Leeds in the First World War: New Leodis Collection

To commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War, it seems a good time to delve into our Leodis photographic archive to see how Leeds fared during this period.

The image below shows a recruiting tram for the Leeds Pals, a volunteer battalion from the business and professional communities of the city, many of whom were to tragically lose their lives at the Battle of the Somme:

Leeds Pals Recruiting Tram

Two major sets of First World War photos on Leodis, which feature on the Leodis Collections site, are:

  • Images of the Barnbow National Filling Factory in Cross Gates, a major producer of munitions for the war. The staff employed in filling the shells were predominantly women and the work was extremely hazardous; exposure to dangerous chemicals left many with skin and hair turning yellow, leading to them being dubbed the “Barnbow Canaries”.  3 fatal explosions took place including one on 5th December 1916 in which 35 women were killed; the photo below shows some of the injured.
Barnbow Munitions Factory, injured women and nurses
  • Images of the Gledhow Hall Military Hospital on Gledhow Lane, taken from the scrapbook of the hospital’s Commandant, Edith Cliff. This was seen as a pioneer among Voluntary Aid Detachment hospitals in the outdoor treatment of surgical cases, based in huts in the grounds as seen in the image below.
Gledhow Hall Military Hospital, patients outside “Blighty” hut

We also have a number of photographs from the University of Leeds showing the contribution they made to the war through research and technology; for example, in this image a student in the Department of Chemistry is working with Picric acid, a bitter, yellow poisonous acid used in the manufacture of explosives:

Leeds University, Department of Chemistry

Finally, to commemorate the Armistice which took place on 11th November 1918, here are a couple of photos showing the celebrations:

Bruntcliffe, celebration of end of war
Victoria Road School, Armistice float

All these images (and many more!) can also be seen on our photographic archive Leodis  which now boasts over 60,000 old and new images of Leeds.

Join us next week for an in-depth look at Leeds on the day of the Armistice.

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