Photos capture soldiers signing up

RECRUITMENT DRIVE Crowds outside DewsburyTown hall.sbury Town Hall.
RECRUITMENT DRIVE Crowds outside DewsburyTown hall.sbury Town Hall.

Hundreds of people thronged outside Dewsbury Town Hall 100 years ago after the outbreak of World War One.

This image, taken by keen photographer Fred Hartley, shows a war recruitment drive backed up by an impressive military display.

The photo is one of more than 2,000 taken by Hartley, who sold his prints as postcards outside his shop in Bradford Road.

Born in 1869, his hobby led to him opening a printing business in Wakefield Road in 1898.

John Hartley, his great-grandson, had his wedding reception at the town hall almost 50 years after the war ended.

“It’s very surreal,” he said. “That there he was years before taking photographs of people signing up to go to their deaths.”

Posters around the town encouraged young Dewsbury men to sign up.

On the town hall was a poster urging them to join the army so that conscription would not become a reality.

‘Dewsbury guarantees 500 men’ another poster boldly proclaimed, pointing willing would-be soldiers to the recruitment office.

The gung-ho spirit of many young men was borne of a naivety of what was to come – the British Army had not fought in Europe since the Battle of Waterloo.

“It was terrible,” said Mr Hartley, who now lives in Keighley. “There were 20,000 dead on the first day of the Somme.”

Just over 20 years later and Britain was embroiled in another world war.

The family business came under strain as the men were called up to fight in World War Two. Mr Hartley’s grandfather, Horace, was a Captain, and his father Rex was in the Navy.

A lack of paper during the war put further strain on Fred Hartley, now in his 70s and trying to keep the business going. But help came in the unlikely form of one of Dewsbury’s most famous son’s, Eddie Waring.

The future sports television icon was at that time the manager of Dewsbury Rugby League Club, while Fred Hartley was a founding member of the supporters club.

Eddie used his friend’s business to print match programmes and posters, keeping the business afloat through tough times.

The business closed eight years after Fred Hartley died in 1948 and his remaining photos, which were donated to Dewsbury Museum and are now owned by Kirklees Council, give a fascinating insight into the Dewsbury of old. 
All pictures taken by Fred Hartley.