Thursday, 22 September 2016

Spreading the news in 1916

It’s been a while since we thought back to our Refuge boys on the Western Front. In September 1916 the Battle of the Somme was still raging and the Manchester population read the newspapers everyday, to try and gain some understanding into what was happening 400 miles away. 

Refuge soldiers

In the age of social media where news gets spread instantaneously it’s difficult to comprehend these days the concept of waiting for news. As events unfold, people at the scene are often quick to tweet or Facebook message news to social media platforms. In 1916 however, it could take many days for news to be disseminated. In the 23rd September 1916 edition the Manchester Evening News makes reference to this:

‘We shall be obliged if relatives and friends of men on active service will communicate to us, on the day they receive it, any information regarding casualties.’

News was not instant, and media relied (much like today) on the general public to distribute information.


Brian Crossley
The Refuge often had the sad duty to add to its own roll of honour names, many of which were discovered through the papers. Some men who had given their lives had photographs and memorials published in the MEN. It is likely theses details were given by relatives or friends who had contacted the newspapers to announce their loss. Brian Crossley is a good example of this. Son of British engineer and eminent philanthropist William Crossley, Brian was a committee member of the Manchester Refuges. On his death in 1915, the Manchester Evening News printed a photograph and article on Brian’s life. Other announcements were much vaguer. It is perhaps a sign of a man’s social circle and influence as to what was published. As reported, Brian was a Director of Crossley Brothers, had an influential father and was well known in the Manchester community. Sadly, for our refuge boys who had no such influence, their deaths would not warrant such an extensive mention.  

All however, made it onto the Refuge’s roll of honour. And all were remembered and mourned. You can see some of their stories on our own website. If you have your own tales of ancestors who were connected with the Refuge and fought in World War One we would love to hear them. 

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