After peace was formally declared, attention turned to remembering the dead. Although there had been discussions about memorials during the war, it still took many years for the names to be gathered, money to be raised and locations to be confirmed for the various memorials around the borough. Many memorials were unveiled during the 1920s, but others were not unveiled until shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939.
The Royal Engineers Memorial Tablet in Doncaster Mansion House
From April 1915, Mayor Samuel Balmforth undertook to raise a company of Royal Engineers in support of the war effort. The response was excellent and the company (224 Company) was formed by the end of May and three other companies followed.
At the end of the war Mr Balmforth funded the cost of a tablet in the Mansion House as a memorial to the ‘Doncaster’s Own’. The tablet lists men who were recruited in Doncaster into the RE companies raised and killed during the fighting. Those named included two officers, twenty-two non-commissioned officers and fifty-one men.
On 29 July 1920, in the presence of the families of those named on the memorial, the unveiling ceremony took place in the Mansion House. The address was given by Brigadier General Bewicke-Copley, of Sprotbrough Hall. Every family received a photograph of the tablet.
Researched and written by Richard Cuell, Friends of Doncaster Mansion House
A letter was published in the Doncaster Gazette on 10 December 1915 that detailed the death of a Thorne soldier at the front. This letter enabled Tony Brookes, a Thorne historian, to unravel the mystery of the death of Albert William Venus one hundred years later. Albert was only remembered on the Thorne War Memorial and had been forgotten by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Researching the war diaries, Tony was able to discover exactly where Albert was buried and with whom. In 2013, six bodies were discovered exactly where the war diary said they had been buried. DNA from a living relative enabled Albert’s body to be identified. He had with him a 1914 gold half sovereign, perhaps given to him by one of his sisters. Albert William Venus now has a grave in the Town Cemetery Extension in Ypres where he was finally laid to rest in April 2016.
St Michael and All Angels Church, Brodsworth, War Memorial Window
This window in Brodsworth Church remembers ten men who died in the First World War. Six names of those killed in the Second World War are inscribed on the window sill beneath. A party of blind soldiers attended the unveiling, guests of Adeline Thellusson of Brodsworth Hall, who was awarded an OBE for her work at St Dunstan’s Hostel for War Blinded Soldiers and Sailors. Of the First World War names, many of the men were employed on the Brodsworth Hall estate. English Heritage staff and volunteers have researched all but one of the men from the memorial. They were unable to identify and find information about this William Chapman.
The Cenotaph War Memorial on Bennetthorpe was funded by public subscription. Hundreds of people from around the borough including local business men, politicians, and the general public contributed to the fund. The memorial was unveiled in March 1923. Forming at Priory Place, a procession was made up of ex-servicemen, members of the British Legion, relatives of the deceased, the band and soldiers of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (K.O.Y.L.I.), soldiers from the Queen’s Own Yorkshire Dragoons, the Borough Police, the Mayor, and representatives from the Corporation.
The memorial, which was covered by a flag, was unveiled by Colonel C. C. Moxon, who had commanded the 5th K.O.Y.L.I. during the war. Archdeacon Sandford, of Doncaster Minster, dedicated the monument to the memories of the men killed from the town. Buglers of the 5th K.O.Y.L.I. played the Last Post.
Queens Own Yorkshire Dragoons Memorial
In the spring of 2017, a memorial, installed at the Parish Church in 1921, was restored thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The restoration made the names of 45 men of the Queen’s Own Yorkshire Dragoons who died in the First World War visible again. The grant was awarded to the Doncaster and District Heritage Association whose members are now uncovering the lives of the men and attempting to contact relatives in order to invite them to a service of re-dedication in the autumn of 2018.
Although fighting had ceased in November 1918, the negotiations for peace were long and complicated.
It was decided that a peace day celebration should occur all over the country on 19 July 1919. Across the villages of Doncaster, people poured onto the streets for parades, parties and festivities. In Mexborough, the decision was made to hold their peace celebrations on a different day, and instead the people of Mexborough marked 19 July by burning down the bandstand. The Mexborough and Swinton Times described it as a ‘burnt offering at the altar of peace.’ It is not known who decided to burn down the bandstand, and lots of local people took credit!