Days of Pride - First World War - Part One : War games
An army band marking along Stratford Road Wolverton past Mc Corquodale's Printing Works

Our story begins not in 1914, but a year earlier when
the British Army came and played War Games in the North
Buckinghamshire countryside. The local newspaper, The Wolverton
told the story in its edition of the 5th September 1913.

Hawtin Mundy was an 18 year old young man
on his way to work in the Railway Works

Soldiers in camp outside Stony Stratford
This friendly invasion of soldiers comprised the 9th Division of the British Army, under the command of General Snow. They were camped in the district to carry out divisional training prior to full-scale manoeuvres in the south of the country in late September. Local training started on Monday Ist September in the rain, which was partly responsible for producing several minor casualties. After another wet day on Tuesday, the weather improved and sham fights were staged around Newport Pagnell, Grafton Regis and Cosgove. Other manoeuvres in the villages and country side around included practising night attacks and making pontoons to carry troops and guns over the River Ouse.

The entry in the Wolverton Infants' School Log Book recalls the sight of areoplanes and the truancy of the children during the manoeuvres. Lily Dytham was a young girl at school and remembers the aeroplanes, and going to see the soldiers.

As you can imagine in a sleepy rural backwater the presence of the soldiers created considerable excitement and continuing interest - particularly of the district’s children and young ladies. Whilst the building of a more efficient war machine was what the soldiers were there for, their fraternisation with the townspeople was considerable. Smoking concerts were organised by local churches, soldiers were invited to homes for meals and the soldiers in turn organised military displays and concerts.
People who were children at the time recall the excitement the troops' presence generated.The Mapeley sisters recall having troops camped very near to their back garden

Men camped in the grounds of what is now Bushfield School Wolverton

Bread being delivered to the camp in a
removal lorry

Soldiers eating a meal at their camp near Stony Stratford
Alice Gear remembers the bands and going to visit the soldiers in their camp

Viva Chappill recalls her parents entertaining soldiers to tea at home

Marjorie Cook recalls impromptu concerts

The young children and young women were certainly impressed by the soldiers. The young men of the district were more ambivalent. On the one hand the army had a reputation as a refuge for all sorts of shady characters running away from trouble, including the long arms of fathers’ whose daughters were pregnant. On the other hand there was no escaping the glamour and excitement to young men whose lives were starved of adventure, as Hawtin Mundy remembers.

On Saturday 6th September the townspeople and troops got together to organise a Grand Military Tournament in Wolverton Park. After the prize-giving the two sides had a chance to show their appreciation

On September 22nd the 4th Division left the area to take part in the Army exercise elsewhere in the county, leaving the Royal Engineers to clear up the army sites. They had previously laid water pipes and drains, erected a branch hospital and a veterinary hospital, provided latrines, wash benches and cookhouses, and at the edge of the railway line near to the station had built a 200 foot long platform for detraining horses and facilitating the carting of camp equipment. By the 4th of October they’d finished the work and held a farewell party as Stacey Hill Farm which some 2,000 people attended. This started in sunshine, but was abruptly ended in rain at half past four. The manoeuvres was summarised neatly in an official press release which with its unenthusiastic reaction to the North Buckinghamshire countryside was published, without comment in the Wolverton Express

A military policeman guards the gate to Stacey Hill Farm fields Wolverton where the soldiers camped. Behind are Stacey Cottages, now at the beginning of Stacey Avenue.

The district returned to normal, although at least one person predicted the trouble that lay ahead as Alice Gear recalls.

Less than a year later the first week of August 1914 saw the start of the Railway Works’ annual holiday. The Wolverton company of the Buckinghamshire Territorials set of on early Sunday morning 2nd August for their annual camp at Great Marlow. On both the Saturday and Sunday the Railway Company had laid on special trains for workers and their families taking holidays in Blackpool, Ireland and Great Yarmouth. Frank Gillard was in Great Yarmouth.

Although the workforce was officially ‘locked out’ during the holiday week and received no holiday pay, the fact that they received cheap or free fares meant that many families could afford holidays away from the town, though many went to stay with relatives.

May Brooks remembers the day that war was declared

Great Britain declared War on Germany on Tuesday August 4th, 1914. The people of Wolverton and New Bradwell responded to the call to arms. Just how they did this we shall see in the next section Our Boys Join Up”.