October 24, 1916 – Women changing the face of WW1 Britain

A huge change in Edwardian society is supported by statistics reported in the October 24, 1916, edition of the Market Harborough Advertiser, which show that nearly a million women are now doing men’s jobs.

As the country’s workforce is depleted by the conscription of young men to the trenches it is the womenfolk who are stepping up to the plate.

Around 27,000 more women ‘are attending sick and wounded soldiers’ and munitions, textiles, building, quarrying, and the railways are being forced to take a different approach to recruitment.

And the changing times are also being felt in the middle class homes. “A great part of the work previously done by the domestic servants who have gone into other occupations is now performed by unpaid labour.”

Britain would never be the same again, not least of course, because of the huge numbers of young men who were cut down in their prime or maimed by the awful fighting going on in France and the rest of the world.

The Advertiser’s columns are full of news about local casualties this week.

Sergeant G Billings of School Lane, Market Harborough, who was reported as ‘missing’, is now presumed dead.

Private William Aldwinckle and Private Henry Jeffs, both from Medbourne, have been killed in action while serving with the Leicester Regiment. Aldwinckle, 32, who leaves a widow and a young child, died a few months after his younger brother Private Herbert Aldwinckle. Jeffs , who was a shepherd, had only been in the army a few months.

The Advertiser also reports that the Great Easton family of Private Lawson Craythorne have been officially notified of his death.

Readers are also told that a number of men have been wounded: Private J Lawrence, Private J Smith, Private T Hornsby, and Private John Brown all of Market Harborough, and Private Bert Love of Great Easton.

It is interesting to see that nearly a column – rather than just a few lines – is devoted to reporting the death of Lieut-Col G Ripley of Cottingham, who was serving with the Northants Regiment. He died in a London hospital after being seriously injured in France.

The paper reports: “His injuries were caused by a shell and were of so serious a nature that it was found necessary to amputate the right arm at a base hospital in France.”

It is also interesting to see the differences in the treatment and support for officers versus the men they led.

The paper’s report continues: “Mrs Ripley, immediately upon receiving the notification of her husband being wounded, proceeded to France, and last week when he had made sufficient progress to be removed, travelled with him to London where he was transferred to a hospital for officers.

“Here there appeared hopes of his recovery, but unfortunately, blood poisoning set in and the gallant Colonel passed away on Monday afternoon.”

  • This column is published every Monday by John Dilley on the Newspapers and the Great War website and will continue until the 100th anniversary of the final armistice in November 2018.
  • My fellow researcher and De Montfort University colleague David Penman is conducting a similar real-time project with the Ashbourne Telegraph. Check out his Great War Reports.
  • Check out this week’s Harborough Mail for current news from the Market Harborough area.







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