Kingston upon Hull War Memorial 1914 - 1918

The story of Hull in World War One

Our Loss

A great many people from Hull lost their lives in World War 1. 

There are over a hundred families on the Hull Memorial that lost two or more of their family. Each was an individual tragedy.

What follows here are snippets about some of those people.

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.

Hull lost  61 Minesweeping trawlers on Admiralty service during the war. On average half the crew of a minesweeper were lost with the ship. By the end of the War, only 91 Hull owned ships were afloat, 9 of which had been built during the war. Hull lost nearly 1,200 merchant crewmen, another 267 Royal Navy sailors and 38 Royal Marines.The majority of these died at sea and have no known grave.

IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM GALLERIES AT THE CRYSTAL PALACE, 1920-1924To 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):

Before the war started there were already 142 trawlers in the Trawler Section of the RNR and 109 skippers enrolled. During the first week of the war in 1914, 94 trawlers were allocated for minesweeping duties and dispersed to priority areas, including Cromarty, the Firth of Forth, the Tyne, the Humber, Harwich, Sheerness,  Dover, Portsmouth, Portland and Plymouth. They were supplied with mine gear, rifles, uniforms and pay as the first minesweepers.They were commanded by naval officers, some from the retired list, who had received a brief training in minesweeping. Apart from the skippers, officers were also required to supplement the handful of naval officers of the existing minesweeping service. Most of the trained pre-war RNR and RNVR officers had already been called up for service in the Fleet. For the new minesweeping and auxiliary patrol flotillas, officers and civilians were obtained from the Merchant Navy and given temporary commissions in the RNR and RNVR. To bolster naval discipline, various Royal Fleet Reserve and pensioner petty officers were distributed among the vessels. 
In August 1914 the Royal Navy began to requisition more trawlers and adapt them for minesweeping duties, fitting them out with heavy guns, machine guns and depth charges. By the end of 1916 the Navy had requisitioned so many trawlers, and the war had such an impact on shipping, that the supply of fish to the UK was severely limited. New trawlers were also built. Between 1914 and 1918, 371 trawlers were built in the Humber shipyards and almost all of them were taken up by the Navy and used as minesweepers, submarine spotters and coastal patrol boats. Men were asked to volunteer for the new service, and many did so. The Humber area provided over 880 vessels and 9,000 men from the fishing industry to support the war effort. 
What are mines?
A mine is an explosive device left in the water to explode on contact with a ship or submarine. Mines were difficult to see and very effective once they had struck a target. The minesweepers had to ‘sweep’ the mines using wires, bring them to the surface then detonate them by firing on them. Moored mines only had a short length of chain shackled to them. The rest of the mooring was wire cable or even sisal rope in some cases; otherwise the mine could not support the weight of its mooring, particularly in deep water. This was the part of the mooring, that the sweep wire or any fitted cutter, was intended to sever. Sometimes gathering a group of mines together could lead to multiple explosions. A chain reaction could result in one massive detonation which would often sink the minesweeper. Minesweeping was therefore extremely dangerous work. It required 'nerve, skill and unremitting watchfulness', according to a journalist at the time.  
How did they 'sweep' mines?
Early mine sweeps simply comprised of chains towed over the seabed between two ships, or even by a single ship to drag mines and their moorings out of a channel. These were later replaced with serrated wire cables towed between two ships (Actaeon Sweep). Development of the Oropesa Sweep, with its divertors and depth-keeping kite, allowed sweeps to be towed by a single ship. Sweep wires were made from flexible, steel wire rope and streamed from each quarter of a minesweeper. The cables were laid right or left-handed according to the side streamed. This helped the wires achieve hydrodynamic lift and spread. A single strand in each wire was laid in the opposite direction to provide a serrated cutting effect. 

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 CompanyInitially 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

Postwar mine-clearing:
At the end of the war, Britain was one of 26 countries represented on an International Mine Clearance Committee, dedicated to clearing 40,000 square miles of sea of leftover mines. Several hundred thousand mines had been laid during the conflict by both sides. Each power was allotted an area to clear. The Mine Clearance Service was formed in 1919 and worked to clear Britain’s allocated area until it was disbanded the following year. By the time of the Armistice, the Trawler Reserve now consisted of 39,000 officers and men of whom 10,000 were employed in minesweepers and the rest in the auxiliary patrol. The 10 ex-torpedo gunboats available as minesweepers at the outbreak of the war had been replaced by purpose-built ships, including:
72 Flower Class single-screw fleet minesweeping sloops of the Acacia, Arabis and Azalea types,
107 Hunt Class and Improved Hunt (Aberdare) Class twin-screwed minesweepers,
24 'Class of 24' fleet sweeping sloops,
32 Ascot Class and Improved Ascot Class minesweeping paddle-steamers,
13 Grimsby Class general purpose sloops and
10 Dance Class 'Tunnel Tug' inshore minesweepers.
Total RN minesweeping forces included 762 ships stationed at 26 home ports and 35 foreign bases. 214 minesweepers had been lost during the four years and three months of the 1914-1918 war.



Hull's Railway men


In 1914, there were some 120 separate, railway companies in Britain. The North Eastern Railway (NER) had become one of Britain’s largest. When the Great War began, all these private railways came under Government control. Priority was given to moving  troops and materials for the war effort. Many little used stations were closed and normal passenger services were disrupted. Special express trains, like the 'Jellicoes' (named after the admiral of the fleet), were created to transport steam coal to the fleets. This meant extra work for the railways, not helped by losing men to the Front. Key railway jobs became 'reserved' occupations, excempt from military service and staff vacancies were filled by female workers.

The NER saw about a third of its staff enlist, with 18,339 railwaymen or 34% of the workforce, released for military service. Of these, 2,236 of these men died during the war, and 300 received military decorations.  With the large number of men joining the forces, the NER recruited large numbers of women to replace them. Before the war 1,470 women were employed by NER, mostly in clerical positions. By the end of the war, 7,885 females were employed by the NER, working as platform porters, clerks, warehouse workers, engine cleaners, carriage cleaners, motor bus conductresses, policewomen and in other rolesAt the time it was a shock to see women doing such work, and their attire also caused a stir; because skirts were not practical in an engine shed they wore trousers, something rarely seen before the war. 

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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 the NER 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 Hull

On St George's Day, 1915, the 17th (North Eastern Railway) Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers, held a sports day at King George Dock, Hull, with the men and Officers wearing red and white roses on their caps. Activities included the high jump, tug of war, hurdle race, hammer throwing, relay race and one mile race. B Company camefirst 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.


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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 Haughton Building was opened in 1914 to treat Hull's poorThe 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.

Reckitt's Hospital
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 1The 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.

Picture Gallery

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