Refugees, fundraising and the fall of sport and pubs during Great War

Collecting for the Belgian Relief Fund, Worthing c.1915.'West Sussex County Council Library Service, PC008750 SUS-150514-112334001
Collecting for the Belgian Relief Fund, Worthing c.1915.'West Sussex County Council Library Service, PC008750 SUS-150514-112334001

A two-year Library Service project to research how West Sussex was affected by the first world war has now achieved all its aims.

It was paid for by the Heritage Lottery Fund and involved over 150 volunteers.

'Fire Your Money at the Huns', Mid-Sussex Times 9th July 1918 SUS-150514-112310001

'Fire Your Money at the Huns', Mid-Sussex Times 9th July 1918 SUS-150514-112310001

A new website is online at www.westsussexpast.org.uk

This is the fifth in a unique series of articles, each based on a chapter in a new book published as part of the project by West Sussex County Council:

Great War Britain: West Sussex Remembering 1914-18 is a 272-page book describing how local people coped both on the home front and abroad.

Save £2 on the RRP by buying it from your local library for £12.99 or from West Sussex Record Office in Chichester.

Advert for a Patriotic Concert at the Corn Exchange, Chichester, Chichester Observer, 7th October 1914 SUS-150514-112323001

Advert for a Patriotic Concert at the Corn Exchange, Chichester, Chichester Observer, 7th October 1914 SUS-150514-112323001

The Home Front: West Sussex Civilians at War

Background: Local people understood this was to be a large-scale war requiring a massive and continuous effort on the Home Front to support it.

Activities and events were held every week throughout the county and browsing local newspapers brings home the scale and commitment needed.

They involved the whole community, men, women and children, political and social elite, and those less fortunate.

Advert for the film 'The Battle of the Somme' showing at the Picturedrome, Worthing, Worthing Gazette, 13th September 1916 SUS-150514-112257001

Advert for the film 'The Battle of the Somme' showing at the Picturedrome, Worthing, Worthing Gazette, 13th September 1916 SUS-150514-112257001

Middle and upper-class women dominated their planning and delivery, as they had the time and organisational skills required.

Fundraising: The scale of fundraising was astonishing, involving every town and village.

Initial confusion over who did what was largely overcome, although class warfare undermined efforts at Crawley.

The county supported the Prince of Wales’ National Relief Fund and many places also set up their own relief fund to help the dependants of local servicemen.

Lord Kitchener's Appeal for blankets for Soldiers.'Courtesy of Horsham Museum, 1998.1031  www.horshamposters.com SUS-150514-112420001

Lord Kitchener's Appeal for blankets for Soldiers.'Courtesy of Horsham Museum, 1998.1031 www.horshamposters.com SUS-150514-112420001

Flag days supported our allies Belgium, France, Italy, Serbia and Russia.

British Red Cross Society ‘Our Days’ raised money for temporary hospitals.

Agricultural gift sales were frequent in our rural county.

More than 400 Sussex War Loan Clubs and War Savings Associations helped the national war effort by late 1917.

War Weapons Weeks in 1918 supported the final push, East Grinstead’s in June raising a colossal £135,000, worth £7.7m today.

Local initiatives included funds to send tobacco, fruit and vegetables, comforts (socks, scarves, etc), reading materials, and even sandbags to the troops.

Advert for 'Gazette' Tobacco Fund, Worthing Gazette, 4th August 1915 SUS-150514-112345001

Advert for 'Gazette' Tobacco Fund, Worthing Gazette, 4th August 1915 SUS-150514-112345001

Recycling of paper, tinfoil etc also helped the war effort.

Social Life: Most social events had some element of fundraising or collecting for the war effort, too.

These included concerts, music hall variety shows, dances, garden fetes, jumble and white elephant sales, and whist drives.

The military became involved, camps like Roffey and Shoreham hosting many concerts and variety shows.

Cinemas were on the rise, with every large Sussex town having several and most villages showing silent films in local halls.

Showings were packed and troops on leave swelled the numbers. Programmes ranged from comedies, documentaries and dramas to war newsreels, including the controversial but popular film The Somme.

That British institution, the pub, struggled to survive the absence of young men and government measures to restrict opening hours and water down beer.

Some closed, such as Cuckfield’s King’s Head, but many people welcomed the decrease in drunkenness.

Social, and particularly sports, clubs were greatly affected by the war, as young men departed.

By mid-1915, the popular sports of cricket and football suspended their leagues and played friendlies for the rest of the war.

Nine of the 40 Haywards Heath Rangers FC players who joined up were dead by 1917.

Refugees: Belgian refugees were welcomed with open arms, given the suffering experienced during the German invasion.

Families were found homes in villages across Sussex, but main locations were in larger towns where larger empty houses could be adapted.

Worthing had more than 50 refugees, Chichester 24, Horsham 20 and East Grinstead 18.

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Territorials leave for France, South Street, Chichester SUS-150514-120242001

Territorials leave for France, South Street, Chichester SUS-150514-120242001