The Wolds Wagoners

In the 1980s, Willerby Film Club made an 8mm film capturing the memories of three Wagoners: Billy Thompson, Horace Harrison and Jimmy Hodgson, who all recall signing up, mobilisation, and their experiences of the Mons Retreat during WW1.

At the onset of the war, the Wagoners were among the first men to be called up. They were not trained soldiers, but were highly skilled at driving horses and wagons, working on the estates of Sir Mark Sykes in the East Riding of Yorkshire.

Sir Mark had seen the chaos of poor transport in the Boer War and saw that the farms on his estates used exactly the same system of pole wagons and postilion driving that the Army used. After badgering the War Office, who initially saw no need for amateurs, he set up a reserve of 1000 men and they were recruited and paid £1 as a retainer, which became known as “The Silly Quid”.

The original Wagoners film has been lost, and the only surviving copy was a poor-quality VHS videotape, already beginning to deteriorate. YFA’s HLF-funded project, Filmed and Not Forgotten, enabled us to undertake vital restoration work, and although the sound quality is still quite poor, we now have master digital copies safely stored at YFA, and accessible to all through our Google Cultural Institute exhibition: