On This Day


‘On This Day’ is an online project currently being run by the Voices of War & Peace WW1 Engagement Centre, based at the Library of Birmingham. Since January 2016 the centre has periodically published extracts of news reports from local papers 100 years on. ‘On This Day’ focuses on how the Great War affected Birmingham citizens, from women left to look after their children single-handedly to conscientious objectors and to munitions workers, and the impact on their daily lives from food shortages to restrictions on lighting in the city and to infant welfare. All of the content has been sourced by University of Birmingham history students, who are undertaking the Professional Skills module in their second year of study. The material has been found by using the British Newspaper Archive. Maeve Scally worked on the entries from 1916, while Gemma Daw has been researching 1917. Here are a few sneak previews into what Gemma has found….

 Birmingham Daily Gazette

Wednesday 24th January 1917


Special precautions are taken in Birmingham to give protection to the policemen on duty at night. The men are provided with white coats, while electric globes, giving a red light, are fixed to the top of their helmets. These constables are shown adjusting their electrical headgear before going on duty.


Birmingham Daily Gazette. Wednesday 24th January 1917.

Birmingham Daily Post

Saturday 24th February 1917



Practically no potatoes arrived at the Smithfield market in Birmingham yesterday, and in consequence of the shortage most of the stands were empty, and business was held up. The information available, however, was to the effect that there was no famine, and that considerable stocks of potatoes exist in the Eastern Counties. While Birmingham retail dealers, it is stated, are not exceeding the Government price of 1 1/2d. per lb., potatoes are not now being graded, with the result that purchasers are receiving supplies much inferior in quality. Tradesmen, on account of the shortage, are also restricting quantities sold to customers – in some districts a weight of 4lb. being the limit, and in other parts of the city 6lb. Parsnips, carrots, and swedes have increased demand because of the potato shortage, and prices have risen.


Comic postcard from WW1 highlighting potato shortages during the war suggesting they will be missed particularly by women during the war as a staple food source.

Comic postcard from World War 1 highlighting potato shortages during the war – suggesting they will be missed particularly by women during the war as a staple food source. [MS 4067]


Birmingham Daily Post

Wednesday 21st March 1917



The experiment of employing a number of Boy Scouts as ‘’bell boys” on the platforms of the tramcars on the Dudley Road route has been so successful that the Birmingham Tramways Committee have decided to extend it to every route in the city. The scheme has been taken up enthusiastically by nearly all the Divisional Scout Masters, and it is proposed to organise a detachment of 250 Scouts, who will be on duty at the various tramway termini every evening between six and nine o’clock, and from 12.45 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Saturdays. There will be sufficient boys to render assistance to every conductress, and as they will wear distinctive armlets their authority will easily be recognised by the passengers. At each terminus a boy will board each outward bound full car, and take charge while the conductress collects the fares, he will be responsible for stopping and restarting the car at the specified places, and when the conductress has finished collecting the fares he will return to the city terminus by another car, ready for boarding the next outgoing car. During the busy periods of the day, when the cars have been crowded, the services of these lads on the Dudley Road route have been invaluable, and the Tramways Committee feel that they will be equally useful on all the routes. In order to encourage the lads each will be given a ration allowance of 6d. per day to meet his incidental expenses. Next Tuesday the 250 Boy Scouts who have volunteered for service will, with their Scout Masters, attend at the Tramways Department to receive instruction in their work from the traffic manager, and a day or two later they will commence their duties.

On This Day can be found on the Voices website: http://www.voicesofwarandpeace.org/category/on-this-day/

And on Twitter @Voices_WW1


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