On 31 December 1915, the Doncaster Chronicle published a round-up article about the goings-on in the town over Christmas time. It explored how Christmas was being celebrated by troops stationed in the town, convalescent soldiers and local churches and organisations.
On Christmas day 1915 at The Arnold Hospital, there were a total of 54 patients. Local resident, Mr Turner, Windsor Road and Mr Wilkie and Mrs Anelay of Thorne Road generously donated four turkeys and a large round of beef. The patients received visitors, Dr Stevenson (the medical superintendent), Dr Selby, Sister Annie and Rev Captain Harrison. In the afternoon, there was a Christmas Tree, and presents were given to every soldier. Each received a useful item, such as a letter case, hair crush or a cigarette lighter.
On Boxing Day the hospital held a Whist Drive, in which 70 players took part. Mr and Mrs Rayner presented prizes to the soldiers at the end. Mrs Niven, Mrs Archer and nurses and staff visited also visited the soldiers.
At the Infirmary on Christmas Day, there were around sixty patients. The Mayor and Mayoress, (Councillor and Mrs Balmforth) visited them and gave each patient a gift. The wards were decorated. On Tuesday, a tea concert was held and a Christmas Tree was put up for the children to enjoy. The patients received lots donations and gifts from the public, an increase to what was received the previous Christmas.
At St George’s Hospital, Lawn Road, each wounded soldier patient received a parcel and 2s on Christmas morning. They also received Christmas cards, one book and a packet of butterscotch from Mrs Gresley and Mrs Sandford. Patients received invitations to tea by local people. Various gifts were given to the hospital including cigars, clothing, cakes, turkey, puddings and cigarettes.
On Christmas Day 1915 at Doncaster Workhouse, a diner was held for the inmates. The Master and Matron (Mr and Mrs Owen) were in charge of the arrangements, and provided a diner of roast beef and plum pudding. The Chairman of the House Committee, Alderman Cocking and Mrs Cocking, the Rev. F.S.Jannings (chapin), Mr and Mrs Elliott and Miss Duncan attended the diner. 400 soldiers were also invited to dine at the workhouse that day as well.
A concert was held later that day, the programme was organised by Miss Kaye, Master Harry Owen, Miss Sheldon and Messrs. Wilton, Dibs and Bonnar. Miss Poynter was also present and sang several songs.
One battalion at the workhouse was entertained by Mrs Bolland of Balby Vicarage. She provided them with tea when they visited the workhouse. The Y.M.C.A also gave the soldiers a concert, but by a party of ladies and gentlemen from Huddersfield.
On Christmas Eve, the platforms of Doncaster Railway Station were crowded with people heading home and returning to Doncaster for Christmas. A large proportion of the ticket bookings were to Nottinghamshire mining districts by miners. Large numbers of parcels were delivered and a lot of Christmas hampers containing geese and turkeys were transported.
The number of Christmas cards sent during Christmas 1915 greatly declined, possibly due to the war. Also, the number of staff working at post offices within Doncaster also greatly decreased. However, there were a large number of parcels sent to troops billeted within the Doncaster borough. There were 26 women employed on the delivery work, 13 women for local sorting and 15 other women for primary forwarding sorting at Doncaster post office during Christmas 1915. Doncastrians sent a total of 113 sacks containing parcels for the Expeditionary Force.
On Christmas Day 1915, the Parish Church held Holy Communion at 7 am, which was greatly attended by upward of 400 communicants. At 5pm evening prayer was held and carols were sung. Then collections were made for the poor, which amounted to £18. The church had been decorated with white flowers and holly.
At St James’ Church, they held Holy Communion at 8am on Christmas morning, followed by hymns. The women of the church had decorated with holly and evergreens.
At St John The Evangelist in Balby, they held Holy Communion at 8am and Evensong was sung at 8.30 followed by Christmas carols being sung by the choir.
Local industry workers were given a short holiday, including local miners who the Chornicle described as playing ‘a manly part.. to keep the home fires burning.’ There were various concerts and celebrations fund raising for the war effort.
Overall, the Chronicle described Christmas 1915 as being celebrated in ‘the shadow of the war’ and in a ‘very quiet, sober, and orderly fashion’ but local troops and people still celebrated despite the circumstances.
Research conducted by Sophia Lambert, Research Volunteer.