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Huddersfield in the Great War by Vivien Teasdale


Book Reviewer
From “Your Towns and Cities in the Great War” series.

This book is from an excellent and growing 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.

The author, Vivien Teasdale is a retired teacher, with a record of publishing articles and books on local history topics, particularly mills and textile industry, crimes, suspicious deaths and disasters.

The book is well illustrated, with a mixture of photographs from World War One era, modern photos of buildings used at that time and posters and sketches from WW1, all in black and white.

The Huddersfield Examiner newspaper is probably the main primary source, not just for news, but also for lighter items such as a poem entitled “The war savings song” by Frederick Warren, published 6 February 1917. A reports of films about tanks and visit by a tank called Nelson were the prompts for the people of Huddersfield contributing more than £2,000,000, the second largest from any town, exceeded only by the larger West Hartlepool.

Civilian organisations, including YMCA, YWCA, Girl Guides, Boy Scouts, Mothers' Union, Queen Mary's Needlework Guild, Poor Law Guardians, Mount Pleasant Methodist Church and many others supported those training for service, fighting on the continent and seas, and casualties returned to Britain. They raised funds and made items, including knitted socks, muslin and sphagnum moss wound dressings, puggarees (cloth bands for helmets), anti-vermin underwear soaked in carbolic acid etc. Boy Scouts were asked to volunteer a week to harvest flax plants for linen, so a group from Huddersfield camped at Sherburn-in-Elmet. They worked from morning until mid afternoon, then took part in football and cricket matches, or swam or cycled in Selby and York areas, with a concert on Friday evening before departure on Saturday morning.

The Blue Cross Fund and RSPCA raised funds for animals in war service, mainly horses. War Horse Day was held on 24th May 1915, with a procession leaving from St George's Square in front of Huddersfield railway station. Mr Winks of the Hippodrome led in a motor car, followed by the mayoress in a horse drawn carriage and a zebra brought from Halifax Zoo by keeper S. Hinds. After the procession round town, a mock auction was sold. By September 1915, one of four horse hospitals was named Huddersfield.

As expected in a town whose wealth was built on textiles, particularly wool and worsted, there is plenty of detail of mills and mill workers, problems with supplies of dyes (many had previously come from Germany), increased production of khaki and grey fabrics for uniforms etc. British Dyes was so keen to improve dye technology that the company donated £5,000 towards building and equipping a new research department of the technical college, which has gradually evolved into Huddersfield University.

Picric acid, known as Lyddite, had been produced from phenol in Huddersfield during the Boer War, and production increased through 1915 and 1916, until more land was purchased in 1917 for a new factory. In addition to picric acid, other chemical works produced TNT, benzol and toluol, all for use in explosives and munitions.

Child health was poor in Huddersfield. At 104 per 1,000, its infant death rate was just above the UK average of 102 per 1,000, compared to 50 per 1,000 in New Zealand. A garden party was held in Greenhead Park for National Baby Week 1917, with invitations sent to 1,000 mothers of babies aged under 12 months, and cars provided to transport guests from tram termini to park gates. Lindley Prize Brass Band provided music and Huddersfield Day Nursery set up in a tent. Benjamin Broadbent, mayor of Huddersfield in 1904 and known as “godfather of infant welfare for his work improving child care standards, also attended.

A juvenile crime gang, known as “The Clutching Hand”, six boys aged seven to 13 years and two girls aged 11, led by a seven year old boy, were brought to magistrates court after thefts of tobacco items, matches and pocket knife from shops, resulting in probation and banning from attending picture house for two years.

The index is oddly arranged, with major headings (Main Subjects) Countries, People and Local Areas (places in and around Huddersfield). So, it is not possible to quickly find mentions of, for example, Huddersfield Auto Club or names of military units such as Duke of Wellington's West Riding Regiment (the Dukes) Holmfirth Territorials, Army Service Corps, Royal Engineers or hospitals such as Royds Hall.

For completeness, to assist people considering buying this book, I include a list of chapters below:
1. The beginning
2. In and out of the forces
3. Supporting the war effort
4. Employment
5. Recreation
6. Against the law
7. Children
8. Short shrift
9. Coming to an end
Timeline for the war

4.5 out of 5.

Paperback ISBN 1783463562. Cover price £9.99.

Publisher Pen & Sword. Paperback published 2014.

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