As if the deadly consequences of the battlefield were not enough, a deadly virus appeared inthe closing months of the war in September 1918. It died not originate in Spain, but since Spain was neutral its newspapers were not restricted and therefore the stories first surfaced in Spain. By the time it was reported in newspapers in the Uk and the US the name “Spanish Flu” had stuck.
It was a new and deadly strain that the immune system of most people could not fight and it is estimated that as many as 50 million died from this pandemic in 1918 and 1919. Among them was Herbert Lawson, the second son of W J Lawson, who had a news agency and stationery shop on Church Street. Mr Lawson had already lost his eldest son in battle in 1916 and Herbert had also joined up in 1914. His health had probably been weakened through years in the trenches and he had been discharged on medical grounds. He subsequently worked in the manufacture of munitions but the influenza got him and he died on November 23rd 1918.
Those of us of a certain age will remember Lawson’s shop next door to the Co-op at 58 Church Street. It traded as Lawson and Son, and the son was Stuart Lawson, the youngest son, who had been to young to fight in the war and therefore survived to help his father in the business.