Over, 7,000 Hull men died in the First World War. Nearly 1,200 of these were sailors working with the fishing fleet, or serving with the Merchantile Marine and the Royal Navy.
There were nearly another 1,500 men who were born in Hull, but who lived elsewhere. They include many who enlisted in Hull or were associated with the City, but are not usually remembered on Hull war memorials. The Kingston Upon Hull Memorial aims to remember all those with a Hull connection who died in the First World War.
There are over a hundred families on the Hull Memorial that lost two or more of their family. Sometimes fathers, sons and brothers were lost on the same day. At least one in six Hull families lost a direct relative. Many others would lose close friends, work colleagues or others known to them. Each death was irreplaceable and an individual tragedy for someone.
Unfortunately, not all deaths were recorded in official casualty figures, particularly if soldiers died of sickness, accidents or were discharged home with wounds. By 1924 the Ministry of Pensions reported that there were 20,000 war wounded living in Hull. Although they survived the war, they are rarely recorded on war memorials. What follows here are snippets of some of those people who died.
Hull's Minesweeping war
Due to its coastal location many men joined the Navy in its many forms. As a City with long standing maritime history, Hull men served throughout the world in the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Naval Reserve, Merchant Service and the Hull Fishing Feet. 14,000 merchant seamen were to die in the war, over a thousand of these were from Hull. 4,000 of these sailors died in just 3 months during 1917, when the German U Boat attacks peaked.
To add to the tragedy, there was little compensation for a sailor's family. Sailors pay stopped when their ship sank, and usually only paid if they died with the ship. Sailors who left their ship in life boats were deemed to have discharged themselves from duty and often had their sea pay docked.
At the end of the First World War, Lord Jellico declared that the Royal Navy had saved the Empire, but it was the fishermen in their boats who had saved the Royal Navy. The Royal Naval Reserve of fishermen was "a Navy within the Navy". They swept mines, escorted convoys, hunted U-boats and carried out countless dangerous duties. While often overlooked by Admiralty officials, there contribution was at least recognized by Admiral Sir Reginald Bacon who said; ‘It is doubtful if we could have defeated the Germans, at any rate as quickly as we did defeat them, if it had not been for the assistance which the Royal Navy received from the fishing community.’
Hull ships and crews therefore played a major part in that victory. The ongoing peril of unexploded sea mines continued to take the lives of Hull fisherman, long after the war had ended. For example, the Hull Trawler ‘Gitano’ struck a mine and was sunk with all hands on the 23rd December 1918. The Hull Trawler ’Scotland’ struck a mine on the 13th March 1919, killing 7 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.
Illustrations of life on board a trawler - "In the Wheelhouse, Mail Day, playing cards, cleaning guns, the Galley cook, the stoker, the radio officer,slipping the "kite" which controls the mine sweeping depth."
Dangerous work for fishing trawlers used as minesweepers
When the Royal Naval Reserve (RNR) was first created in 1859, it consisted of up to 30,000 merchant seamen and fisherman who the Navy could call on in times of crisis. Fishing trawlers were strong, sturdy ships, designed to withstand severe weather conditions out at sea, and in 1907 the Commander-in-Chief of the Home Fleet, Admiral Lord Beresford, recognised that trawlers could be used as minesweepers. His recommendation led to the formation of the Royal Naval Reserve (Trawler Section) in 1910, with approval to mobilise 100 trawlers during any crisis period and enrol 1,000 men to man them. It also introduced a new rank, that of 'Skipper' RNR, into the Navy List. By the end of 1911, 53 skippers had joined. In 1912 a further 25 enrolled and the Trawler Section of the Royal Naval Reserve, consisted of 142 trawlers manned by 1,279 personnel. 31 more skippers joined before the war started in August 1914, making a total of 109 skippers. Another 315 more volunteered by the end of the first week in October. By the end of 1915 the Minesweeping Service employed 7,888 officers and men.
The Royal Naval Reserve (Trawler Section):
The 'Paravane', a form of towed underwater "glider", was developed from 1914–16 by Commander Usborne and LieutenantC. Dennistoun Burney, funded by Sir George White, founder of the Bristol Aeroplane Company. Initially developed to destroy naval mines, the paravane would be strung out and streamed alongside the towing ship, normally from the bow.The wings of the paravane would tend to force the body away from the towing ship, placing a lateral tension on the towing wire. If the tow cable snagged the cable anchoring a mine then the anchoring cable would be cut, allowing the mine to float to the surface where it could be destroyed by gunfire. If the anchor cable would not part, the mine and the paravane would be brought together and the mine would explode harmlessly against the paravane. The cable could then be retrieved and a replacement paravane fitted. Burney explosive paravanes were deployed from torpedo boat destroyers in a configuration known as the 'High Speed Sweep' to counter submarines. However, most paravanes were non-explosive and were streamed by larger warships and merchant ships as self-defence measures to divert moored mines away from their hulls. They comprised a wire streamed to each side from the bows with a float secured to the end to divert it outwards
Hull's Railway men
The Railway Pals
The 17th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers (Railway Pals) were formed in Hull, by the North Eastern Railway, in September 1914. The Officers of Battalion were stationed on the SS 'Rievaulx Abbey', alongside the King George V Dock. The men were housed and trained in the nearby warehouses, along the King George V dock.
On 16 December 1914, just four months from the outbreak of war, the North Eastern Railway came under attack from the Imperial German Navy during the Bombardment of Whitby, Scarborough and Hartlepool, resulting in damage to North Eastern Railway buildings, track and rolling stock, and resulting in the deaths of two members of staff. There were also Zeppelin raids at Goole, York and Hull. The NER formed special fire brigades as part of the air raid defences at twenty-seven different locations, and also provided air raid shelters for both company staff and the general public, including using arches under railway lines at .
On St George's Day, 1915, the 17th () Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers, held a sports day at King George Dock, , with the men and Officers wearing red and white roses on their caps. Activities included the high jump, tug of , hurdle race, hammer throwing, relay race and one mile race. B Company came at the end of the day with 21 points, C Company coming second with 17 points.
As the 17th Northumberland Fusiliers were well acquainted with working the railways, it became an important Pioneer Battalion in January 1915. In June 1915, the battalion moved to Catterick, where it joined 32nd Division, as the divisional pioneer battalion. The division embarked for France in November 1915 and the next six months were spent in the Somme sector around Albert, Bouzincourt and Meaulte. The battalion took part in the opening battle of the Somme at Thiepval. In October 1916, it left the division and joined GHQ Railway Construction Troops until the end of August 1917. It then rejoined the division at Nieuport on the North Sea coast for a couple of months before again joining the Railway Troops. In May 1918 the battalion was transferred to the 52nd (Lowland) Division, which had just arrived on the Western Front from Palestine, and remained with it as Pioneer Battalion to the end of the war. Below are some Hull Railway men stories from the local press.
Many thanks to Glen Hopkins for the contributions above and his work on the NER Railways in WW1
Hull's WW1 Hospitals
Hull Royal Infirmary Naval Hospital
The first hospital organised by Lady Nunburnholme was the Naval Hospital at the Hull Royal Infirmary, located at Argyle Street. Originally opened in 1914, to help Hull's poor and sick people from the nearby Workhouse, she persuaded the Board of Guardians to donate the East and West wings of the hospital to help frontline casualties arriving at nearby Paragon Station on special ambulance trains. In April 1917, it became a naval hospital for injured sailors. The Naval hospital was equipped by Lady Nunburnholme and Lord Glenconner and staffed by trained Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) nurses. It had 220 beds and was initially used as a military hospital for the sick from the Humber Garrisons, but by early 1917 had been entirely taken over by the Navy, receiving a weekly Royal Navy Ambulance Train. (The hospital was being used up to 2008 and was demolished in 2017.)
Lady Sykes Hospital
This was equipped by the late Sir Mark and Lady Sykes and based in the Metropole Hall, West Street in Hull. Staffed by trained VAD helpers this hospital transferred to France. It returned to Hull after the war and closed in January 1919.
The Reckitt's company converted its social hall into a factory hospital. It was Hull's third hospital with 45 beds, organised and financed by Mr and Mrs P Reckitt. This VAD run hospital opened on the 9th December 1914 and closed in January 1919. In the 4 years and 3 months that it was open, the Reckitt's hospital treated 2,910 patients. Colonel Tatham from the Humber Garrison Medical Service wrote; "the patients who have been there, greatly appreciate the care and kindness bestowed upon them. Many of them have told me, that they were so looked after and received so many little extras and kindnesses, that Reckitts was the hospital that men wished to get into if they could." Sir James Reckitt also billeted a large number of soldiers in their grounds and offered to house a large number of Belgian refugees.
St Johns Voluntary Aid Detachment Hospital
This hospital was based at the Newland School for Girls on Cottingham Road. It was staffed by Voluntary Aid Deatachment (VAD) nurses and opened by Field Marshall French in April 1917. It was run by Lady Nunburnholme and one of the largest hospitals in the country. It was also highly regarded by many military and Naval Authorities. The VAD's of Hull also gave First Aid in different parts of the City.
'Brookland's Officers Hospital'
This is now the 'Dennison Centre' on Cottingham Road, and opened in early 1917. This hospital was run by the East Riding Branch of the Red Cross society and was commanded by Mrs Strickland Constable. JRR Tolkein spent 18 months there convalscing from 'trench fever'. It is said that he was inspired by the surroundings to later write 'The Lord of the Rings'. These military hospitals were manned and operated by the Royal Army Medical Corps and Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service, supplemented by voluntary workers from a number of organizations, including the Voluntary Aid Detachments, Red Cross, St John's Ambulance and YMCA.
In addition, other great work was done in Hull by local oranisations, charities and trade unions. The 'Blind Institute' on Beverley Road was used to rehabilitate those with sight impairments. The De La Pole hospital at Castle Hill cared for 'shell shock' victims. Peel House, at No: 150 Spring Bank, became a centre for 'Hull's Prisoner of War Fund', producing 130,000, life saving, 'Red Cross' parcels, for prisoners of war. The Freehold Street Bread Fund raised a substantial amount of money to provide bread for these prisoners. Hull's Seaman's Union also sent parcels, as well as providing money, clothes and coal for those in need at home. The Hull District War Refugee's Committee, for Belgian Refugees, was set up on the 7th September 1914, at Bowalley Lane, Hull. Of its 500 volunteer helpers, 400 were women aiding a total of 1,200 refugees.
It is most appropriate to mention the fine work of Dr. Mary Murdoch, the first women medical practitioner to work in Hull. She had been connected with the Victoria Hospital for Sick Children in Park Street, since 1892. and had done much to promote the health and welfare of women and children in Hull. In 1910 Mary Murdoch became a Senior Physician, Hull's first GP, and served as a medical representative on a number of Health Commitees. She worked tirelessly to help the sick and wounded since the outbreak of the war. Unfortunately, Dr Mary Murdoch died after a short illness in March 1916. She had escaped a Zeppelin air raid, by running in the snow and was to catch a chill which became fatal. She had raised £250 to reopen the babies hospital at the Victoria hospital in Park Street, and after her death left £962 to the same cause and endow a cot in her name.
WWI helped hasten medical advances. Physicians learned better wound management and the setting of bones. Harold Gillies, an English doctor, pioneered skin graft surgery. Geoffrey Keynes, a surgeon from Britain, designed a portable blood transfusion kit. It saved thousands of lives during World War 1. The huge scale of those who needed medical care in WWI helped teach physicians and nurses the advantages of specialization and professional management. 'X' rays were used by the military for the first time during the war. Blood transfusions became routine to save soldiers, with the first blood bank established on the front line in 1917.
The Kingston upon Hull Memorial remembers the 7,500 men from Hull, who died in the First World War.
This 'digital' memorial lists all the Hull men who died in the First World War and where they lived in the City. It has taken 30 years to research and is the definitive database of Hull casualties in World War One. You can search the memorial by name, rank, regiment, age, date of death, place of burial, and home address. All names are linked to a 'Street Memorial', and a satellite map which shows the street where they lived. Every day the site will show the names of the Hull men, who died in the First World War, on this day.
It remembers over 7,000 Hull men that died in the War, who were born in Hull, lived in Hull and were buried in the City. It also includes details of another 2,000 men who died from nearby towns and villages that enlisted in Hull, or were associated with the City. It records the names of oversea sailors, lost on Hull ships, so that their sacrifice is remembered too. There is also a full list of all Hull's civilian casualties, killed in Zeppelin air raids, during the First World War.
The Hull Memorial is inter active. You can search for Hull relatives lost in the 'Great War', or find out who died from your Street in Hull. Discover Hull in the First World War, or learn more about the Great War itself. Also, add your own family stories and photographs, to make the Hull Memorial comprehensive, interesting and up to date. The Hull Memorial is 'on line', accessible and free to use. It belongs to the people of Hull.
Hull in the First World War
During 1914 -18, Hull citizens joined up in large numbers. Over 75,000 people served, and some 30% were to become casualties. Hull raised four 'Pal' Battalions for the East Yorkshire Regiment, which was more than many other larger Cities. It formed an additional 5th 'Cyclist' Battalion, and a Railway 'Pals' Battalion, known as the 17th Northumberland Fusiliers. Hull created other voluntary reserve Units, which the City paid for and equipped itself. It was one of the first to develop an Anti Aircraft unit and had its own Army Service Corp.
Hull supplied Britain with modern trawlers and skillful mariners to safeguard the seas. The City at a time of severe shortages built a remarkable 40 ships during the war, and supplied the nation with vital food and raw materials. Hull lost nearly 130 ships and over 1,200 sailors during the First World War.
Hull created a unique force of 3,000 'Special Constables', to guard the City and its ports. Hull was known as the 'Home to Blighty', receiving some 80,000 repatriated Prisoners of War through its ports. Hull established medical units and new hospitals, and had one of Britain's most successful Recruiting Offices, at Hull City Hall. Hull formed a Special Garrison of Artillery, made up of local Policemen, to specifically guard the Humber Estuary. The City suffered eight bombing raids by enemy Zeppelins and was home to the British Spy, Max Schultz.
As the war ended, Hull established a unique charity, known as the 'Great War Civic Trust'. This helped Hull's 20,000 wounded and their dependents for the next 65 years. Hull adapted its industries and workforce to help win the war. Hull women proved indispensable in maintaining home life, in the face of great hardship and tragedy.
Hull has a unique story to tell during the First World War. It is time to remember Hull's history, 100 years on from the start of World War One, and as Hull becomes the City of Culture in 2017.
This website is constantly under development.
Troops of the 10th (Service) Battalion (1st Hull), East Yorkshire Regiment marching to the trenches near Doullens, 28June 1916.
The 12th Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment (92nd Brigade, 31st Division), in the line in the Arleux sector, near Roclincourt, 9 January 1918.
Pictures courtesy of the Imperial War Museum Collection
Recently discovered German photographs courtesy of the Daily Mail 8/3/2014 - http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2576335/How-Germany-crucified-Hidden-100-years-astonishing-images-German-soldiers-haunted-spectre-defeat-paying-ultimate-price-captured-camera-one-brothers-arms.html