Wakefield Prison – before OPVs

One of our OPVs recently sent us this interesting account:

Quite by chance while researching my family history, I came across an account which mentioned
Clipstone Camp, near Mansfield where a possible ancestor of mine had deserted from the army in
1919 following riots that broke out in response to the slow progress of demobilisation after WW1.

“…… we had been employed on strike duties as there was an amount of labour unrest in the
mining and railway industries. After Silkstone we were moved on to Barnsley for a short while (also
on mine duty) but eventually ended up at a mine in Wakefield.

There were no available billets in Wakefield so the empty prison was commandeered and the
whole battalion was housed in the cells, two men to a cell. Here we discovered that by banging
the cell doors we were locked in and thus unable to present ourselves for parade (to the chagrin
of those in authority). After this all locks were removed from the cell doors but because it might
cause offence to the miners we were confined to the precincts of the prison and gardens inside
the wall. We had conducted tours of the prison to relieve the boredom and had discovered a
stream running through the gardens, the exit of which had a large heavy grating. As this had
rusted through during the war years we were able to lift it.

We toured the town but, much to his surprise, were discovered by the Sergeant Major. On finding
that we were accepted by the town’s folk we were afterwards allowed out in the town when off duty.
Being an armourer’s assistant I was returned to Clipstone with a few other special duty men
before the battalion left Wakefield. I was sorry to go because amongst other reasons we used to
frequent the fish and chip shops which in those days were like restaurants with metal chairs
and marble tables with the meal being served by waitresses.

….. Soon after the riots we were de-mobbed and when this started some of our boys volunteered
as clerks to handle the necessary documents. On being entered on company orders for
demobilisation I, with a batch of others, mainly NCO’s, were sent to the Crystal Palace (since burnt
down) situated in Sydenham, London and many of our volunteer clerks were the men dealing with
us. We arrived just at their lunch time but as we were old comrades they delayed lunch to get us
back into civilian life.”