A LIGHT has been shone on the men called into uniform during the First World War who were not sent to fight.

Local history enthusiast Barbara Riding's grandfather John Henry Robinson was too old at 44 to be called up in 1914 for military service. Keen to 'do his bit', he volunteered as a Special Constable.

The-father-of-four, who had moved to Blackburn in 1900 to take over as manager of the Blackburn Paper Company's mill on Randal Street, took to his new role with enthusiasm.

Mrs Riding said: "His instruction book shows that he had to wear an armlet on his left arm as a visible badge of his office. He was issued with a truncheon which he had to carry out of view but be readily available when required.

"If it became necessary to use the truncheon, he should direct the blows below the heads of the people but avoid hitting women or children or inoffensive persons. Although subject to much provocation he had to keep his temper under the most trying circumstances and carry out his duties in a firm yet courteous manner.

"When called out for duty it was recommended that he carried some food in his pocket.

"In the days before mobile phones, whistles were the means of communication."

The code used was simple but effective: one short note meant 'Are you there?' to which a similar single short note in replay meant 'Yes'. Two short notes given in slow time were a request for assistance while three short notes in quick time were the alarm call.

Mrs Riding said: "He did have an occasional traffic offence to ease the monotony, but his main duty was concerned with lighting offenders. "

Mr Robinson's notebook for March 2 1916 records a night shift: "7.50pm: A. Bertwistle, Springfield, table light full on; 8pm Col. Ritzema, Billinge Avenue, no blind to scullery; 8.20pm: G. Waterworth, Gorse Road, attic light not covered; 8.45pm Rutherford, Mavis Road, hall light not protected: 9.45pm Chip shop, Manor Road, blind only partly drawn; 10pm Green, Irving Place, French window not sufficiently subdued."

The shift was not typical as Mrs Riding reveals: "The last address was my mother-in-law’s home. She was 21 at the time and when I told her about finding this record she remembered her parents were great affronted when my grandpa knocked them up and complained about the light showing. They were personal friends and went to the same church."

She went on: "I should imagine grandpa would be quite officious in his job. He occasionally makes notes on how he was received: March 6, Mr Chadwick, of Saunders Road, was rather nasty; March 13, Miss Blackburn was very haughty. The occupants had a variety of excuses. The most common was the light had only been on a few minutes.

Mrs Riding says of her grandfather, who lived in Lynwood Road until his death in 1954: "He was smashing and very generous with his grandchildren but I suspect he brought his managerial efficiency to the role."