Search

Heritage: Christmas 1917 and Havering was weary of war

PUBLISHED: 11:06 29 December 2017

The First World War was still going on throughout Christmas 1917. Picture: PA

The First World War was still going on throughout Christmas 1917. Picture: PA

Topham Picturepoint/Press Association Images

A hundred years ago, with many Havering men away at war, the festive season was very different reports Prof Ged Martin

December 1917 was the fourth Christmas of the First World War. Everybody was weary, and there was little celebration around Havering.

The worst was obviously still to come.

Russia, in the grip of revolution, was falling out of the war. If the Germans could switch their forces from the Eastern Front, they might overwhelm the Allied Armies in the West.

The United States had now joined the war, so Germany needed to strike before American forces reached Europe.

Terrible battles would follow in March 1918.

Conscription had been introduced in 1916, compelling men to join the Army. The age limit was eventually raised as high as 51.

Local tribunals heard applications for exemption from married men who argued that their work was of national importance.

Henry Randall, 36, Collier Row’s sub-postmaster, double-jobbed as a blacksmith. He secured conditional exemption “on business grounds”. Horses were still vital to the transport system. There was even a blacksmith’s forge in Romford’s South Street.

William Adams, 38, was a “fat, bone and refuse collector” in Romford Market. He won three months’ conditional exemption, “if a substitute was not found in the meantime”.

Thirty-six-year-old Herbert Butterworth, “sanitary engineer, plumber, and house decorator” from Brentwood Road, secured six months’ exemption, but was told he must serve as a Special Constable.

Leonard Burn, 37, was the landlord of the Old Oak pub (now The Oak) at the corner of South Street and Brentwood Road. He was released from military service on condition he also worked as a farm labourer “during as many hours as he could spare.” How he could do both jobs wasn’t explained.

Pub opening hours were now controlled. Romford magistrates noted with pleasure that Christmas 1917 produced not one alcohol-related case.

Of course, most regular drinkers were away fighting. Many had been killed. Local police reported an overall 50per cent fall in cases of drunkenness.

There was a row at a Romford Council meeting about a Masonic dinner at the White Hart in High Street, later The Bitter End.

The menu included oysters, two soups, two fish courses (with tasty sauces), chicken cutlets, roast mutton, beef sirloin, pheasant, desserts, wines, spirits and punch.

One angry councillor contrasted this “gluttony and guzzling” with the experience of most Romford people: “in this town queues for margarine, tea, sugar and other necessaries of life are of frequent occurrence”.

The White Hart’s proprietor argued that the numbers attending made it “necessary to have a variety of dishes but each guest did not partake of the whole of the dishes. The working man was not being robbed of anything, because they were all on the market.”

Unfortunately, wartime high prices meant that the working man couldn’t afford oysters and pheasants.

I’m sure farm labourer Henry Wright, who’d been caught stealing four cabbages at Corbets Tey, would have enjoyed the evening.

The council passed a motion demanding government action “for the purpose of preventing class feeling and unrest”.

Alice Brooker, who lived in Poplar Street, Romford, appeared in court charged with throwing a poker at the school attendance officer, Benjamin Keeble. He’d called to demand why her eleven year-old daughter was absent from school.

Alice claimed she was annoyed that he’d walked in without knocking while she was bathing the naked girl. She admitted throwing the poker at him, but pleaded that she’d missed.

In any case, the child had been ill. I wonder if Alice’s husband was away fighting? She was bound over.

The residents of Upminster had a friendlier attitude to authority. Their long-time village bobby, Pc James Beasley, had just been transferred by Essex Police to Harwich.

Upminster people made him a “handsome presentation” – £50 in War Savings Bonds, and a gold wristwatch for his wife.

I doubt if any policeman would be allowed to accept such gifts today.

Related articles

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Romford Recorder visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Romford Recorder staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Romford Recorder account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Latest Romford News Stories

10:31

A special Valentines Day event will be taking place this weekend at the Mercury Mall shopping centre in Romford.

07:00

A young volunteer who is still studying for his A-levels has been working to improve care for children and young people in hospital.

Yesterday, 17:00

A number one bestselling author from Romford has released her thirteenth crime novel, which promises her readers a gripping ride throughout and a big twist at the end.

Yesterday, 15:00

Hornchurch residents expressed their frustration as a large pothole outside their home grew in size, and became more hazardous.

Yesterday, 13:00

An original musical telling the story of how an American hero saved hundreds of school children during the Second World War will once again be performed in Romford.

Yesterday, 12:20

Hundreds of Santas are set to hit the streets for charity - just a week before Easter.

Yesterday, 11:00

The Dagenham and Rainham MP has praised the Mayor of London for confirming an investment of £49m will go into policing in the capital.

Yesterday, 09:21

The Royal Air Forces Association (RAFA) is recruiting volunteers across Romford for its befriending service, which pairs volunteers with members of the RAF community who are feeling lonely.

PROMOTED CONTENT

Window and conservatory specialist Ken Rhodes talks about the possibilities for brightening up your home for the new year, and with their home improvement finance deals it’s possible for everyone to make some changes

Lisa and Jennie are cousins who grew up in the borough. Their grandmother, ‘Nanny Fish’ was a huge part of their lives, and while she had dementia and increasing needs, she really benefited from having care in her nephew’s loving home. This experience was the inspiration for Lisa and Jennie to set-up their own home care service.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Most read news

Show Job Lists

News from your area

Competitions

Having a brand new kitchen is something that lots of people want but can only dream of. Sadly keeping up to date and making our living spaces as nice as they can be is a costly and incredibly stressful business. Even a fresh coat of paint makes all the difference but isn’t easy or quick.

Who wouldn’t love the chance to go on a shopping spree. Imagine being able to walk into a shop and choose whatever your heart desires without having to worry about how much it costs.

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Romford Recorder
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now