At Work on the Home Front
As men went to off to fight, they left behind their jobs as well as their families. Women often stepped into these roles, and also worked in munitions factories to supply the guns at the Front, as nurses caring for those wounded in war, and in farming. 1916 saw the introduction of compulsory military service, known as conscription, for eligible men. This increased the need for women workers. Some men did work so important to keeping the country going that they were protected from conscription. Others applied to stay at home because of work commitments, medical issues or moral and religious beliefs.
Curates at the Coalface
Clergymen were exempted from compulsory military service, and in Doncaster, local religious leaders stepped into roles on the land and in the mines.
The Reverend Ernest Edward Johnson of St Luke’s Church in Rossington wanted to go to the Front and provide spiritual support for soldiers. He was considered too valuable at home. To support the war effort, Ernest began to work three days a week at Rossington Main Colliery, filling tubs with coal. He eventually got permission to serve at the Front, but he was wounded and died of pneumonia in France on 1 December 1918. Reverend Mark Earl of Bentley volunteered for National Service and worked on the land. Askern Colliery had one canon and two vicars among its workforce. Canon Thomas Rolfe, Vicar of Kirk Bramwith and Barnby Dun, who lost a son in the sinking of the Lusitania, worked at the pit. Working with him were Reverend William Rutter of Askern and Reverend Montague Allen, Vicar of Moss and Fenwick. William and Montague worked at the coal face, which meant they went underground every day. Canon Rolfe worked the screens above ground, picking the coal before it was sent out.
‘They go down with the men in the ordinary way, they take their “snap” with them just as the miner does, they do the full shift, whether it be mornings one week or nights the next, they take the regulation pay, and they have won the esteem and regard of their workmates.’
– Doncaster Chronicle, May 1917