Doncaster at War: 1918

IWM (Art.IWM PST 10380)

INTRODUCTION

In November 1918, after four years of fighting, the First World War came to an end. However, 1918 was not an easy year for Doncaster. The worsening food crisis resulted in long queues at food shops around the borough. Formal food rationing was also introduced.

Fundraising events took place throughout 1918, including Tank Bank Week in April and Gun Week in November. These events encouraged Doncaster people to buy war bonds to support the war effort and fundraising efforts continued right until Armistice was declared.

TANK BANK WEEK AND GUN WEEK

Tank Bank Week

In April 1918, Doncaster played host to Egbert, a battle-scarred tank brought to the town to encourage people to buy war bonds and support the war effort. The fundraising week began with a showcase of Egbert’s abilities over specially-built trenches and obstacles near to the racecourse. After this, he was moved to the Market Place where Mayor Abner Carr climbed on top of the tank to declare the fundraising week open. People flocked from all over the borough to see the tank, and Doncaster residents spent over £400,000 on war bonds over the course of the week.

Another similar scheme was ‘Gun Week’, in which field guns and howitzer artillery guns were set up in the Market Place to encourage people to ‘feed the guns’ by purchasing war bonds. Gun Week finished on 9 November, just 2 days before Armistice was declared.

SOLDIERS IN DONCASTER

The Arnold Auxiliary Hospital

YMCA

Doncaster’s tradition of providing for the serving men stationed in the town continued in 1918 with the opening of the YMCA Soldiers and Sailors Hostel. This building was previously known as the Glyn Hotel and had been a temperance hotel. It stood close to the Grand Theatre, where the Frenchgate centre is today. The hotel provided sleeping quarters, a restaurant, lounges, and billiard rooms for serving men and female agricultural workers passing through the town.

Handcuff King

Sergeant Albert Edward Hill served with the Northumberland Fusiliers. He was wounded in action and treated at the Arnold Hospital, Thorne Road, in February 1918. During his time there he revealed that in his civilian life, he worked as an entertainer performing acts of escapology! While he was in Doncaster, he put on two shows in aid of the Arnold Hospital. He performed daring acts of escape, freeing himself from handcuffs, trunks and a coffin. The money made from show tickets paid for an open air shelter with 20 beds in the hospital grounds, looking onto Town Fields. It was named ‘Sergeant Hill’s Ward’ after him.

THE WAR ENDS

Peace Celebrations in Hyde Park

On 11 November 1918, armistice was signed and the First World War was brought to an end. In Doncaster, Mayor Jackson announced armistice on the steps of the Mansion House, joined by the ex-mayor Abner Carr and many other council men and officials.

Although armistice brought an end to fighting on the Western Front and was celebrated in Doncaster, negotiations on the terms of peace continued until 1919. A national celebration of peace was planned for 19 July 1919 and communities all over Doncaster from Edlington, to Woodlands and Hyde Park joined in the festivities. The impact of the war was felt all over Doncaster for many years to come.