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Covering the villages of Wilsden and Harecroft
2nd January – The British Government created the Air Ministry, a new government office to provide political oversight for an Air Service that would be on the same level as the Army and Navy. The formation of the Air Ministry began in August 1917, when General Smuts presented a report to the War Council on the future of air power. Because of its potential for the 'devastation of enemy lands and the destruction of industrial and populous centres on a vast scale', as well as problems the British Government had had with procurement and development of aircraft engines, and with the air defence of Britain – on the 1st April 1918 the Royal Air Force would be formed under the direction of the Air Ministry, combining and centralising the Army’s Royal Flying Corps, and the Navy’s Royal Naval Air Service.

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No. 1 Squadron, Royal Air Force, 1918. Image via https://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/

4th January – His Majesty’s Hospital Ship (HMHS) Rewa is sunk off the West coast of Devon by a German U-boat – another victim of unrestricted submarine warfare. Four sailors were killed in the initial torpedo explosion, but the rest of the crew and wounded soldiers were able to evacuate safely. The attacking of hospital ships – which were brightly painted and lit up at night, was strictly against The Hague Conventions (which governed the conduct of war), and the sinking of HMHS Rewa caused outrage in Britain. After the war the Captain of the U-boat disappeared before he could be tried for war crimes. During the Second World War the wreck of the Rewa was destroyed by British depth charges, as it gave off a radar return that looked like that of a German U-Boat.

Sources

Gilbert, M. First World War

https://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/

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Wilsden

Christmas Festivities

The usual festivities were held during Christmastide at the different places of worship in Wilsden in the form of picnic teas and concerts. In connection with the parish church, the concert was arranged by Mrs. Atkinson. The Vicar (the Rev. H. Roper) presided, and Master Harry Briggs was the accompanist. Mrs. Lister presented prizes to all those who had made good attendance during the year at the Sunday school. The concert at the Congregationalist Sunday school was presided over by the Rev. F.C. Rollin (pastor). The choir rendered glees; Mrs F. White, Miss Alice Calvert and Miss Florrie Whitwham contributed songs; there was an action song by five girls, a sketch by four characters … Addresses and reports were given by the deacons and the Sunday-school officers. There was a moderate attendance.

            A social evening was held in the Primitive Methodist Church. Songs were rendered and games indulged in, and refreshments were served during the evening. In the Wilsden Wesleyan Sunday School an “at home” was held … songs and quarters [were sung]. There were in addition games and competitions, Mr John Metcalfe presided, and Ms Bright Crabtree was the accompanist.

            Two public dances were held in the Mechanics’ Hall on Saturday and Wednesday evenings, promoted by the committee. The proceeds were in aid of the Mechanics’ Institute funds.

- Keighley News, 29th December 1917

Sources

Keighley News Archive (accessed via Bradford Libraries website)

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22nd December – In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, the new Bolshevik rulers of Russia open peace negotiations with Germany and Austro-Hungary at Brest-Litovsk, in modern Belarus, but then part of the Russian Empire. An armistice had been agreed on the 15th December, and negotiators from all the participants met on the 22nd. The Bolsheviks had long campaigned for peace on any terms, but the belligerence of German negotiators, and the harsh demands they made, shocked the Russian representatives. However, Russia had been exhausted by over three years of war, and there was no political will to carry on the fight, especially as Bolshevik control was by no means complete. A vicious civil war was breaking out, as the Bolsheviks and their supporters attempted to consolidate their seizure of power against a mix of Royalists, Government Loyalists, nationalist independence movements (such as the famous Czech Legion), and various political movements ideologically opposed to the Bolshevik revolution. Despite this pressure, negotiations at Brest-Litovsk would continue until March 1918.

Sources

Keighley News Archive (accessed via Bradford Libraries website)

Gilbert, M. First World War