Doncaster at War: 1914-15

This exhibition travelled around Doncaster to libraries and community venues in 2015. If you missed this exhibition, please see below to learn about Doncaster in 1914-15.


The outbreak of war brought big changes to Doncaster. By January 1915, the Doncaster Gazette reported that almost 4,000 local men had volunteered for the military.

After the release of Alfred Leete’s now famous ‘Kitchener’ recruitment poster showing the Secretary of State for War, the Doncaster Gazette and Chronicle featured their own adverts and cartoons encouraging men to enlist, using various methods of persuasion to do so.

This cartoon from the Doncaster Chronicle September 1914 shows the recruiting office in Equity Chambers on the High Street.


Many buildings were taken over to house troops and care for sick soldiers. From August 1914, the racecourse was used as a camp for soldiers.

Local industry also played its part in the war effort. The Great Northern Railway’s Doncaster Works (the ‘Plant’) provided railway support for the movement of coal, troops and munitions and even began to produce munitions itself.

Local building contractor W.S. Arnold offered his house ‘Edenfield’ on Thorne Road as an auxiliary hospital for convalescing soldiers. Some of its staff and patients are shown in this photograph from the Doncaster Chronicle. By the end of 1915, over 500 soldiers were treated there. The house is still standing and is now used as a conference centre.


In May 1915 the passenger ship RMS Lusitania was sunk by German torpedoes.

Four Doncaster people died in the tragedy, which claimed over 1000 lives. Anti-German riots followed around Doncaster and across the country.

After German torpedoes sunk the Lusitania in May 1915, anti-German feeling intensified across the U.K. This followed news of German gas attacks during the Second Battle of Ypres and reports of poor treatment of prisoners of war in German camps. In Doncaster the shops of local German citizens, and those only suspected of being German, were attacked.

Two of the local victims of the Lusitania disaster, George Somerville Rolfe, the vicar of Kirk Bramwith’s son and 22 year old Sarah Wilson from Armthorpe, featured in the Doncaster Chronicle, May 14, 1915 where the Germans were described as ‘murderers.’


Belgian Refugees arrived in Doncaster in October 1914 and were entertained at the Mansion House. Many remained throughout the war, and were helped by voluntary donations from local people.

Click on the picture to find out more about Doncaster’s Belgian Refugees.