In the United Kingdom, one in six families, suffered a direct bereavement. 192,000 wives lost their husbands, and nearly 400,000 children had lost their fathers. A further 500,000 children had lost one of more of their siblings. Appallingly, one in eight wives died within a year of receiving news of their husband’s death.
- 15 Hull servicemen, died every day during the First World War. Some days were worse than others.
- 241 Hull men died on the 13th November 1916, when the East Yorkshire’s attacked the French village of Serre:
- 131 Hull men died on the 3rd May 1917, when the East Yorkshire Battalions attacked the Oppy Wood area, near Arras:
- 35 Hull men, died on the 1st July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme; and
- 127 Hull men, died between the 21st and 23rd March 1918, during the Great German Offensive.
- These casualties accelerated as the war progressed.
- The 228 Hull men killed in 1914, increased to 936 lost in 1915, 1,999 in 1916, 2,076 in 1917 and 2,158 deaths in 1918, and 207 Hull servicemen died in 1919. More Hull men, for example, were lost in 1918 than any of the previous war years. Britain lost more men in 1918, the year of victory, than in any other year of the war, and more British soldiers were killed in 1918, than during the entire Second World War.
- Hull men are buried at 961 cemeteries worldwide. 741 Hull Soldiers are commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the missing on the Somme, another 431 men are
listed on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Belgium, and 841 sailors from Hull ships are recorded on the Tower Hill Naval Memorial, London, just to mention just a few.
These casualties accumulated every day, for four and half long years, increasing as the war went on. The deaths continued long after the war. Hull soldiers were being killed in Russia, succumbing to war wounds or the Influenza Pandemic. Hull trawlers were being lost to stray sea mines.
Extended families suffered immense loss. There were over a hundred families in Hull that lost two or more from the same family and at least ten families that lost three sons. Four families are known to have lost four sons. When other relatives are added, such as fathers, husbands, uncles, brothers in laws, cousins and grooms, the losses in some Hull families were immense and tragic. They include nearly 1,500 Teenagers, 77 ‘boys’ aged 17 years old, 11 ‘lads’ aged 15, and at least three, 14 year olds, who died on active service.
Communities were also devastated. Ten Streets in Hull, lost more than 50 men or more, during the WW1. Some of these, were Bean Street (97); Sculcoates Lane (65); Waterloo Street (102; St. Paul’s Street (59); Barnsley Street (61); Courtney Street (61); Walker Street (69), Spyvee Street (80); and hundreds more men died from the streets along Hessle Road, Holderness Road, Beverley Road, Sculcoates Lane and throughout the Wincolmlee area, of Hull. It is difficult to quantify the social and demographic impact of this great loss of men on the city. Those that lived through it are now gone. Newspapers can only hint of the suffering, with stories of suicides and families left heir less, penniless, orphaned, and homeless.
Hull men from East Yorkshire, served across all armed forces, and are buried throughout the world. Many have no known grave. Hull men fought from the very start of the war, until its end. They served in the all major battles – the Marne, Gallipoli, Jutland, the Somme, Arras and Passchendaele. They fought in the Middle East and East Africa, on land, sea and air. The war at sea was the longest war and probably the most harshest. Hull sailors fought countless battles daily, mine sweeping, fishing and delivering vital war materials. The Hull Memorial shows at least 1,175 Hull sailors, died at sea. Hundreds of Hull men were decorated for bravery and at least 2 Victoria Crosses were awarded. The National War Memorials to the missing at Thiepval, on the Somme, lists at least 741 Hull men, the Menin Gate at Ypres records another 431, and the Tyne Cot memorial, records 223 Hull men. The casualties were mainly Privates, Non Commissioned Officers or from other lower ranks. There are less than 250 Officers listed on the ‘Hull Memorial’, which records 9, 432 names of ‘local’ men killed in the First World War. The majority of deaths in the First World War were young men. Nearly 70% of Hull casualties, were aged 30 years old and under.
The Hull Daily Mail published many photographs of the fallen, although the number of pictures printed declined as the war goes on. Below are some Hull Brothers reported killed in WW1.
In the early months of the war, there a a trade in soldier letters back home. Many of these were printed, in full, by local newspapers, often giving a graphic insight into the fighting, reporting death, the effects of shelling, mud, cold and the deprivations of trench life. These publications became heavily censored after 1915.
Hindsight now reveals how Local Newspapers, under reported grim news and spread out casualties, to conceal the catastrophe. Mounting losses were often reported months after the event, pushed to the back pages, and mixed up with casualties from other towns, to dilute the impact. War deaths were often hidden between patriotic tales, good news stories of recovering wounded and the announcement of gallantry awards. These seemed to lighten the mood and soften the blow. However, news from returning soldiers, the sight of discharged wounded on street corners and the rush of over worked “Telegram Boys”, would constantly remind civilians of the brutality of war. The memoriam section on the back pages of the papers, provide many moving verses and poems to the fallen. These highlight the heart felt pain of bereaved friends, families and relatives. On the first anniversary on the Battle of the Serre, the Hull Daily Mail, printed many sorrowful messages, under the heading, “In Proud and undying Memory of the 13th November 1916” (Hull Daily Mail, 13/11/1917, page 3). The charge for a Memoriam Notice was two shillings and six pence, for three lines, and Ninepence, for every additional line of seven words. That said, people filled a page with their sentiments. Even a hundred years later, the reader cannot fail to be touched by these personal expressions of remembrance. The impact of war, on Hull, was clearly enormous.
Hull’s four main hospitals and Voluntary Aid Detachment units were constantly busy. Hull was also the main port for repatriated prisoners of war which added to their work load. Hull cemeteries are littered with servicemen that died in Hull far form home. Those with sight impairments were found work at the ‘Blind Institute’ on Beverley Road. Shell shock victims were treated at De La Pole hospital which also had wards for gas wounds. The Brookland’s hospital, on Cottingham Road looked after Officers. The Reckitt’s hospital cared for some 3,000 patients during the war. The wounded were very visible in the community. They were often amputees, mutilated, or with appalling facial injuries. Many houses with drawn dark curtains, marked a casualty. It seemed that every family had lost someone, or knew someone that had been killed in the war. Civilians wore dark mourning dress, or black arm bands, to indicate that they were morning the loss of a loved one.
Men physically and mentally broken, or young men who had sacrificed their apprenticeships to go to war, now faced unemployment at home. Rationing of food and basic goods added to the community tension. There were no psychologists or social workers, to treat the victims of shell shock or counsel the large numbers of bereaved. Many families had to cope as best they could.
Newspapers of the time, are full of incidents of violence, drunkenness and anti social behaviour. This reflected the general, poverty, illness and the untreated madness or war casualties. Initial enthusiasm for the war quickly gave way to sadness and shock and a deepening psychological affect on the civilian population. Returning Servicemen had been assured a ‘Land Fit for Heroes’, only to find unemployment, austerity and indifference. Women who lost their husbands in the First World War were granted the first State-funded, non-contributory pension (meaning that they did not have to pay a contribution towards it). They also received a dependent’s allowance for any children under 16. Charities such as “The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Families Association” and “The British Legion” provided some families with additional support. Hull created it’s own unique Great War Civic Trust to specifically help Hull’s many wounded and bereaved families. Not all women were granted the pension. A woman who married an ex-soldier after he had been discharged from the army would not get a pension if he later died from war wounds. Some women had their pensions withdrawn by the Local Pensions Office if they were judged to be behaving in the wrong way, for instance if they were accused of drunkenness, neglecting their children, living out of wedlock with another man or had an illegitimate child. Thousands of women wrote to the authorities to appeal for a pension. There was fear that if the pension was too generous, then it would mean that women would be discouraged from supporting themselves. ‘Eighteen shillings a week and no husband were heaven to women who, once industrious and poor were now wealthy and idle’ one man wrote to the Daily Express, complaining of the pension.
Even after the war, men continued to die from war wounds, accidents and disease, such as the “Spanish Flu”. Hull cemeteries contain many CWGC graves that show that these deaths continued into the early 1920’s. The Ministry of Pensions records 20,000 war wounded in Hull in 1924, so those who died of wounds as a direct result of the war, may well have continued for decades.
Another ongoing peril was unexploded sea mines which continued to take the lives of Hull fisherman, long after the war had ended. For example, the Hull Trawler, ‘Gitano’, struck a mine on the 23rd December 1918, and was sunk with all hands . The Hull Trawler ’Scotland’, struck a mine on the 13th March 1919, killing seven Hull men. Two days later the steam ship, ‘Durban’ exploded‘, killing another eight Hull sailors. The ‘Isle of Man’ (Hull), exploded on the 14th December 1919, killing a further seven Hull fishermen. The steam ship, ‘Barbados’ exploded on the 5th November 1920, taking ten Hull men. These included the two Weaver brothers killed on the same day. Many of these seaman had survived the war, only to be its victims after.
In order to maintain spirits and social order, newspapers released casualty figures sparingly and usually many months after they happened. Patterns of behaviour also changed, with people marrying across classes, taking on different types of employment and becoming more militant and questioning of authority. Crime increased after the war and became more brutal and organised during the tough economic times ahead. Large numbers of wounded and disabled people adapted to a society, where there was only a limited welfare state to support them. The scale of casualties and sense of loss, were strongly felt by all those who survived the Great War.
It was reflected in people’s need to erect hundreds of war memorials, particularly as many of those killed, had no known grave. The social trauma of bereavement, would haunt generations for decades, resulting in a large peace movement and reluctance to fight further wars. The numbers of casualties are still difficult to understand. Can you imagine in our modern world of social media, tuning into the evening news, to learn that nearly 60,000 British soldiers had been killed and wounded in a single day? This was the reality on the 1st July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, a battle which continued for another four months!
Every man recorded on the ‘Kingston Upon Hull Memorial’, has their own unique story. Many of these stories are intertwined with the history of Hull. Naming those that died emphasises their existence as individuals and magnifies the enormity of Hull’s loss. The potential of all these men was lost to the world, but they are now remembered together, here, on this website. Rather than reading just a list of names on a war memorial, ww1hull.com allows the reader to interact with all Hull casualties, by adding photographs and stories for each individual, putting faces to name, learning more about Hull during the First World War and adding a context to Hull’s losses.