Influenza outbreak of 1919 and the woman magistrates jailed for ‘spreading lies’ about British troops...

‘Avoid coughing, sneezing or expectorating, except into a handkerchief’. Those were the words of advice administered in the Yorkshire Evening Post 100 years ago today.

Monday, 11th February 2019, 7:51 am

It followed mass outbreaks of influenza across the world, including here in Leeds. However, it was noted that on this day in 1919, the flu epidemic was abating, with only two new cases reported in the city.

Johnstone Jarvis, acting medical officer of health for Leeds, said a recent cold snap had aided in efforts to stamp out the disease in Leeds. That said, the official advice was not to ignore a feverish cold and to go home and rest rather than attend work and risk spreading the disease further.

In other news, a Labour Party organiser named Anne E Pimlott was jailed for three months and fined £50 after being found guilty of spreading malicious rumours about the conduct of English troops while on the Continent. The case was heard before magistrates in Dewsbury, after Pimlott alleged that some British troops violated women and even in some cases later killed them to prevent recriminations and furthermore that they mistreated prisoners of war, in some cases murdering them.

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Yorkshire Post Clippings of the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic

The case was robustly defended by the Crown, which listed “only one case of outrage”.

When questioned, a General Horwood, who had been in Franche from April 1915 to October 1918, along with around 200,000 other British troops, described the conduct as “marvellous”, adding: “Nothing could have been better.... there is no other word for it.”

The court report noted the defendant “was not a practised speaker” and “had a pale complexion”. Pimlott admitted she had repeated stories she had been told by others but added she still believed them.