This is the story of the small east coast town of Hornsea during and after the Great War. The war touched every aspect of life on the home Front and those who were left behind suffered terribly as the war dragged on. This study meticulously explores the problems, hardships and grief faced by the people of Hornsea and is a microcosm of the experience of the nation generally.
Chapters one to five cover the experience of the population at home, many Hornsea families were interviewed by the author over a number of years and their photographs and memories' bring the text to life. Diaries and letters found in archives and in the possession of the people of Hornsea and surrounding areas highlight events that have long been forgotten, guns placed along the cliff top, Zeppelins roaring over Hornsea on their way to bomb Hull and the resulting chaos as anti-aircraft guns and searchlights lit up the night sky over Hornsea. The sky over Hull glowed red and the explosions of bombs and guns could be seen and heard clearly from Hornsea, after the raid the Zeppelins would roar over Hornsea once again with the resulting chaos of noise and lights, releasing any bombs they had not dropped on Hull. Eye witness accounts of these Zeppelin raids are featured in the text.
Recruits were being trained in the town throughout the war and in the Hornsea Drill Hall one night a rifle was discharged by accident and blew the arm off one young man, the nurse who had to help hold him down as they amputated what was left of his arm has left a graphic description of her gruesome nights work. Thousands of troops were stationed in Hornsea and its surrounding areas to train, many of them met their future wives there. Others died in training of a number of ailments, one young man who could not take the strain anymore committed suicide, these men are all buried in Hornsea and the author has researched them all, even though they were not from that town. Many such unusual stories fill the first five chapters, from spy scares to people prosecuted for profiteering or ignoring the black-out regulations. The photographs of all these people give an added poignancy to their story.
Chapter six delves into the aftermath of the Great War with its legacy of grief and men badly damaged mentally and physically. The maimed could be seen on the streets and many felt bitter about their treatment when they returned home, no "Land fit for Heroes" for them. One young officer commented in a letter to his friend in Hornsea: "I feel I have been a business weed all my life, it's a sad end to a military career. I suppose they won't want us till the next war, then we shall be somebody once again". Prophetic words indeed.
In chapter seven all the men on the Hornsea War Memorial are featured with portraits of the Fallen and of their families. Each family history is gone into in great detail and provides an insight of how people lived before the war. Their living relatives gave information and photographs that have been carefully kept in their own family archives and now those that were once mere names on a memorial live again within the pages of this study.
In chapter eight the author has sought out all of the Hornsea Great War Memorials in Churches, Chapels and clubs. After the war the Hornsea Council decided not to have a public war memorial but to build something that would be of use to future generations and stand as a memorial to those who never came home. The Hornsea Cottage Hospital was opened in the 1920s and is still in use today with numerous additions to its structure. In 2008 a War Memorial was dedicated to the men of WW1 and WW2, it is a large black granite block with all the men's names engraved in gold leaf. It is situated in the Memorial Gardens, New Road, Hornsea. One hundred years after the Great War ended the names of the Fallen are now on display for all to see.
In 1918 and 1919 Hornsea men who had served throughout the war came home only to die in the terrible influenza epidemic that was raging world-wide. One man was on his way home after being a Prisoner of War for three years and died on board ship in 1919, he is buried in Denmark. Another died at sea during the Russian War of Intervention in 1920 and is buried in the same Danish cemetery.
Chapter nine deals with all Great War burials in Hornsea that are of men from other counties. In 1919 the body of a seaman was washed ashore in Hornsea, he had been on a war ship that was clearing the North Sea of mines and fell overboard, he is buried in Southgate Cemetery, Hornsea. The histories of the men from other counties is researched meticulously and the author has left no stone unturned to find out their sad and deeply moving stories.
As is the case on all war memorials in Britain after the Great War many men were missed off the memorial for a number of reasons. The author has traced many such men who should be on the Hornsea War Memorial but have been omitted and has researched them and their families. They are covered in great detail in chapter ten, some with photographs.
Hornsea researchers have in the past traced a number of men with links to Hornsea, some lived there before the war, some were educated there and others were born there or had relatives that lived there. The author has researched all these men and their families, those found with a link to Hornsea but not entitled to be listed on the Hornsea War Memorial feature in chapter eleven.
This is the only wide ranging history of Hornsea and the Great War, it does not focus solely on the war dead but is a history of the civilian population as well. The grief felt by the Great War generation of Hornsea has now mellowed to a distant memory of sacrifice and loss, but at the time of the war the loss of sons, brothers and fathers was crushing in its enormity as ordinary folk tried to come to terms with the fact that loved ones once present were present no more. They looked out onto a world greatly changed from the one they knew. Their viewpoint is impossible for most of us now to share as they came together to cope with the emptiness, the nothingness of loss in war. The smaller Hornsea memorials kept in churches freeze in time a record of human suffering and the harsh reality of life and death in wartime. We now see these memorials with a hurried glance as relics of a bygone age, but after the war they would have been highly visible and arresting to all with their clarion call to the faithful to remember. The Hornsea Great War generation has now passed into history and with them went the grief and pain felt by all families, their memorials now stand as a silent witness to momentous events that are little known to the majority of the public today. Each day since the end of the Great War the cycle of renewal and healing has continued, the record left by the people of Hornsea stands as testament to that generosity of the human spirit that can, and must, transcend the obscenity of war.