A Million Pound Town
As the war raged on, the people of Doncaster threw themselves into fundraising for the war effort. As well as taking part in large scale fundraising events such as the War Loan Campaign, Tank Bank Week and Gun Week, people from all over the borough created smaller committees and groups to fundraise for various causes. The 1917 War Loan campaign in Doncaster raised over a million pounds. Thorne alone raised £29,000. The borough also played host to Belgian refugees fleeing the conflict in their home country, and local people rallied around to support the new arrivals.
Doncaster Mansion House
1914 brought many changes to the Mansion House which had previously been used mainly for social and charitable occasions. During the war it became a hub for council business, civic events and wartime fundraising.
The growth of the town in 1914 meant that the Guild Hall was no longer large enough and Council meetings were transferred to the Mansion House. Early in the war permission was given to create a hospital and arrangements were made for beds and supplies to be delivered. However rooms were in high demand and the beds were moved to the new Arnold Hospital. A request by the Army to hold a dinner and entertainment on Christmas Day 1914 was refused as the Council needed the accommodation.
Mayoresses held fundraising events for the war. On Christmas Day 1914, presents for children of serving soldiers and sailors were distributed at the Mansion House. Belgian refugees were welcomed there in 1914 by the Mayor and Mayoress.
The most significant use of the building, other than Council business, was the holding of the appeal tribunals against Conscription from 1916 onwards. The end of the war was announced from the steps of the Mansion House in November 1918.
Researched and written by Norma Brindley, Friends of Doncaster Mansion House
Tank Bank and Gun Week
‘Locally speaking, the only questions worth asking are: “Have you seen the Tank?” – “How’s the Tank going on?”- “What will to-days Tank total be?” – “What’s to-morrows Tank programme?”’
– Doncaster Gazette, April 1918
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, it 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 Egbert 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.
Knitting ‘comforts’ for the forces in Thorne
Mrs Darley, the wife of a Thorne brewery owner, was one of the chief local organisers. She provided nearly all the wool for between 2–3000 articles that were sent to the armed forces from Thorne. Items included socks, woollen gloves, body belts, vests, flannel shirts, pillow cases, handkerchiefs and sheets.
Mrs Darley also organised fetes for war charities in the grounds of her home, Thorne House, for the Arnold Hospital. Mrs Kenyon, the wife of the local solicitor and mother of two sons fighting in France, held three fetes in her garden at The Maples, South Parade. These raised funds for the Belgian Relief Fund, the Red Cross and the Y.M.C.A.
The Government set up a National Egg Collection scheme. This encouraged people to send eggs to hospitals where soldiers were recovering from their wounds. In Thorne, Charles Cutts Elmhirst, a local artist, organised the collection of eggs from the local area including Hatfield. It is said that during the war, 60, 000 eggs were collected.
Researched and written by Rosemary Brookes, Thorne in the Great War