All photographs on this page by kind permission of Leeds Library and Information Services,

Belgium Refugees


Please click here to look at the research report on Butcher Hill POW Camp (Adobe Acrobat Reader Required)


Hospitals in Leeds


The first 80 wounded men arrived at the Midland Railway Station after the Battle of the Marne in September 1914. There are reports of a crowd of over 6,000 watching them being taken from City Square to the teacher training college at Becketts' Park. This became the 2nd Northern General Hospital where there were 60 officer beds, 2039 other ranks beds. Between the start and the finish of the war over 57,000 soldiers were treated there.


The old workhouse in Beckett Street was converted into a 500 bed hospital, once visited by King George V. This became the East Leeds Military Hospital.


Chapel Allerton Military Hospital served 1320 troops, having 57 beds.


Temple Newsam initially housed 30 disabled Belgium soldiers. 615 patients had been be cared for there by November 1919.


First News


The first Leeds knew of war was the cancellation of a train to Scarborough which was being used to transport troops. On Friday 31st July Leeds Banks closed for 4 days. There was food panic and fear of unemployment.




A German Zeppelin dropped bombs on Harewood and Collingham. There was no damage. The Zeppelin mistook the river Wharfe for the river Aire.


According to German news reports these bombs had 'destroyed Leeds'.


Tram Car and recruiting office


A tram car became a feature of the recruiting campaign in Leeds. The tram car was illuminated to attract attention.


The recruiting office was in City Square. It moved there from Hannover Square in June 1916 when conscription was brought in. A total of 82,000 men from Leeds enlisted.


Clothing Depot


The tram sheds in Swinegate were the Northern Area Clothing Depot. In this now demolished building over 53 millions shirts, 29 million trousers, 89 million pairs of socks, 10  million great coats, 30 million pairs of boots were sorted and transported to clothe our soldiers. 75,000 items of clothing were inspected every week of the war.


Leeds Pals


The Leeds Pals are Leeds most famous city battalion.


Carlton Hill Barracks


Many Leeds soldiers paraded at the barracks as part of their initial training.




Several Leeds manufacturers contributed to the war effort. At Newlay shell cases were assembled. March, Jones and Cribb, on York Road, delivered 75 Camels to the Royal Flying Corps. 460 locomotives were built at the Hunslet locomotive works for supplies to get to the front line.


An explosion at Barnbow Works, near Crossgates, in December 1915 killed 35 women. By the end of the war this works had manufactured 36 million cartridges, filled 24 million shells and sent over 566,000 tons of ammunition overseas. The works had its own fire service and a 300,000 gallon reservoir. Over 16,000 people were employed there. It was guarded by older men in the Royal Defence Corps.


Boy Scouts and Schoolboys


Boy Scouts guarded Eccup Reservoir and Headingley Water Supplies. Schoolboys from Cockburn, West Leeds High, Leeds Grammar and Leeds Boys Modern harvested Flax at Bramham for Linen needed for aircraft wings.


Flag Days


Street collecting by Leeds children raised £33,000 for war funds. Some of the money was used to purchase 6 million cigarettes, 430,000 matches, 84,000 bars of soap and 37,000 sardine tins.


100,000 bottles of Yorkshire Relish were also sent from the Leeds factory by the River Aire.


Most of the money raised was given to the Red Cross for blinded soldiers and sailors.


Belgium Refugees and Leeds Art Gallery


The Lord Mayors Belgium Relief Fund Committee supported over 1.600 Belgiums of whom 210 were men. At first they were housed in the city art gallery until other accommodation could be found. Some of the men were employed by the Leeds Highways department, making furniture and at Swinegate repairing boots.


After the war a tea service was presented to Leeds Civic Plate in gratitude. Mr van Vyve said the people of Leeds 'should be proud of your country, it stands in the estimation of the world higher than ever before.' After the war 500 Belgium families were repatriated.




Over 10,000 Leeds women visited and aided dependents of soldiers and sailors. They worked in ammunition factories and as office clerks and buss conductresses.


Loans and Savings


Between January 1916 and March 1920 the people of Leeds subscribed £42 million pounds. The war cost Britain £7 million pounds each day. An additional £4.600.000 was raised charitably.


Town Hall


As the first men in Leeds joined up, 60 Germans who lived in our city were detained at the Town Hall and later interned.


The Leeds Town Hall was used by the Lady Mayoress, Mrs C Ratcliffe, to hold appeals for clothing for soldiers and sailors.


Administration for recruiting was organised from the Town Hall. The Civic Hall had not been built yet.


In 1918 there was a ecumenical service for troops.


In 1919 there was a reception and parade for returning battalions.




Food prices during then war rose on average by 75%. Fish by 134% and potatoes by 114%. In February 1917 rations were 4lbs of bread per head per week, 2 and half pounds of meat, ¾ pounds of sugar. Tripe and Liver became more popular to eat. Allotments provided much needed food. Properties in Leeds started to deteriorate due to the lack of plumbers, joiners and decorators.


Armistice Day – Yorkshire Post


The local newspaper reported that the 'city was alive with singing, merry making and shouting', As the day wore on the streets became packed with people 'whose joy was unmistakable'. News boys were shouting 'Signature of the Armistace and ammunitions girls singing Rule Britannia'. At the Town Hall the Lord Mayor greeted a crowd of over 40,000. There was a police band and fireworks.




The red triangule on the YMCA building in Albion Street became a sign of welcome to forces. The gym became a dormitory sleeping 2,000 men each month. During the war over 2 million visitors were helped by 250 ladies and 50 men. Men arriving at the railway station could find a lodging, a few hours rest and refreshment. A volunteer motor service gave free transport within a 20 mile radius.


Public Houses and Shops


Opening hours became more limited. After the Battle of Loos, when too many shells did not expode, tighter controls were brought in nationwide.


There were no Christmas cards in the shops and no chocolate to buy. The Empire and Hippodrome theatres closed early at 10.30pm. Performances were interrupted by recruitment appeals. One unusual plea at Elland Road recruited 500 men who were applauded as they walked onto the pitch.