Leeds nostalgia: 100-years-ago today - how Leeds farmers fought their own battles with crop production while war waged on the Continent

editorial image
0
Have your say

A century ago this week, an article in the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, sang the praises of the wile white clover plant, which it said was increasingly being used by farmers as a means of reinvigorating the soil.

The article said: “It is well known... it acts as a natural fixer of nitrogen from the air and stimulates the roots systems of all other grasses in its vicinity.”

Black and white photographic postcard titled 'Ruhleben Horticultural Society - Garden staff, 1917'. Ruhleben Horticultural Society was an affiliated society to the RHS that flourished at Ruhleben internment camp in Germany, during the First World War. The camp contained around 5,000 prisoners, most of them British who were caught in an enemy country during the First World War. The camp was based on an old 10-acre racecourse near Berlin. The inmates were accommodated in the stables with the race course becoming a drill ground and games facility. Initially, horticulture was limited to a few enthusiasts but soon there were possibilities of gardening on a bigger scale. A gift of seeds from the Crown Princess of Sweden sparked a passion for gardening and soon after a horticultural Society was formed.

Black and white photographic postcard titled 'Ruhleben Horticultural Society - Garden staff, 1917'. Ruhleben Horticultural Society was an affiliated society to the RHS that flourished at Ruhleben internment camp in Germany, during the First World War. The camp contained around 5,000 prisoners, most of them British who were caught in an enemy country during the First World War. The camp was based on an old 10-acre racecourse near Berlin. The inmates were accommodated in the stables with the race course becoming a drill ground and games facility. Initially, horticulture was limited to a few enthusiasts but soon there were possibilities of gardening on a bigger scale. A gift of seeds from the Crown Princess of Sweden sparked a passion for gardening and soon after a horticultural Society was formed.

Of course, this was not just idle chat - there was a war going on and crop production was seen as paramount to the survival of the nation.

Reports from the battles raging across Europe abound, like this one from June 8, which details the capture of a number of prisoners.

It states: “On the Trentino front, artillery activity was normal. There were small engagements of reconnaissance patrols. On the night of June 6, the enemy attacked in force our lines in Bacher Valley (Sexten) but was repulsed with loss.

“On the Carso yesterday, the enemy, reinforced by numerous fresh troops withdrawn from another theatre of war, was unusually active. Violent attacks were made on our positions from Hill 247, south of Versie, to the houses on Hill 31, east of Jamaino, defended by the 61st Division. The engagement lasted nearly the whole day, with varying fortune but in the evening the enemy was completely repulsed. During the various engagements, we took 102 prisoners, including four officers. Two of our bombing squadrons carried out important raids.”

War timeline: June 7, 1917 saw the start of the Battle of Messines, led by General Herbert Plumer, with the detonation of 19 underground mines underneath the German mines, on the Messines Ridge, a natural stronghold southeast of Ypres.

Leeds nostalgia: November 1917: Scandal over Dutch Blue Circle cement used for building German defences