Keith and District 1916
By the beginning of 1916 in Keith and District farming was experiencing a shortage of male labour. This was offset to some extent by women who were working in the fields and the textile mills. These mills, which were the backbone of Keith’s industry, were geared to making cloth and clothing for the military and were kept busy by orders from France as well as at home. Earlsmount, once a grand house overlooking the River Isla, was well established as a hospital for the wounded. Much of the social activity of all ages was directed towards supporting the war effort in general and the needs of local men at the Front in particular. School concerts, sales of work, flag days, knitting work parties and the like dominated the social calendar. Some established sporting activities and community events continued, while others were postponed for the duration. Food and other prices were beginning to rise.
The reality of British casualties was being recognised across the country with 119,923 killed, 338,758 wounded and 69,546 missing by the end of 1915. These grievous losses would accelerate in 1916. If the losses at Loos in September 1915 had been grim, with a large number of local men killed, what was to come at Beaumont Hamel in November 1916 would be horrendous for Keith and area and indeed Moray, casting a cloud over all communities.
1916 would also see the introduction of conscription, with even more local households directly affected by what was happening on the fighting fronts and even more ready to support the war effort at home at a time when prices were rising and constraints on day to day life were increasing.
The story of Keith and District during World War I is being told, month by month, by the Keith and District Heritage Group on its website: www.kadhg.org.uk
This section of Moray’s War summarizes that work and will trace life in Keith during that conflict. This summary does not include those killed in the conflict or what was happening on the fields of war as these are dealt with in the Fighting Front and particularly the Remembrance sections of Moray’s War.