Lyme in the 20th Century, Part VIII

Broad Street in 1920 – when parking was not such a problem!

BY 1917 the war was causing food shortages in Lyme Regis and a dramatic increase in the price of basic essentials such as bread, cheese, meat and sugar.

Inflation was running at 25 per cent while wages for a town council worker only increased by 30 pence a week – this equated to a weekly wage of a £1 for a 48 hour week.

In 1917 the government had no option but to introduce food rationing. However, visitors were still coming to the town; the guide book was advertising 222 bedrooms in some 67 apartments.

A local paper suggested that “summer visitors might like to take part in useful patriotic work”. It did not specify what that might entail!

The Bridport News reported a disturbance in the town when a crowd, which included a large number of females, were involved in a ‘scrimmage’ with a group of ‘Conscientious Objectors’.

Evidently they had been jeering at wounded soldiers from the Rhode Hill Hospital. One of the objectors “was in grave danger of being thrown into the sea by the very angry women”.

A mob roamed the streets seeking out the offenders and clearing them out of the town and the police had to restore order.

Lyme Bay shipping was subject to ongoing attacks from German U-Boats. During 1917 four large merchant ships were torpedoed and it was falsely rumoured that enemy submarines were using Pinhay Bay as a base.

In March 1918 the cargo steamer Baygitano was torpedoed some two miles off the Cobb and the crew were rescued by the town’s lifeboat. Submarine commanders were under orders to interrogate captains; to avoid this the captain of the Baygiano turned his jacket inside out in order to hide his rank.

The crew of the Oakley (all Beer men) were not so fortunate; they were machined gunned when they took to the lifeboats.

During the war there was a shortage of both lifeboat crew and coastguards. Boy Scouts served on the lifeboat as supplementary crew while others assisted patrols being carried out by elderly auxiliary coastguards.

If enemy vessels were sighted, the young boys, being fleet of foot, would run back to Lyme and raise the alarm.

During the later years of the war Zeppelins (bomber airships) attacked the southern coast. As there were no air-raid sirens it became the duty of the town crier to ring his bell and call out “take cover”.

No airship was ever seen over Lyme but on Christmas Day 1917 an unidentified one was sighted over Rousdon.

The war ended on the November 11 1918. Ships sounded their sirens and throughout the land church bells rang out in celebration.

As the war was drawing to a close, a flu epidemic swept across Europe. In Britain 228,000 people died – 7,500 in the first week.

In Lyme a large number of children fell ill, but if accurate, only one child died.

The years following the war saw Lyme undergo some changes; the Bay Hotel opened in 1924 and a year earlier saw the formation of the Yacht Club.

In 1928 a major link with the town’s growth as a resort came to an end with the demolition of the Assembly Rooms at Cobb Gate.

The 1930 town guide was stressing that Lyme “was a place to come and relax, it was not a little London by the sea”.

This ends the series focussing on Lyme during the first three decades of the 1900s.

Peter Lacey
Local historian and author

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