Rotherham War and Peace

In July 1922 the Rotherham Advertiser requested that the people of Rotherham remember the impact which the First World War had on the town and the changes which had been made. They recommended that ‘it be placed on record how the town was transformed by its army battalions, the recruitment drives which took place, the massive loss of life, food shortages, queues and rationing, how women were performing mens work and the zeppelin raids. Cannot the Corporation set about the task of producing such a book?’ Although the Corporation was unable to produce such a book at the time, this is the writers own small attempt to try to redress the balance. As we now know the period of peace was to be tragically short lived, and this book extends that record to include the interwar years and the years of the Second World War that followed.

Chapter List


Chapter One:                           Recruitment and Mobilization

Chapter Two:                          Early Casualties of the War

Chapter Three:                        The First Christmas: Riots and Shirkers

Chapter Four:                          The Role of Women

Chapter Five:                          Heroes and Villains

Chapter Six:                            Zeppelin Raids and the New Technology

Chapter Seven:                        Peace at Last




Chapter Eight:                         The Aftermath of the War

Chapter Nine:                          Prominent Visitors to the Town

Chapter Ten                             Discontent

Chapter Eleven:                      The Coal Strike

Chapter Twelve:                     The Plight of the Unemployed

Chapter Thirteen:                    Health and Housing

Chapter Fourteen:                    Mothers and Children

Chapter Fifteen:                      Entertainment

Chapter Sixteen:                      The Gathering Storm




Chapter Seventeen:                 Preparations for War

Chapter Eighteen                     Soldiers

Chapter Nineteen                     The Home Guard

Chapter Twenty:                      War Work

Chapter Twenty One:              Rations and the Black Market

Chapter Twenty Two:             Women’s War

Chapter Twenty Three Juvenile Delinquency

Chapter Twenty Four:             The Beginning of the End

Extract from the book

Recruitment and Mobilization


Many Yorkshire towns would have had recruitment offices and they would be supplemented by mobile recruitment endeavors, which the Advertiser would publicize. These might take the form of famous people attending the campaign in the town centre urging men to enlist or as part of a patriotic music hall entertainment. On Monday 24th August 1914 it was announced that enough men of Rotherham were needed to make up two new battalions for the York and Lancaster Regiment and for what was now styled Lord Kitchener’s New Army. The number of men required was 440 and the recruitment campaign would last for a week. Only five days later it was recorded that 236 men had enlisted for the new Battalion. Some inter town rivalry was promoted when it was announced that 100 men from Dinnington had also been recruited. The Dinnington colliery employers had taken to heart the words of Colonel Bethune to support the workmen, resulting in the colliery manager announcing that they would give each man who enlisted a bonus of ?2 each. This would have been a lot of money in those days and no doubt was taken up with enthusiasm. Now with the impact of the beginning of the hostilities the recruitment campaign did not let up. On 5th September more stirring addresses were made in College Square to packed crowds in front of the Court House. Previous to the speeches being made bands had been playing patriotic tunes. Once again the Mayor addressed the crowds asking people to remember the propaganda about the Germans treatment of women and children, which was now being avidly read. He urged:


‘the young men of the town to remember the traditions of the town and the regiments they were asked to join. Remember the horrors the Germans were responsible for. If France was to be beaten then England must follow’.


Following the Mayoral address, he introduced Major Ashton the commander of the newly formed 6th Battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment who stated that they should be very proud of themselves ‘as Rotherham had heard the call and responded nobly’. He announced that they were hoping shortly to have recruited enough men to form a 7th Battalion. Crowds turned out for these campaigns and parades, which accompanied them and there is no doubt that many men of the town would be encouraged to enlist.

2 thoughts on “Rotherham War and Peace

  1. I’ve just read your article in the Advertiser about your book, but was initially drawn to the picture rather than the article.

    We have the complete original picture rather than the extract shown in the paper, it hangs on our staircase amongst our favourite old family photos.

    In our photo Hitler is in the centre and the young lady immediately underneath him, looking wistfully towards the camera is my mother, Sheila Burke.

    She must have been about 17 at the time and I have a feeling it’s in the Effingham Street area, she lived on Selborne Street at the time.

    I would have loved to talk to her about this again now and shown her the Advertiser but unfortunately she passed away 5 years ago, however, seeing the photo in the paper (even though it’s always on display here at home) has brought a flurry of mixed emotions.

    We have always been intrigued by the bleak expression on her face and on the others in the picture, and the fact that she was immediately beneath the precariously placed Hitler.

    Thank you for creating a memory stirring discussion in our home.

    I’ve sent a copy of this information to Tom Sharpe out of interest.

    Kind regards

  2. Hello David

    Thank you for your comments and the information about your mother, Sheila Burke. It is fascinating as a writer to get to know little details about pictures in the book. I think I photographed it from the original Advertiser, which is in the cropped form that was printed in the book. Its good to know that it is part of a family’s cherished memories. Really when you think about it, there is no surprise that your mother and the others appear wistful in their expressions. Until I started to research the book, I had no idea of the privations that Rotherham people suffered during the long years of the war. The celebrations must have been a mixed blessing for many people who survived the war. No doubt thousands of people were glad that the hostilities had finally ceased, mixed with the regret, and sometimes anger, that their relative did not survive, whilst others did. It must have taken some time to come to terms with it all.
    Its good to know that I started a discussion at your house, and once again thank you for sharing that with me.
    All the best Margaret

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