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Whitehaven in the Great War (Paperback)

Military WWI World History > UK & Ireland > Towns & Cities in the Great War

By Ruth Mansergh
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Series: Your Towns & Cities in The Great War
Pages: 142
ISBN: 9781473833999
Published: 21st September 2015



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Whitehaven in the Great War covers Whitehaven's immense contribution to the Great War effort; it is thought that 625 Whitehaven men – from a town that, in 1901, had a population of around 21,000 – lost their lives fighting in the war. Meanwhile, on the home front, military service deprived many businesses of their established male workers, and women went to work in what had previously been exclusively male areas of employment.

Notable people written about include recipient of the Victoria Cross Abraham Acton, an Orangeman in Whitehaven; local hero Robert Curwen Richmond Blair DSO, EM; and close friend to Kaiser Wilhelm II, Lord Lonsdale, the famous Yellow Earl who formed his own Pals battalion, the Lonsdales (11th Battalion, Border Regiment), to fight the Germans.

It was often said, 'No bombing Zeppelin or Gothe ever attacked our peaceful backwater during hostilities.' However, on 16 August 1915 a U-boat, U-24, shelled the Harrington Coke works at nearby Lowca. This unexpected attack caught the community off-guard, and during the hour-long bombardment fifty-five shells rained down on the factory and the surrounding area – not one single shot was fired in return.

War memorials to those killed in the Great War have been moved following church closures, however this book acts an practical reference guide to where these memorials stand today. Interesting stories come to light, like that of Baden Powell Thornthwaite, whose name was inscribed on a local grammar school war memorial, who had not died after all, but most likely deserted.

One of the great joys of this sort of book is the discovery of new facts about a familiar area. For me the biggest surprise was the presence of a small German POW camp at Wasdale Head (although a post-war visit makes this sound like a rather relaxed camp, with the POWs living in dormitaries in one of the old farms, with no barbed wire), and a slightly larger one on the edge of the fells.

Read the full review here

History of War

As featured on...

C J Campbell - YouTube Blog

This book covers Whitehaven and the surrounding areas for sometimes quite a few miles around; it is the product of much research and is well referenced. To anyone living in the southern part of West Cumbria, or its considerable diaspora, there is interest to be found in the stories it uncovers. To read rolls of honour or war memorials is to see lists of names, however a book such as this which puts stories to names, and sometimes faces, is illuminating and gives humanity to what would otherwise be sterile. So many heroes and heroines that I have never heard of have their exploits recorded here; so many personal stories, punctuated with events in the area during the war and at the front. It tells of prisoner of war camps, Belgian refugees, football matches and is a little selection box of local history. I particularly liked the story of the people of Whitehaven flocking down to the harbour to wave at a German U boat as it corroborates what my grandfather told me many years ago, and I never knew whether to believe it or not until I saw it confirmed here. Any marra could read this book and enjoy it; and many others beside. It made me quite proud of the part my home town played in the Great War. It's a good 'un and written by someone who knows what she's doing.

Amazon review - John Little

As mentioned in

Workington Times & Star

There's plenty packed into the 140+ pages here.

Who Do You Think You Are?

As featured in

The Whitehaven News
 Ruth Mansergh

About Ruth Mansergh

Ruth Mansergh is a full-time mother of two who has worked as a journalist and as a freelance sub-
editor/proofreader for publications including Financial Adviser and the Daily Mail. She was brought up in Cumbria, went to school in North Yorkshire, and has a degree in English with Social History from Leeds University. She has inherited her father’s keen interest in local history.

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