How valley people went away to war

MIKE Crawford, of Hebden Bridge, recounted local experiences of “Going To War in August 1914” to a packed audience of Todmorden Antiquarians and visitors for the first meeting of 2012.

His vivid account encompassed tales of local folk here and fighting in northern France.

This history project began for Mike as a cycle ride theme! He wanted to explore the retreat from Mons area where the 2nd Battalion of Duke of Wellingtons based in Halifax and the King’s Own Rifles based in Pontefract had been engaged in the initial battle of WW1.

Here in Calderdale, lots of people were anticipating their summer holiday week. Whilst war tensions mounted, the mills were paying out holiday club monies.

Wealthier British tourists holidaying abroad struggled to get home, whilst trains were commandeered for transportation.

Local horses were purchased at the White Lion’s yard in Hebden Bridge for cavalry troops and Mike said 200 horses were shipped from Halifax. German residents were considered “spies embedded” though 93 per cent registered immediately under the alien Act.

Mike described how wars creep up on us to bring decades of conflict. WW1 began suddenly and accidentally.

Mobilisation was swift! Within two weeks 80,000 men were stationed in northern France having been shipped across the channel, travelled railways and all without modern communications.

The German cavalry were unaware of the British being in that region. The first clash occurred on August 23 near Mons. Mike detailed the British Expeditionary Forces battle, outnumbered in troops and weapons, and told of the sacrifice and retreat south towards Paris.

Concluding his presentation on the early weeks of WW1, Mike described how war affected Calderdale. Families worried.

The cotton mills were on half time, factories couldn’t get enough supplies, sugar was in short supply and families feared for loved ones in uniform. All was changing for the worse.

Mike Crawford would be interested to hear from anyone with relative WW1 memories, especially regarding prisoners of war.

The next meeting of Todmorden Antiquarian Society will be on Tuesday, January 24, at 7.30pm in Todmorden Town Hall Court Room when Robert Priestley will enlighten us on “The History of Toilets”.