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1917: Ossett - The Tide Turns

Ossett: January 1917

As the country faced mounting food shortages, the Ossett Co-operative Society began to ration sugar according to family size. At the same time the Borough Council started to encourage people to grow more of their own food by creating allotments in several parts of the town. One site was in Wesley Street where 27 allotments of 300 square yards each were advertised to let at 5 shillings a year. As an incentive to gardeners the Council arranged to have the land set aside for allotments ploughed. By the end of the month about 90 applications for plots had been received. At Springstone Avenue the allotments were for poultry keeping, but elsewhere they were mainly for potato growing. A well timed advertisement placed by Lee and Briggs of Horbury in the "Ossett Observer" announced the arrival of a stock of spades, rakes, garden forks and hoes.

WW1 Allotment

The increasing numbers of wounded soldiers led to a rising demand for hospital beds in the U.K. Among the new military hospitals was one for 350 men at Staincliffe in Dewsbury where there was already a Poor Law infirmary. Funds for the hospital were raised by voluntary subscription as the estimated cost of £6,000 could not be legally met from the rates. Each township in the Dewsbury Poor Law Union was asked to raise a sum proportionate to its rateable value and Ossett’s quota was set at £429. Townspeople responded generously to the appeal. Before the month’s end they had exceeded their target by more than £100.

Wakefield and District Motor Volunteers, which had Ossett members, was also helping convalescing soldiers. Formed in 1916 to move troops in a national emergency, the Motor Volunteers ferried servicemen between hospitals and offered a taxi service to troops on leave who could not reach their homes by public transport. Absenteeism at the Corporation’s Healey gas works led to it being placed under the Munitions Act. This made it easier for the manager to discipline his labour force. He was also given permission by the Corporation to recruit women workers because of the shortage of suitable men.

As the woollen industry continued to boom, the demand for rags pushed up prices at the Dewsbury auctions to record levels with black worsteds fetching £183 a ton. At the monthly meeting of the Chamber of Commerce B. P. Wilson was re-elected President. Speaking about the post-war world, he said that Britain should never again allow herself to become dependent on Germany for key industrial goods.

Ossett: February 1917

Among those who left to do his military service was Harold Smith. A member of the Central Baptist Church in Church Street, where he was a deacon and a lay preacher, he was presented with a pocket Bible at a meeting of his church’s Christian Endeavour Society.

Alfred Simpson, a farm labourer of Wakefield Road, appeared in the Borough Court after failing to report for military service. Simpson told the magistrates he had returned to England from Australia at the start of the war to enlist, but instead of becoming a soldier he had spent 17 months in Wakefield Asylum. He had been discharged in November 1916, the month he was supposed to report for military service. The magistrates handed him over to the army, but before the end of the month he was released from Pontefract by the military authorities.

Young KOYLI Soldier WW1A serving soldier who appeared in the Borough Court was Private Arnold Helliwell of the K.O.Y.L.I., who was charged with being absent without leave. Helliwell, who had lied about age when he enlisted, was 15 years 7 months old. He was remanded to wait for a military escort.

Left: KOYLI soldier from WW1 with distinctive cap badge. (This is NOT Private Arnold Helliwell).

Ossett and Horbury’s Volunteers, numbering some 400 men, continued their training under three sergeant instructors. There had been a marked improvement in the smartness of their drilling.

A brief campaign to encourage war savings started with a public meeting in the Town Hall addressed by two local MPs who urged their audience to subscribe to the government’s Victory Loan. By the end of the campaign Ossett had subscribed £236, 580 to the loan, a figure which included an investment of £12,000 from the Borough Council. Among the smaller investors was a collier’s wife who handed over 30 sovereigns. She had been hoarding them because she believed that if the Germans invaded "John Bradbury’s", paper money, would be worthless.

At the magistrates’ annual Brewster Sessions, the Chairman, Henry Westwood, condemned the increase in drinking among women, particularly among the wives of soldiers. He claimed the "only decent way was for wives to stay at home so that when the soldiers returned, having served their King and country, they would find their wives and homes in as respectable condition as when they left them."

One solution to the drink problem proposed by temperance advocates was to take the liquor trade into state ownership. At its meeting the Trades and Labour Council rejected this proposal. Among the objections raised to the proposal were its cost, a lack of choice of beers and the reluctance of the state to stamp out the liquor trade. Teetotalism alone would not win the war was the discussion’s conclusion.

Prompted by an inquiry from their national association, the members of Ossett’s Chambers of Commerce discussed the teaching of foreign languages. Mr G. H. Gibson said that the town’s experience in this area was "deplorable." There were not enough students willing to learn and those were wiling lacked the basic knowledge needed to make any progress. Success would only come, he argued, with the raising of the school leaving age and the introduction of compulsory evening classes. In a letter of thanks for the Mayor’s Christmas box, Corporal Ivie Willett, a general staff draughtsman, claimed the Battle of the Somme had been the beginning of the end for the Germans.

Ossett: March 1917

At the Borough Court 17 year-old James Varley was charged with being absent from the K.O.Y.L.I. and was remanded to meet a military escort. He had been refused leave, but as he was about to be sent to Ireland, he had taken it anyway. Varley’s mother was at the hearing and told the magistrates that she was going to apply for her son’s discharge as she needed him at home to help her support his four siblings. The magistrates advised her to see the Town Clerk about having her son released from the army.

By the month’s end 104 allotments had been taken in the town, 94 for gardening and 10 for poultry keeping. Allotment holders received professional advice when Mr J. W. Eves, a University of Leeds instructor in horticulture, made a tour of inspection of the allotments before a giving a lecture on gardening at the Town Hall. Ossett’s farmers were expecting the arrival of one of the tractors they had been promised. A local firm, Milner and Elliott, was to maintain the machine and to train men in its use.

Ossett’s water supply, which was the responsibility of the Borough Council, was causing concern. Consumption by industry had risen because of the war time boom in the textile trade and the water level in the Gawthorpe reservoir was dangerously low. Although the Corporation had considered tapping the water in the flooded workings of the former Pildacre Colliery, it had rejected using this alternative source of supply. Another problem for the Council was teachers’ war bonuses. Teachers submitted a request for an annual bonus of £25. Rather than pay this, the Education Committee resolved to add another £5 to the existing £5 bonus. No doubt the Committee members had in mind the interests of the town’s ratepayers. During the month they saw their rates rise by 5d in the pound to 9s 9d, a figure the "Ossett Observer" called "rather formidable."

Among the local Anglican clergy the war was causing staffing problems as men left to serve as chaplains in the armed forces. Holy Trinity’s curate, the Reverend C. E. Salisbury was placed in charge of the parish of Gildersome in the absence of its vicar and his place at Holy Trinity was partly filled by the Reverend W.H. Keeler, curate of Christ Church in South Ossett.

When the Trades and Labour Council met it was after Russia’s March Revolution which had brought about the fall of Tsar Nicholas II, the head of a regime detested by many socialists and liberals in Britain. For William France the revolution was "one of the grandest things of the century." France’s colleague, Councillor Lake, was more cautious. He said he "was not sure that the revolution would set all the people of Russia free."

March 1917 Russuan Revolution

Ossett: April 1917

Spring was very late arriving in 1917. At the beginning of April there was a heavy fall of snow. The harsh weather made it difficult for allotment holders to plant the newly arrived seed potatoes the Corporation had ordered for them. The importance of increasing the potato crop was underlined by shortages at greengrocers and markets. One Ossett man motored 70 miles in a day in search of potatoes and returned with only 7lbs of them.

Some townspeople reacted to the food shortages by hoarding, behaviour which served to the situation worse. At the Trade and Labour Council’s meeting William France blamed the government for not organising food supplies properly. The Council urged the Food Controller, Lord Devonport, to take firmer action. Devonport, however, put his faith in voluntary rationing. His office asked Ossett War Savings Committee to organise a campaign in support of the idea.

Coal supplies were also causing concern in Ossett. Reporting to the Council, the manager of the gas works pointed out that over a year his stock of coal had fallen from 3,000 tons to 300 tons. Customers, he said, would have to restrict their consumption of gas.

Another shortage, this time of housing, was raised by Councillor Stead at the Town Council’s meeting. House building, he pointed out, had come to a halt in Ossett and there were not a dozen houses to let in the town. When the soldiers returned from the war they would need homes and if private individuals would not build them then the Council would have to.

Housing was also discussed by the Trades and Labour Council. It had intervened in two cases of rent increases, but although in one case there had been a breach of rent controls, in the other the landlord had been justified in raising the rent as he had improved the property by converting an earth privy to a water closet. At the end of the discussion the Council voted in favour of continuing rent and mortgage controls for two years after the war’s end.

Yet another shortage, this time the shortage of labour, was also mentioned at the Trade and Labour Council’s meeting. It was blamed for the infrequency of scavenging in Ossett. For want of workers the contractor responsible had four horses idle in his stables and had also received his own call up papers. Another sign of the scarcity of male workers was the Palladium’s advertisement in the "Ossett Observer" for a "young lady" to train as a projectionist.

When the Chamber of Commerce met it heard a talk by Mr Fred Rhodes of Dewsbury about plan for the University of Leeds and the large textile colleges to carry out scientific research for the wool textile industry. Rhodes stressed the importance of science in the future of the industry, pointing out how successful Germany had been in applying science in her industries. At least one member of the Chamber, Mr Fitton, promised to give financial support to the scheme.

At the beginning of the Chamber’s meeting Mr B. P. Wilson proposed a motion recording ‘with pride and profound gratitude our appreciation of the entry of America in the great world struggle between civilisation and brutality.’ Seconding the motion, Mr J.H. Gibson said it was "a piece of unselfishness such as history has no record of."

Ossett: May 1917

When Empire Day was celebrated in Ossett’s schools on the 24th May, Councillor Moys spoke to the pupils of Holy Trinity School reminding them that they were "children of the Empire", an empire which covered a quarter of the whole world and which had been "gained not by force, but by fair dealing." He urged them to have high ideals so that they could maintain the Empire.

On the same day, the Mayor, Alderman G. F. Wilson, read from the Town Hall steps King George V’s proclamation urging the voluntary rationing of food. Its words were taken to heart by the members of the Chamber of Commerce who at their meeting took the voluntary ration pledge. Reminding them that they met on Empire Day, their President, Mr B.P. Wilson, asked what the use of patriotism was if the wives and children of soldiers could not get enough to eat. Those who failed to eat less were displaying the "essence of selfishness."

Wireworm damageAs part of its campaign to increase food production, the West Riding War Agricultural Committee asked the Town Council to form an advisory committee representing the 60-70 farmers in the borough. Each farmer was to supply details of land use and the farmers were reminded of the county committee’s power to compel them to convert land from pasture to arable. The West Riding Committee also suggested that boys from Ossett Grammar School should do paid work on the land to ease the shortage of workers. Meanwhile the efforts of gardeners near Ossett railway station to increase food production by cultivating potatoes were frustrated by a plague of wire worms, with one gardener finding 30 worms in a single potato. See picture (right):

At the Trade and Labour Council, the prospects for a negotiated peace between the Allies and the Central Powers were raised. William France believed that Britain might settle for a peace without annexations, as long as Germany paid for the damage she had done to France and Belgium, but he noted that the Americans and Russians had rejected the imposition of indemnities. Councillor Sowden’s view was that they should not to give up after three years of fighting. It was necessary to put an end to "German culture" forever and Germany had to suffer for her inhumanity during the war. Councillor Lake reminded the meeting of the importance of distinguishing between the German ruling and working classes as they had no quarrel with the latter. In spite of the views the trade unionists expressed they decided to take no action on a proposal from the Peace Negotiation Committee that the Council organise a public meeting in favour of a negotiated peace.

Later in the meeting Councillor Lake raised the subject of improving the education of the working classes. A revolution, he claimed, needed an educated people to succeed and in Russia the peasantry were not educated. As for Britain, the workers had never fully realised the importance of education. He had decided to do something to remedy the situation in Ossett and Horbury by forming a branch of the Workers’ Educational Association.

At the Technical School a Russian class had been taught by Miss Rosewitch and at its end her students presented her with books on Dutch art.

Ossett: June 1917

Ossett’s week long War Economy Campaign, organised by the War Savings Committee, was launched by Lady Catherine Milnes Gaskell. Its programme of lectures, competitions and musical entertainments attracted an average of over 400 people a day to the Town Hall. Among the subjects of the lectures were fruit bottling, gardening and feeding children, while the competitions focussed ways of making a little go a long way such as a school girl’s jumper out of material costing no more 2s 6d. At the Palladium the film ‘Mother’s Help’ was shown during the week in support of the campaign.

Farmers from Ossett and Ardsley met at the Technical School to form a local advisory committee. They were told the aim of the county War Agricultural Committee was to raise grain production in the West Riding to its 1872 level. To aid farmers, loans would be available and tractors to plough up pasture could be hired at 15 shillings an acre. The five members of the new committee quickly started work. They set a target of having at least half the area’s farmland under the plough and began to visit farms which fell short of it. Most of the farmers visited agreed more or less willingly to increase their arable, the less willing having to be reminded of the West Riding Committee’s compulsory powers. Meanwhile Ossett’s allotment holders faced a new threat in their struggle to increase food production, the cabbage fly, whose ravages caused great concern.

To save stocks of wool, the working hours of mills were reduced at the beginning of the month. Weaving time was cut to 45 hours a week and spinning to 47½ hours. An Ossett shoddy manufacturer suggested that the wool shortage could have been solved by increasing the proportion of good shoddy in khaki cloth from 20 to 50%. This would have made the cloth less durable, but army uniforms, he argued, did not need to long lasting as after a few weeks at the Front they were usually in too bad a condition to be cleaned and repaired.

Although the new oil and benzol plant at the gas works supplied valuable chemicals to war industries, it had the effect, or so some customers thought, of reducing the quality of the gas they used. To make matters worse, the Council increased the price of gas by 8%. In recognition of price inflation, the Council increased to 7s a week its employees’ war bonus.

At the Trades and Labour Council a request from the National Union of Sailors and Firemen to support its stand over the Stockholm international socialist peace conference was considered. The seamen were refusing to take to the conference any delegates who would not insist on Germany making full restitution for her the losses caused by her submarine warfare. The Council agreed to support the National Union’s position.

Ossett: July 1917

Two soldiers reluctant to return to France appeared in the Borough Court. Privates Ernest Walker and Tom Shaw of the Miners’ Battalion were warned by one of the magistrates, Henry Westwood, that overstaying their leave would make it more difficult for them to obtain it in future. A soldier who had died in France, Gunner William Cecil Gadie of the Royal Field Artillery, was commemorated at Gawthorpe and Chickenley parish church, St Mary’s, in a well attended Sunday evening service. He was well known to the congregation as he had been a scholar in the day and Sunday school, a chorister and a Sunday school teacher. News also arrived that Private John Robert Cardwell was in "good spirits" in Salonica after arm below his elbow had been amputated as a result of wounds.

At the Ossett Military Tribunal the Co-operative Society asked for an exemption for a 21 year-old clerk who had twice been rejected by the army. The military representative, Mr J. Hargreaves Oddy, said the army needed clerks, but the secretary of the Co-op replied he also needed clerks and the army would not win the war with clerks. His lady clerks were doing as well as lady clerks could, but it was "out of the question" for the women to do the young man’s work. The Tribunal decided by a majority to allow an exceptional exemption. At the same session 38 year old employed seven days a week in a munitions factory had his conditional exemption from military service renewed at the request of his firm, but on condition he drilled with the Volunteers. His employer objected that he played the piano at the Palladium in the evenings: the objection was rejected. Major Percy S. Cradock, commander of the 10th Battalion West Riding Volunteers, wrote to the "Ossett Observer" urging young men approaching military age to enrol in the Volunteers for training.

WW1 Exemption Certificate

Mary Kitson of Dewsbury Road, had the distinction of being the first Ossett shopkeeper prosecuted under the Food Control Orders. At the Borough Court she admitted selling potatoes at 3d a lb when the legal maximum was 1¾d. Although she was warned that the maximum penalty for her offence was a fine of £100 or 6 months imprisonment or both, she escaped with a fine of £3.

One consequence of the war was a rise in sexually transmitted diseases and at the monthly meeting of the Town Council Councillor Marsh referred to the posters in the borough warning against venereal disease. "Whatever criticisms the posters might create", he said, "he offered no apology, because of the seriousness of the deadly peril." Turning to another aspect of public health, Marsh urged the establishment of a child welfare clinic in the town. This was a necessity because of high infant mortality. In 1915, he claimed, nine British soldiers had died every hour but in the same time 12 babies under one died. Not all of his fellow councillors were convinced by his arguments. For Councillor Marsden high infant mortality was the result of maternal neglect. In his opinion, the sooner women "were taught their duties and responsibilities the better for the country".

The Chamber of Commerce discussed and rejected a proposal not to trade with Germany for 10 years after the war. The President, Mr B.P. Wilson, was not in favour of the proposal as Britain was not at war with the German people, but with the military autocracy.

The "Ossett Observer" reported that the music at the Palladium had made it distinctly more attractive while it had maintained the excellence of its pictures. As a result even in the long hot summer days the cinema had been doing good business. A weekly "Chaplin" and the thrills of serials seemed, in the paper’s view, to suit the Ossett public, although there were also feature films to enjoy.

August 1917:

To mark the third anniversary of the outbreak of war intercessory religious services were held in the town on the first Sunday of the month. At Holy Trinity a memorial service was held in the evening for those servicemen who had died on duty, while at Christ Church at evensong a parish roll of honour was dedicated. Prompted by the anniversary, the "Ossett Observer" raised the question of what was going to be done to commemorate the names of the Ossett and Horbury dead. Among them was Private J. Ward, who had died in hospital in France, and whose memorial service was held at Zion Congregational Chapel in Gawthorpe later in the month.

One reader of the "Observer" was J. Gomer Williams, a military chaplain in France, who had been the minister at the Green Congregational Church. He wrote to the paper to express his delight at the Mayor’s recent appeal for books for the Y.M.C.A. Meanwhile another Ossett clergyman, the Primitive Methodists’ Reverend E. Lacy, left the town for France to serve as a military chaplain.

Military Chaplain in WW1

A meeting of the governors of the Grammar School decided to request exemption from military service for the headmaster, Mr H.G. Mayo, and the science master, Mr H. A. Ives. Not all of the governors were happy with the decision. Mr Archer said it was wrong to seek exemptions since although the men were only category C they could serve as clerks. However, the Chairman, Alderman T.W. Bentley, pointed out that officially the men were exempt and ought never to have been called before the Military Service Tribunal, while Mr A. Lake said that they must realise that as an education authority there were higher things than sending category C men to war.

As the government increased its power over industry a Wool Textile Board was established to control, among other sectors, the reclaimed wool industry. Rag merchants meeting in Dewsbury elected two representatives onto the Shoddy and Rags Trade Advisory Committee. At the same time they formed a Rag Traders’ Association to further protect their interests. Local textile firms continued to benefit from government contracts. One was J. Glover of Ossett Ltd. which received an order for blankets.

A meeting attended by 60 of Ossett and Horbury’s gardeners decided to form a federation of allotment holders associations under the chairmanship of Mr B. T. Fairhurst. Food supplies also concerned Ossett Council which appointed a Food Control Committee to implement orders and regulations in the borough. One of its members was a woman, Mrs White of Ashburn House. The Ossett Co-operative Society and the Trades and Labour Council both lobbied unsuccessfully for representation on the committee. Among the many foodstuffs already subject to regulation were wheat, rye, maize, potatoes, swedes, milk, flour, bread, cake, pastry and teas.

September 1917:

Both the Ossett Co-operative Society and the Trades and Labour Council were dissatisfied with their lack of representation on the Borough Council’s new Food Control Committee. It did, however, have one woman member, Mrs White of Ashburn House. A special general meeting of the Co-op’s 3,000 members passed a resolution condemning the Council for failing to appoint a representative of the society. However, the Trades and Labour Council did not want either the Co-operative Society or the Ossett Tradesmen’s Association to be represented. Speaking at the Council’s monthly meeting Councillor Sowden, a co-operator himself, condemned both the Co-op and independent retailers for profiteering.

Application forms for sugar ration cards were distributed to all the households in the borough, but many of the completed forms had to be returned because they were filled in incorrectly. Attempts to set maximum wholesale and retail prices for meat caused some problems locally. At Leeds and Wakefield cattle markets dealers ignored the official maxima with the result that at least one local butcher was making a loss on every carcase of beef.

WW1 lady woodworkerThe lady woodworkers of the Ossett War Supply Depot, whose headquarters were at Pont-y-Garth, the home of Mr and Mrs W.A. Taylor, were making crutches for wounded soldiers. A workshop at the house had been fitted up for the six ladies involved in the project – Mrs Taylor, Mrs Arthur Jessop, Mrs J. A. Pollard, Mrs J. W. Rhodes, Mrs T. Booth and Mrs Edwin Langley – who had been trained by Mr Hepworth of the firm of Hepworth and Moorhouse. The original idea had been to supply the military hospital at Staincliffe in Dewsbury, but as it had not opened the crutches were being sent to Wakefield.

Ossett’s housing needs were discussed by the Borough Council. The war had almost halted house building in the town with the result that there was a shortage of accommodation. Councillor Stead’s view was that the situation would worsen with the return of servicemen at the end of the war. Rather than waiting until peace returned, they should build houses at once. Councillor Marsh agreed with Stead, claiming that the government would give financial support for house building. Like Stead, he wanted a higher standard of workers’ housing. He also pointed out that Ossett’s position between Dewsbury and Wakefield, both of which also had housing shortages, made it a good location for homes for commuters, especially as the town was ‘a good bracing place’. Post war developments were also raised at the Chamber of Commerce.

During a discussion of the railways, the Chamber’s President, B. P. Wilson, expressed the view that the railways "would never revert" to private ownership because under state control they had been so successful in meeting the huge demands imposed by the war. He attributed the success of the nationalised system to the appointment of the best qualified men to run it.

Also looking to the future was the anonymous donor who, to encourage thrift among the town’s children, credited the Yorkshire Penny Bank account of each of the 2,183 elementary school scholars in the town with one shilling. Its first big problem was sugar. Most of the households in the borough had received application forms for sugar cards.

October 1917:

An Ossett officer, Lieutenant Charles Hanson of the Sherwood Foresters, son of Mrs Hanson of the Gables, Station Road, was awarded the Military Cross for his conduct during a recent raid on the German lines in France. Writing of another raid he said: "I really believe more in fate each show I am in. I still have wonderful luck. I got a very slight hit on the cheek but nothing much and I have discovered a bullet in the heel of my boot".

Ossett Borough Court heard the case of Joshua Fox Taylor of Runtlings Lane, rag merchant, who was charged with not reporting for military duty. He said he had conscientious objections to serving, but the military representative on Ossett’s Military Service Tribunal said Fox had not mentioned his objections until his appearance in court. The Tribunal had ordered him to go in June, but his call up had been postponed for a couple of months because of illness. Fox was fined £2 and handed over to the military.

Mrs Laura Holt of Manor Road also appeared before the Borough Court summoned for having failed to notify Ossett Police Station within 24 hours about an alien living in her house. Pleading guilty, she said she was ignorant of the regulation. Mrs Holt was a soldier’s wife, while her lodger was the wife of a man interned at Lofthouse Park near Wakefield. The magistrates were sympathetic towards Mrs Holt and dismissed her case and paid the costs.

The Food Control Committee received over 3,700 applications for sugar cards and the Town Clerk’s staff needed the help of four volunteers to distribute them. The committee also used its powers to fix the prices of meat and milk in the town. Inspired by the recent gift of one shilling to each of Ossett’s elementary schoolchildren, Councillor Marsden said he would donate £100 to give another shilling to any child who increased his or her bank account by one shilling or more by the end of 12 months.

WW1 Sugar Card

The town’s allotment holders formed the Ossett and District Allotment Society Ltd to supply its members with chemicals, fertilisers, etc, and to give its members mutual protection against trespassers. Each share in the new company cost 1s.

At a meeting convened by the Mayor in the Town Hall the question of a war memorial for Ossett was discussed. Mr Walter Hyman expressed his disgust at the small attendance, but a committee was formed to forward the project. Among the proposals was a park or recreation ground for each ward, an endowment for Dewsbury Infirmary, scholarships for the sons and daughters of soldiers, a civic social centre and scholarships at Leeds University. Perhaps the most original suggestion was one for a bronze sculpture of Britannia rescuing her child from an eagle, presumably a German eagle. This was to be placed on an island in a specially created lake on the beck behind Spa Street School. The lake was to be used for boating and a second lake was to be used for bathing.

November 1917:

The Borough Council re-elected George Frederick Wilson of Heath House, mungo manufacturer, as mayor for the coming year. Only one man voted against him – Councillor Archer. Archer argued that as Wilson was of military age his election would be unpopular in the town when so many men were being called up for service.

As Food Control Committees set prices, lack of co-ordination between them led to anomalies in the official pricing of meat and milk: milk prices were lower in Horbury than in Ossett and meat prices were lower in Ossett than nearby towns. Councillor Firth no doubt expressed a common feeling when he said that the cost of food had "been overdone in all directions" and that "everybody had been making a grab." Meanwhile some local shops and co-operatives were trying to deal with food shortages by encouraging voluntary rationing. However, this was easy to evade by, for example, shopping at both the Co-op and at a private shop. The ‘Ossett Observer’ thought a very different public spirit was needed, but it believed that little was being done by the authorities in the town and that the Food Control Committee had no influence because there were no reports of its meetings as it had barred journalists from them.

There was also dissatisfaction with the state of the war savings movement in the town. War savings had been taken up with great enthusiasm in Ossett in 1916, but there had been a falling off in 1917. At a meeting of the War Savings Committee Mr Lund, the borough treasurer, claimed there was a feeling among the workers that the more they subscribed for war certificates the longer the war would last. There was also, he believed, a fear that the government would not keep the promise to repay certificates in full without deductions for income tax. An official reassurance was needed, he said, to restore public confidence in the movement.

The National Association of Discharged Sailors and Soldiers held a meeting attended by about 150 people at the Palladium with the intention of forming an Ossett branch. At it the speakers drew attention to the distress suffered by discharged servicemen and their families. Shortly afterwards a local branch of the Association was formed with F. Brocklebank as its president.

The completion of the Borough Council’s maternity and child welfare centre was not welcomed by Councillor Marsden who objected to its cost and argued that mothers should care for their children themselves. The school medical officer reported that 55% of the 5 year olds had not been vaccinated against smallpox. In terms of both weight and height, he said, Ossett’s children were slightly below the standard adopted as the unofficial English level.

Members of the Trades and Labour Council expressed themselves in favour of women’s suffrage and condemned the proposal to deprive conscientious objectors of the vote.

Further proposals for a war memorial were published in the "Ossett Observer". At a meeting in the Town Hall to discuss the subject Thomas Westwood supported the idea of a public park and opposed a Y.M.C.A. social club since most young lads would be tempted to leave Sunday schools to attend the club to the detriment of the spiritual life of the community. One letter proposed a statue of a soldier holding down a German on a square pillar recording the names of the fallen, while another correspondent suggested photographs of all the servicemen on a film which was to be shown every Empire Day.

December 1917:

Each of the 600 Ossett men on service abroad and the 530 in Great Britain or in hospital was sent a postal order for 10 shillings from the Mayor’s Fund, while the 11 prisoners of war received a similar sum. With the postal orders was a list of proposals for a town war memorial and a request for comments.

Albert Edward Wilby of Happy Land committed suicide. His wife said he had not slept well and had complained of a headache. He had been worried about his work as a warp dresser at Westfield Mills, which he had complained was too heavy for him, and he had also been concerned about his son who instead of enjoying his first leave from France after 15 months had instead been posted to Italy.

Two local men were sent from the Borough Court to stand trial at the Leeds Quarter Sessions on charges of breaking and entering buildings and committing robberies. Joseph Edward Senior and Peter Senior were army deserters who while they were in hiding in their father’s house at Flushdyke had committed numerous robberies in the Ossett area. Joseph, for example, had broken into Ossett Drill Hall and had stolen three rifles, a bayonet and ammunition.

At Ossett Borough Court the firm of Spencer and Halstead, ventilating and general engineers, and their managing director, William Muir Oddie, were charged under the Defence of the Realm Act with failing to comply with the directions attached to a permit for steel issued to them by the Ministry of Munitions. For carrying out mill repairs without official sanction the firm was fined £25 and the managing director £25.

There were more complaints to the Borough Council about fumes and dust from Victoria Mills. The town clerk was instructed to communicate with the government authorities since the emission of "effluvia" from nitric acid and the carbonising plant were harmful to health.

At the Chamber of Commerce Councillor Marsden spoke against the nationalisation of the railways on the grounds that traders were treated badly. The best system of running the railways, he said, was competition between independent companies. The members of the Chamber also discussed rising insurance rates for shoddy and woollen mills. It was claimed that the employment of more inexperienced men as a result of the labour shortage was leading to more fires.

The Reverend T. Cotes was concerned by the poor attendance at the week night services at the Central Baptist Church. A large number of church workers had been called up, he said, but thanks to volunteers their places as teachers in the Sunday school and other capacities had been creditably filled by others.

WW1 Troops Marching

As there were long queues for margarine outside the Maypole shop in Station Road, arrangements were made for customers to wait in the Town Hall before being sent in groups of 20 to the store. Although they were out of the cold, they still had to wait three hours or more before being able to buy eight ounces of margarine each. The special constables policing the queues were instructed not to show any signs of favouritism.