Mr Stott’s Diary 1914-1916

When members of the Halifax Great War Heritage Society first came across the diaries of William Henry Stott at an auction in 2013 little did they know the wealth of knowledge that they contained. Although we were unable to purchase them, we were able to ascertain they went to local historian, Stephen Gee, who very generously copied the years covering the Great War and gave them to us.


By the time of the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, Elland businessman, William Stott, had been keeping his lavishly illustrated diaries for over 40 years. His diary records his views and opinions during the Great War as it became known. He was writing for his own amusement and not for posterity and in them you find the views of the ordinary middle class man in the street. In this respect they are unique as William told us what he thought at the time without regard to the views of anybody else and without his thoughts being influenced by what people said later on. Consequently you get the true voice of what a man of his class and position in society really thought about events.

They give a unique window into life on the home front from the point of view of the ordinary middle class man in the street and, in typical Yorkshire fashion, William is by turns blunt and humorous in his writings. They also give an insight into society’s attitudes towards class, gender and race, attitudes that are at odds with the more liberal views of today and there are times when William’s language would nowadays be considered offensive. He was, however, a man of his times and he should only be judged by the standards of the society he lived in.


William records not only national but also local events, and the goings on of a well known local personality or friend are mentioned with as much enthusiasm as those of the good and great. He was a devoted family man and the reader can identify with the ups and downs of family life from his observations.

Many of the perceptions that we have about the Great War are disproved in the diary. There were no great celebrations when war was declared, people did not believe it would be over by Christmas and not every man flocked to the colours to answer Kitchener’s appeal for volunteers. William enthusiastically supported the war but his own son did not volunteer and one of the recurring themes in the diary is his struggle to prevent his son from being called up when conscription was introduced in 1916. When all is said and done the diaries are a fascinating look into society during those tumultuous early years of one of the greatest watersheds in British history.


Copies of ‘Mr Stott’s Diaries 1914-1916’ are available
from HGWHS @ £10.00  PLUS £2.00 p/p

The full diaries of William Henry Stott extend to 63 volumes and cover the years 1872 -1935. Copyright is held by Stephen Gee.

A second volume, covering the years 1917-1919, is in preparation and will be published at a later date.

 

Copies of ‘Mr Stott’s Diaries 1914-1916’ are available
from HGWHS @ £10.00  PLUS £2.00 p/p