Bolton doing its bit for First World War commemorations 

12/05/14
Photo of female clippie during war
Female clippie on Bolton tram

The well-told story of Private James Smith, who was shot at dawn, and tales of French soldiers recuperating in Bolton are featured in a series of online blogs to commemorate the First World War.

Bolton Council is one of 10 Greater Manchester authorities contributing to the weekly GM1914 blog which draws on information documented in each borough’s archives.

The blog was launched earlier this year and more than 30 volunteers from across the region have been researching their local archives and reproducing the long-lost tales from 1914 to 1918.

Bolton Council’s contribution to the blog is one of a number of initiatives taking place in the town to mark the centenary of the outbreak of war, including encouraging groups to plant poppy seeds; special displays in the museum; and civic events to mark Armed Forces Day and the official start of the national commemorations on August 4.

The latest entry to the GM1914 blog, on May 8, is by volunteer Margaret Koppens, who writes about Bolton’s Military Hospitals. Research shows that the influx of wounded soldiers to Bolton was so great that no less than four dedicated military hospitals were created, as well as turning the nurses’ quarters at Bolton Royal Infirmary into wards.

A blog in January, by fellow volunteer Lois Dean entitled Doing Their Bit, focusses on the vital role played by women during the war years. As well as working in munitions, women joined the Bolton Council Tramways Committee, working as tram guards or ‘clippies’ as they were then known.

Thanks to Halliwell Local History Society, Bolton Museum and Library Service was able to purchase a photograph of a ‘clippie’ at work on a Bolton tram, which was included in the blog post.

Other Bolton blog posts include: ‘Howitzers in Westhoughton’; ‘Brothers in Arms’; ‘Belgian Refugees in Bolton’; ‘What was Morris Heaton’s story?’ and the poignant ‘Shot at Dawn’ which recounts the story of Private James Smith who was court martialled and sentenced to death in 1917, and later pardoned by Parliament in 2006.

Bolton Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Councillor Anthony Connell, said: “Commemorations for the centenary of the First World War are taking place all over the country, so people of all ages will be aware of the significance of the period between 1914 and 1918, and the sacrifices made by the millions of people who lost their lives.

“However, not everyone will be aware of the part Bolton played during this time and the GM1914 blog is an excellent way of learning about the impact this war had on our hometown. The blogs are written by volunteers who really bring to life stories about real people affected by the war – both at home and on the battlefield.

“This is a fantastic resource that also tells the tale for the rest of Greater Manchester, and people will find it extremely insightful.”

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Karen Spibey
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