Leeds nostalgia: The view from 1917 - scandal of a million ‘unfit’ men

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Turn the clocks back 1-00 years and attitudes were very different, as we shall see in a moment.

Of course, there was a war on, so the pages of the Yorkshire Evening Post from July 1917 were full of updates on the campaign abroad, with reports of the Kaiser ordering another 2m men to be called up to counter America entering the war, Bonar Law trying his best to balance the books, juggling as he was with a daily expenditure of about £5m.

But, of course, life went on as well. A century ago, we were discussing a crisis in education, whether Ossett should be placed in with Batley as a Parliamentary seat and, as one article had it ‘The Genesis of the Unfit’.

It bemoaned the fact more than a million men had been classed as unfit by the army and how such a figure was likely to embolden the enemy.

An opinion piece reads: “Probably more than a million men have been rightly rejected for military or naval service... since the war began. But this is an alarming proportion of our total manhood.”

It went on: “Does it indicate a racial degeneracy, the failure of the stock, and our approaching decadence in the rank of nations? Such is certainly the judgement of our enemies... It is also the judgement of our pessimists and armchair philosophers, who say all races, having risen, must fall and it is now the appointed time to leave the world stage.”

In other news, a motorist who “accidently” mowed down a family, killing the father by crushing his skull, was let off at Leeds Assizes. John Arthur Sellers, 39, cutlery manufacturer, from Sheffield, was indicted for the manslaughter of Jim Bush, 45, also from Sheffield after the former’s car mounted the pavement and struck Bush, his wife and young child. But a jury found him not guilty and he was discharged.