H07154d — Soldiers Groups taken at Workhouse, October 1914

Box 52


Image 2: H07154 — Soldiers Groups taken at Workhouse, October 1914

Image 3: H07154e — Soldiers Groups taken at Workhouse, October 1914

Image 4: H07154e — Soldiers Groups taken at Workhouse, October 1914 — detail


‘Letter from Iris’ — Kathryn Tollervey, Digital Archivist, Edward Reeves Archive & ‘Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau’ sung by the Pontypridd Male Voice Choir

Audio transcript at bottom of page


The population of Lewes doubled in September 1914 as 11,000 troops arrived from the industrial north and from south Wales. Some were billeted in households, others in public buildings like the Town Hall and the old Naval Prison. 1,000 Welsh miners were accommodated in the old workhouse. Here in the workhouse grounds many are still waiting for their uniforms.


Iris Hotblack was a 20 year old living in Lewes, in her letters to her future husband Alan Morton, she describes the “two week invasion” of Lewes in the summer of 1914 when 10,000 men were sent to Lewes for training.


Iris Hotblack’s letters are in the Liddle Collection, Leeds University Library


“We have had 11,000 men of Kitchener’s New Army billeted in Lewes and like other people we have been terribly busy seeing after them. We started with five. They were exceedingly nice and very ‘superior’. They belonged to the “Cardiff Commercial” troop about 1000 strong. They call themselves “the Pals”. Some of them who were not billeted had a very bad turn with all the other troops who were chiefly composed of Lancashire and Welsh miners all herded together in the Town Hall, Naval Prison and Workhouse. We then offered to take in two and three very nice but nervous and run down boys came. Their gratitude was really pathetic!


Of course things have been very badly arranged but what can you expect? Lewes had her population doubled at a day’s notice. Well, I cooked and washed up from morn ‘till night. Yes, Balmy, for first time in my life I worked really hard and I believe I enjoyed it too.


In the evening we either had a big illuminated garden concert in a friend’s house down the road or else we had a swell evening at home. Most of my men sang, that is to say they sang part songs and glee songs and we had one splendid soloist. A lovely voice! Tipperary, the Marseillaise and the Welsh national anthem were the great favourites. By jove, Welsh men can sing. They all sing and they all volunteer to sing without hesitation.”