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1916: Ossett - The Big Push

Ossett: January 1916

Some two and a half million men attested their willingness to serve under the Derby scheme and among them were 65% of the eligible males in Ossett. They did so on the understanding that no attested married men would be called up until all the single men had been taken. When bachelors began to be summoned from the end of 1915 many of the Ossett men appealed for a postponement of military service. Their appeals were heard by a local tribunal chaired by the Mayor and composed of representatives of the Corporation, the Chamber of Commerce, the Trades and Labour Council and the military.

Aeroplane RecognitionAs an attempt to save the voluntary system of recruitment, the Derby scheme was a failure. Without the conscription of single men it was impossible to honour the promise to married men and Parliament therefore approved the Military Service Bill which introduced conscription for unmarried men aged between 18 and 41. Many Liberals were uneasy about a measure which offended their ideas of individual liberty. Among them was Mr J.A. Rusby, Secretary of the Ossett Liberal Club, who was afraid that conscription would foster militarism in the country. Militarism, particularly Prussian militarism, was, of course, widely regarded in Britain as one of the causes of the war. Fear of militarism was also why some members of the local labour movement were opposed to conscription. Ossett’s branch of the Textile Workers’ Union condemned it because as it believed one of the Act’s aims was the imposition of military control on industry. The branch also opposed conscription on the grounds that it led to a ‘cheapening’ of soldiers. In other words, it reduced the need to increase soldiers’ pay.

The continuing threat of Zeppelin attacks on Britain led to more severe lighting restrictions being imposed on Ossett. One of those who saw no need for the measures was Councillor Stead. His view was that not only were they unnecessary, but they would have ‘a most depressing effect on the public generally, and especially on the feebler sex.’ The new restrictions caused a rush for blinds and led to problems for mills, churches and chapels with large windows to blackout. As a result a number of places of worship suspended their Sunday evening services, while others started to hold them in their Sunday schools. According to the Wakefield Express’ the new measures were effective: ‘After dark the town looks dead, no light being visible from any of the shops and only about 13 lamps being alight in all the town’. To the annoyance of the townspeople, the regulations were not enforced as strictly in Batley and Dewsbury and as for Horbury, in the words of the ‘Ossett Observer’, its lights ‘sparkled back in mockery’ to Ossett.

When at the beginning of the month intercessory services were held in the town’s churches and chapels there was a civic procession from the Town Hall to Holy Trinity. Led by the Mayor, it was made up of members of the Corporation, the Town Clerk, the police and special constables, the Volunteers and representatives of public bodies. At Holy Trinity the congregation heard the Reverend Burlingham say it would have been wrong for Britain to have remained neutral and that God wanted the British to crush Prussian militarism which was a menace to Christianity. He went on to urge his listeners to pray for their enemies as Britain’s aim was not to annihilate the German people.

Ossett: February 1916

Although the Military Service Act came into force in February, men continued to be called up under the Derby scheme. A reporter from the ‘Observer’’ attended one of the sessions of the Local Tribunal at the Town Hall. Twenty-two claims for a postponement of service under the scheme were dealt with in 2½ hours in what the journalist described as an ‘informal’ and ‘courteous’ manner.

The continuing threat from Zeppelins led to more air raid precautions. An advertisement in the ‘Ossett Observer’ warned the townspeople that if enemy aircraft were in the region gas lights would be dimmed for 10 minutes, while if aircraft were close to the town lights would be dimmed until 8 o’clock the following morning. When lights were dimmed all outside lighting was to be extinguished.

The uneven application of lighting restrictions in the district was still a grievance in the town. Speaking at a meeting of Ossett Tradesmen’s Association its Secretary, Mr T.V. Crashaw, said that local shopkeepers had willingly tried to comply with the rules, but found it hard that neighbouring towns were better lit than they were. This grievance was removed when later in the month uniform lighting regulations were applied across the West Riding.

Another irritation for some townspeople was the restriction of licensing hours. For members of the South Ossett Working Men’s Club it was an ‘arbitrary’ measure that no government would have dared to impose in normal times. However, as a local policeman, Superintendant Barraclough admitted, so many officers had enlisted that it was hard to enforce the law properly.

Fund raising activities for the war included a whist drive at the Town Hall in aid of the Ossett Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Fund and a flag day for Serbia. Seventy pounds was raised on a cold and damp Saturday for Serbian refugees by Ossett’s lady flag sellers. The Serbian Relief Fund also received a donation of 10 guineas from the Chamber of Commerce. However, at its monthly meeting the Chamber concentrated not on the war but on the competitive position of British industry in the post-war world. Mr B.P. Wilson wanted businesses to employ more technologists, while Mr J.H. Gibson thought they should worry more about improving education and less about protective tariffs.

The Trades and Labour Council also turned its attention to the post-war world when it discussed wages. Traditionally women in industry had been paid less than men, but the substitution of female for male labour during the war had raised the question of whether women doing men’s jobs should receive the same wage as men. At the Trades and Labour Council meeting Mr W. France insisted that women doing men’s work during the war should have wage parity with them. This was not, it seems, because he believed in equal pay for equal work as a principle. Rather he wanted to avoid wage disputes when men reclaimed their jobs from women when peace returned.

Ossett: March 1916

Under the terms of the Military Service Act men could appeal to their local tribunals for absolute or conditional exemption from conscription on conscientious grounds. This was a concession to those, Liberal and Labour, who had opposed conscription as a breach of civil liberties. During the war most of those who appealed on conscientious grounds were unsuccessful. Some objectors agreed to do non-combatant work, usually with ambulance units. Others refused to aid the war effort in any way. These absolutists were drafted into the army and, if they refused to obey orders, they were court martialled and imprisoned.

Military TribunalOssett’s Local Tribunal seems to have begun hearing the cases of conscientious objectors in March. The local newspaper reported them in some detail, although it did not publish the names of the men involved. One case involved a member of the Society of Friends who was allotted to non-combatant duties. A rag merchant argued that as war was against Christ’s teaching he could not even serve as a stretcher bearer. Asked if he would supply rags for making khaki he replied ‘Yes, that’s business. I do it for bread and butter’. His claim was rejected, but when he took his case to the Appeals Tribunal in Dewsbury he agreed that he could be a stretcher bearer and was placed on the non-combatant list.

The Local Tribunal was discussed by the Trades and Labour Council when it considered a letter from the National Council against Conscription, later called the National Council for Civil Liberties. The letter urged it not only to monitor the Tribunal but also to offer advice to those making appeals. The Council decided not to take any action as workers’ interests were protected locally by its representatives on the Ossett and Horbury Tribunals.

Men who were reluctant to volunteer, and conscientious objectors, were regarded with contempt by some people. Among them was an Ossett soldier, Lance Corporal Willett of the 1st/4th KOYLI. In a letter published in the ‘Observer’ he said that men who refused to their duty should have to wear a special uniform once they were in the army and then be compelled to emigrate after the war.

Ossett’s air raid precautions were tested one Sunday evening when news reached the town that Zeppelins were approaching the Yorkshire coast. The special constables were called out and the church bells and the Town Hall’s chimes were silenced. However, it took so long for the alert to reach the gasworks that there was a long delay before lights were dimmed. Meanwhile the local electricity supply was cut off stranding tramcars on the tracks. Fortunately the Zeppelins did not visit the town.

Mr B.P. Wilson, Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, caused a controversy when he claimed that absenteeism among coal miners was leading to fuel shortages. His arguments were challenged by Councillor T.J. Peace, a check weighman at Roundwood Colliery. Peace claimed that Wilson had failed to take account of the fact that absenteeism figures included the sick and injured. He also pointed out that many of the younger miners had enlisted and that the older miners who were left were not fit enough to work every day.

There was the prospect of food shortages as many farm workers were joining the armed forces. As part of a campaign to persuade women to take up agricultural work Catherine Milnes Gaskell of Thornes House wrote to the ‘Observer’ asking for women volunteers to canvas for females willing to work on farms. She also asked for the names of ladies and gentlemen who were willingly to allow their bailiffs and gardeners to instruct women in farm and gardening work.

Ossett: April 1916

In February the Grammar School had lost two members of staff to the army and the prospect of losing more encouraged the Borough Council’s Grammar School Committee to consider an application to the Board of Education for total exemption from military service for the head teacher, Mr Mayo, and the science master, Mr Ives. Although Councillor Archer declared that it was ‘an insult to Englishmen to have the resolution before them’, the proposal was approved for submission to the Council.

At least one of the ‘Observer’s’ readers thought the Committee had exceeded its powers by passing the resolution. Stephen Atkinson of Arncliffe, Wesley Street, wrote to the paper to say that the Committee had no right to take upon itself the power of Ossett’s Local Tribunal which was perfectly capable of dealing with the matter.

Lance Corporal Willett’s letter criticising men who avoided doing their duty clearly upset some people and he wrote to the ‘Observer’ to clarify his position. He conceded that not all eligible men were free to enlist. Some were doing work of national importance while others were prevented by family circumstances. Nevertheless, he said, there were many conscientious objectors before the tribunals who were only intent on ‘saving their own skins’. He went on to remind his readers of the parable of the Good Samaritan and pointed out there were branches of the army, such as the RAMC, where conscientious objectors could serve without being called on to take life.

Whereas Corporal Willett criticised some of those who failed to serve in uniform, the Reverend Hugh Jenkins celebrated the heroism of the young men from the churches and chapels who had volunteered to fight their country’s battles. Preaching at the Green Congregational Church, the Batley minister said they had been inspired by the lofty ideals they had learned in their Sunday schools and places of worship. He went on to contrast the situation of the churches in Britain with the position of their counterparts in Germany. In Britain the churches had been free to preach world peace, while in Germany the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches had ‘to knuckle down to the supremacy of the Kaiser’ and no preacher dared ‘call his soul his own’.

Although there were no air raid alerts in Ossett during the month, the lighting regulations continued to be enforced. One of those who failed to follow instructions was Frank Fearnside of Station Road who appeared in court accused of breaking the Lights Order at his home. Fortunately for him, he was not convicted but he did have to pay costs of the legal action.

Rising rents were discussed at the monthly meeting of the Trades and Labour Council. As most of Ossett’s workers rented rather than owned their homes, this was an important issue. However, increased rents were not just a problem in Ossett and a rent strike in Glasgow at the end of 1915 had led to the passage of a Rent and Mortgage Interest Act which had fixed rents at their 1914 level. Obviously its provisions were not enough to completely protect Ossett tenants against rent increases and the Council returned to the topic in May.

Ossett: May 1916

When the Borough Council considered applying for exemption from military service for Mr. Mayo and Mr. Ives, Parliament had approved the extension of conscription to married men in the wake of the Easter Rising in Dublin. This may have coloured the Council’s discussion of the case of the two teachers. Councillor Archer, for instance, argued it was wrong to make the request at such a "critical time in the empire’s history." Another objection was raised by Councillor Peace when he pointed out there were women with the necessary qualifications to take over from male teachers. Eventually, swayed by such arguments, the Council voted to reject the Grammar School Committee’s recommendation.

The "Ossett Observer" regarded the Council’s decision as "stupid." It believed the two men were more valuable as teachers than as army clerks and pointed out that Mayo and Ives had been put in a very difficult situation: they could not appeal to the Local Tribunal because most of its members were on the Grammar School Committee and they could not appeal to the Board of Education as only local authorities were able to do so. The paper also noted that one councillor who opposed applying for exemption for the teachers had applied for the same thing for a cattle drover.

Exemption from military service for trade union officials was among the topics raised at the meeting of the Trades and Labour Council. William France spoke in favour of exempting such men because employers might try to weaken the labour movement by getting rid of its officials into the army. The Council approved a resolution calling for trade union officials to be exempted from military service as they did important work.

Among the appeals heard by Ossett’s Local Tribunal was one from a dairyman on behalf of his son who worked as his cowman and milker. The Tribunal granted the young man exemption until the 1st August and it was suggested his father apply to the Labour Exchange for women workers to take his place.

Appeals against the Ossett’s Tribunal’s decisions were heard by a Tribunal meeting at Dewsbury. One appellant was a 22 year-old colliery blacksmith’s labourer, a member of the International Bible Students, whose conscientious objections to service had been dismissed by the Ossett Tribunal in March. On that occasion William France, the Trade and Labour Council’s representative on the Tribunal, had argued that the labourer was not a bona fide non-resister as he knew nothing about Leo Tolstoy, who he regarded as the father of the pacifist movement. The young man was no more successful in Dewsbury than in Ossett as the Appeals Tribunal confirmed the original decision.

The increased demand for chemicals for the munitions industry led to Lloyd George’s Ministry of Munitions requesting the Corporation to build a benzol extraction plant at the gas works. It also led to the formation of a new local company, Burrows (Chemicals) Limited, which planned to carry on business at Victoria Mill.

With the British Empire under threat the celebration of Empire Day took on a new significance. The town’s Education Committee decided that each school should have a ‘patriotic demonstration’ in which the children saluted the flag and sang patriotic songs. The stated aim was to teach them what the British Empire stood for and what they stood for in the empire. The day proved to be popular with children, although for the half-holiday following the celebrations rather than for the flag waving.

Ossett: June 1916

By the end of the month the Ossett Tribunal had dealt with over 600 men who wanted exemption, either permanent or temporary, from military service. Among them was Newman Tolson, a Chickenley Heath mill hand and a member of the Christadelphian Church, who appealed unsuccessfully against military service as a conscientious objector. Determined not to give in, he ignored instructions to report for military service and was arrested. When Tolson appeared in court in Ossett he was fined £2 which was to be deducted from his army pay and remanded to wait for a military escort. He remained defiant, saying the fine would never be paid as he would never draw his army pay.

As part of the preparations for the Somme offensive, the government requested the postponement of the Whitsun holidays. In Ossett the Corporation’s staff, including teachers, worked over the holiday period, although the local mills took the usual two days off while the miners took one day off. The ‘Observer’ noted that the town was one of the few places where the government’s request to delay the holiday was disregarded.

In his annual report to the Corporation the manager of the gas works remarked that partly because of lighting restrictions gas output had fallen and with it the production of by-products used to make explosives. He called on the townspeople to use gas for cooking, boiling and heating especially as gas was more economic than coal.

The Corporation’s Education Committee turned its attention to naval matters following the Battle of Jutland. Responding to a suggestion from the Navy League, it recommended that local schools should, as far as possible, teach the main outlines of British naval history and the importance of British sea power. At its meeting the Committee also dealt with pupil absenteeism from school. Two members of the Committee, Alderman Nettleton and Councillor Marsden, showed some sympathy with the absentees. Marsden said it was difficult to enforce a leaving age of 14 when some children had learned all they were going to learn by the age of 12, while Nettleton felt it was beneficial if men could be freed for military service by children taking their jobs. Nevertheless the Committee decided to prosecute four parents for the non-attendance of their children at school.

One of the Council’s schools, Southdale, made two newsworthy contributions to the war effort. It performed a patriotic pageant at the Town Hall which raised £32 for a fund for wounded servicemen and then, again at the Town Hall, it provided an entertainment in for wounded soldiers who were being treated in Wakefield.

When the Volunteers held a church parade at Holy Trinity they heard the Reverend Burlingham condemn pre-war materialism, intemperance and immorality. He said the only hope of a better state of things was a return to God.

Ossett: July 1916

With the beginning of the Battle of the Somme on the 1st July, the number of local casualties reported in the "Ossett Observer" increased. At the end of the first week of fighting two deaths were reported, at the end of the second 11 and at the end of third three. More fortunate than these soldiers was Private Jeff Krake, one of Ossett’s Belgian refugees, who was awarded his country’s Croix-de-Guerre after being wounded on the Western Front. Krake was the son-in-law of Mr Ivie Willett, caretaker of the Town Hall.

A trophy of a British success in 1915 was brought from Wakefield to Ossett on a motor lorry and displayed for a fortnight. Placed in front of the Town Hall, the German 77mm field gun had been captured at Loos the previous September. Among the many appeals heard by the Ossett Military Service Tribunal was one from a conscientious objector, a 38 year old woollen rag merchant, Joseph Megson, who argued that military laws were not in accord with the laws of God. The Tribunal was not convinced by his case and rejected his appeal. One member, William France, suggested he could not be a true conscientious objector as he had never heard of the famous pacifist Count Tolstoy. Another Ossett man who did not want to fight was George Richardson, a farm labourer. When he appeared in Wakefield City Court charged with being absent from the K.O.Y.L.I. depot he exclaimed: "I don’t want to be a soldier at all."

The Reverend J. Gomer Williams, the minister at the Green Congregational Church, presided over a public meeting at the Temperance Hall to promote prohibition in Britain during war and for 6 months after. The meeting, which was attended by representatives of local churches and temperance organisations, decided to arrange a house to house canvas to win support for the proposal on grounds that alcoholic drinks were a "most dangerous enemy of national efficiency, health and economy." To further publicise the campaign open air meetings in favour of prohibition were also held in the Market Place.

At the monthly meeting of the Trades and Labour Council a request for support from the Peace Negotiation Committee was discussed. As its name suggests, the Committee was in favour of peace through negotiation rather than peace through military victory, a minority view in the country. At the meeting William France said the military spirit of Germany had to be broken, if not the war would have been in vain. Councillor Peace opposed to offering Germany terms until she was laid low as a military and economic power. He argued that "if left with a large number of men to go back to industry" the Germans "would only drink to the day when they had produced sufficient children to continue the war." The Council decided not offer its support to the Peace Negotiation Committee.

A new tar plant, which had cost £550, was opened at the municipal gas works at Healey. It enabled toluol and benzol, both of which were used in explosives, to be extracted from the plant’s by-products.

Among the films shown at the Palladium was ‘For the Empire’, a government film showing the part played by money in the war.

Ossett: August 1916

The second anniversary of the outbreak of the war was marked by commemorative and intercessionary services in the town’s places of worship. Among the activities of the local Volunteers was a sham fight at Lindle Hill. The ever mounting cost of the conflict led to the launch of a national savings campaign. In Ossett a public meeting about war savings, chaired by the Mayor, Alderman G.F. Wilson, was held in the Town Hall. Although it was well publicised, only 25-30 people attended. They were told that lending to the government would put war finance on a sound basis and would enable lenders to pay the heavy taxation which would be a feature of peace time Britain. At the end of the meeting those present constituted themselves the town’s War Savings Committee under the Mayor’s chairmanship.

The war savings campaign was not the only one taking place in Ossett. The local temperance movement continued its drive for prohibition in Britain, persuading 1,071 adults in the town to sign its petition. Ultimately, however, the campaign was a failure as prohibition was not adopted.

While the British and French were fighting on the Somme and at Verdun, their Russian allies were engaged in what was to be the imperial army’s last great offensive. In Ossett the sale 8,000 flags on a fund raising day for Russia realised £42 2s. Russia was one of the topics discussed at the meeting of the Trades and Labour Council. A Russian Socialist group based in London requested the support of British trade unionists in preventing the repatriation of Russian political exiles to fight in the Tsar’s army where they might have been the victims of "barbarous cruelties."

Councillor Sowden was unsympathetic. He argued that all allied subjects of military age should take part in the war either in the British or allied armies and he saw no reason why British workers should be forced to go while Belgian and Russian refugees remained in the country. William France was more understanding, pointing out that most Russian exiles were in the country because they had committed political acts which were not a crime in Britain. However, another member suggested that many of them were unwilling to fight either in the Russian or the British armies. The Council decided to take no action.

The Trades and Labour Council also considered a letter from the National Council for Civil Liberties in which it was argued that with the passage the Military Service Act there was a threat to democratic institutions. Mr France agreed with the claim, saying that whenever the military got the upper hand civil liberties were curtailed. He went on to state that if the curtailment civil liberties had come to stay, he would advocate passive resistance. When war over they would have to fight hard to get back what had surrendered without a murmur during the conflict. He did not think, however, it was necessary to accept the offer of a speaker at that moment and his colleagues agreed.

Joseph Megson appealed against the Ossett Tribunal’s decision not to class him as a conscientious objector, but his case was unanimously rejected by the Appeals Tribunal in Dewsbury. The Ossett Tribunal reported that Megson’s objections were not bona fide and that he had evaded almost all the questions put to him.

Although the price of the "Ossett Observer" was increased from 1d to 1½d because of the rise in the cost of newsprint, there was no fall in demand for the paper, perhaps partly because other weekly newspapers did the same.

Ossett: September 1916

At the Palladium James Reid lectured on "The War in Europe", "The Campaign in Mesopotamia", "With the Allied Fleets" and the "Battle of Jutland." Later in the month the "Ossett Observer" reported on a great British success in France brought about by land 'Dreadnoughts'. The Dreadnoughts, of course, were tanks which were deployed for the first time on the Somme.

The local Volunteers carried on their own war with another sham fight at Lindle Hill. In all, about 1,100 or 1,200 men took part in the action with the Ossett and Horbury detachment of 175 being one of the largest involved.

At the Wakefield Local Tribunal Mr. G.A. Moorhouse expressed his dissatisfaction with the amount of manpower being made available to the army: "We should get all young munition workers as soon as possible and train them for the front. Wherever you go up and down the country you can see a great number of single young fellows. It is time they were fetched out. I saw four or five young fellows sitting in front of me in church at Ossett the other evening."

Throughout the summer the Borough Court had imposed fines for breaches in Ossett of the blackout regulations. At the beginning of the month a Bank Street hairdresser, John William Brown, was sentenced to a fine of 6s or 7 days’ imprisonment for allowing a light to show. Eventually the patience of the magistrates was exhausted and they indicated they would impose the heaviest penalties on anyone disobeying the restrictions. On the same day as the warning was issued, there was a Zeppelin alert. All of the town’s 50 special constables were called out to enforce the blackout, but fortunately ‘the inhabitants complied willingly’ with their requests to dim or extinguish lights. After the alert the constables were served with coffee at the Town Hall. The blackout created hazards for pedestrians and to lessen them the Corporation had the kerbing at street corners whitened, each lamp post painted with a white band and white stripes painted down either side of the Town Hall steps.

At the end of the month British Summer Time came to end. As far as the "Ossett Observer" was concerned it had been a great success and had exceeded all expectations. Among the many advantages it said people hoped to enjoy in future years was the saving in gas and fuel.

Another form of thrift concerned the War Savings Committee which announced it was to organise meetings in mills and other workplaces to explain savings associations. Meanwhile the upward trend of prices continued as the Ossett dairymen decided to raise the price of milk to 5d a quart.

A further announcement was about a new Ossett company, Smith Brothers and Hepworth Ltd., which with a capital of £8,000 in £1 shares was to take over the reclaimed wool business at Sunny Dale Mills.

The war made the position of Mayor particularly onerous, but Alderman George Frederick Wilson agreed to serve for a second term in the position.

Ossett: October 1916

On the 21st October, Trafalgar Day, the Town Hall’s flag was flown to celebrate the British victory at Jutland. The Education Committee had earlier agreed that Trafalgar Day would be marked in the town’s schools with a special lesson on the part played by the navy in maintaining the unity of the nation and the empire. Earlier in that week the flag had flown at half-mast in recognition of the local men killed in action and the Borough Council resolved that in future the flag would be flown at half mast on the Friday of any week in which the news arrived of the death of an Ossett serviceman. At the end of the month townspeople had the chance to see the official documentary film "The Battle of the Somme" at the Palladium. Large audiences turned out to see what the "Ossett Observer" described as its 'wonderfully realistic' battle scenes.

The army’s continued hunger for men led to the ‘combing out’ of unskilled single men from munition and other controlled works in Ossett and the rest of the Dewsbury recruiting area. One consequence of this was that the Ossett Military Service Tribunal heard 100 appeals in one seven hour sitting. The Tribunal was also asked to reconsider the cases of men exempted from service who were refusing to train with the Volunteers and it was claimed that some of the men who were attending the training sessions were not at all co-operative. However, some of the unwilling Volunteers complained about having to pay 6d a month for their membership of the organisation and about the abusive language of their officers. Meanwhile a reorganisation of the Volunteers led to the Ossett and Horbury detachment becoming part of the Wakefield battalion.

The Borough Court enforced its harsher policy on breaches of lighting regulations. Among the cases it dealt with was that of Charles Smith of the Bee Hive Inn, Gawthorpe, who was fined 13s or 14 days for breaking the lighting regulations. At the end of the month new blackout regulations came into force closing most shops at 7pm during the week and 9pm on Saturday until April.

The Chamber of Commerce discussed post-war imperial trade policy. A paper it considered identified strategic industries, called for the better selection and training of consuls and commercial attaches, greater consultation between business organisations, harmonisation of patent laws, weights and measures and restrictions on the foreign control of imperial economic resources.

The Trades and Labour Council also considered the post war world when, prompted by communications from the National Council for Adult Suffrage and the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, it discussed the franchise for parliamentary elections. Eventually it resolved to support universal manhood suffrage and the extension of the franchise to some women, although William France warned that the labour movement would be disadvantaged if only rich women were given the vote. A more immediate problem was the cost of milk. William France said the increased price of 5d a quart was a serious matter, particularly to those with a family of children and Councillor Lake wanted the milk supply taken over by the government.

At Miss Rosevitch’s inaugural lecture on the Russian language at the Technical School the Mayor, Alderman Wilson, urged the importance of the study of Russian and the advantages to be expected from closer relations with Russia.

At the end of the month, as part of the National Mission of Repentance and Hope, Ossett was visited by the ‘Bishop’s Messengers’, three West Riding vicars, who held a meeting in the Town Hall before taking services in the town’s three parish churches including one at Holy Trinity attended by the Mayor and Corporation.

Ossett: November 1916

Alderman George Frederick Wilson, described by the "Ossett Observer" as a man of "tactful urbanity and close devotion to duties", was re-elected Mayor by the Corporation. Shortly before his re-election he opened a fund to send a Christmas parcel to each Ossett man on active service or in hospital because of such service and in about a fortnight £218 12s 6d was raised. One Ossett civilian had been on a different sort of service in France. He was Lincoln Westerman, the Wesleyan Town Missioner, who had been working with the Soldiers’ Christian Association which maintained "homes from home" for the troops.

Aware of the threat from Zeppelins, the Borough Court continued to impose penalties for breaches of the blackout. Among those who appeared in court was the licensee of the Mason’s Arms who was fined 9s or 7 days for showing a light. The necessity of the blackout was shown at the end of the month when there was an air raid alert. All of the town’s 50-60 special constables were called out to enforce the lighting regulations, although there was little they could do about the big fire which broke out at a Chickenley Mill that night.

The manager of Ossett’s municipal gas works was worried about a shortage of labour, which was caused by other concerns paying higher wages, and by absenteeism among the workers he did have. The Borough Council decided to apply to the Ministry of Munitions to place its gas workers under the Munitions Act. This would have restricted their freedom to change jobs and would have made it easier to discipline them for absenteeism. Absenteeism was also raised in the Education Committee as some school pupils were helping the war effort by potato picking on local farms.

According to the "Ossett Observer" the war savings movement was making "splendid progress" in the town with mills, collieries and schools all taking part. The Corporation had a thrift society into which each employee paid at least 3d a week and in two or three months £50 had been invested in the new 6% War Bonds. Meanwhile the savings association at the reclaimed wool makers J. and T. Brook had at least 50 members, while at the munition works of M. Riley and Sons 175 workers were in saving associations.

At the Chamber of Commerce’s meeting it was generally agreed that British Summer Time had been a success, but that in 1917 it should start in mid-April and end in mid-September. It was pointed out, however, that farmers had suffered as they had lost an hour in the mornings because the dew made it impossible to work and then had had to pay an hour’s overtime in the evening to compensate for the lost time.

The Trades and Labour Council considered the Peace Negotiation Committee’s request for it to send a memorial to the Government asking it to seek "a just and lasting peace" at the earliest possible moment. The general opinion of the Council was that the time was not ripe for negotiations with the Central Powers.

The increase in the price of milk led "A Consumer" to complain to the "Ossett Observer" that it was unjustified as the grass and hay on a dairyman’s farm did not cost anything and rents had not risen since the start of the war.

Ossett: December 1916

At the beginning of the month Asquith was replaced as Prime Minister by David Lloyd George. Ossett’s Chamber of Commerce passed a resolution thanking the old ministry for its work while welcoming Lloyd George’s appointment of businessmen to take charge of shipping and food in his government as well as a specialist to oversee education.

After escaping from German occupied Belgium, Madame Leopoldine Franck was reunited with her parents and her son in Ossett. Her boy, who was 4 or 5 years old, could only speak English while she spoke only Flemish and French. Her soldier husband, who had been badly wounded, was at a unit in France which taught trade skills to disabled servicemen.

At a meeting of the Borough Council Councillor Peace emphasised the importance of the food question and predicted there would probably be meat and bread rationing in the following year. To increase local food production the Council began to make plans to provide allotments for vegetable growing.

The Trades and Labour Council passed a motion opposing the introduction of "coloured labour" into the country. Trade unionists were afraid that if colonial labourers were employed in Britain as they were in France they would threaten the wages and jobs of British workers. The Council also discussed a letter from the National Council for Civil Liberties highlighting the loss of various freedoms since 1914. Councillor Lake noted the necessity of guarding liberty jealously, while William France warned that when the military got the upper hand freedom vanished. Once the war was over, he said, they would have to see that the rights they had surrendered were restored. A motion in favour of the N.C.C.L. was passed by the Council.

In its annual review of the town’s trade, the "Ossett Observer" summed up 1916 as a year of "remarkable prosperity under abnormal conditions." The mungo manufacturers had found it difficult to keep their plant working because of the shortage of labour, but there had been no shortage of rags, although imports were only two-thirds of the 1913 level, because of more thorough collection in the U.K. and the enlistment of 4-5 million men had liberated a great deal of old clothes. At Northfield Mill 40-50 men and women had been employed in the Army Ordnance Department’s scheme for repairing or converting into reclaimed wool old uniforms. Dye stuffs had been costly but not as scarce as the previous year. The local collieries had been under pressure due to the high demand for coal and, as the Chamber of Commerce noted in the following month, because of shortages of railway trucks. The residential building trade had been at a standstill, but a few warehouses had been built for the rag trade and extensive additions were being made to Walker’s worsted spinning mill on Dewsbury Road. Finally, local activities in regard to munitions had been "considerable."

The Mayor’s Fund raised at least £350 for local soldiers and by the middle of the month 453 Christmas boxes were on their way to Ossett servicemen.