We tend to approach war memorials with pathos and a narrative about the futility of war, but the generation that built them were actually proud of them. People wanted to show the pride of sacrifice. They even experienced joy that their fathers, husbands and sons, had stepped up to the plate in the time of need. War memorials were defined in positive terms - as 'Defence against aggression', for 'Justice', 'Liberty' and Glory'. They were a sign of a colossal generational effort to "end all wars, for humanity" and celebrate the gift, that those who fell, gave to future generations. There were all sorts of ideas put forward for commemorating the war and the people who fought in it, which resulted in a wide variety of memorials. There were official tokens of remembrance in the form of memorial plaques, issued to relatives of the fallen and commemorative “Peace” medals. Charitable care for ex-Servicemen was begun under the auspices of the Flanders Poppy Fund. The red poppy is now internationally recognized as a symbol of Remembrance, with its roots in the tragedy of the First World War. Memorial rolls of honour were put up in factories, sports clubs, railway stations, schools, and universities. Church windows were designed and dedicated to military units or individuals. Memorial buildings were constructed to provide “living memorials”, for example, as community centres, places for rehabilitation or worship.
After the First World War, communities were keen to erect memorials to remember their dead. Over 5,000 memorials were raised in towns across Britain, in the first two years after the War, and some 37,000 exist today in public spaces, in various forms. The demand for war memorials lasted many years and many were not completed until long after the war. Many Hull firms, such as Reckitt's and the Wilson Shipping Line had workplace memorials. The Hull & Barnsley Railway Company, displayed a bronze plaque, with the names, of 183 men killed in the war. Unlike Belgium, France and Italy, the majority of Britain's 750,000 war dead, are buried abroad and have no known graves. This distance, absence from home, and deep sense of loss, has remained a strong part of family histories ever since. It is the reason why war memorials continue to be important in Britain, and commemorating the First World War still remains heartfelt, even after a 100 years.
Hull Street Memorials
The first and earliest war memorials in Hull, were the 'Street Shrines' or 'Rolls of Honour', These were created in the early years of the war to commemorate all those locally serving in the armed forces.
The idea of Street War memorials started in the East end of London, but it was soon adopted in towns, such as St Albans, and became particularly widespread in Hull. The Memorials took many shapes, forms and styles. Some memorials named only those directly involved from the street, others included relatives from other streets. Some 'Roll of Honours' covered large areas, such as Wilmington and Sculcoates, which included many streets. A great deal of work went into designing these 'Rolls of Honour', and there was keen competition between Streets for the best memorials. Montrose Avenue, boasted the finest, Courtney Street the largest, and Northumberland Avenue drew the largest crowds. The opening ceremonies were grand affairs, with bands, choirs, hundreds of people attending and were widely reported in the local newspapers. While Street memorials were popular, they relied on the goodwill of residents to maintain them. Inevitably these 'Rolls of Honour'. could not keep pace with conscription, or the movement of men transferring between regiments and other armed services.
There was also some opposition to the memorials, with people refusing to include their names or saying that the money should be spent on the troops. Some complained that names had been mis-spelt, left out or ignored. The memorials were often too small to record the increasing numbers of casualties. For example, Bean Street, with a population of over 3,000 people, saw hundreds of men enlist and over 90 men killed. The declining enthusiasm for war, meant that many Street memorials were not updated after 1916 and they became inaccurate. The Eton Street, marble memorial, bears little resemblance to its original, which included many more names of men killed in the war. Also, as most 'Street Shrines' were only designed as temporary structures, they were not long lasting. Many Street memorials were destroyed during the bombing of Hull in 1941. Others were lost through slum clearance in the 1970's and post war reconstruction. Just a few examples of Hull Street memorials survive today. Most notably, these are at Sharp Street, Newland Avenue, and Eton Street, on Hessle Road. Some other examples of street shrines are also preserved in the Hull Transport museum. Street Memorials were never repeated during the Second World War.
Workplaces also created their own war memorials. Hull's world famous Reckitt's firm saw 70 of its men join at the outbreak of war and by 1917, 820 men had enlisted. A total of 1,108 Reckitt employees, served from its world wide workforce, with 153 employees killed and 50% of the remainder wounded or disabled. In tribute to their service, Sir James Reckitt errected a memorial fountain in the grounds of its Hull Office. The picture to the right shows the Hull Post Office memorial at their sorting Office, in St Peter's Street. The Hull and Barnsley Railway Line commissioned a bronze plaque listing the 178 employees who died in the First World War. The Hull Post Office lost at least 46 employees. Schools also produced their own memorials. Hymers school memorial, contains 116 former Hull pupils. Hull Grammar school memorial lost 88 ex pupils in the Great War. The Clifton Street School Memorial (below) recorded 66 pupils killed in the war. Hull's Municipal Technical college listed 52 former students on their Park Street memorial. The names of 28 Hull teachers are recorded on a bronze tablet mounted in Hull's Guildhall .
The 'ww1hull.org.uk' site, recreates these memorials, to highlight Hull's forgotten history. After the War, remembrance became paramount, to ensure that the dead had not died in vain, and because so many had no known grave. Like London, Hull built its own cenotaph to remember its war dead. It was erected at Paragon Square, Ferensway, to a design by T. Harold Hughes. Paid entirely through public donations, at a cost of £24,000, the Cenotaph was built by Quibell and Son (Hull), and unveiled on the 20th September 1924. The Hull Cenotaph is a simple, design, devoid of any representations of heroism and victory, or any religious symbolism. It provides a blank canvas for the viewer to project their own feelings of war. Hull's Cenotaph remains a successful design. Even today, it still evokes the eternal, human feelings, of death and loss. It bears the following inscription:-
ERECTED TO THE MEMORY OF THE MEN OF KINGSTON-UPON-HULL WHO LAID DOWN THEIR LIVES FOR THEIR COUNTRY IN THE GREAT WAR 1914-1918 AND IN THE WORLD WAR 1939-1945 THEIR NAME LIVETH FOR EVERMORE. In front, is the South African War Memorial (1899-1902) unveiled on 5th November 1904.
As a practical memorial to those who survived, Hull established the City of Hull Great War Trust, in 1918. It was funded through voluntary donations and used to help those wounded and disabled and the dependents of those lost in the war. The Great War Trust was a unique idea pioneered in Hull and helped men and women from all forces, including the fishing fleet and mercantile marine. The Trust distributed nearly £300,000 and assisted over 4,000 people before it was closed in 1983.
On the 16th October 1927, the Kingston Upon Hull War Memorial was unveiled at the French village of Oppy. This remembered the men of Kingston-upon-Hull and all local units who gave their lives in the Great War: Many of the casualties of 31st Division who died at Oppy were from the Hull area. The ground of which the memorial stands was donated by the Vicomte and Vicomtesse du Bouexic de la Driennays in memory of their 22 year old son Pierre, an NCO of the French 504th Tank Regiment who was killed in action at Guyencourt on 8 August 1918. It too is on the village square of Oppy.
(Pictures above include:the Bronze plaque of the Hull Technical college, Park Street: Hull Boys Club Memorial formerly at Roper Street; the marble Post Office memorial, St Peter's Square, Hull; Hull's Cenotaph memorial, Paragon Square, and the Hull Kingston Memorial, Oppy Wood, France.) For other memorials see the following link