Retro: Sheffield University’s first casualty of war in 1914

Uni of Sheffield Retro Nov 1914 feature: Members of the Waltonian Angling Society entertaining wounded soldiers from 3rd Northern General Hospital
Uni of Sheffield Retro Nov 1914 feature: Members of the Waltonian Angling Society entertaining wounded soldiers from 3rd Northern General Hospital
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By November 1914 it was clear the war would not be “over by Christmas.”

On November 10 the Telegraph noted a “considerable revival” in the number of recruits in Sheffield, with 110 men accepted at the office in St George’s Square the previous day.

There was also an increase in the number of men signing up to the Reserve Battalion of the Hallamshire Rifles.

Lieutenant General Sir Herbert Plumer, inspecting the troops at the Norfolk Barracks, declared that they made a “very creditable appearance.”

On November 3 the newspaper reported that the first volunteer from the university had been killed on active duty: Second Lieutenant Robert Nevin Carswell, who had been serving with the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.

By November 1914 some 266 students and lecturers had volunteered for war service, with 107 men in the Officers’ Training Corps.

The university stated that no lecturer would suffer financially and no student would be prejudiced in his academic career “as a result of their patriotism.”

While the war was intensifying on the Continent, the people of Sheffield were eager to maintain some semblance of normality.

Many competitions and shows went ahead as planned, including the annual Root Vegetable Show now in its 13th year!

The winner of the ‘six best swedes’ category was Mr H Bishop of Dore, whilst Mr Vincent Siddall took home first prize for his marigolds.

Flower shows proved popular. The Crookesmoor Floral Competition enjoyed a bumper year, improving on 1913’s performance with 20 more entries and 33 certificates awarded!

The Sheffield Chrysanthemum Society opened its annual show in the Corn Exchange. Patriotism was the order of the day.

These shows sought to celebrate ‘the best of British’ and the Telegraph reported that some “exceptionally good blooms” were on display.

Sheffield celebrated its fauna as well as its flora, and November 1914 saw many local bird shows.

The Attercliffe and District Cage Bird Society hosted its ninth annual show, and the Rotherham Cage Bird Society awarded its Norwich Cup to Mr WT Turner for his canaries.

Seeing the popularity of these shows, Sheffield Council hosted a special bird show in aid of the War Distress Fund on November 8. More than 300 birds could be seen on display.

The newspaper reported that good weather had drawn many local fanciers, and the crowds had donated generously. The Sheffield Cage Bird Society won a special prize for the most entrants.

November 13 saw the annual ploughing contest of the Dore and District Society. Mr W Key was victorious but visitors at the event could also enjoy competitions in milking, thatching and the best pair of plough horses.

Music was a common form of entertainment and concerts were frequently put on in the evening.

Special performances were staged at local hospitals, now home to wounded soldiers. Sunday School children would perform songs for the patients but it was Wharncliffe Silkstone Male Choir who

staged the most popular concert in November 1914.

They sang popular songs from the period and handed out packets of cigarettes!

Concerts outside the hospitals were used to raise money for the war and war-related charities. The Highfield Harmonic Society held a concert in aid of the Lord Mayor’s Relief Fund and the event was

described as a grand “patriotic occasion.”

The national anthem and Land of Hope and Glory were sung, followed by a series of standing ovations.

Similarly, proceeds taken at the annual concert held by the Caledonian Society of Sheffield were donated to the Belgian Relief Fund.

n We’d love to hear your thoughts on Sheffield 1914 and to hear your own stories and memories.

Please get in touch on Twitter at @Sheffield1914, or write to us at: Sheffield 1914 Team, c/o Dr Amber Regis, Jessop West, Upper Hanover St, Sheffield, S3 7RA.

Photographs courtesy of Sheffield Archives at