Crowds flock to recruiting drive in Saltaire Park
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On 11 September 1914, with the war only a few weeks old, the Shipley Times & Express reported that Shipley had already ‘sent its own detachment of the RAMC and the local Ambulance Corps made a splendid response to the call.’ It added, ‘A properly organised movement for a Shipley detachment of Kitchener’s Men would we feel sure  meet with prompt success.’ The following week, columnist ‘Onlooker’ noted that a mass recruiting meeting in Saltaire Park, originally planned for the 19th, had been put back a week to try and secure the range of speakers they wanted. Finally the date was set for 3 October when for the first time in Shipley, ‘repre  sentatives of all the major parties will be on the same platform.’ First casualty And to add to the emotion of the occasion, Shipley had just learned of the death of Albert Turner, the first man from the town to die in the war. On 9 October the Shipley Times & Express carried an extensive report of the day which declared: ‘It will be a long time before the scenes in Saltaire Park last Saturday fade from the memories of that vast assemblage of people – estimated to number ten thousand – gathered
together for the purpose of encouraging enlistment in the British forces, which with their valiant Allies are (as the member for Shipley said in his speech) to overthrow for all time the hellish conception of German military despotism.’ The principal speakers were Mr Percy Illingworth, Liberal MP for the Shipley Division and Chief Government whip; Mr Will Crooks, Labour MP for Woolwich; Mr F W Butterfield and Ald A W Brown, the prospective Conservative and Socialist candidates respectively for the Shipley Division. They were assembled on the balcony of Saltaire Cricket Club’s new pavilion along the front of which appeared in large letters Nelson’s famous exhortation: “England expects every man to do his duty.” The crowd cheered each of
the speakers but gave an especially enthusiastic welcome to two other men when they were introduced on the balcony: Gunner Thomas Walker, who had survived the recent sinking of HMS Aboukir and Pte Arthur Johnson, who had been wounded at Mons, who were both home on a brief leave and acclaimed as local heroes. On the front row of the seats opposite the Cricket Pavilion
were the members of the Bradford & District Army Veterans’ Association among whom were ‘William Brighton, of 38 Thompson Street, Shipley, who as a private in the 5th Northumberland Fusiliers took part in the Indian Mutiny campaign and holds the medal with clasp for Lucknow and the Relief of Lucknow; Eli Brooksbank, 52 Charnwood Road, Eccleshill, who was a sergeant in the same regiment and has the Indian Mutiny medal, with clasp for the relief of Lucknow and the capture of Lucknow; James Rhodes, 82 Leeds Road, Eccleshill, who served as a private in the 3rd Dragoon Guards and holds the Abyssinian medal. Boy scouts ‘Twenty five members of the Army Service Corps from Bradford Moor Barracks were also present in uniform.’ The Boy Scouts got the event
started, marching with Shipley Brass Band from Otley Road to the park.  ‘As they marched up Saltaire Road, the Shipley band played several patriotic airs including “Hearts of Oak”, “Home Sweet Home”, “Rule Britainnia!, “The Minstrel Boy” and “Men of Harlech.” They were followed into the park by a huge crowd and the reporter noted: ‘Two guns, which were purchased from the government of the day by Sir Titus Salt when he laid out the park, were inspected with increased interest on Saturday. ‘These guns are on each side of the bandstand, situated on the fine broad terrace which runs the entire length of the park from east to west, on the level above the cricket ground. ‘From the inscription on the guns we learn the warlike career of these ancient pieces of ordnance. One of them was in the Russian War in the Baltic and fired 1085 rounds. Its companion was at Trafalgar and Acre and fired 1449 rounds.’
Arthur Johnson     Thomas Walker
Cannons in Saltaire Park
The speeches
Shipley MP and cabinet minister Percy Illing- worth (left) was first to speak and he began with an appeal to a York- shire tradition, reminding the crowd to loud cheers that during the Napoleonic wars 100 years before, ‘so well did the Yorkshire soldiers do their duty that they were referred to by the Duke of Wellington affectionately as his “havercake lads.” It is that example we must keep in mind today.’ He went on to spell out, speaking on behalf of the government, that there had been no desire to go to war but they had been given no choice after Germany invaded Belgium. ‘A more wicked, a more cynical, a more criminal breach of a binding obligation than that of Germany’s has never disgraced the pages of history,’ he added to yet more cheers. Limbo ‘Belgium appealed to the Powers to maintain her guaranteed treaty rights and had we not gone to her aid but had consented to tear up our promise in the face of mankind, it would have been better for us had we been swept away into the limbo of the dead and forgotten things. ‘ In a long passage he praised the Belgian King and his people for their courage then turned his attention to the Kaiser who had instructed his troops ‘there should no quarter, that no prisoners should be taken – a standard of conduct worse than that of the Huns under Attila a thousand years ago.’ Contrasting that with the resonse of Britain and its Empire, he reminded the audience that the Kaiser had derided the Allies forces as a contemptible little army and added: ‘Judging from what is appearing in the German newspapers opinion about the contemptible little army was undergoing a great change in Berlin. ‘Here is what the Berliner Tageblatt now says:  “The influence of the English troops is showing itself more and more. They are working through by the force of their masses and they do not stop.” ‘Just image a contemptible little army of 200,000 working the force of their massess through an army of 1,500,000! (laughter and cheers) ‘Well, that army has been performing
feats of valour, skill and endurance against tremendous odds and has added lustre and renown to the British arms. ‘Young men are flooding to the standard from all parts of the Empire and Yorkshire, as the first and foremost of the counties of England, will lead the way. The struggle will be long and will be obstinate, and there is much need for men to join the King’s Army. ‘I do not think it is necessary to plead for generous treatment from employers, public and private alike, towards the men who went to the front and the dependants they leave behind. ‘The need is great and our cause is just. Civilisation itself depends upon our success and the nation and the Empire will go forward undaunted and undismayed until victory complete and final is ours.’ (cheers) Mr F W L Butterfield (below) started his speech with a promise of opportunity and the warning of the consequences if young men didn’t seize that chance. ‘A man of pluck and decision has now every chance of rapid progress on the high road to military distinction,’ he said. But he warned: ‘A man who refuses to respond to the country’s appeal will perhaps unknowingly influence the adoption of conscription which many in this part of the world appear to dread. ‘They are bound to recognise however that conscription will be an essentially democratic measure. This war is certainly going to be a fight to the finish. ‘It cannot be otherwise. It is a battle between two contending moralities between two different philosophers – in a word between two separate religions mutually antagonistic.’ Shopkeepers He described the German emperor and his followers as wanting to ‘impose by all in their power, whether fair or foul, their “superior” civilisation on all other communities and especially upon England, that home of shopkeepers and sentimental theorists.’(laughter) He believed that ‘the whole world now knows what to expect from Prussia and Germany and the whole world realises too from the course we have taken that it can rely upon British honour and British faith.’ (cheers) He pledged: ‘The financial position of wives and dependents will not be prejudiced by the absence of the breadwinners. On the contrary, their position ought to be improved and if need be at the cost of the community. ‘So long as we are dependent upon
voluntary service and so long as men stay at home who are well able to go to the front, I will not agree with any public body which does not recognise the right of our soldiers’ families to proper financial treatment. They are the wives and families of our men who are fighting our battles for us and who are going to win.’ He concluded by asking the men to offer themselves ‘while there is time and not to wait until Canterbury Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and York Minster were destroyed by the German vandals and reduced to ruins worse than Kirstall and Bolton Abbeys.’ (Cheers). It was considered something of a coup to have MP Will Crooks (left) on the platform. He had recently received national acclaim when, against all traditions, he had led the singing of the national anthem and called for three cheers following the King’s speech to parliament. He described the event as more of a family party than a meeting, adding to the first of many bursts of laughter from the crowd. ‘Like all families we have our quarrels. We wouldn’t be Yorkshire or English if we couldn’t have a row with a sister or brother. ‘But for the time being we have forgotten all our differences and have gathered together to talk things over about the fellow who want to get into our house.’ He said he’d been told he was too old and podgy to fight but he recognised the dangers they were facing. He described going on a peace mission to Germany and attending a demonstration that ‘opened quite peacefully but the chairman had hardly uttered half a dozen words before the representatives of the military authority walked in and took possession. The soldiers were there with fixed bayonets in case there was a disturbance at a peace meeting.’ Backwoods He contrasted that with what he had found while travelling across the British Empire: ‘In the backwoods of Canada and in the bush of Australia, where the houses are eight and nine miles apart, the people display their Union Jacks. ‘I asked one man why he flew the Union Jack in such out of the way places. “So that people will know whom we belong to,” was the reply. And when I said that  surely nobody ever goes by here. “Perhaps not,” said the man, “but we go out and have a look for ourselves.” ‘In incidents such as that one discovered the spirit which kept the Empire alive today and our sons and daughters praying, working and fighting for the sake of home, sweet home.’ He warned those who were making
excuses for not enlisting that those reasons would seem trivial compared to the problems to be faced if the Kaiser won. He concluded: ‘We want more men and we shall get them too. What a wonderful example we have already been to the civilised world! Over 600,000 men have rallied round the standard in six weeks and all volunteers. Furthermore, we have only to prove to the young men that England needs them and they will come forward.’ At the conclusion of his speech, Mr Crooks called for three cheers for the King and they were heartily given. The final speaker was Alderman A W Brown (below) who observed that if the Kaiser knew what enthusiastic meetings were being held in England in connection with the recruiting campaign, it would begin to dawn upon him that English people were not made of the stuff he imagined. ‘It is such gatherings as this one which give unmistakable evidence of the solidarity of the nation,’ he said. ‘It is our duty to do everything we possibly can to show the Kaiser that we mean business and are determined to carry the war to successful conclusion. ‘It is gratifying that from every part of the globe where the British flag is waving the people are volunteering to take part in the fight to free Europe from military thraldom.’ Speaking to any fellow socialists who might still be opposed to the war he reminded them that ‘trade unionism in Germany exists on sufferance and that no trade union meetings can be held without  permits from the police and without the presence of a police spy. Such a state of affairs is repugnant to our nature as a free people. ‘I want to remind you also that the German franchise is altogether different from what it is here. It is true that the working man has a vote but his foreman has two and his boss four. ‘Although the trade unionists are very highly organised, the law of conscription when put into operation on the outbreak of war made every man a soldier and if he protests his life is at stake.’ He concluded: ‘We ought to do our best to encourage those who are fighting our battle and not forget those who are left behind. Public authorities ought to set an example in regard to the treatment of both married and single employees who enlist. ‘Young men should enlist not from any spirit of revenge but from a noble and patriotic motive and with a desire to serve the country to the best of their ability.’
Resolution That this meeting of residents of Shipley, profoundly believing that we are fighting in a just cause for the vindication of the rights of small states and the public law of Europe, pledges itself unswervingly to support the appeal to the nation and all measure necessary for the prosecution of the war to a victorious conclusion whereby alone the lasting peace of Europe can be assured.