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Harrogate & Ripon in the Great War

Stephen Wade
This book is from an excellent and growing “Your Towns and Cities in the Great War” series from Pen & Sword. Obviously, the standard and scope of each book depends on the skill and interests of the author, as well as the characteristics of the town, city or area described.

Stephen Wade is a Leeds born author, who has written a range of books, specialising in Yorkshire history, particularly social history of crime and law, and military history of Victorian and Edwardian periods. This book arose from his interest in football, and his discovery of the story of Donald Bell, a Harrogate teacher and footballer, who won the Victoria Cross.

Wade draws extensively on the work of two men, in particular. William Hammond Breare was editor of Harrogate Herald, who wrote clearly and where appropriate, with good humour, about details of people both at home and at the front, to maintain morale. Peter Liddle collected extensive archives relating to Ripon, which are now housed in Brotherton Library of University of Leeds.

This book contains a mixture of big and well known topics, and the smaller details. So, details of major military camps around Ripon (Ripon North 1, Ripon North 2 and Ripon South, which accommodated around 15,000 troops and extended into what is now the Fountains Abbey / Studley Royal National Trust site) and hospitals in Harrogate Spa buildings and other locations are interspersed with information about more trivial items. To give two examples, one of trade, the other of a famous author: Greensmith’s shop in Harrogate, which sold Burberry war kit, greatcoats to waterproof coats. JRR Tolkein, of 11th Lancashire Fusiliers stayed in Harrogate, officially at Furness Auxiliary Hospital, but at 95 Valley Drive in Montepellier Quarter, not far from Baths, during three weeks leave, while recovering slowly from trench fever.

A history of smaller towns near a city means stories are intertwined. Three people from Harrogate, Ada Glassby, Emily Sedgewick and James Thompson, were among the 57 workers who were killed by the Barnbow Munitions Factory explosion in Cross Flatts, Leeds, December 1916.

Three men from the Harrogate area won Victoria Crosses during WWI: Hull, Bell and Woods.

Private Charles Hull, 21st Lancers, won his VC for rescuing Captain E D Learoyd at Hafiz Kor on the North West Frontier of India in 1915. Hull finally came home to Harrogate in 1919, as Corporal. He was also awarded Croix de Guerre.

Second Lieutenant Donald Bell of Green Howards won his VC for actions at the Somme on 5th July 1916. He died before he could wear his medal, and a tablet to his memory was unveiled at Starbeck Council School in 1917, where he had worked as a student-teacher from 1st August 1908 to 31st July 1909. Then playing for Bradford Park Avenue FC, Bell was the first professional footballer to enlist in the army in 1914. He was commissioned into the Green Howards, 9th Battalion, Princess of Wales’s Own Yorkshire Regiment

Captain Archie Woods of Green Howards won his VC for actions at Stuff Redoubt, near Thiepval on 27th September and 1st October 1916. Previously, he was involved in the Gallipoli Campaign, where his brother John was killed. After WWI, he relinquished his commission in 1920. Later he joined Army Education Corps and worked in AEC through WWII, earning Military Cross before ending his military career as an instructor at Sandhurst.

Among the military units and ships mentioned in this book are Durham Light Infantry, East Yorkshire Regiment, Green Howards, Highland Light Infantry, HMS Hampshire, HMS Hyacinth, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, Leeds Rifles, Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service, RMS Lusitania. However, not all these are listed in index.

For completeness, to assist people considering buying this book, I include a list of content below:
1. 1914: The Call for Kitchener’s Army
2. 1915: The Home Front War Effort and Trench Warfare
3. 1916: Meeting the Challenge – Courage and Conscription
4. 1917: Casualties, Heroes and Survival
5. 1918: Exhaustion and Peace
6. 1919: The Aftermath
Bibliography and Sources
Amazon product

This book is notable among others I have read in the series for its very detailed list of sources, including printed and websites, in bibliography.

4.5 out of 5.
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