A separate, but related event of the First World War was the Great 1918 influenza pandemic . This virulent new strain of the flu was first observed in the United States and was misleadingly known as the "Spanish flu". It was accidentally carried to Europe by infected American troops with 25% of Americans contracting the influenza virus. The disease spread rapidly through continental America, Canada and Europe, and eventually reached around the globe, partially because many people were weakened and exhausted by the famines of the World War. The exact number of deaths is unknown, but about 50 -100 million people are estimated to have died from the influenza outbreak worldwide.
The first cases of the influenza epidemic in Britain, appeared in Glasgow, in May 1918. It soon spread to other towns and cities and during the next few months the virus killed 228,000 people in Britain. This was the highest mortality rate for any epidemic since the outbreak of cholera in 1849.
In Britain desperate methods were used to prevent the spread of the disease. Streets were sprayed with chemicals and people started wearing anti-germ masks. Some factories changed their no-smoking rules under the mistaken impression that tobacco fumes could kill the virus. Others believed that eating plenty of porridge would protect you from this killer disease. However, despite valiant attempts, all treatments devised to cope with this new strain of influenza were completely ineffectual.
In Hull, the outbreak began during the last week of June and lasted for almost a year. During the period June 1918, to May 1919, a total of 1,261 deaths were recorded as being due to influenza, whilst deaths ascribed to pneumonia and bronchitis were considerably above the average for the previous ten years, The peak of the epidemic was in October and November 1918, when over a five week period, 684 flu deaths were recorded.
The Influenza epidemic of 1918 particularly affected those between the ages of 20 -35. Many men who had survived the horrors of fighting were to die in large numbers as the war ended from flu. The Hull Memorial contains the name of many influenza victims.
Pte, Clarence Bilbe, 10th EYR, had served in Egypt and on the Western Front when he died on flu on the 15th November 1918. He was 21 and lived with his parents at 131 Fountain Road.
Pte, George Robert Mitchell, died of flu on the 4th November 1918 aged only 19. He lived with his mother Minnie Gibson at 1 Bean Street, Hull.
Company Sergeant Major, Kelly, of the 11th East Yorkshires, was discharged on the 16th February 1919. He died four days later of flu, in Hull Royal Infirmary, on the 23rd February 1919. He had enlisted in September 1914 and served throughout the war. He left his sisters at 67 Lee Smith Street, and is buried at Hedon Road cemetery.
Henry Binks, who had survived France for three and half years as a Driver in the Royal Field Artillery, died of influenza in France on the last day of the war. He is one of at least eight Hull who men died on the 11th November 1918, the day the war ended.
Driver, John Leonard Jipson, served with the Royal Field Artillery, in France, from 1914. After three years and five months of active service, he was taken ill and died of influenza at home on 16th February 1919. He left his parents John & Alice, and his wife Ann who he married in 1918. He is listed on the Cottingham War Memorial and was 29 years old when he died of flu.
Gunner, Harry Nock was a professional soldier. He had served in the Royal Field Artillery for 18 years before dying on the 20th November 1918, aged 34. He lived at 78 St Marks Street and is commemorated on the Dansom Street memorial.
Pte, John Mann, one of the original Hull Pals who had served throughout the campaigns in Egypt and France, died of pneumonia following wounds on the 16th November 1918. He was 26 years old and the son of James and Sarah Mann who lived at 97 Arundle Street.