Retro: Untold story of Doncaster's wartime home front

Nurses at the Arnold Hospital, Doncaster
Nurses at the Arnold Hospital, Doncaster
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A new exhibition at Doncaster Museum will be revealing the untold story of local people who helped shape Britain during the First World War.

Free exhibition Keep the Home Fires Burning shows how Doncaster’s people were on the frontline of social change 100 years ago, when it came to women’s rights, class barriers, peace activism, soldier welfare and even school meals, with the impact of their actions still influencing our lives today.

Women workers at the Denaby Main Powder Works. Picture courtesy of Conisbrough and Denaby Main Heritage Group

Women workers at the Denaby Main Powder Works. Picture courtesy of Conisbrough and Denaby Main Heritage Group

It’s part of Doncaster 1914–18, a four-year project marking the centenary of the First World War and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Jude Holland, project manager at Doncaster 1914-18, said: “Through the exhibition, you’ll meet Doncaster people who didn’t just contribute to the war effort, but who changed history and whose legacies are still with us today.”

Women workers cleaned and worked on locomotives as well as carrying out munitions work and vicars in Bentley and Askern left the pulpit for the pit.

The exhibition shows how Doncaster became a cauldron of change and life could never be the same again.

The town played a key role in the fight for women’s votes with campaigns led by pioneers like Doncaster’s ‘rebel daughter’ Hannah Clark, who later became Doncaster’s first female councillor.

Women could no longer be dismissed to ‘their place in the home’ when they were making heroic contributions to the war effort, like munitions worker Lillian Smith and nurse Alice Mabel Pickering, who received an OBE and MBE.

In 1918 the Representation of the People Act gave some women the right to vote.

The national publicity surrounding the case of Conisbrough teacher John Hubert Brocklesby – one of the famous Richmond 16 sentenced to death for their beliefs in non-violence, later commuted to imprisonment – eventually changed public attitudes about conscientious objectors.

Lynsey Slater, curator of the exhibition, said: “Thanks to local people and volunteers getting behind the campaign and sharing their time, stories, and treasured family souvenirs, we’ve been able to restore Doncaster’s First World War history and remember those who had such an influence on our modern world.”

The exhibition at Doncaster Museum opens today, Saturday, and runs for a year. For more information, or to share a wartime story or object, visit www.doncaster1914-18.org.uk.

A tribute to the wartime role played by Chinese workers was launched this week.

A free leaflet, called Remembering the Chinese Labour Corps, is now available from community venues, schools and Chinese takeaways across Doncaster, created by members of Doncaster’s Chinese community working in partnership with Doncaster 1914-18. April 5 is the Chinese Qingming Festival when people remember their ancestors.