DID you know that rationing was introduced early in World War Two because of what happened in Maryport in World War One?

Did you know that Maryport did not hold any Armistice celebrations until the end of December 1918?

A World War One exhibition at the Maryport Maritime Museum shows that the town played a significant part in the history of conflict, starting with the “Potato Wars”.

These actually started in Dearham when a local farmer said he did not have the labour to dig his potatoes

The folk decided rather than let them rot they would lift them – and the deed was celebrated by jovial hot-pot suppers.

However, the party didn’t last too long. While they were at work the police dashed up in a motor car and “captured” four of the diggers who would later appear in court.

Wartime profiteering continued and when Maryport miners’ wives faced a price rise to two shillings a stone for potatoes – double the price set by Government – they revolted.

Potatoes and turnips were used as missiles and both vendors and the police trying to protect them were hit with the flying vegetables.

The domestic war against profiteering spread to Whitehaven, Carlisle, Keswick and beyond, eventually prompting the Government to introduce rationing.

When the second world war broke out, the Government learned lessons from the Maryport riots and introduced rationing near the beginning of the conflict.

It was not the potato riots that stopped the Armistice celebrations, however.

That was a much more tragic event. The Spanish flu – or the Spanish Lady as it was called – had Maryport in hear deadly clutches.

There were an horrendous number of deaths and all public gatherings were cancelled.

Down the road in Workington the celebrations took place but Maryport was at the height of fighting a battle even more deadly than those faced on the battlefields of Europe.

Just one poignant story from hundreds of them tells of the Vicar who contracted the flu and had to call another in to conduct the funeral of a mother and father who had died leaving small children behind.

It was a hard time of poverty, neglect and illness – and it seemed those with the power and the many lacked much compassion for the plight of the poor.

There is a story about an arrest warrant being issued for a nine-year-old girl seen trying to steal some coal from the Maryport & Carlisle Railway company.

In the midst of the bitterness of war, hunger and illness there was at least one bit of sweetness when two coaches collided on Curzon Street. One shed its load of jam which spread all over the street and had eventually to be cleared up by the sanitation department.

Then there was the arrival home of Ned Smith, who received the VC at the age of only 19.

This was just three weeks before the height of the flu epidemic and around 6,000 people came out to welcome their hometown hero.

His medals are on display at the museum.

The maritime museum has covered every year of the war in the past three years.

This year marks the end of the war and the exhibition taking visitors through 1918.

Steve and Sue Fox and Peter Stevenson have put together an exhibition not to be missed.

It shows the battles and actions that led up to the laying down of arms on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. It shows what was happening nationally and, most fascinating of all, it shows what was happening in Maryport.

The museum, on Shipping Brow, is staffed by volunteers and is open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10.30am to 4pm.