became the Humber Garrison.

Camps were also set up on Twyers Farm and Magdalen Hill for those that couldn’t be found billets in the houses, and the heavy artillery was parked on the race course too. The town must have been full, especially on pay day. Despite this five pubs had their licences removed in 1917. These were the Sun on St. Augustine’s Gate, Tiger on the Market Place, The Dog and Duck opposite the Kings Head, the Keel on Sheriffs Highway and the Rose and Crown at the cross roads of Fletchergate, Sheriff’s Highway, Hull Road, and St. Augustine’s Gate. The pubs had been forced to close at 9pm since early 1915.

The troops kept the local police busy, getting involved in petty crime such as stealing chickens, selling fencing for fire wood, and stolen Army issue oats and bran to the locals. There was also a case of bigamy when a soldier from Sheffield married a girl at St. Augustine’s when he wasn’t free to do so. There were at least two suicides and one case of murder or manslaughter of a local by a soldier when George Hopper was killed.

As the realities of war became apparent to everybody there were cases of absenteeism and desertion that went before the local court. Thomas Turnbull, a bricklayer of Hedon was found guilty of assisting his son in breaking out of the guardroom of the 14th East Yorkshire Regiment. The son gave himself up but Thomas was fined £5 5s (the equivalent of over £300!) or 46 days in prison. Annie Robson was accused in 1918 of harbouring a deserter from the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry by sheltering and feeding him for several days. She had 6 children but the soldier was not related.

When the Military Service Act introduced conscription in January 1916, provision was made for those that felt unable to enlist for moral reasons (conscientious objectors, or “Conshies”), or who were required at home for war work etc. Local Military Tribunals were formed, with local worthies hearing the cases presented and deciding whether to allow them, give temporary delay etc. There was also an appeals system that re-heard the case higher up, in Hull, and a further appeal following this to a central Tribunal.

In December 1916 the Clerk and Bailiff to the Hedon Court was in front of the Appeal Tribunal having been refused in Hedon. He was supported by the Acting Registrar Mr. A. Park and the reason was that there was too much work to leave to one man as the others had signed up for the army. It was said that the court covered the third largest area in England. The man was given until March 1st 1917 to get the work sorted out. In March 1917 a foreman had his certificate withdrawn and given just one month before he had to enlist and a blacksmith from Hedon who was only passed B1 fit was allowed to continue in his profession. An appeal was made for all the managers of the seven Co-op shops in the area. The appeal was allowed for a few of the men and the others had a month’s grace. The panel said the jobs could be filled by women.