During the course of the First World War there were numerous occasions when the girls of Doncaster Municipal High School for Girls helped those men serving in the armed forces. In the early years of the war the girls of the school washed and mended socks for around 150 soldiers whilst also knitting new belts, cuffs and scarves. These were eventually sent to the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. As well as clothing, recreational supplies such as magazines were also sent to soldiers at the front.
In addition to helping soldiers at home and on the front line the girls ensured that those who had been taken prisoner were looked after and not forgotten. Parcels were sent containing dry foods as sending tins of food was prohibited for fear that the Germans would use these for munitions. It was not always the case that these parcels reached their destination. Instances were recorded of secret messages being hidden in food and so this lead to the parcels being destroyed by the Germans.
The way in which the girls contributed the most was in their work for the local hospitals. The records show that a continuous effort was made to grow and donate food stuffs such as potatoes, fruit, eggs to local institutions such as Arnolds Hospital and the Doncaster Royal Infirmary. This was an important contribution as there was a serious threat of famine during the early years of the war due to the German naval blockades.
The school also put on several theatre performances and hosted many jumble sales in order to raise funds to help wounded soldiers. Large amounts were raised from putting on these events; in particular two plays were put on in January 1918 which managed to raise £30 for the Doncaster Royal Infirmary and over £14 for the Local Cripples’ Guild.
The school also took more responsibility for helping those who had been affected by the war in other countries. At the beginning of the war Belgian girls were enrolled into the school in order to ensure they were given a decent education whilst sales were arranged to raise funds for Belgian refugees. The efforts made by the girls’ highlight how everyone was expected to contribute to the war effort, regardless of age or gender and the global impact it was having.
Information taken from Doncaster High School for Girls School Magazines, Doncaster Local Studies Library.
Research completed by Alex Pilch, Research Volunteer.