The K.O.Y.L.I. and the Home Front


Doncaster Mansion House 17.MH.18, Doncater Local Studies Library

Throughout 1916, Doncaster newspapers reported events from the front, still operating under censorship. They also told how local people were helping to support the ‘koylis’ through fundraising.
When news of the losses on the Somme reached Doncaster, the Gazette and Chronicle were filled with pictures and stories of men who had died at the front. Although losses were huge, newspapers often reported on these deaths with a tone of necessary and even inevitable sacrifice. Local pride set the tone of many articles.

Support for the K.O.Y.L.I. in Doncaster was particularly strong. ‘The KOYLI Comforts Fund’ ran a variety of events and fundraisers around the Doncaster area, including an American Tea at the Mansion House, which 400 people attended.

‘Yorkshiremen have played a prominent part in the Great Advance. That was inevitable in view of the contributions made by this district to the strength of the New Army.’

Doncaster Gazette July 14 1916

A mystery benefactor


Miss Freda Winifred Hooper, by kind permission of Mark Warde-Norbury

A ‘Miss Hooper’ sent comforts to soldiers at the front. Through the sale of a photograph, she provided the 5th Battalion of the K.O.Y.L.I. with cigarettes and tobacco. Their grateful letter of thanks is on display in the object case. A Miss Freda Hooper was involved with the entertainment of troops in the military hospital based in the workhouse, so it’s possible she could be the same Miss Hooper from this letter. A Freda Winifred Hooper, born in 1903 was the daughter of a butcher on St Sepulchre Gate, Doncaster. Could these be the same woman?

After this exhibition was launched, a collection was loaned to Doncaster 1914-18 for the Estate of War: Doncaster’s Country Houses exhibition. Within this was a photograph (seen here) and business card for a Miss Hoooper who had entertained the troops at Hooton Pagnell Hall hospital and resided at 137 St Sepulchre Gate, Doncaster. This confirms that the butcher’s daughter was an entertainer, but did she send the letter? Do you have any clues about Miss Hooper’s identity? If so, Doncaster 1914-18 would love to hear from you.