Belper in 1915

The following paragraphs were taken from
the Belper News in 1915.

With most of the original batch of servicemen recovered and returned home, more arrived for Green Hall on Friday 8th January 1915. There were 16 this time, some badly wounded but most suffering from frostbite-related injuries. The following Wednesday, more arrived from the Leicester Base Hospital, and even more in the February. Later in January a railway wagon containing ten brace of pheasants and eight hares arrived for the men staying at Green Hall – a gift from the King. Nurses and visitors were given a souvenir pheasant feather each time they visited the men.

In January 1915 George Herbert Strutt handed over his steam yacht Sanda on loan to the admiralty, and on the 23rd it sailed from his Scottish Estate, Kingairloch, for Portsmouth, to be painted in the appropriate naval colours and fitted with non-recoil guns.

On Friday 5th February, Belper’s Home guard met for the first time at the Drill Hall in the Clusters. Over 100 men turned out for the meeting, at which the first route march was planned. It was said Mr Strutt would be participating in the march on February 17.

In February several hundred artillerymen from the First West Riding Regiment of the RFA were stationed in the town, staying at the Public hall, River Gardens and Blouse Factory, as well as other rooms. Officers would be staying at Bridge Hill House. On March 30, 250 moved on to Doncaster and Hull for gunnery instruction. The last batch left Belper on April 9th.

Saturday May 8th Sanger’s circus returns to Salt’s meadow for one day. Soldiers and nurses were allowed to get in free.

32 more injured soldiers, some on stretchers, arrived at Green Hall on March 12th, 1915.

In June 1915, patriotic short films at the Palace Cinema included ‘How Lieut. Rose RN spiked the Enemy’s Guns’.

Private J Morris, of the second battalion of the Scots Guards, and a patient at Green Hall, wrote a letter to the Belper News, thanking Mrs Strutt for ‘kindly and wholeheartedly doing so much for her country and setting a brilliant example’. Also to the people of Belper who sent in gifts every day, and provided for regular musical evenings for the patients. ‘The doctors are of the best and do all in their power to bring about a speedy recovery.The sisters truly are efficient.’ But he points out that there were many able-bodied young men in Belper who he had seen without uniforms, and he urged them to enlist for King and Country.

Entertainments for the injured servicemen included visits from the town band, performing on the lawn outside Green Hall, and visits from the touring performers at the Palace, who would give a special performance at the hospital.

More men joined the Belper Home Guard in June, but more were needed, as some of the original group had dropped off from attending or were very lax at taking part.

Dr Heyworth of Bridge Street left Belper in June, to take charge of a military hospital in Belgium for three weeks.

In June the Belper News reported for the first time on the work of Mary Vincent, providing comforts for the Belper men in France. They printed a letter sent by Mrs Vincent to Mrs Powditch of Belper, in which she reported she had written to nearly 100 men, and sent off parcels to 23. She was recruiting other Englishwomen in the city to help her cope with the demand. She thanked Mrs Powditch for sending her the addresses of three more men. She had received a number of letters of thanks from soldiers’ wives and mothers.

A parade of 120 men from the Belper, Duffield, Milford, Holbrook, Kilburn and Crich Detachment of the Home Guard took place outside the Drill Hall on Cluster Road in July.

Belper Literary and Philosophical Society held its first meeting in the River Gardens in July. A number of Belper’s Belgian refugees attended, to hear a talk about their country. Tea was enjoyed in the pavilion after business was completed.

The same week, the Belper Ladies Miniature Rifle Club had its first meeting, held behind Christ Church.

Fifteen more soldiers arrived at Green Hall in June, and 14 more in July. They were met by Herbert Strutt’s motor cars, which took them up from the station. Whilst the July contingent were still on the platform,and express train came through and blew its whistle, causing consternation amongst the men, who jerked round, expecting a shell.

Although the usual Sunday School processions and treats (teas and games) were held for Wakes Week, there were none of the usual sports and wider festivities held in July 1915. However, Mr and Mrs Strutt hosted a tea for the wounded soldiers at Green Hall, in the River Gardens.

It was Dr Clayton Allen’s turn to supervise the Belgium hospital earlier visited by Dr Heyworth, in July.

The Sweet Pea and Rose Exhibition, part of the Belper Horse Show, went ahead on August 4 in the River Gardens Pavilion, with the show itself on July 28. Despite the war, there were still over 40 classes for the 25th show, although all sports, including jumping, were dispensed with.

Brailsford Hall, the home of George Ashton Strutt, George Herbert’s heir, was partly converted into a military hospital in the summer of 1915, with eight soldiers receiving treatment by the end of July. Green Hall had 47 patients by this time.

A recruitment drive was held in the Paddock, opposite Green Hall, at the end of July, with the wounded soldiers calling on Belper men to join up. This was very successful, with a new record set for the number of men joining in a single day.

On Friday evenings, the Belgian refugees would come to The Palace Cinema for the latest offering, and for these performances, after the National Anthem, the Belgian National Anthem would be played. There was a request in the Belper News in August, for other filmgoers to stay standing for this anthem, rather than sitting down again, out of respect for their Belgian visitors.

The Guardians of the workhouse were requested to only buy in loose granulated sugar, as there was a national shortage of cube sugar. They were assured that loose sugar was just as sweet and suitable.

The 14th battalion of the Sherwood Foresters, on a recruiting tour of the county, arrived in Belper on  September 9, to find no flags or refreshments as had been laid on elsewhere, so moved quickly on. There were only a handful of people to see them march through the Market Place. They had been expected for several days, but no-one had come forward to organise a reception for them.

Despite a shortage of eggs in the district, the King Street Mission was able to present 157 eggs to the Green Hall Hospital, after a collection by its members in September. 172 eggs were collected shortly afterwards in the Cow Hill area, and dispatched by St Swithun’s Church to wounded servicemen.

All of the soldiers at Green Hall were moved to Leicester in September 1915, so the premises could be overhauled in readiness for new patients coming in October. On October 6, on the 4pm train, 52 new wounded and sick men arrived, and were again taken from the station to the hospital by Mr Strutt’s cars.

In September, the Guardians of Belper Workhouse decided to insure the buildings against zeppelin attack, following a decision to insure the town’s waterworks.

On October 13, a recruiting rally in the Market Place saw the Sherwoods’ band coming up from Derby, a number of key speakers, and a strong presence from members of the Home Guard and the wounded soldiers of Green Hall. One of the speakers was a Major Pine Coffin from the Lancashire Regiment – it’s to be hoped his name didn’t put them off. In all, 21 men enlisted at the event.

Following complaints over the British Government giving orders for horse-shoes to America, Belper smithy Mr A Wigley of Field Head and Wellington Court received a Government order for 80,000 horse-shoes.

A concert at the Palace on King Street, and a flag day by staff and students at Herbert Strutt School raised £121 6s 9d for the Red Cross and St John Ambulance Society. The children made their own flags and were said to be far superior to the flags being sold in Derby.

Having been fully trained and drilled, the Belper Home Guard were assigned guarding duty for key bridges etc, in the event of emergencies, by the Chief Constable.

By the end of 1915, 75 employees from the Belper and Milford Mills had enlisted – a high number considering how few men were employed at the mills, as a percentage of the overall workforce.

With 14 of its members now missing, Belper Brass band announced it would not be able to attend events over the 1915 Christmas period, as it had in the past.


Belper in 1914

Belper in 1915

Gunner Stone

Letter to George Plant

© Belper in Wartime