Leeds nostalgia: Fighting at home and abroad... in May 1917

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One hundred years ago today, the Yorkshire Evening Post carried various reports of goings on on the Continent and discord back at home.

One report contained an account of Sapper Junius Cox, of Rotherham, who noted: “For the last two days I have been passing across the country which the Germans had abandoned in their retreat. Every little village has been practically razed to the ground, and no earthquake could have made the destruction more complete.

“Not a single house has escaped having a charge of dynamite or other explosive. Not a roof or even a first floor remains, and all the woodwork is burnt up. The destruction has been so methodical that the walls surrounding the houses and gardens have been pulled down, brick by brick and every fruit tree has been sawn at the root.”

He also said graveyards had been violated, coffins broken open and the dead pulled out as fleeing soldiers searched for treasure.

Meanwhile, closer to home, there was a report of “boys and girls having been drunk and disorderly” on Briggate in Leeds.

Supt Blakey, from Leeds Police, said “gangs of youths infested the thoroughfares and jostled girls and that there were gangs of Jewish and English boys who met and were against each other, causing great trouble to the police.”

They were said to be mostly aged between 16 and 18. The men were said to be “grabbing the women by the hair” and one woman “had a flower stolen from her”. A woman who was arrested by a special constable was forced to apologise before the courts after calling one “a ..... special”.

All defendants were fined between 5s and 10s. The court heard most of them earned about 25s a week, which the police said was too much.