In September, industrial works closed down across the West
Midlands as the region heard the news of the "Great Railway War"
with surprise and dismay. As Britain was plunged into the railwaymen's
strike over pay, plans were being rushed through to maintain food
supplies through road transport to our region and the rest of the
War Against the Public - reprinted locally from Punch,
the cartoon shows a "profiteering hen which is saying to
the housewife: "nothing doing at fivepence. But I might
perhaps lay one for you for nbinepence. What! you thought the
war was ove? Not my war."
Efforts to avert the disaster at Government level had failed and
within hours "grave effects" were being anticipated in the Black
Country and the region generally. Black Country manufacturers said
they were being handicapped by a lack of transport and one ironfounder
said they would be hit almost immediately. But they did not anticipate
having to close completely unless the strike went on for sometime.
The Springvale works and steelworks of Alfred Hickman Ltd said
they faced shutdown over the strike and their furnaces and steel
plants were at a standstill within a day, throwing an estimated
2,700 to 2,800 men out of work. A local firm of hurdlemakers and
iron manufacturers said they would have to shut within days. They
also warned that if the strike was protracted and they were unable
to fulfil their shipping orders, the result would be closure.
The strike also hit the travelling arrangements of football clubs
for away matches and many transferred to road transport. Wolverhampton
Wanderers sent their team to an away match with Leeds, a hundred
miles away, by motor. Wolverhampton and Wednesbury branches of the
railway union backed the stance solidly and the Post Office vowed
to try to get the mail through by whatever means available.
It was announced that Wolverhampton had a good stock of foodstuffs,
including milk, meat and flour, and was thought to be better off
than most other towns of a similar population in the area. A central
depot was set up for milk distribution and the town had meat supplies
to last a week.
Wolverhampton's coal merchants said they had "fairly large" stocks
in hand but were nevertheless preparing for rationing.
In Cannock Chase local coal consumers were being urged to go and
collect their own fuel and keep the pits working as a result. But
Littleton Collieries, Cannock, and Nook Pit, Cheslyn Hay, were at
a standstill because of a shortage of railway waggons
The railwaymen decided to strike after turning down the Government
offer of an average 100 per cent increase over pre-war standards
for an eight hour day. But by October 11 the strike had been called
off after peace terms were agreed in which the pay minimum was raised
from 49 shillings to 5l shillings.The news of the settlement was
received with "delight" in Wolverhampton and the town's mayor praised
the citizens for their voluntary help during the crisis.
is back in vogue: For West Midlands women more colours were in
vogue for the Spring season on the clothing front than had been seen
since the war with printed and painted fabrics were in fashion, but
unfortunately high priced.
For street wear the darker shades were more in evidence. An attractive
blanket coat for chilly evenings was in fashion.
Skirts were remaining short and hosiery and shoes were important
in giving the stamp of success to a costume. I
n accordance with spring fashions the new frock-coats were trimmed
on the skirts.
The softer materials such as crepe were in favour for house dresses
and blouses were large and loose-fitting.
A warm blanket coat, as featured in The Coming Fashions by Madame
Gwendoline Hope in the Midland Counties Express of April 1919.
Suicide bid man saved by his wife: In January the dramatic
story of how a concerned Bilston wife knocked a razor out her depressed
husband's hand as he tried to cut his throat was told at the Bilston
The wife described how she saw her husband go to a cupboard, take
out a razor and cut his throat.
She knocked the razor out of his hand with a stick. The man's
doctor said he had suffered from stomach trouble and had been depressed.
He said he was called in by police and found the man suffering
with a wound to his throat.
The man, charged with attempted suicide, told the court that he
was discharged from the army through ill health, said he was sorry
for committing the offence and promised not to repeat it.
On the understanding that his wife and mother would look after
him, the offence against the defendant was discharged.
Conman fooled mother and daughter: At Dudley Quarter Sessions
in October a horse trainer who swindled an old lady out of her life
savings and "debauched" her daughter, was jailed for 18 months. The
court heard that Frederick McCullough, aged 38, told the woman and
her daughter he had 500,000 in an Irish bank and large estates in
Ireland. The conman got money from the old lady, who was from Dudley,
and often it was taken to him in different parts of the country by
the daughter who stayed with him as his wife.
Letters asking for money were sent to the daughter and couched
in "most affectionate language." The defendant also said he should
marry the daughter - but it was discovered he was already married
and had no property whatsoever.
The defence was that the old lady couldn't possibly have believed
all McCullough's stories. The old lady had an eligible husband for
her daughter and was ready to do anything for him "even to the extent
of lending him her life savings." The deputy recorder said it was
a well thought out series of frauds carried out by "preposterous
and absurd lies."