Remembering 1914:, fish ‘n chips, beer drinking and football clubs
The Friends of Holbeck Cemetery conducted their Annual Remembrance Walk on 9th November, when as well as remembering all those who died in WW1, we thought about the changes that have affected us to this day. Three of these changes that we thought about were:-
Fish ‘n chips-probably the most interesting and patriotic claim is that fish and chips helped win the First World War!! Lloyd George‘s War Cabinet recognised its importance to the Nation’s working classes and ensured supplies were maintained off ration. It helped feed munition workers and kept families of the fighting men and women in good heart. Professor Walton wrote, “Unlike the German regime that failed to keep its people well fed and that was one reason why Germany was defeated. Historians can sometimes be a bit snooty about these things but fish and chips played a big part in bringing contentment and staving off disaffection.”
Interesting to note in WW2 British soldiers identified each other during ‘D Day’ landings by calling out ‘fish’ and the response or password was ’chips’. Any other response and they would have certainly had their chips!!
Beer drinking and changing the drinking habits of England for ever.
At the outbreak of war the suffragettes had called a truce for the duration of the war, but by contrast the Temperance campaigners ‘upped’ their efforts and demanded total prohibition. At the end of August the Government introduced the ‘Intoxicating Liquor (Temporary Restriction) Act which drastically cut drinking hours. Previously it had been fairly easy to pay to have a license to open an Ale-House, and Holbeck had a good spread of these as well as the Public Houses, so people could have a drink from 5 A.M. until midnight without walking far from home. Old films of the time often show an ‘Ale-man’ selling beer at the factory gates as people leave their shifts. Now this Act expected you to open no longer than six hours per day with a compulsory break in the afternoon. By 1915 pubs in some parts of England were shutting at 9pm. (In Australia closing time was brought forward to 6pm) throughout the war, duty on beer and spirits were raised continually but the biggest change was in the strength of the beer. Strong porter and other such had been the choice of most but now the dreaded ‘Government Ale’ was introduced and stronger brews had more tax put on them and were served in shorter measures( Still with us today, where the strongest specially brews are only sold in half pints or ‘thirds’ in England and USA.)
A strike was threatened by members of Nottinghamshire Licensed Victualler’s Association. Local breweries were charging their tenants 90s ( £4:50) for a 36 gallon barrel of ‘government ale’, a price which was impossible for them to make a profit when they were having to sell it for 4d or 5d (£0.2)per pint
So now beer was weaker, more expensive and in short supply , How could things get worse. Well from 25th September 1916 it was against the law to ‘buy a round’, or keep a ‘tab’ and the practice of the ‘long pull’ giving drinking a ‘top up’ was also outlawed. Penalties for disobeying were harsh-£100 fine or up to 6months imprisonment.
Football Clubs –we heard about how whole teams were encouraged to join up , with hundreds of fans joining them at the recruitment office. Often the players were branded ‘cowards’ for continuing to play for their teams .The London Evening Standard News reported, “The young men who play football and those who look on have better work to do. They are summoned to leave their sport and play their part in a greater game, that game is War, for life and death “. Often players were sent white feathers .So football was suspended for a while, then it was realised how football matches had helped keep up the country’s morale and it started up again, but by them most of the best players had left and many had already lost their lives on battlefields. Leeds City FC (as LU was known then) lost 6 fine players in WW1:-John Anderson Harkins, Gerald Kirk, Evelyn Lintott, Thomas Henry Morris, David Bruce Murray and James Hamilton Spears who gained a Military Medal.