ON November 11, we commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War.

Southampton made an important contribution to the war effort as it had done in previous wars for more than 600 years.

Southampton tour guide Godfrey Collyer takes a look at some of the places that helped make a big difference to the war effort.

The Dolphin Hotel

On the August 13, 1914, Lieutenant General Grierson and Field Marshal Haig arrived at the Dolphin Hotel in Southampton.

On the 14th they were joined by other senior officers and the following day they sailed with the British Expeditionary Force for Le Havre aboard the Comrie Castle.

Southampton Docks

It was no surprise that in August, 1914, Southampton Docks were requisitioned as the primary military embarkation port for troops leaving for the war in France.

By the end of November 1914, more than 350,000 officers and men had embarked at Southampton for the Western Front. By the end of the War this figure had reached 7,136,797 military personnel from a great many nations.

It wasn't just men that were transported through the port - 153,810 vehicles, 822,160 horses, 13,103 guns plus 3,381,274 tons of stores were shipped to France aboard a total of 15,661 sailings.

On average, nine ships a day left the port for one of the theatres of war. Around 5,000 tons of ammunition a day worth a million pounds were shipped from Southampton with double that amount on April 14, 1917. At one time in, February 1917, nearly 25,000 tons of ammunition were stored in the docks.

The troops in the trenches welcomed letters and parcels from home and 7,436,916 such items left through the docks.

Over a million personnel were brought home on leave aboard 669 ships and this included 10,000 women of whom 4,000 were nursing staff.

Although the fighting concluded at 11am on November 11, 1918, supplies were still needed at the front and men had to be transported home so it was not until Saturday June 28, 1919, that the port was finally freed from Admiralty control and returned to normal operation under local management.

Southampton University

The opening months of the war led to a huge number of casualties caused by modern weapons. Losses on all fronts for the year 1914 topped five million, with a million men killed.

As the wounded arrived from France, some large houses were converted into hospitals.

The newly opened University College in Highfield, the forerunner of Southampton University, became a military hospital for the duration of the war.

Royal Victoria Country Hospital

Special hospital trains were constructed and these crossed on ferries from France and transferred to the local rail network to take the wounded to the Royal Victoria Hospital at Netley.

Over two and a half thousand hospital ships arrived carrying over a million sick and wounded British officers and men plus a large number of Indian, Belgian, German and American wounded.

As each battle concluded, Prisoners of War were transported through Southampton. Some were imprisoned locally but most were transported by train to other parts of the country.

Buildings such as Bevois Mount House were used to house prisoners.

Southampton Common

The Common served as an army camp for soldiers waiting to embark. Local halls were used in army recruitment drives, perhaps including the former drill hall in St Mary’s Road, now a sports centre.

While the Common was covered by a blanket of tents, The Avenue Hall provided comforts for the troops and aided them in posting letters to their loved ones.

The officers were accommodated in some of the larger houses in the city.

Troops were marched from the Common through the town via the Bargate to the docks to board a ship for France.

Military jetty

In 1917, to speed up the transit of troops, a railway line was constructed around the West Bay and down to a specially built military jetty west of the Royal Pier.

This enabled troops to be moved by train from other locations in the country straight to the jetty and on to a ship for France.

After the War the jetty was demolished and any remains now lie partly under Mayflower Park.


Factories were turned over to war production.

To aid shell production, a large steel rolling mill was built at Weston Shore. This was demolished in about 1990, although part of the boundary wall survives.


After the war, the Cenotaph and other war memorials were built to commemorate the fallen.

The Cenotaph was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, the first version of a template later used for the Whitehall cenotaph and other war memorials.

A memorial was built at Southampton Golf Course to commemorate a war horse called Warrior who later served in the local Police force.