Book: Halifax in the Great War

Halifax in the Great War is a powerful account of how this West Yorkshire town coped with the greatest war ever to be witnessed by this country.’

Approximately 290 pages and over 100 illustrations

AVAILABLE DIRECTLY from HGWHS £12.99 plus £2.00 p/p


Such as Amazon, W.H. Smith and Waterstones

The book is the culmination of research conducted by HGWHS members over a three year period 2012-14. Thanks are due to all of these members and the many other people who encouraged or assisted the author in its production. Full details further down the page.
Photo from the Stephen Gee Collection. Colouration and jacket design by Jon Wilkinson.
From the back cover
Halifax was surprised by the outbreak of war in August 1914 but within days the public mood had turned into a staggering display of unified support.

Voluntary fund raising organisations sprang up and bore witness to an incredible self-help ethic that supported the troops at the front, their dependant families at home and the returning wounded.

People came to fear the Zeppelins, were forced to retrieve their children from German naval guns in Scarborough and read with horror the stories of local lads gassed at the front. Residents of German descent found themselves in difficult situations, and Belgian refugees were offered sanctuary.

Struggling local industry was revitalised by government orders for Khaki cloth, machine tools and munitions. Halifax can claim to have contributed many interesting technological items for the war effort such as bomb release mechanisms, flame projectors and Tommy’s iconic bowl shaped steel helmet.

Halifax was the garrison home of the Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding) Regiment. However, the area was home to many socialist groups whose resistance bucked the local norm of war support. Recruitment was perhaps slower than in some areas of the country and no Pals battalion was raised. Conscription was bitterly argued over. Local Military Service Tribunals were filled with considerable numbers of local men for whom soldiering was not the preferred option.

In 1917 the food crisis fermented tensions, but at the end of 1918 there was triumph – of a sort. Its aftermath witnessed an intriguing general election contest, the influenza pandemic and brutality stories from repatriated prisoners of war. 

Halifax in the Great war is a powerful account of how this West Riding town coped with the greatest war ever to be witnessed by this country.

The book is one of the titles  from the Towns and Cities series being published by Pen and Sword which numbers over 50 titles by different authors.

Book Contents 

Chapter 1  1914: A Very British Way of Going to War

Chapter 2   1914: A Call to Arms.

Chapter 3   1914: Keep the Home Fires Burning.

Chapter 4   1915: Realisations.

Chapter 5   1915: The End of Voluntarism.

Chapter 6   1915-1916: Preparing for Total War.

Chapter 7   1916: A Town Transformed.

Chapter 8   1916 For Gawd’s Sake Don’t Send Me.

Chapter 9   1916: The Big Push.

Chapter 10  1915-18: A Woman’s Place.

Chapter 11  1917: When Will this End?

Chapter 12  1918: Last Man Standing.

Chapter 13  1918-19: The Remains of the Day.


This book has had the benefit of a research project currently being undertaken by members of the Halifax Great War Heritage Society, who have been comprehensively indexing of the war related content of the local newspapers. Additionally it has benefited from their follow up research work undertaken to give us a greater understanding of the impact of the war on Halifax and its surrounding districts. As part of this process the book has benefited from the many informal conversations which have taken place where it has been possible to gain those important pieces of information and valuable insights, which were so necessary for the topics included in this book. I would therefore like to thank all those members who have contributed in this way: Rob Hamilton, Elaine Beach, John Sunderland, Alan Rhodes, Graham Bradshaw, Rosemary Jones, Trish Morley, Richard Spendlove, Carla Spendlove and Ann Wilkinson.

I am particularly indebted to David Glover for undertaking the onerous but invaluable task of reading through the first draft of the entire manuscript making suggestions for improvements, adding supplementary information and also, of course, checking for errors.

I am likewise indebted to Rob Hamilton for executing the final read through of the entire manuscript checking for errors and suggesting supplementary information.

Thanks are also due to several other people who undertook to read through sections of the book to provide me with comments, information and suggestions: Rob Hamilton (Chapters: A Call to Arms and The End of Voluntarism), Elaine Beech (Chapter: Keep the Home Fires Burning) George Drake and Jeff Wilkinson (Chapter: A Town Transformed), Aimee Fox-Godden (Chapter: A Woman’s Place), Peter Rhodes (Chapter: For Gawd’s Sake Don’t Send Me).

Particular thanks are due to Stephen Gee who provided so many of the photographs for the book and replied so promptly and comprehensively to all of my requests.

Thanks are also due to Dr. John A. Hargreaves for reviewing the book for the Transactions of the Halifax Antiquarian Society.

A book of this sort requires the help and co-operation of many individuals and organisations and I am grateful to the following; Pauline Lancaster and all of the staff at the Calderdale Central library for their encouragement, support and advice willingly given at all times. I am particularly grateful for the access we were granted to the hard copies of the Halifax Courier and Halifax Guardian and the flexible working arrangements that made the task of research so much easier, Richard MacFarlane, Franne Wills, Angela Clare and Jeff Wilkinson of the Calderdale Museums Service, John Spencer of the Duke of Wellington’s West Riding Regiment Museum, John Patchett and Dan Sudro at the West Yorkshire Archives (Calderdale), The National Archives, Andrew Wilkinson for information on Herman van Dyk’s diary, David Nortcliffe for information on St John Ambulance Brigade, the descendents of George Bentley for photos and recollections of ‘Little Khaki George’ and Sheila Shepherd (Librarian) at Rishworth School.