Armistice 100: Government clamps down on clever Loiners clubbing together to buy cheap coal

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Dateline: September 11, 1918: The news headlines from 100 years ago make for grim reading and judging by them it must have been a tawdry time.

One such - ‘Coal deliveries behind in Leeds’ - extolled the virtues of thrifty Loiners, those individuals and household shouldering the burdens imposed by a general shortage of supplies without complaint.

One coal delivery man put it thus: “You can take it from me that although we are so favourably situated in close proximity to the coalfields, Leeds will show many cheerless fire-grates this winter. The fact is that there are not more than half the normal supplies of coal coming into Leeds at the present time.”

The first call upon those supplies was, of course, the munitions factories and after that businesses whose work was deemed important to the national good.

The coalman went on: “Householders are worse off. Although the Fuel Controller urged [those] with cellar accommodation to stock coal during the summer months, there are scarcely any in Leeds who have been able to do so. Most of those who expected by now to have eight or nine tons of coal in their cellars have only got one or at most two.”

He added that domestic coal deliveries had dropped to a fraction of what they had been.

On that day it was also announced that local ‘fuel overseers’ had been empowered to commandeer trucks of coal bound for private individuals. This was in response to the practise of groups of households ganging together to order a truck-load of coal, which was cheaper and meant they got more for their money. The government said it was putting a stop to the practise altogether.