Friday, 16 February 2018

Escaped German prisoners recaptured at West Hartlepool

This article appeared in the Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail of 15 February 1918, reporting on the sentencing of three women found guilty of helping two escaped German prisoners.
Map showing Harrison Street, and Brown Street, where the Germans stayed
The Recaptured German Prisoners
Women at Whose House They Stayed
Sentences of Imprisonment

Today at West Hartlepool police court before Alderman J Suggitt, Doctor Swanwick, Mr J Hardy, and Mr E Birke, three women, living in Harrison Street and Brown Street were each charged under the Aliens Restriction Order with failing to notify the Registration Officer of the presence in their households of aliens. The aliens in question being the two escaped German prisoners of war who were recaptured here on Monday night. The three women, Superintendent McDonald stated, ha had the two men passing from one house to the other. 

[The two prisoners were Otto Auguste Kalinke, and George Davidsen. They had escaped on 21 January 1918 from Sealand Camp in Flintshire, Wales, and were thought to have arrived in West Hartlepool two days later. They were captured on 11 February.]

The first defendant was Mary Elizabeth Collins, of 6 Harrison Street, who was stated to be the wife of a Navy man. Sergeant Roberts said that, having learnt that two men who were not seen through the day, but only at night time, were staying at 6 Harrison Street, he went on the 11th instant, to see defendant who, after at first denying the presence of the men, admitted they were, and called them into the kitchen. He questioned them, and one said he was naturalised American and a seaman, whilst the other, who also described himself as a seaman, said he was a British subject. He told them he was not satisfied with their answers, and took them to the Police Station, where they admitted they were escaped German prisoners from Flintshire. Mrs Collins told him that one of the men went to her house on the 23rd Jan, stayed overnight, went away the next morning, and came back some days later with the other man. Alderman Suggett said the magistrates regarded the offence as a very serious one, defendant had been harbouring men who were nothing less than spies. She would be sentenced to two months’ hard labour.

Elizabeth Ann Mallon, 9 Brown Street, widow of a soldier, was the second defendant. Sergeant Roberts said this woman told him that on the 21st January she saw the two men standing at the corner of Brunswick Street, and they asked her if she could get them lodgings. She mentioned a place that they might try. The next morning the men went to her house. They were wet through, and she took them in and made them some coffee. They remained till next morning, when one man went away, the other remaining till January 31. Mrs Mallon told the bench she took the men in out of pity, they were drenched to the skin. But she had no idea they were Germans. “Five of our family,” she went on, “have been killed by the Germans, and I wouldn’t have taken them in I had known they were Germans”. She added that her husband was killed in-action. Superintendent McDonald said the men both spoke good English, and he did not think the women could tell they were Germans. Superintendent McDonald mentioned further that one of the men succeeded in getting a seaman’s discharge ticket through Mrs Mallon, and the latter admitted that the man representing himself as a seaman and stating that he had lost his discharge ticket asked her if she could get him one so that he could get a ship. She went to a neighbour’s, Mrs Lawson’s, who found an old discharge belonging to her husband, and Mrs Lawson took it over and gave it to the man. This discharge, added the Superintendent, would have taken the man out of the country. Defendant was sentenced to a month’s imprisonment.

Mary Jane Fenby, 11 Brown Street, the third defendant, who admitted that one of the men stayed a night at her house, also declared that she didn’t know the men were Germans. Superintendent McDonald, pointing out that if any of these women had informed the police of the presence of the men they could then have made inquiries to find out who they were, added: “It is always the most dangerous spies who speak the best English”. Defendant was sentenced to two months’ imprisonment, and Alderman Suggitt said people must understand clearly that they must not take people in their houses without reporting to the police.

Friday, 9 February 2018

Up the Women!

Title card from the BBC's votes for women sitcom Up the Women!
It won’t have escaped your notice that this week marks 100 years since some women were enfranchised to vote in general elections. They had to be property holders and over 30 years old, the existing criteria for women voting in local elections. There were 8.5 million women this applied to, representing 40% of women. This act of Parliament also abolished the property clause for men, allowing any man aged 21 or over to vote, or 19 and over for those serving in the armed forces. This act increased the electorate from 8 million to 21 million people.

It had been a long fight for women, the issue first being raised in the 1800s. The fight abated in somewhat during the war years, though the fact that women took on traditionally male jobs was carrying on the cause in a different way.

A meeting on women and the vote was held in Durham, and reported on by the Durham advertiser in their edition of 23 February 1912. Representatives from the Durham Society of Women’s Suffrage and the Durham Constitutional Association were in attendance. Mr JW Hills, MP for Durham City (and a captain with 4th Battalion, Durham Light infantry during the war) said that women ‘had got to prove that it was to the advantage of the country that women should have the vote’. Hills claimed that he did not want to imply women were inferior, but the paper reports him saying, ‘If they gave the vote to women, they gave them control of the country. Women were different to men, and he said outright that the Government of the country ought to be committed to men and not women'.

After Hills’ speech, Miss Cicely Corbett of London made her rebuttal. Corbett is reported as saying, ‘Women had been brought more and more into public life, and this was only one more step in the emancipation of women. Men had had the courage and sense of justice to trust women in municipal matters, and there was no particular reason why they should not trust women in Parliamentary matters’. She continued, ‘Mr Hills had suggested that as men had to fight for their country, therefore, they should be governors of their country and exclude women. But fighting [is] not the only physical force for the upkeep of a great nation’. Towards the close of her speech, Corbett stated, ‘There would be no great revolution, but there would be justice when they got the opinion of women upon the business of the country – not as a matter of courtesy, not as a matter of charity, but just simply as a matter of business’.

The case for women’s suffrage was not always made in such a civil manner. Some women felt that their voices were not being heard, and a stronger statement was needed. Connie Ellis (later Lewcock) and Janet Boyd were two such women.

Janet Boyd, originally from London and whose husband had died in 1909, lived in Moor House at Leamside, West Rainton. On the 1911 census however, the only people named are the gardener and his son. Underneath is written, '14 females passed the night here. As women are not counted as voters, neither should they be counted on this census'.

In 1912, a newspaper article in the Northern Daily Mail of 25 June, reported on hunger strikes by imprisoned suffragettes. Later in the piece, it gives the names of some prisoners who were released from Holloway, one of whom is a Janet Boyd. An article published the following day in the Nottingham Evening Post gave further information, including her full name, Janet Augusta Boyd, which matches other records for the lady at Leamside. The article says:
‘Mr O’Brien having asked the Home Secretary whether his attention had been called to the case of an aged lady, Mrs Janet Augusta Boyd imprisoned in Holloway Gaol for participation in a suffragist disturbance; whether he was aware that the old lady’s health was suffering owing to the effects of an injury to her back sustained some years ago; and whether, in view of the fact that she had already suffered three moths’ imprisonment, of her age, and of her state of health, he would consider it a case for extending the clemency of the Crown’.

Mr McKenna, replying in yesterday’s Parliamentary papers, says: Mrs Boyd has enjoyed fairly good health during her imprisonment, but she has been refusing her food for several days, and, on the advice of the medical officer, she was discharged on Sunday.

I could not find a report in the Durham newspapers, nor any report at all on the disturbance and sentencing. The Durham advertiser of 30 May 1913 does report on ‘Mrs Boyd’s annual “votes for women” protest…The protest takes the form of the refusal to pay Government taxes demanded and the consequent execution of a distress warrant upon Mrs Boyd’s goods’. So an auction was held, attended by friends and supporters, and the tax collector. ‘One article, an Italian necklace, was put up for auction, and this was knocked down to Mrs Atkinson for the sum of £26, an amount sufficient to meet the demand and expenses’.
Annie Kenney and Christabel Pankhurst, public domain photograph 
Connie Ellis, as she was at the time, became interested in women’s suffrage at the age of 14. Born in Lincolnshire, she came to the north east to teach at a school in Esh Winning in 1912. In 1913, she joined the Women’s Social and Political Union, and started attending meeting of the Independent Labour Party (ILP). 

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography says that Ellis was ‘involved in an unsuccessful attempt to set fire to a pier of Durham Cathedral’. However, she did have success in setting fire to a wooden railway building at Esh Winning, something that she only admitted to later in life in an oral history interview (catalogue entry: Describing it as a perfect crime, she had an accomplice set the fire whilst she attended a meeting elsewhere. Her accomplice, Joss Craddock, left some hairpins and a handkerchief monogrammed ‘C’ at the scene at her request.

At an ILP meeting in May 1914, Ellis met William Best Lewcock and they later married in 1918. During the war, William was a conscientious objector, and Connie became disillusioned with the suffragette movement under the leadership of Emmeline Pankhurst. They found themselves increasingly drawn to the labour movement. Connie underwent training with the Federation of Women Workers. After the war, William struggled to find work due to being an objector, so he became a Labour Party Agent, then a regional organiser which moved the family around the country. In the 1950s, they returned to the north east. William served as a city councillor in Newcastle from 1956 to his dead in 1960. Connie was also involved, having previously been a councillor in Monmouth, she represented Benwell from 1960 to 1971, and served as the chairman and vice chairman on various committees. In 1966 she received an OBE for her public service.

The first general election in which women were able to vote took place on 14 December 1918, the Sunderland Echo of the same day reported:
‘One had only to stand awhile outside one of the places, schoolrooms, chapels, houses and the like, to realise that the women were fully determined to use the privilege which had been won for them. In they went, sometimes singly, sometimes- and this was the general rule- in couples and occasionally in laughing bunches. But as a rule they didn’t laugh. One could see that the vote was a serious matter to them, one could see the half-timid, half- defiant way in which they sidled up to the polling stations, the glance round half proudly, to see who observed them…’

It would be another ten years before women reached parity with men on voting rights.

Durham County Record Office offers key stage 3 education sessions on suffragettes, please contact them for further information: 

Friday, 2 February 2018

The brothers Hunter

David D, our volunteer who researches the Royal Naval Division (RND), had posted the story of Peter Hunter, who grew up in Oxhill, with four sisters and six brothers. Peter died on 20 October 1915, serving as an able seaman in the Dardanelles, due to complications following a gunshot wound to his right buttock. Peter is buried in East Mudros Cemetery, Island of Lemnos, Greece. After the post had gone up, we were contacted by a family member to say that two of his brothers also died during the war, Vender and Ernest. David went on to research their service. 
12th Battalion Durham Light Infantry insignia (D/DLI 7/913/321)
D/DLI 7/913/321 12th Battalion Durham Light Infantry insignia
They enlisted together in Stanley on 8 September 1914 and were posted to 12th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry (DLI), to serve as privates. Their service numbers were 18507 and 18509. They went to France in August 1915, and by January 1916, they were in trenches near Armentieres. On 26 January, they were in a dugout with three other men when a German shell landed on the roof, killing all of them. The brothers who had enlisted together, died together, and they are buried side by side in X Farm Cemetery, La Chapelle D’Armentieres.

All three brothers are remembered locally in the Book of Remembrance 1914-18, St Andrew’s Church, Stanley. You can read David’s research on Durham at War.

We also found that on Good Friday [21 April] 1916, a football match was played in their honour at Derwent Park, Annfield Plain (were the local team still play). The following are extracts from the report of the match in the Stanley News of 27 April 1916.

The teams were:-
Annfield Plain: Thompson, Williamson (Sunderland), Coyle, Nichol, Hopkins (Sunderland), Pulman, Mabon, Cockburn, Rackham, Gailes, and Wilson
West Stanley: Pounder, Johnson, Pomeroy, Gemmell, Pounder, Akers, Soulsby, Harrison, Brown (White-le-Head), Briggs, and Wearmouth
Referee: Mr Rob Bell

Annfield Plain and West Stanley met on Good Friday at Derwent Park, Annfield Plain, for the benefit of the widows and families of the later brothers Hunter, of Oxhill, who have fallen in the war. A large crowd lined the ropes, and the pitch was in splendid condition in spite of rain, when Mr James Hosking, of Annfield Plain, kicked off.

Stanley rushed away, but Williamson quickly returned, and Akers checked Cockburn and Mabon. Hopkins set the home left going, and GAILES, with a fine left foot effort, opened the homesters’ scoring account.

…during an attack by Stanley, WEARMOUTH equalised after Thompson had once cleared his lines. Brown got through again, and his final shot was just wide of the mark.

Rackham centred from the touch line right in front of Pounder’s charge, and MABON, who was on the spot, promptly sent into the net, the Stanleyites alleging the ball had been out of play. Pulman deceived several players by tricky play and gave Rackham possession, that player’s shot causing Pounder to double up, and in doing so he almost crossed the line. At the other end, Gemmell was instrumental in providing Brown with an opening but the centre’s long shot was smartly tipped over the bar by the home keeper, half time being whistled before the corner kick could be taken.

On the restart Coyle pulled up Briggs, and as Cockburn was making tracks he was given offside. Coyle nearly let his side down by taking too much time in clearing and Harrison was able to get away, but his cross to Brown was sent wide.

Thompson made two successive clearances and then Coyle committed a breach of the rules by fouling Briggs in the penalty area. BRIGGS took the kick and equalised the scores again. Shortly after, BROWN gave his side the lead. Williamson missed a dropping ball, and the centre forward made no mistake this time.

The homesters made efforts to equalise, and Gailes put in a long shot which struck the crossbar and rebounded into play. Thompson was called upon twice to save and then clever play was witnessed between Gailes, Wilson, and Rackham, after which GAILES added a third goal and his second of the match. The scores were again level and both sides strove for the mastery, but time was against them and a draw of three each was a fair reflex of the game.