Nottingham in the Great War (23-5-16)
On Tuesday 17 May, and following the Heritage Group`s Annual General Meeting, the 35 members who attended the meeting enjoyed an illustrated talk by local author Carol Lovejoy Edwards.
Carol, who has recently published her book entitled "Nottingham in the Great War", presented a detailed account of how the outbreak of World War 1 affected everyone`s lives in Nottingham and the surrounding areas.
Against a background of the actions of the Suffragette Movement coupled with the Irish problem, the mood in Nottingham could only be lightened by the visit of King George V and Queen Mary in 1914. The royal couple stayed at Welbeck Abbey as guests of the Duke of Portland, although Carol added that his previous guests had been Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Kaiser Wilhelm!
At the beginning of the war there was much for the authorities in Nottingham to consider. A Sherwood Foresters regiment due to leave for France was suddenly diverted to Ireland and the Council held a debate on whether Goose Fair should be called off. They decided that it should go ahead, but the following year the fair was indeed cancelled. Many men volunteered to go to the front, while at home with supplies affected food shortages soon developed, leading to an increase in queues, hoarding and petty crime.
Soon Nottingham had to deal with injured soldiers returning for treatment and an influx of Belgian refugees. As a result, medical and social facilities became stretched.
However, there were a number of benefactors helping out and large companies such as Boots and Players also provided support, notably for the soldiers fighting at the front.
Meanwhile, in 1916, the war came to Nottingham in the shape of two Zeppelin raids. The first was ineffective, with bombs being dropped in fields outside of the city. The second, however, was more serious, with a number of hits in the Meadows area.
While the recruitment campaign saw no shortage of volunteers in the early stages, as the war progressed conscription was introduced. Carol gave examples of a number of excuses which were put forward to the conscription committee but these were rejected without exception.
In the absence of so many men, and with all employment changing to aid the war effort, Carol described how the role of women also changed significantly. While some women went off to war, the others left behind took over the mens`jobs. One notable example was the creation of the Land Army. Women also worked in the two munitions factories in Nottingham. This was a hazardous job, and many were killed in the explosion at the Chilwell shell filling factory, when 134 lives were lost. Carol told us that the victims were buried in a mass grave at St. Mary`s church in Attenborough.
Carol concluded her talk with one final fact. When the war came to an end in 1918 this did not mean that those who had been serving at the front were swiftly demobilised since peace was not officially declared until the Treaty of Versailles in 1919.
At the end of her talk Carol was congratulated by Chairman David Sibley for providing members with such an interesting and informative presentation.