THE WORDS OF A LOST GENERATION
These lines were written on May 6th 1916 by Lieutenant George Raymond Kewley, whilst resting in a dug-out a mile behind the firing line, after a short walk to a shell shattered abbey. Serving with the 8th Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, Lieutenant Kewley was one of the two sons of the Reverend and Mrs. J. Kewley, of Wolverton. He was killed in action two weeks after writing this verse.
|ASPLEY GUISE||CASTLETHORPE||GAYHURST||HANSLOPE||LATHBURY||MILTON KEYNES||PASSENHAM||SHERINGTON||WALTON|
|ASTWOOD||CHICHELEY||GREAT HORWOOD||HAVERSHAM||LEIGHTON BUZZARD||MOULSOE||POTTERSPURY||STEEPLE CLAYDON||WESTON UNDERWOOD|
|B||CLIFTON REYNES||GREAT LINFORD||I||LITTLE LINFORD||N||STEWKLEY||WICKEN|
|BEACHAMPTON||COSGROVE||GREAT WOOLSTONE||IVINGHOE||LITTLE WOOLSTONE||NORTH CRAWLEY||STOKE GOLDINGTON||WILLEN|
|BOW BRICKHILL||E||LOUGHTON||O||STONY STRATFORD||WING|
|OLNEY||TYRINGHAM CUM FILGRAVE||WOBURN|
In early 1909 a mysterious airship was seen by many people over all parts of England. Torpedo shaped, with two powerful searchlights, the vessel was only glimpsed at night, but according to the authorities; ‘In view of recent German activity in aerial navigation, it has been suggested that the airship is one from across the North Sea, but this can be discarded in favour of a wiser assumption that it is the property of an English inventor who wishes to keep his production a carefully guarded secret.” However, in the wake of a passage by the mysterious craft over the local cliffs, at Clacton a resident discovered a steel object with a rubber bag attached which, having apparently fallen from the vessel, bore the wording ‘Muller Fabrik Bremen.’ When contacted, the firm denied any knowledge of such an item, but privately the opinion of the British authorities was very different from their public pronouncements, for tensions between the two nations had been increasing for many years. Germany held suspicions that the British were trying to preclude its status as a world power, and there was no secret regarding the arms race to build the new class of battleships, the Dreadnoughts. As for the world of covert activities, it had been known, since from at least 1909, that the Germans were making great efforts to establish a system of espionage in Britain. Thus to thwart this infiltration a Special Intelligence Department was established by the Admiralty and the War Office, acting in close co-operation with the Home Office and police forces, and confirming the seriousness of the situation the Official Secrets Act was passed in 1911. In fact from that year the Special Intelligence Department, as it was termed in contemporary documents, began to successfully monitor and follow the spies, and, although this was usually carried out with a certain discretion, those deemed to be a security risk were arrested. Then on August 4th 1914, before the declaration of war instructions were given by the Home Secretary to arrest 20 known spies, and by the passing of the Aliens Restriction Act on the following day the Home Office, as also the police, were given stringent powers to deal with aliens - especially enemy aliens - who could now be stopped from entering or leaving Britain. Those suspected of being complicit in covert activities were interned, and all districts of military importance were cleared by the local police of Germans and Austrians. The dependents of internees could also suffer hardship, such as the case at Great Woolstone of the British born wife of an Austrian, who found that her nationality prevented her from gaining any employment, thereby necessitating the need to rely on parish relief. Those aliens in Britain who were not incarcerated were prohibited from owning any wireless or signalling apparatus (or pigeons) whilst at the same time the Post Office, under the powers of Wireless Telegraphy Acts, dismantled all private wireless stations (including that of Mr. Odell, at Newport Pagnell) and established a system to detect illicit transmitters. With the introduction of the Defence of the Realm Act, by which the state was given sweeping powers, even more stringent measures to deal with espionage were afforded, and in October 1914 police constable Miles was the armed escort when a German, named Alfred Jahr, aged about 35, was taken into custody at Castlethorpe, and transferred to His Majesty’s Concentration Camp at Newbury. With the German rampage through Belgium, many of the native population fled to Britain, and their tales of German atrocities confirmed that deliberate acts of execution and rape had been carried out, as part of a calculated policy of ‘schrecklichkeit’ - frightfulness. This added fuel to the patriotic fervour sweeping Britain, and typical of the enthusiasm were the scenes at Fenny Stratford when, at only a few hours notice, an evening meeting of the townsmen was held in the Town Hall on August 5th 1914. With the room being crowded there was also a large assembly outside the building, and even before the start of the meeting there had been much singing and cheering, and, to the accompaniment of the Fenny Stratford Town Band, the fervent singing of ‘Rule Britannia.’ In seemingly every district, committees were set up to provide relief and accommodation for the Belgian refugees, and at Chicheley Miss Muriel Farrar, one of the daughters of Lady Farrar, of Chicheley Hall, clearly explained the formation of a local fund to assist the forthcoming Belgians’ Colony in Olney. On November 11th 1914 the sixteen refugees duly arrived in the town by train, and being met by several members of the committee were conveyed to their new home by motor cars, and other vehicles. The continuing influx of Belgian refugees saw many local towns and villages providing such charity, and even the lodges of Tyringham House had been furnished, to provide accommodation for a family whose cottage in Belgium had been burned down by the Germans. Such a fate would inevitably await Britain in the event of an invasion, and in measures to guard the country at a meeting at Bletchley on Tuesday evening, August 18th 1914 General Sir Reginald Talbot explained the duties of the National Reserves. He said - with some degree of prophecy - that in this time of national crisis they were taking part in perhaps the largest war in history, and in explaining the structure of the National Reservists said that the first of the three classes was for men aged under 42, who might be called upon to join the army, and would perhaps serve abroad. The second was practically the same, except they would only be required to serve in the U.K., whilst as for the third, this was for men aged over 50, who, not being required to serve outside their locality, would guard bridges etc. Many men who were either too old or medically unfit to join the army wanted to do their bit, but, with all manner of volunteer forces being proposed, the War Office stipulated that official recognition (and therefore funding for arms and equipment) would only be given to those affiliated to the Central Association Volunteer Training Corps, of which Lord Desborough was president. Therefore ‘to exploit the military ardour of the middle aged,’ volunteers were to form themselves into trained bands, battalions and county regiments, and then place themselves under the orders of the Lord Lieutenant. He would be assisted by the Chief Constable, acting under the military orders of the general officer commanding the district, and at Lathbury Park, William Trevor was just one who would subsequently take an enthusiastic and important role in the local activities. As for Special Constables, who were replacing those members of the police called up on the Reserve, or who had joined Kitchener’s Army, they could join the Volunteers ‘for the purpose of making themselves proficient in drill,’ but would not be able to resign from the ‘Specials’ to do so. Civilians could also aid the war effort by supporting the Bucks County Relief Fund, and the purpose of this was explained in a letter of August 26th 1914 from the Lord Lieutenant, and from the chairman of the Fund;
“A representative County Committee, working in conjunction with its Divisional Committees in North, Mid and South Bucks, has, at this national crisis, been formed for the purpose of rendering assistance and administering relief in cases which may arise within our county and directly attributable to the serious war in which our country is engaged. With the above good object in view, a County Relief Fund has been opened at Lloyd’s Bank, Aylesbury, and an earnest appeal is now made for subscriptions, which may be remitted to either of the Hon. Treasurers of the fund:-
The Marquis of Lincolnshire, Dawes Hill, High Wycombe, and Mr. Julian M. James, 7, Temple Square, Aylesbury, who will gratefully acknowledge their receipt. The Hon. Treasurers are authorised to receive and forward to Buckingham Palace contributions specially given for the National Relief Fund. Subscription lists will be published from time to time in the County Press. Subscribers may be assured of the careful administration of the Fund by the Committee, who, being in touch with the various Local Distress Committees throughout the county, will take especial care to avoid overlapping with other Philanthropic Societies.” However, there would be no relief given to those able bodied unemployed men who were of military age, and in fact this proved quite a shock to a group of local youths who had been hanging about on a street corner. They were of the opinion that “We’ll be alright, the county is getting up a fund for us,” but after the error of their understanding had been pointed out they then had a different attitude, and were seen later that day trooping into a recruiting office. For the most part, due to the tales of the atrocities in Belgium, plus the albeit distant prospect of invasion, and the opportunity to experience an excitement far removed from the drudge of daily employment, there was initially no lack of volunteers for the Army, and meetings in numerous town and villages helped to stir up an additional fervour. A typical occasion was at the Village Institute at Astwood on the evening of Friday, October 30th 1914 where, with two pipers of the Seaforth Highlanders having enlivened the village street with stirring music, Mr. J. Irvine Boswell, who was leaving for France on the following Wednesday, for duties with the Red Cross, galvanised the audience with a rousing speech, and, having called him to the platform, presented his own gold watch to Frank Wildman, who had expressed his intention to volunteer for the Army. Elsewhere Lady Farrar, of Chicheley Hall, and Mr. Frederick Konig, of Tyringham House, lent their motor vehicles to collect recruits from the local villages, and there was an unreserved disappointment from those applicants who failed the medical, for many young men yearned to become involved before hostilities came to an end. In fact it would all be over by Christmas was the popular view, but the events following the landing of the British Expeditionary Force saw the conflict descend into a trench bound stalemate, and each passing month brought the true realities of war ever more apparent. In October 1914 Mrs. Cooper, of 15, Church Street, Stony Stratford, received official news from the War Office that her husband, Private Lewis Cooper, aged 29, of the 1st Northants. Regiment, had been killed in action, whilst for the local population the sight of convoys of wounded, being brought from Bletchley station to the Woburn hospitals, would become all too familiar. Yet in this age of modern warfare even civilians were vulnerable. The shelling of coastal towns by German warships caused hundreds of casualties, and in December 1914 Mrs. R. Ellis, of Lathbury, received a letter from her sister stating that during a German raid on the Hartlepools her son had been fatally wounded. It was now becoming a war of attrition, and when in February 1915 the Germans began a sea blockade of Britain, the British reciprocated in March. But it was the German U boats that would have the edge, and there had been a portent of this peril in September 1914, when, during a single day, a German submarine had sunk three British warships, with Arthur Ward, the son of Mr. and Mrs. D. Ward, of 69, Western Road, Wolverton, being one of the victims. Also there was now an increasing threat from the skies, and following the first Zeppelin raid on the country, launched against Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn in January 1915, a notice was issued on the 26th of that month by the Chief Constable of Buckinghamshire, informing the public that a warning of impending raids would be sounded by blasts on local factory hooters. However, when during March 1915 residents in Bletchley thought they heard such a Zeppelin alert, it transpired it had only been a newly installed hooter at Staple Hall Depot, which sounded at about 6a.m. each morning. The visitation of these airborne and silent ‘baby killers’ brought inland terror to districts which had once seemed safe, and certainly caused alarm to one soldier who had missed his train at Bletchley. He therefore had to walk through the night to Newport Pagnell, and during his journey near Willen became aware of a strange whirring sound above him. Glancing upwards he glimpsed the passage of a large grey object, and promptly took cover in a roadside ditch. With the increased sense of their vulnerability, the civilian population simmered with anti German resentment, and in May 1915 several panes of glass were broken at the nursery premises in Bletchley Road, Bletchley, of Paul Klameth. He was a naturalised Briton, and despite being British born, of British parents, Mr. Dant, at Newport Pagnell, experienced similar harassment. Everyday the casualty lists now emphasised the constant need for men at the Front, and therefore in March 1915 to redress the nation’s labour shortage the Government set up a Register of Women for War Service. Thereby any woman, trained or not, could sign on at a local Labour Exchange, but this brought so much resentment from the trade unions that the Munitions of War Act of July 1915 curtailed their right to strike, and engage in restrictive practices. By now the initial rush of volunteers for the Forces had slowed, and to compile a numerical assessment of the population the Government proposed the canvas of a National Register. In July 1915 the Lord Lieutenant of the county consequently appealed for volunteers to help in the compilation, and, to be complete by mid August, the exercise would enumerate all persons between the ages of 15 and 65. No doubt one reason, although denied at the time, was to determine those males who would be available for military service, and not least because conscription had yet to be debated. Meanwhile, the Lord Derby Scheme was introduced, whereby men could offer their services to the military to either join up immediately, or when called upon. This was in fact the last stage before the introduction of conscription, and a full account of the scheme is given as an appendage to this introduction. The scheme came to an end in December 1915, and, with the Commons having voted in favour, conscription was then introduced in March 1916, being extended by May to include married men, with the age range extended. Those seeking exemption from military service, for business or family reasons, had to attend a Local Tribunal, but that decision could then be challenged at another Tribunal by the military. Invariably they closely questioned the motives of conscientious objectors, and locally one of the more significant cases involved an applicant from Bow Brickhill, and another from Hanslope. In view of a recently introduced Lighting Order, by a meeting in March 1916 it was decided that throughout the county public warning of air raids by hooters etc. was no longer necessary, and under a carefully devised scheme warnings would instead be issued to those bodies in authority throughout the county, including the police and special constabulary. With the need for the nation to become increasingly self sufficient in food, all classes of the population now helped on the land, with, amongst the titled set, Lady Leon and Lady Dalmeny being amongst those unafraid to indulge in the physical side. As for the organisational aspect, the representatives of the Bucks War Women’s Committee for the district (tasked with giving information to those farmers who required female labour) were Mrs. Wellesley Taylor, of Sherington Manor, and also Lady Farrar, who invited many local agriculturalists and their wives to a meeting at her home, Chicheley Hall, on the afternoon of Thursday, March 23rd 1916. This was to discuss labour problems with regard to the land, and Lady Farrar said that although many farmers did not like the idea of co-operation, for smallholders it was essential, and with many men away at the war farmers would soon need to have women working on the land. She knew farmers laughed at the prospect, but “We are going to show you that we are useful on the land, if you will only let us help you.” Then at Aylesbury, in an April meeting of the County Women’s War Agricultural Committee correspondence from the Board of Agriculture was read, outlining a scheme of instruction for women offering their services on the land. This would be the year that the Women’s Land Army was formed, and in further measures to increase food production in May 1916 Daylight Saving was introduced. During April 1915 a Voluntary Aid Detachment had been established at Tyringham by Miss Helen McFerran and Miss Annie Wood, at their home of Tyringham Cottage. Here ladies from the locality met to make medical requisites - bandages, etc. - for the Red Cross, and in November 1916 more convenient premises were provided by Mr. F.W. Taylor, a chemist, at 36, High Street, Newport Pagnell. Here the ladies continued their invaluable work, and it was because of the national contribution being made by women that the right to vote, for those aged 30, had been proposed by Lloyd George, who in December 1916 became Prime Minister in a Coalition Government led by the Liberals. Until now it had been possible to avoid rationing, but regarding bread this became necessary in February 1917. U boat activity was posing an increasing threat to the supply lines, and the threat from the air was also increasing, for on the night of Friday, October 19th 1917 a Zeppelin dropped several bombs on Heath and Reach. Fortunately there were no casualties, excepting a rabbit. In January 1918 an important statement was made by Lord Rhondda on the subject of compulsory rationing. “There has been a good deal of talk lately in the newspapers urging me to adopt compulsory rationing. Compulsory rationing, I am afraid, has got to come. I say ‘afraid,’ because I would rather that it did not. Do not think that when it comes queues are going to be done away with altogether, or that there will be an absolutely fair distribution. What we are aiming at is equality of sacrifice - an equal share for every person in the kingdom. But the mere fact of setting up an organisation will not secure that. In Germany we know that there is today a tremendous outcry owing to the fact that, notwithstanding a rationing system and tickets, the rich are getting a good deal more than their share, with the result that the poor are not getting the share they ought to receive. Rationing in some articles, at any rate, is on its way. We are engaged at the present time on a scheme, which we have nearly completed, for compulsory rationing. It will have to be submitted to the Cabinet, and when the Cabinet’s sanction is given, we will put that scheme into operation as quickly as we can.” Rationing of sugar, meat, and butter came in February 1918, and by the end of April people had to produce ration cards to buy meat and fats, such as butter, margarine, and lard. However, as at a shop at Stony Stratford those customers who had transferred their sugar cards elsewhere were often refused other commodities, and this was a discrimination which lead to a court case. In another instance, a confectioner was fined at the Bletchley Petty Sessions for overcharging for sweets. On medical advice he had come to Woburn Sands from London, where in the early hours of January 29th 1918 a former vicar of Woburn Sands died during an air raid, aged 61. Due to the air raids on the Capital, firstly by airships, and then by aeroplanes, the district of Aspley Guise and Woburn had seen a significant number of prosperous new arrivals, but not a newcomer to the area was 54 year old William Pettit, of 176, Edgware Road, London, who died on February 19th 1918 at ‘Croyland,’ Aspley Heath, the residence of his brother. As a young man he had gone to London many years before to begin in business as a draper, and although he built up a good trade the numerous air raids on the city had affected his health. On one occasion his premises had sustained heavy damage, and so on medical advice he came to live at his brother’s home, where he died after only a week. The signing of the Armistice on November 11th 1918 brought the jubilation that perhaps the four long years of war were at an end. However, for a lady at Leighton Buzzard there was a cruel irony, for, having a few days before received news that her 28 year husband, serving in the Royal Engineers, was dangerously ill, she would then learn that on November 13th he had died from pneumonia. Sadly there would be many other cases where soldiers had survived the war, only to succumb to the flu epidemic, or to the effect of their injuries. As recognition for their crucial role in the war effort, in February 1918 women aged over 30, who were married to a registered voter, had been given to right to vote, and this they had the chance to do in the general election of December 1918. By the nature of the carnage, many of the fallen of the First World War had no known graves, and in June 1919 recruits and ex soldiers were sought for special duties with the Labour Corps, for the exhumation of bodies and the centralisation of Military Cemeteries in France. The period of enlistment was until April 30th 1920, ‘or such less period as may be required,’ whilst at home, to commemorate those who would never return committees in towns and villages began plans to erect war memorials. But that of Far Bletchley has a particular poignancy, for thereon is inscribed the name of Douglas Chadwick, who had died from wounds sustained at the Battle of Fromelles. Having designed the memorial, his father was amongst those attending the dedication, and in the wake of the ‘war to end wars’ none of those gathered could have realised that within 30 years there would be another such assembly, and for the same reason. And it beggars belief that within little more than 60 years there would be yet another gathering, to commemorate the name of one from another generation who fell in defence of their country. So it seems that there will never be a war to end all wars. But, as commemorated on the memorial, there will always be a generation with the courage to defend the nation’s freedom.
LORD DERBY’S RECRUITING SCHEME
With the stories of the atrocities in Belgium, and the national fervour to protect King, Country and Empire, at the outbreak of war there had been no lack of volunteers to join the Colours, and, except for those who appreciated the real nature of the conflict, a sense that if they didn’t enlist they would miss out on an action that was expected to be all over by Christmas. But as Christmas came and went, and the struggle stagnated into the attrition of trench warfare, the increasing number of casualties lead to the increasing need for replacements, and it became apparent that a means to provide the necessary flow, without, as yet, introducing compulsion, was needed. Thus having on October 5th 1915 accepted the position of Director of Recruiting, this task fell to Lord Derby, and in due course he issued a statement setting out a new scheme. This he had evolved in co-operation with the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee and the Joint Labour Recruiting Committee, and the details had been settled at a protracted conference held at 12, Downing Street. As read extracts from the official statement; ‘Before describing the new system under which the canvassing of the Pink Forms is to be carried on, I wish to pay my humble tribute to the work that has been done by the recruiting staff, not only at the War Office, but throughout the country. … To put my view briefly, in the past recruits have been found by the military authorities assisted by civilians. I propose to make civilians responsible for bringing the raw material in the shape of a recruit to the military authorities for them to enlist, clothe, equip and train. This can only be rendered possible if some thoroughly representative civilian body be ready to make itself responsible for the work, and my most grateful thanks are due to the two bodies, the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee and the Joint Labour Recruiting Committee, who have together made themselves jointly responsible. The value of the combination of these two forces cannot be too highly estimated.’ Then on October 19th the King sent a telegram to all the Lord Lieutenants of the counties, asking them to do their best to get their counties to help. In Buckinghamshire, working long hours invaluable work would be done by Captain L.H. Green, the Chief Recruiting Officer, and in fact by December 1914 there would be 10,000 ‘attestations’ in the county. Taken in August 1915 the National Register was made the basis of the Derby scheme, with the instructions for the filling in of the National Register paperwork having been; ‘Keep your form of questions neat and clean. Do not tear or spoil it, and, if possible, avoid creasing or folding it. Write the answers plainly in the spaces provided. Write your surname at the head of the form in large letters. They are easier to read. If you have doubts as to how to answer any question, the enumerator who leaves the forms at your house and collects them will help you if you ask him. If a form has not been left for you at the place where you sleep on the night of Sunday 15th August, you should obtain one on Monday and fill it up as soon as possible. If you are travelling on Sunday night, and have not received a form before starting, you should obtain one and fill it up at the place where you arrive on Monday morning. If you have received your form, don’t leave it behind you. If you leave home after receiving a form, but before 15th August, take it with you and hand it when filled up to the enumerator who calls at the address where you are temporarily stopping. The same applies if you are returning home after a temporary absence.’ By the Derby Scheme, all men of military age would be canvassed and invited to enlist, with each being given the opportunity to join the colours at once, or pass into the Army Reserve under a group system of 46 groups;
“There are forty-six groups, numbered one to forty-six. The single men will be put into the first twenty-three groups according to age, and the men entered upon the National Register as married men will be put into the following twenty-three groups, also according to age. Each group will be called up as a whole in the order of its number, but no man will be called up until he has attained the age of nineteen years. Single men will be called first. Men who have married since their registration and widowers without children will be regarded as single men. When a group is called up by Proclamation any man in that group will be able, if he so desires, and if there are very special circumstances in his case, to make an appeal to be placed in a later group.”
If a sufficient number of single men had not attested, then to honour the pledge made by Lloyd George compulsory methods would be adopted, in which case married men would be released from their engagement. The Central Recruiting office for Buckinghamshire was at High Street, Aylesbury, with in September 1915 Captain L.H. Green, of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, as the new recruiting organiser. He could enlist men for all branches of the Regular Army, but also worked closely with General Swann, of the County Territorial Association. Steps were being taken to increase the number of doctors who could examine recruits, so that applicants did not need to make a long journey to be examined, and with the Chief Constable’s permission every police constable in the county had been made a recruiter, being provided with a supply of railway warrants and voucher books. A meeting to arrange the carrying out of the Derby Scheme in the Newport Pagnell, Broughton, North Crawley, and Sherington polling districts was held at Newport Pagnell police station on the evening of Friday, October 28th 1915. Mr. J Knapp J.P. presided, and supporting him were Mr. W. Trevor J.P., and Messrs. R. Neave (who explained the scheme and answered questions) as well as Mr. A. Davis. All these acted as the secretaries of the North Bucks Recruiting Committee, and at the meeting Mr. J. Higham and Mr. J. Short were appointed joint secretaries for the district. With power to add to their number, for each separate polling district sub committees were formed, and the method of dealing with canvassing would be under ‘the pink form system’ (although the forms were actually blue). This would be similar to canvassing at a General Election, except that all the parties would be canvassing for a common aim - to obtain a sufficient number of recruits under the voluntary system to maintain the armies in the field at their required strength.
‘It is proposed to use all existing recruiting committees, and whether they bear the name of Parliamentary Recruiting Committee or not, to ask them to undertake in their various localities the duties which, in areas where a Parliamentary Recruiting Committee exists, would be undertaken by that body. The existing committees will be asked to avail themselves of the services of the political agents of all parties. In some cases these gentlemen are already honorary secretaries to the recruiting committees, in others I hope they will be co-opted on to the committee.’
These committees would be entrusted with the work of canvassing. Two cards would be given to them, a blue and a white - ‘the information on which corresponds’ - and with the white card being kept in the office the blue card (the ‘pink ‘un’) would be the ordinary canvassing card, given to the canvasser. The reason for the Scheme had been the recognition that the voluntary system was on its last trial, and although slow at first recruiting would increase during the last fortnight to such an extent that the scheduled end of the Scheme was extended to midnight Sunday, 12th December 1915, an extension of 24 hours. With the Scheme complete, on December 18th it was announced that the first four groups of single men would be called up on January 20th 1916, whilst on Saturday afternoon, December 25th 1915 the following statement was issued to the Press Bureau;
‘It has been decided to issue khaki armlets of the same pattern as those issued to men accepted for Army Reserve B under the group system:
(i) To men who have presented themselves since the commencement of the war for service either by way of direct enlistment or under the group system, but who have been rejected on medical grounds, and
To qualify for an armlet it will be necessary for all men who have been already rejected on medical grounds to present themselves again for medical examination unless they are able to produce Army Form B.2505A or Army Form B.2512A, showing the date and cause of their rejection.
Men rejected on medical grounds will be divided into two classes:
(a) Men who, on examination, have been certified as medically unfit on account of organic disease, and
Men under heading (b) above, as a condition of being given an armlet, will be attested and passed to the Army Reserve. Men under heading (a) above will not be attested, but their names will be registered. Men under both heads (a) and (b) will be free to return to their civil occupations, but men under (b) will be liable to be called up at any time for medical examination and for immediate service in any occupation for which, as soldiers, they may be liable, and for which they may be considered suitable by the military authorities. The medical examination will, in cases where it is considered necessary, be by specialists in order to ascertain whether any such men are fit for service in the Army, and, if so, for what particular service.
An armlet will not be issued to men who are obviously unfit for any service in the Army; for instance, to men who are totally blind or who are crippled, as in the case of such men no misconception can arise as to the reason for their not wearing any badge of Army service.
Armlets will not be issued to any men under the above conditions until after January 15, 1916, and applications by men who have already been rejected on medical grounds should be deferred until after that date.’
Subsequently Lord Derby’s report on his recruiting scheme was issued as a Parliamentary Paper, which stated that “Many difficulties have been met with, but the chief difficulty has been the unreliability of the starring as distinguishing between those who should and those who should not be taken for the Army. Instead of starring being of assistance, it has been a distinct hindrance to the canvass. More especially is this so in rural and semi-rural areas, owing to the fact that it was known before Registration Day what branches of the agricultural industry would be starred, with the result that many men who had no right to do so claimed to come under these particular headings. The sense of unfairness thus created and the inequality of treatment of farmers has been most detrimental in these areas. The farmer himself is not a starred man, but there are numberless cases of his sons and labourers being starred as cowmen and horsemen, etc., though in many instances it is known that they are not really so engaged. It is essential that the starred list should be carefully investigated, and in cases of misdescription (sic) the star removed and the man made available for military service. This applies to the starred men in all industries.” The report also included concerns that while some trades had been classed as ‘reserve occupations,’ workers in other trades expected to be starred, and had been reluctant to come forward. Also many men who would have willingly come forward were barred by domestic, financial and business obligations. Their families were dependent on their incomes, and since these would cease if they joined up the separation and dependents’ allowances would prove totally inadequate. There were also concerns that due to the great rush of recruits it was possible only to conduct a basic medical examination, and so when the various groups were called up the rejections might be high. Regarding claims for exemption, all single men were reminded that if they had attested under Lord Derby’s scheme the last day on which application could be made was Saturday, February 26th 1916. For unattested single men the date would be Wednesday, March 1st 1916. After these dates no claims for exemption would be considered. As for the position regarding starred men, all starred men who had attested under Lord Derby’s Scheme were exempt for the time being, but their cases would be shortly investigated by the Military Authorities, in order to show that they were rightly starred. For their starring to be continued, all starred men who had not attested under Lord Derby’s scheme were to apply to the Military Service Tribunal by March 1st, otherwise they would become automatically unstarred by the Military Service Act, which would introduce compulsory military service on March 2nd 1916. All applications for exemption were to be made in writing to the Clerk of the local District Council, by whom it would be forwarded to the Military Authorities, and it was not desirable for applicants to apply personally at the Recruiting Office. In fact regarding exemption, at the Military Tribunal of the Newport Pagnell Rural District, on Wednesday, February 23rd 1916 Captain Green said that in view of the new scheme men should not be totally exempted, because any starred man could be challenged at any moment. Therefore it was felt that exemption should not exceed 6 months, after which the matter could be reconsidered. (Captain Green would remain as the recruiting organiser for Bucks until the beginning of 1918, when in a letter read at a meeting of the Newport Pagnell Urban District Tribunal, held on the evening of Wednesday, January 9th, he expressed regret that owing to his transfer to another district he had to sever his connections with the various tribunals in the county. Apart from his official duties, in 1917 Captain Green published a book of fifteen literary vignettes in a volume entitled ‘Dream Comrades,’ with the last essay being particularly appropriate for the period and for his position, being entitled ‘The Slacker.’)
(Compiled shortly after the Armistice, this account of the wartime events first appeared in the National Roll of the Great War.)
At the end of May the Germans made yet another attempt along the Aisne, and captured Soissons, Dormans and many villages. Their last effort began on July 15th along the Marne, east and west of Rheims. They achieved some success at first, but on July 18th the Allied counter-stroke began. Blow followed blow in quick succession, and Soissons and Beaumont-Hamel, that had been lost in the Spring, were now recovered. On August 21st the Battle of Bapaume opened, and concurrently with it the Battle of the Scarpe was going on. Towards the end of September the Battles of Cambrai and Ypres began, and our victories began seriously to jeopardise the enemy’s lines of communication Eastwards. Le Cateau was entered on October 10th; Ostend, Lille and Douai fell into Allied hands and within a few days the Belgian coast was freed. In November our successes still continued in the Battle of the Sambre, and the enemy retreated rapidly towards Mons and Maubeuge. Mons was entered at dawn on November 11th, 1918, and at 11a.m. fighting ceased.
During 1915 we anxiously followed the course of our venture in the Dardanelles. Weighty reasons prompted it, and we hoped that our combined forces would be able to make their way to Constantinople, and by so doing would relieve the pressure on Russia, as well as remove the danger that threatened Egypt. Unhappily, however, the successes at Anzac and Krithia and the later landing at Suvla Bay could not be followed up; the Naval forces could not force their way through the Narrows; and reluctantly we had to admit failure and evacuate the Peninsula.
Early in the war the Turks made several unsuccessful attacks on the Canal Zone, while on the Western Frontiers of Egypt the Senussi were repulsed at Mersa, Matruh and Agagia. In August 1916 another Turkish attack was crushed at Romani, and six months later the enemy were again defeated at Magdhaba and Rafa. Henceforward Egypt became the base for offensive operations against the Turks in Palestine. Gazawas first attacked in March 1917, and again in April, but it was not captured until November, after General Allenby had previously taken Beersheba. Shortly afterwards Jaffa fell into our hands, and on December 9th Jerusalem surrendered, to be followed by Jericho in February. Hostilities were resumed in September, 1918, and by the end of October we were masters of Acre, Haifa, Damascus, Tripolis and Aleppo.
Indian detachments reached Mesopotamia in November 1914, and occupied Basra and Kurma on the Tigris. Amara, higher up the river, was captured in June 1915, and Kut-el-Amara in September. General Townshend’s forces then proceeded towards Baghdad, but their way was barred at Ctesiphon, and finding it impossible to break through the Turkish lines they retired on Kut, where in April 1916 they surrendered. In December 1916 a better organised offensive began, which in 1917 and 1918 captured Kut, Baghdad, Tekrit and Mosul.
Our troops on this front came from Gallipoli in December 1915, too late to stem the Bulgarian advance against Serbia, but in August 1916 they began a general offensive along the Doiran front, and in September advanced across the Struma. Before the close of the year Monastir was recovered. In 1917 we were mainly concerned in the Doiran Advance, and in 1918 in a similar operation along the Vardar, which on September 30th ended in the victory of the Allies and the Armistice with Bulgaria.
The Germans in Togoland were overcome by August 27th, 1914, while those in the Cameroons held out only one month longer. German South-West Africa proved more difficult to reduce owing to political complications, but it eventually surrendered to General Botha in July 1915. In East Africa the Germans kept up the struggle with success whilst hostilities continued in Europe, and ceased fighting on November 14th, 1918, in compliance with the terms of the Armistice.
The work of the Navy throughout the war was of boundless importance. Not only did she take command of the Seas in August 1914, but she kept it to the end. Of the Battles of Heligoland, Coronel and the Falkland Islands in 1914, the Dogger Bank and the Dardanelles in 1915, Jutland in 1916, the bombardments of Zeebrugge and Ostend in 1917, and the raids on Zeebrugge and Durazzo in 1918 the public have full information; but of the smaller engagements in almost all waters of the globe, few have as yet any accurate knowledge.
During the research for this project came news of the discovery of a mass grave on a First World War battlefield. The site was at Fromelles, and has especial significance for this area, since many of the troops were from the 2nd Bucks Battalion of the Oxon and Bucks Light Infantry.
Perhaps the most poignant of all the battles of the First World War is that of the Somme, and with 20,000 British dead on the first day it soon became clear that this was not going to be the intended ‘big push.’ Thus in an effort to divert German troops, on July 19th another attack was launched - at Fromelles. As highlighted by the recent discovery of mass graves, this has especial significance for this district, since the troops involved were those of the 2nd Bucks Battalion of the Oxon and Bucks Light Infantry, which, formed in Aylesbury, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel H.M. Williams, had been officially recognised on September 26th, 1914. It left on February 1st 1915 and formed firstly part of the South Midland Reserve, and then the 184th Brigade. Also taking part in the battle was the Australian Force, and in fact of the several local men who before the war had sought a new life in Australia, many joined the Australian contingent on the outbreak of hostilities. They included Mr. E.W.G. Timbs, the son of Mrs. Timbs, of Church Street, Wolverton, who around 1913 had emigrated to follow his trade as a coach finisher, having served his apprenticeship at Wolverton Carriage Works. However, when the war broke out he immediately volunteered and joined the Army Medical Corps, having in England been a member of the R.A.M.C. at Stony Stratford. He would soon be promoted to sergeant, and prior to proceeding to Egypt, en route to England, was presented with an illustrated testimonial -signed by the Mayor, Town Clerk, and members of the Committee - worded; ‘A tribute from the Citizens of Williamtown to Sergt. E.W.G. Timbs, Army Medical Corps, Australian Imperial Forces. In appreciation of his patriotism in enlisting for the services of the Empire, 1914-15.’ When sent to the battlefields, many Australians would often find themselves fighting alongside friends they had known before they left England, and Sergeant Timbs, now of the 14th Australian Field Ambulance, was no exception, writing home to his parents in Wolverton; “Fancy coming all the way from England to Australia and then to come from Australia to fight besides our own Bucks lads!” Indeed, as emphasis of such a coincidence before moving to Australia he had met, on coming out of the Wolverton Working Men’s Club, Ted Quinn in Stratford Road. Ted told him that he was going to Australia, and Mr. Timbs received the confirmation when on his first Friday night in Australia he met Ted in Bourke-street, Melbourne! After the outbreak of war, Ted, whose mother lived at 15, Young Street, Wolverton, joined the Army as a private, and during the battle of Fromelles - in which his friend also fought - would be wounded in the left thigh and right arm, after which he was eventually sent to Birmingham Hospital. The object of the Fromelles attack was to prevent those German troops manning this section from reinforcing vulnerable areas on the Somme, and at Laventie preparations had been made for an attack on July 17th. However, this was postponed, and on July 18th ‘A’ Company of the 2nd Bucks Battalion, under Captain H. Church, lost 78 men when falling short a British shell struck a gas cylinder in the trench. Troop replacements were hurriedly found from the reserve and a newly arrived draft, but nevertheless the Company remained much under strength. For three days a preliminary bombardment had been launched by 350 guns of all calibres, and during this the firing was deliberately stopped for periods of from four to ten minutes. With the officers shouting orders, in these lulls the infantry lining the trenches were directed to show their bayonets and helmets over the parapet, the intention being to dupe the Germans into thinking that the attack was imminent. When they manned the parapets in readiness, they would therefore sustain heavy casualties when the bombardment suddenly re-started. Of the Battalion, ‘A’ Company, under Captain H. Church, and ‘D’ Company, under Captain Ivor Stewart-Liberty, were detailed for the attack, but prior to this nearly 100 men would be killed or wounded through being crowded in the trenches due to the restricted front. At 5.40p.m. on July 19th the assault troops filed out into No Man’s Land via Rhondda Sap, and lay down in four waves. C Company had followed A Company, with B and D Companies moving in to hold and garrison the line. Then at 6p.m., with a cheer the four waves leapt up and assaulted the enemy trenches, and, as reported by a British airman who was observing for the artillery, not a man wavered. On the left the Australians seized the German front line in conjunction with the Bucks troops, and passed beyond to further trenches of the first system. In the centre they carried the first system, and practically reached open country, but on the right the troops had to cross a much wider stretch between the opposing trenches, where the Germans held a very strongly fortified salient, and here, despite the preliminary bombardment, the Germans were ready, and having saved a number of machine guns were able to prevent any prolonged taking of their trenches. They could thereby concentrate all manner of artillery on a portion of the captured stretch, and in addition drain water into the trenches from the left flank. In consequence, the Australians were soon wading waist deep through a muddy sludge, and this was alluded to by Sergeant Timbs, who stated that when brought in some of the wounded were wet through. In fact by 6.30p.m. it was evident that the attack had failed, and with no reserves available the position was reported to Brigade Headquarters. Orders were received to reorganise and attack at 8.30p.m., and in response 40 men were taken from B Company, and 80 from other Companies. However as soon as this was done the attack was postponed, and then cancelled. At 1a.m. on July 20th the Battalion was then relieved by the 2/4th Oxfords, and withdrawing to billets near Laventie, were conveyed at 10a.m. by motor bus to Estaires. During the whole of the 7 hours bombardment Lt. Col. H.M. Williams had been in the front line, setting a fine example to his men, and it was he who would personally superintend the re-organisation of the Battalion after the attack, for which he gained a mention in despatches. (On the last day of July he handed over command of the Battalion to Major G. Christie Miller - pending the arrival of Major J. Muir of the 4th Black Watch, who joined on August 5th - and being appointed Town Commander of Arras, during the German retreat of 1918 would become Area Commandant of Douai.) Among the many acts of bravery that day were those of 20 year old Corporal Frank Gostelow, who was born in Wolverton on October 14th 1896. He insisted on going out during several phases of the fight to bring in wounded comrades, but was himself then hit. In fact “How he came out of it alive was a miracle,” said one of those who had formed part of the first wave. “Our lads were simply marvellous on the 19th. They went in waves for the Huns, each wave as one man, and as cool as on an ordinary field day, led by brave officers. It was really wonderful the many unrecorded acts that happened of bravery and narrow escapes.” However the bravery of Corporal Gostelow would not go unrecognised, for, apart from being promoted to sergeant, when on leave at his parents home at 50, Cambridge Street, Wolverton, in September he would receive a parchment commending his bravery from the Major General commanding the 61st (South Midland) Division. As read the wording; “61st South Midland Division, 1916. - This parchment has been awarded to No. 1350 Corpl. S.O. Gostelow, I/c Stretcher Bearers, 21st Buckinghamshire Battalion, the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, in recognition of the act of gallantry that he performed on the 19th July, 1916, at Fauquissart. Though himself wounded he attended to other wounded men in No Man’s Land, and in the front trenches under heavy fire. He showed great gallantry and disregard for his own safety. Signed: Colin Mackenzie, Major General, Commanding 61st (South Midland) Division.” Being awarded the Military Medal, another Wolverton lad would also be recognised, for his bravery in rescuing the wounded. Formerly a member of the Town Band, he was Bugler Sanders, of the 2nd Bucks Battalion, whose parents lived in Victoria Street, Wolverton. Under heavy shell and machine gun fire he had gone out for several hours to attend to the wounded, and amongst those that he and Private Grace brought in was Colour Sergeant Major Brown. As for Lance Corporal Reg Franklow, whose parents lived in Cambridge Street, Wolverton, he was also awarded the Military Medal, as also Corporal T. Oldroyd, who under heavy fire worked in a communication trench for six hours, mending wires and maintaining communications. Indeed, it was mainly due to his efforts that, with only minutes to go before the start of the attack, communication was established between the front line and Battalion Headquarters. Of the officers on that day, Captain Ivor Stewart Liberty was wounded in No Man’s Land, and under heavy shell and machine gun fire Sergeant J. Petty bound up his injuries and, in a task that took five hours, dragged him 250 yards from the German barbed wire. He undoubtedly saved the Captain’s life, but tragically the wounds proved so severe that a leg had to be amputated. (Captain Liberty, who would be awarded the Military Cross, was the nephew of Sir Arthur Liberty, chairman of the well known firm in Regent Street, London, on whose death the following year he would acquire in trust all of his uncle’s freehold estate and the residue of his personal property for life, with remainder to his children.) Other hospitalised casualties of the battle were Captain Buckmaster and Major H. Barratt, but Lieutenants Atkinson, Phipps, Hudson, Brewin and Chadwick fell whilst bravely leading their men. In fact Lieutenant Douglas Chadwick had been brought in badly wounded by Corporal R.S. Hayers, who, in command of the regimental stretcher bearers, had repeatedly ventured under heavy machine gun and shell fire to rescue those in need. For this he would earn a well deserved Military Medal, but sadly Lieutenant Chadwick died of wounds in hospital in France on July 20th. Born on October 1st 1896 at Richmond House, Bletchley, he was the only son of Major John and Mrs. Chadwick, and had been educated at the St. Martin’s Grammar School, Bletchley, and St. Magdalene’s College School, Brackley, where he gained a scholarship. On leaving school he was privately coached under the direction of Mr. S.H. Still, of the Grammar School, Bletchley, for the London University Matriculation Examination, and in the wake of a successful result in January 1914 he began work in the office of his father, who was the Surveyor to the Council. In fact he intended to pursue the same career as architect and Surveyor, but as a member of the Royal Bucks Hussars, which with several of his old school fellows he had joined in early 1914, he was mobilised with his regiment on August 4th, 1914, at a time when he was just finishing his articles. In October 1914 he then received a commission in the Oxon and Bucks Light Infantry, of which his father was second in command, and would be subsequently appointed machine gun officer of the battalion, being promoted to Lieutenant. Many other local lads also died in the battle of Fromelles, including Private Joe White, aged 19, of the Oxon & Bucks Light Infantry. He was the son of Mr. & Mrs. Walter White, of Gold Street, Hanslope, and having been in France for about five weeks he had formerly worked for Mr. Fred Tompkins, of Green Farm, Hanslope. Also killed was Private Fred Willis, aged 23, whose mother lived in High Street, Hanslope. He had been at the Front for about nine weeks, as also had Private Richard Guntrip (whose father was also serving on the Western Front, as a sergeant in the Manchester Regiment), who was killed aged just 18. His home being at 14, School Street, Stantonbury, he was the eldest son, and had been employed in the paint shop at Wolverton Works before joining up shortly after the outbreak of war. Originally born at Gayton, Northamptonshire, aged 22 Private Benjamin Warr, whose parents, Thomas and Sarah Warr, lived at 9, Windsor Street, was also killed on the 19th. He had enlisted at Aylesbury, and is commemorated on the Loos Memorial, Pas de Calais. Also killed was Private Edward Charles Battams, whose parents, Edward and Elizabeth Battams, lived at 29, Tavistock Street. Aged 20, he was killed instantly, and having joined the colours at Aylesbury some 15 months before, after a prolonged period of training in England he had gone to France around May, 1916. Before enlisting he was a member of the Town Band, and had also featured prominently in the Wesleyan Football Club. In fact since he has no known grave, he may well have been buried in the recently discovered mass graves, although he is at least commemorated in name on the Loos Memorial, Pas de Calais. Also killed in action on July 19th was Bletchley born Lance Corporal Frank Humphrey Barden, the eldest son of Mr. Andrew Barden of Napier Street. Aged 25, he had joined the Oxon & Bucks Light Infantry the previous November, and at the time of enlisting was a member of the Liverpool City Police, having at one time been employed on the L.&N.W.R. at Lidlington and Northampton. Of his death, the Captain commanding his Company would write to the father of the deceased; ‘It is with much regret that I write to inform you of the death of your son, Lance Corporal F. Barden. Though he had only just joined my Company, he had already brought himself to my notice for the extremely efficient and reliable way in which he carried out his duties, and I had him marked down for early promotion. He was killed while standing to behind the lines during one of our attacks, by a big shell. He never knew what hit him. No words of mine can, I know, console you for his loss, but I knew you would like to know how he died and how well he has behaved during the short time he was with us. He will be a loss not only to the Company, but to the whole Battalion. His personal belongings are being sent to you. Any further assistance I can be to you will be willingly given. Assuring you once more of our deepest sympathy with you in your loss, yours sincerely, J.S. Bonser (Capt.).” Lance Corporal Barden lies buried at the Rue-Petillon Military Cemetery, Fleurbaix, Pas de Calais. That so many were killed, and that the fate of many would never be known, was hardly surprising, for under a tremendous bombardment the troops had held out until early the following morning when, after 11 hours in the captured position, they - albeit retaining a small portion of the German line - were ordered to retire. This they fortunately accomplished with very little loss, for under heavy fire the engineers and infantry had been digging communication trenches right up to the German line, and along these the troops managed to reach the safety of their own trenches. In recognition of the effort, the following message would be wired from G.H.Q; “Please convey to the troops engaged on night of 19th/20th my appreciation of the gallant effort and the thorough preparation made for it. I wish them to realise that their enterprise has not been by any means in vain, and the gallantry with which they carried out the attack is fully recognised.” As would also be written, “All the Bucks. men were quite untried previously, and the manner in which they carried it through seems to have been worthy of all the traditions of the men of Buckinghamshire in past campaigns. It was a dogged fight for eleven hours.” Their bravery would not be forgotten, for the following year on July 19th 1917 an impressive memorial service took place in France, conducted by the Chaplain of the Division, assisted by the Brigade Chaplain of the Brigade of which the 2nd Bucks Battalion formed a part. With the Brigade Band in attendance, R.S.M. E. Jones conducted the choir, and the hymns comprised ‘For all the Saints,’ ‘On the Resurrection Morning,’ and ‘Jesu, Lover of my soul.’ At the conclusion the Buglers of the Battalion, under Sergeant Bugler A.L. Jones, played the ‘Last Post,’ and forming up in column of fours the Battalion then marched to the strains of the Brigade Band, with Captain E. Bowyer acting as Staff Captain. The bravery displayed during the battle of Fromelles remains unquestioned, and with the recent discovery of the mass graves, and with the modern techniques of identification, perhaps for many of those killed an individual recognition now awaits.
FROMELLES - THE ROLL OF HONOUR
The Battalion began the attack with 20 officers and 622 other ranks. At the end of the attack only 322 men of all ranks were left.
Died of wounds;
Missing, believed killed;
Distinguished Conduct Medal; Regimental Sergeant Major E. Jones and Corporal F. Gurney.
Military Medal; Sergeant J. Petty, Corporals T. Oldroyd and S. Hayers, Lance Corporal R. Franklove, and Private (Bugler) W. Sanders.
Just as the First World War was coming to an end, so another scourge began to afflict mankind, in the form of a pandemic of ‘Spanish Flu.’ In fact at an estimated 25 million this would claim more lives than the war, and it was a tragic irony that locally several soldiers who survived the carnage of the trenches would fall victim to the outbreak on their return. The flu strain occurred in three waves, with the first, in the early summer of 1918, being comparatively mild. However, in August a more lethal strain emerged, and it would be from this that 26 year old Sergeant Instructor F. Fincher, of the King’s Royal Rifles (Cadet Battalion) died on October 25th 1918. A Territorial before the war, he had been mobilised with the County regiment, but was discharged after sustaining a serious wound to his neck in the trenches. He then joined the King’s Royal Rifles (Cadet Battalion), and it was their members who formed a firing party at his funeral, held at St. George the Martyr’s Church, Wolverton. Boosting local morale, throughout the war the talented musician, Mr. C.K. Garratt, from Newport Pagnell, had locally arranged numerous concerts and entertainments, but sadly his young wife died from the epidemic in late October. In fact such was the severity that with many teachers being affected it had been necessary to close the Council Schools at Wolverton, whilst at the railway works, and McCorquodales printing works, some 40% of the workforce was absent. At Stantonbury over 500 inhabitants were ill, and amongst the hundreds more at Wolverton there would be several deaths, including that of Mr. George Scrivener, a body maker at the railway works. Aged 37 he had succumbed on October 22nd 1918, and it was because his wife and six children were also affected that he had moved to his mother’s home in Victoria Street. Twenty two year old Miss Gladys Sykes, ‘a bright and attractive person,’ also became a victim. Her parents lived at 1, Radcliffe Street, Wolverton, and for some while she had been employed delivering milk for the Co-op. In Europe the disease was also raging, and at No. 9 Casualty Clearing Station, Italy, 34 year old Driver Frank Lamble, of the Royal Horse Artillery, died from pneumonia following influenza on October 30th 1918. He had seen much severe fighting in his three years in France and one year on the Italian Front, and at 95, Church Street, Wolverton, he left a widow and a five year old son. Also on October 30th Eddy Leonard, the only son of Mr. & Mrs. Leonard, of Bletchley, died from influenza in France. He had been a bell ringer at St. Mary’s Church, and in his memory on the Sunday the bells were rung half muffled. Also regarding Bletchley, here there were now many cases of influenza, and dated October 28th 1918 a lengthy document- signed by the Medical Officer of Health for the district, Dr. E. Nicholson, and the Clerk to the Council, by which body it had been raised - had been issued headed ‘Epidemic Catarrh and Influenza,’ giving advice on preventative measures. Despite 30% of the pupils being absent the schools were still open, although bills posted in the town announced that because of the epidemic the Picture Palace had been closed. In other manifestations a shortage of staff caused some shops to occasionally close, or only be open for reduced hours, whilst as for the Bletchley Road Sub Post Office, this had been shut for several days towards the end of October. In fact emphasising the seriousness of the situation, 34 year old Lieutenant Newbery-Boschetti, of the Royal Naval Reserve, had died from the epidemic at Maidenhead. For some years his family had been resident at Far Bletchley, and it was after the death of his father that they assumed the name of Newbery, being known as such until Mrs. Newbery and her children went to live elsewhere. Through the winter of 1918/1919 came the third deadly strain of the virus, and at Hanslope the funeral took place on Saturday, November 2nd 1918 of Miss Cox, the 60 year old headmistress of the Church End Schools. During the previous fortnight, by the end of the first week of November there had been over 20 deaths in Stantonbury, and, with these being mostly from pneumonia following influenza, no other town had suffered to such an extent. Abroad on active service, there was tragic news regarding Lance Corporal Herbert Staniford, for having been admitted to the General Hospital, Salonika, on November 5th, 1918, he died the following day from pneumonia. Before joining up he had been well known in Leighton Buzzard and Fenny Stratford, being a special constable and a brother of the St. Martin’s Lodge of Freemasons. The flu epidemic continued throughout the month, and Mr. and Mrs. S. Johnson, of 48, Queen Anne Street, Stantonbury, would receive official news that their youngest son, twenty eight year old Sergeant David Johnson, of the 7th Oxon and Bucks Light Infantry, had died at a military hospital in France on November 27th 1918. After three years of strenuous service in Salonika he was on his way home on leave when he contracted the illness. Locally the disease was still widespread, as also much further distant, for on December 5th 1918 Private Victor Page, the second son of Mr. & Mrs. Victor Page, of Aylesbury Street, died of pneumonia at Salonika, to where he had been sent a few months after arriving in France 3½ years ago. His youngest brother, Gunner B. Page, was still in France, whilst the eldest brother had lost a leg in the earlier part of the war. Within two hours of each other, Mrs. Annie Dorrill and her five year old son died on Saturday, December 7th 1918. Mrs. Dorrill’s husband, Bombardier Joseph Dorrill, had served throughout the war with the Royal Horse Artillery, and it was while on the Western Front with the victorious British troops that he heard the news. His other children were daughters aged 7 and 2½, with the family being resident at 29a, Mill Street, Newport Pagnell. Her home being in London Road, Newport Pagnell, also on December 7th, and also from influenza, at Northampton Hospital the death occurred of Mrs. Louisa Woolhead, whose husband was serving in India as overseer of a regimental tailoring department. As for 21 year old Private George Daniells, the second son of the late Mr. George Daniells and Mrs. Daniells of 44, Caldecote Street, Newport Pagnell, he tragically died on the eve of his anticipated return to civilian life. Hopes had been expressed for his recovery, but he was deemed not strong enough to make the journey from No. 32 Casualty Clearing Station, where he died on January 16th 1919. He was buried the following day in Valenciennes cemetery. Previously in the employ of Dr. C. Bailey, he had enlisted in the Oxon and Bucks Light Infantry in May 1915, but on account of his health was transferred two months later to the Ammunition Column of the R.A.S.C., with which he served on the Western Front for almost two years. The following month on the 27th Sergeant Alfred West, M.M., of the 2nd Battalion Oxon and Bucks Light Infantry, died at the Gravesend Military Hospital from influenza. Aged 27, he was the eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. A. West, of Broughton, and being on the Special Reserve had been mobilised with his regiment. Wounded in the retreat from Mons, he subsequently witnessed much hard fighting in France and Flanders, and would receive his promotion on the battlefield. Then for having carried an officer to safety under heavy fire he was awarded the Military Medal. After the Armistice, Sergeant West served with the British Army of Occupation, and it was whilst on his way home to begin work on the farm of Mr. Adams, at Broughton, that he contracted his illness. Only nine months before he had married Mrs. Lake, of Priory Street, Newport Pagnell, whose first husband had been killed early in the hostilities. From Gravesend, the body of Sergeant West was brought for interment in Newport Pagnell Cemetery on Wednesday, March 5th, and amongst those present were several soldiers who had been on active service. Even in April the flu epidemic was still claiming victims, and on Wednesday, April 2nd 1919 Aircraftsman Harry Sear, of the R.F.C., died in the Military Hospital, Norwich, from pneumonia, following influenza. He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Sear, of 83, Newport Road, Stantonbury, and had been apprenticed in the finishing shop at Wolverton Works. Aged 17 he voluntarily enlisted in September 1918, and after a while at Halton Camp, Wendover, was transferred to an aircraft station at Yarmouth. There he contracted the illness, and his remains were brought for interment at Stantonbury. By now the Reverend Bennitt, of Bletchley, had returned to England from active service with the R.A.M.C. in Salonika, but no sooner had he arrived than he became seriously ill. He was then sent to the Military Hospital at West Bridgford, Nottingham, from where he wrote in a letter; ‘Early in November I was sent to Salonika; at about the time when the troops advanced against Bulgaria. There was a great deal of malaria and influenza, and a strong reinforcement of R.A.M.C. was sent out. However, by the time we arrived, an improvement had taken place, and only about half our number were needed. Personally, I was put in the Army Pay Office at the Base Depot, and have done very little R.A.M.C. work at all. However, from another point of view, my work in the Army has been of value. I have frequently taken services, both week-days and Sundays, and it does seem to have been a good thing for me to have shared in the ordinary daily life among the men on an exact equality rather than as a Chaplain. At any rate, I have learnt more of the general point of view of the men of all branches of the service than otherwise could have been possible.’ As printed in an issue of the parish magazine he continued ‘I expect to be back at home by the second Sunday in April,’ and indeed having made favourable progress he was able on Sunday, April 13th to conduct the services at St. Mary’s Church, where he was heartily welcomed by the parishioners. By now the flu strain had thankfully run its course, and although there would be further outbreaks during the 1920s, these would prove far less severe.
A SELECTION OF GENERAL ASPECTS
ARMY POST OFFICE CORPS (JAN. 1916)
‘The Army Post Office Corps consists of Post Office employees, organised so that in times of emergency a sufficient number of expert postal officials would be at the disposal of and come automatically under the control of the military authorities. In the present campaign the men start in drafts of fifty, with the mails, at definite intervals, and go right up to the firing line in order to carry out their duties. The whole of the complex work of sorting is done en route, which necessitates working from twelve to sixteen hours, or even more, out of each twenty-four, whether on sea, land, or in the train. The return journey involves the same hard work with the mails which have been picked up from the men at the front for delivery at home. In cases of necessity the men are called upon for military duty. For instance, at Mons, where every available man was needed, they were employed digging trenches and in the firing-line. In this engagement some were killed and others wounded. Postal employees were the first volunteers to leave England with an army on active service. In the Egyptian War they rendered excellent service, and the Post Office Army Corps, as we know it, is the result of that good work. In the case of the Navy the Post Office have little or no responsibility. All letters and parcels for the ships of the Fleet are handled in the same way as for ordinary provincial delivery. The Admiralty ask for mail-bags to be dispatched to various East Coast ports, where they take them over for delivery to the different ships.’
‘A Lieutenant Colonel writing from Gallipoli states that the Turkish snipers often place small trees on their backs and crawl up to the trenches. “I watched a bush which appeared to be shaking a lot despite the fact that there was no wind. Then I and another man got on to it with our rifles. It moved quickly enough then.”’
Lice were unpleasantly common, because the troops lacked the facilities for frequent washing. The lice were known as ‘chats,’ and the men invariably socialised by talking, or ‘chatting,’ when they gathered to kill the pests by crushing them, or burning them with a candle or cigarette.
‘Trade Unions have complained that farmers are asking that boys should be allowed to leave school before the standard age in order to work on the land, and say that County Education committees are “giving way to the clamour of farmers.” In a reply to two of the Unions, a letter from the Gloucestershire Education Committee includes; “Will you remind your Union that this is such a time of crisis as England has never known, and it is no time to preach high principles if common sense is on the other side.”’
COMMUNICATION AT THE FRONT (APR. 1916)
‘It must have puzzled a good number of people who have read the official dispatches issued from time to time from the fighting fronts, how it is possible for the Commander in Chief to be in constant touch with the Tommies in the front line trenches. Linking the Commander in Chief with the firing line are lines of communication consisting of ‘wireless’ telegraph and telephone wires, aeroplane dispatch carriers, motor cycle and motor car dispatch riders and carriers, and last, but not least in importance, horsemen and cyclists. General Headquarters, where the Commander in Chief sets up his post of command, is always a long way behind the danger zone, generally thirty miles in the rear. It is, of course, very necessary that G.H.Q. - as it is called - should be free from all interruptions that would tend to injure the forming of successful plans of attack, or of frustrating the enemy’s plans. G.H.Q. is in constant communication with each of the Corps Headquarters, the next link of the ‘chain of command’ as “Eye-Witness” aptly terms it. The land between G.H.Q. and Corps H.Q. is free from enemy shells so that the telephone and telegraph wires can be set up on posts along the roads in perfect safety; although beyond Corps H.Q. towards the firing line the wires are buried, in almost every case, to prevent them from getting severed. From Corps Headquarters the chain is carried by means of countless wires and numerous dispatch carriers travelling by every conceivable means to Divisional Headquarters. The officer commanding, a lieutenant-general, in charge of a division, usually takes great care that his Divisional H.Q. are concealed fairly thoroughly from the keen eyed watchers sent up in the enemy’s ‘spotting’ balloons or scouting aeroplanes, for should his base be sighted , then a well directed hot artillery fire will, in all possibility, send it and his staff skywards. Each division is formed by three brigades, each commanded by a brigadier-general, and each brigadier-general has his Brigade Headquarters. These Brigade H.Q. are further links in the chain, and are well within the danger zone. Shell proof underground chambers, sandbagged and protected by earthworks, usually form Brigade H.Q. Direct communication is maintained - heroically, more often than not - between Brigade H.Q. and the brigade commanders, one of whom commands each of the four battalions making up the brigade. These officers are in constant touch with the majors commanding the companies, four of which make a battalion. Four platoons make a company, and are commanded by subalterns; and lastly, four sections make a platoon, and are in charge of non commissioned officers. Communication from one Corps Headquarters to another, or from one Divisional Headquarters to another, is kept up by ’Liaison’ officers, who use motor cars, motor cycles etc., and thus enable the commanding officers to be in constant touch with one another. The whole chain of command works like a well oiled machine, and the death that must be faced in maintaining communication up near the front line has never allowed a break to exist for more than a few minutes.’
A soldier of the 1st Battalion of the Lincoln Regiment had a narrow escape in 1915, when hit by a bullet during the fighting near Ypres. In his left breast pocket was an illustrated Bible, which deflected the bullet and caused it to pass through the upper part of his waistcoat, and then out through the other side of his tunic.
FIGHTING IN THE TRENCHES (1915)
‘The campaign in France is a war of trenches, for the opposing armies are both fighting burrowed in the ground, to escape as far as possible the deadly effects of modern artillery fire. Trenches are not roughly-constructed, ditch-like holes in the earth, but are scientifically built shelters for troops. The type of trench varies according to the condition of the country in which it is constructed. On flat ground a deep trench in the form of three big steps is generally built. In front of it is often a hedge which conceals it from the enemy, and also a thick mound of earth, for robbing bullets of their velocity. It has been found that two or three inches of soft earth will stop the average shot from inflicting any damage. Earth is also piled behind these trenches to catch splinters from shells bursting in the rear of the troops. In protecting woods a trench is constructed, in front of which are placed felled trees with branches pointing away from the defenders. Around these barbed wire is twisted, and thus they form formidable opposition in case of a charge by the enemy. The type of trench most used by troops is the ten-foot dug-out, which is shaped something like the interior of a railway carriage. At the base are two lines of hard earth, which form seats with a space between for the legs. On these solid mounds of earth the troops stand when firing, and they rest on them, invisible to the enemy, when they wish to refresh themselves. Planks are laid across the top of these deep shelters, and earth piled on the wood. This form of trench is the safest of any type, as splinters from shells bursting overhead are caught by the protective earth-roof, whilst earth-walls back and front stop rifle bullets. Lines of trenches are invariably built in a zig-zag line, so that the enemy cannot train their guns at one end of the shelter and massacre those inside it, as they could were the trench constructed in a straight line.’
FOR THE NURSE
‘During the months of war through which we have passed, the Red Cross nurse has thoroughly demonstrated her value. Hundreds of girls and women already in possession of their Red Cross certificates at the outbreak of war have done most valuable work both in England and in France, and hundreds of others have qualified during the last year. Consequently the Red Cross uniform has become very familiar in all our cities and in most of our smaller towns and villages. The Red Cross uniform may be bought all ready for wear - frock, apron, cap, and sleeves complete, but it may be made at home for considerably less than the cost of the ready to wear article. Moreover, as regards the cap, apron, and sleeves, much better material may be used than can be obtained in the ready made articles, and all the garments may be made to fit the wearer exactly, an important matter when they are to be worn for hard work. Our sketch shows a nurse’s apron, cap, and sleeves. The apron may be made either of apron linen or of union. The latter is recommended, for it is cheaper than the linen and wears admirably. The apron is made with a very broad bib, which comes quite up to the neck. It has fairly wide straps, which cross in the middle of the back and button on to the apron belt at each side. A Maltese cross of turkey-red twill is placed in the middle of the bib. The sleeves are gathered into neat little bands at the wrist, and are finished at the top by slots threaded with elastic. The back of the cap is semi-circular, the front a straight band made of two thicknesses of material.’
GROUND LIGHTS (1916)
‘Whenever there is a night attack the battlefield is made almost as light as day by means of searchlights, special star shells, which burst in the sky and throw out a brilliant light, and ground lights. These ground lights are used to illuminate the actual ground over which the enemy may advance, and many thousands have been used by our soldiers, especially when the two lines of trenches are very close to one another. The lights consist of a skeleton circular frame of iron covered over with canvas and filled with a composition of resin, tar and other combustibles. As a rule they are fired from trench mortars, towards the German wire entanglements, a short fuse lighting the composition. This burns with a dazzling flame for a quarter of an hour or more, and as long as it is burning the surroundings are lighted up sufficiently to prevent any German attack being made without instantly being seen.’
LEWIS MACHINE GUN
‘Most of the machine-guns used in the British Army are water-cooled. The steam given off by the water, which is boiled through the heat of firing, is liable to betray the position of the gun, however, and for some time inventors have been busy inventing an air-cooled machine. They have been successful, and the Lewis air-cooled guns are now used by our soldiers. The Lewis gun only weighs 26½ lb., and it can be fired from the shoulder. It very much resembles, indeed, an ordinary rifle, bit it has a horizontal revolving magazine above the trigger, and the barrel is four inches in diameter on the outside, appearing much bigger than that of a rifle. The gun is air-cooled by a sheath of aluminium, with radiating wings, like an electric fan. This sheath extends beyond the actual barrel of the gun. As the gases caused by the firing of the cartridges come out of the barrel they act on these fans and drive them round, causing a continual draught of cool air to pass to pas along the barrel. The Lewis takes forty-eight cartridges at a time, but it can be reloaded in a few seconds.’
LORD FRENCH & ACORNS
‘When Lord French visited Verdun he picked up a handful of chestnuts and announced his intention of planting in his grounds an avenue as a perpetual souvenir of the city. When this became known the authorities at Verdun were besieged with applications for acorns and chestnuts. They could not supply all the demand but a quantity was sent to the L&N.W.R., and were put on sale in aid of the War Seal Foundation (L.&N.W.R. Section.) This aims to provide homes for employees of the company totally disabled in the war. Boxes containing specimens are available from 7, Euston Square, London, for 2s 6d. The acorns are from the forests of Vaux and Douaumont, and the chestnuts from the Place de la Madeleine, at Verdun.’
NEW LIGHTING ORDER (JAN. 1916)
‘A new Order as to lights on vehicles, which has been made by the Home Secretary under the Defence of the Realm Regulations, was issued on Saturday. The Order, which has been framed in consultation with the War Office and the Admiralty, supersedes all the Orders on this subject now in force in England and Wales except the Order for the Metropolitan and City Police Districts, and replaces the numerous local requirements by one code of regulations. It introduces at the same time several important changes, some of which are already in force in London. The Order comes into force on January 10th. The first part extends the following provisions, which already apply in many areas, to the whole country outside the Metropolitan area:- (1) The lighting up time for all vehicles is to be half an hour after sunset. (2) The requirements to carry lights is extended to all vehicles using the roadway, including vehicles drawn or pushed by hand; and (3) All vehicles are required to carry a lamp showing a red light to the rear, and a separate lamp carried at the rear is made compulsory for all except hand vehicles. As there may be temporary shortage in the supply of lamps the operation of the last requirement is postponed until February 10th, 1916, in those areas where vehicles are not now required to carry rear lights. These measures are considered necessary for the public safety, both because of the reduction of street lighting in many large areas and because of the general increase in the volume of naval and military motor traffic on the roads at night.’
OBSERVATION BY CAMERA (1916)
‘The Germans, anticipating that their observations by airship and aeroplane would be challenged and rendered difficult by the eagerness of the Allies’ airmen to give battle, with characteristic foresight embarked upon the war prepared to overcome this difficulty. The way they managed it was by a camera in a parachute. From a scaffolding like apparatus a folded parachute is discharged upwards. As it falls the parachute opens, and the camera within automatically “registers” a birds eye view of the surroundings.’
ON THE RIGHT TRACK
Following the outbreak of war, the London and North Western Railway Company changed the name of their locomotive ‘Germanic’ to ‘Belgic.’ In January 1916 they then changed another name from ‘Dachshund’ to ‘Bulldog.’
PIGEONS AS WAR PHOTOGRAPHERS
‘Cameras designed for taking military photographs by the aid of carrier pigeons are among the more out of the way and ingenious devices which are being used by the Germans. Such a camera was, at all events, exhibited in Germany some years ago. The instrument was the invention of a Dr. Neubronner, and weighed only 2½ozs. It was fitted with a lens of only 2 inch focus, and took a picture 1½ inches square. One model consisted of two distinct cameras, the lens of one pointing forward and that of the other backwards when the bird was in flight. In another model eight pictures could be taken in succession on a band of film. Another means of obtaining photographs from a lofty view-point is the rocket camera. The camera is carried on a rocket, by the projection of which it can be raised to some 1.500ft. in the air. By means of a mechanism something like a propeller shaft on the tail of the rocket the angle at which the lens shall point at the time of exposure can be set, whilst the shutter is also automatically set to make the exposure immediately after the rocket has reached its highest position. With this rocket camera the pictures taken are of a fair size, 7 inches by 7 inches, and no doubt an instrument of this kind would serve to give useful indications of the nature of the country immediately in advance of an army.’
(The following Regulation regarding pigeons applied to Buckinghamshire, with applications for permits to keep such birds to be immediately made in writing to the nearest Police Constable of the County;
Defence of the Realm Act 1914. Regulation No. 3 of the Defence of the Realm (No. 2) ‘No person shall in any area which may be prescribed by order of a Secretary of State keep or have in his possession any Carrier or Homing Pigeons, unless he has obtained from the Chief Officer of Police of the district a permit for the purpose (which permit may at any time be revoked) and the Chief Officer of Police may, if he considers it necessary or expedient to do so, cause any Pigeons kept in contravention of this Regulation to be liberated.’
In 1916 an artillery sergeant wrote that a blackbird had built a nest on a siege gun which was in daily action at the front. There were four eggs, and she is “as saucy as she is confident of our protection.”)
The word ‘plonk,’ meaning a cheap type of alcohol, dates from the First World War, when British soldiers gave their own pronunciation to ‘vin blanc,’ a basic white wine served in the bars in the town of Ypres. Similarly, to the British troops Ypres became ‘Wipers.’
Writing in June 1915, a Canadian artillery corporal says that gas makes the air turn green and yellow, and the soldiers began to feel ‘pretty choky’ at the guns. They wondered if tobacco would help, and putting a big chew in their mouths it made them spit the gas up. “Now when we notice the gas in the air, we put tobacco in our mouths, and it helps us a lot.” In July 1915 a special correspondent of the ’Morning Post’ in Petrograd wrote;
‘The present mode of dealing with a German gas attack is simple, cheap, and so effective that the Germans have been thrown back upon gas bombs again. The Russians dig a shallow trench, a mere gutter, well before their positions, and fill it with dry sticks, brushwood, dry moss, or anything else that will burn easily. The moment that the scouts report that a gas attack is in preparation this gutter is rapidly run full of petroleum, which drenches the dry material in the gutter, and soaks into the soil. All is now ready and waiting for the appearance of the gas cloud. When this is well under way the Russians set fire to their defensive gutter all along the line. The dry fuel flames up quickly, but the main point is that it fires the soil, which burns furiously until the petroleum is exhausted. The effect is to change entirely the air currents upon which the gas cloud depends for its success.’
POSTAL FACILITIES AT THE FRONT (JAN. 1915)
‘The men who control the field post office tent are generally skilled workers who have had experience in Post Office work. They are selected in many cases from the Post Office Rifles, the well known Territorial force. When troops are continually moving from one point to another there are obvious difficulties in the way of the men who have to keep the soldiers supplied with letters and parcels. The general plan is to establish a head postal office at a town in the rear of the fighting line, well out of reach of the enemy. This base feeds the field post office, which merely consists of a tent. Each force at the front carries its post office about with it, and when a camp is struck one of the first tents to be pitched is the one which handles the soldiers’ letters. This erection is guarded by soldiers with fixed bayonets, whilst the workers inside are armed. The contents of the field post office are rough and ready. A few stools and small tables make up the furniture, and there are sorting bags and posting bags, the latter taking the place of a pillar box. Motor cars carry letters and parcels to and from the base post office to the distributing tents with the troops. At times these mail carrying vehicles are wrecked by shells or captured, and then many soldiers never receive the letters sent them from home. Letters posted by the soldiers at the front are carried back to the main post office, and from there dispatched across the water to their destination.’
(Many women would be employed on the home front to take over the jobs of men who had joined the Forces. At Wolverton, as the first post woman in the town Miss Luck began her delivery duties on Sunday, October 31st 1915, and would continue throughout the war. Her brother, Sergeant C. Luck, was previously on the indoor staff of Wolverton Post Office, but was now serving with the Royal Engineers at the Dardanelles. He had joined up as a sapper in 1914 and was at the landing at Gallipoli with the 29th Division in April 1915. He was stricken with enteric fever and after recuperating at Malta went to France at the beginning of 1916. Whilst on the Western Front he gained a commission and besides being mentioned twice in despatches was also congratulated by General Rawlinson for gallantry. At an investiture held by the King at Buckingham Palace, in late December 1919 he was awarded the Military Cross, for effecting a crossing of the Oise Canal, near Landrecles, in the face of determined enemy resistance. Before the war he had been a member of the hockey and cricket clubs at Wolverton. )
PUNISHING THE KAISER (APR. 1919)
‘Mr. Bonar Law, replying to Mr. Leonard Lyle in the House of Commons said the Commission appointed by the Peace Conference to consider the punishment to the Kaiser had reported, but he could make no statement on the subject. Mr. Lyle; “May I ask the right hon. gentleman whether he realises there is a strong feeling in the country that no legal quibbles, international or otherwise, should prevent justice being meted out to the arch-criminal of Europe?” Mr. Bonar Law replied that this feeling was shared by His Majesty’s Government.’
‘There are two kinds of puttees, the spiral and the straight. The former are cut in the shape of a half circle and they fall in natural folds when wound round the calf. It is the straight military puttee which sometimes troubles the raw recruit, but its adjustment should present no difficulties if the following simple rule is carried out. In commencing to roll the cloth round the leg the end should be first placed against the ankle on the inside of the foot. When the puttee has been twice round the leg it should be turned completely over. That is to say, the back of the cloth should be twisted round to the front. The cloth should then be wound in the ordinary way until the fifth turn is reached, when the puttee should be twisted as before. The effect of reversing the cloth at the third and fifth turn is to neatly fold the straight puttee round the calf without fear of it slipping when the wearer is running or marching.’
RAILWAYS AT THE FRONT (MAY 1917)
‘Railway trains play a very important part at all the Fronts, especially the Western Front. The rolling-stock is immense. The thousands and thousands of tons of steel rails laid down would stagger one were the figure known. There is much heavy transport to be done in modern warfare. Without proper railways to bring up troops, munitions, big guns, and rations very quickly there would be no victory. During the first week of our advance on the Somme it is estimated that between five and six million shells were hurled at the enemy in less than a month. Imagine the transport of these, with many a big gun, from our 15inch howitzer down the scale to the machine guns! There are huge battalions of platelayers, drivers, navvies, signallers, engine drivers, truck and lorry men working like niggers, often day and night, with but infrequent snatches of sleep. Added to those railway men, many thousands of whom have left the great English railways to do their bit in France, must be mentioned the splendid body of Royal Engineers, who have done much magnificent work, not only in mining, building bridges, roads, etc., but in constructing railways and handling the traffic.’
RECORDING CASUALTIES (1915)
‘With the army at its present size, the task of recording and reporting casualties is not easy. And it is rendered all the more difficult by the confusion that is created during prolonged and scattered battles, and the fact that a proportion of soldiers and officers disappear without leaving any trace of their fate. Before a man’s name is sent home as a casualty it is necessary to identify him absolutely and to ascertain his name, initials, regimental number and unit, and what has happened to him. This is done at the base by a small staff detached from each unit, which checks and verifies every piece of information received from the front regarding any member of its own unit, and maintains a complete record of all its members in the shape of a sort of life history. Such work needs a large staff. In the block of buildings where it is carried on, may be seen several rooms filled with soldier clerks from every unit of the Service, British and Indian working at small tables piled with papers, very much as clerks in a large bank or insurance office at home. The resemblance is somewhat spoiled by the fact that the occupants of these rooms are clad in khaki, and in the Indian section by the smasher (sic) hats of the Gurkas, the pugarees of the Sikhs and Dogras, and the kullahs of the Mohammedans. Of casualty lists thirty copies are sent home daily, amounting sometimes to 3,000 sheets of typed matter.’
One gallon earthenware jars of rum were sent into the line, each being for 64 men, with each man consuming about a third of a pint a week. The jars carried the letters SRD, standing for Supply Reserve Depot, or Service Ration Depot, but to the troops in the front line they stood for Seldom Reaches Destination, Soon Runs Dry, or Standard Rum; Diluted.
Corporal Drinkwater, of Willesden, was rendered deaf and dumb by a shell explosion at Gallipoli, in 1915. However, he recovered his hearing and speech when he fell out bed at a military hospital in March 1916. Shortly before his injury he had shot a Turkish woman sniper. When killed she was wearing a necklace of 128 discs, each denoting a British soldier that she had despatched. As a souvenir from the battlefields, a wounded soldier brought back the fuse of a shell in his haversack. However, whilst his uniform and others were being taken in a lift to the basement, the fuse suddenly exploded at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary in June 1915, causing a great deal of damage. Fortunately only one person was injured, a porter who had been approaching the lift. As another instance of the danger of souvenirs, a 70 year old Cambridge boot and shoemaker exhibited a shell, received from some friends at the Front, amongst other war relics in the window of his shop. Tragically, one day the shell exploded, killing him and completely wrecking the shop.
(From April 1915. ‘The strange effects worked on the special sense by the terrific explosions of modern shells are occupying the attention of medical men. … So many remarkable and varied are the noises of modern battle, so different in note and intensity the explosions of different shells, and so new and dreadful the bodily mutations, that the psychological and physiological effects of the great war will occupy scientists for years to come. …)
In April 1919 Captain D’Arcy Levy, R.A.F., was fined £10 for bringing in a dog to Hull from Holland without a licence, with the offence having occurred on November 18th 1918. Captured by the Germans early in the war, he had been interned in Holland, and it was there that he obtained the dog as a puppy. On arriving at Hull he offered a soldier £5 to take it ashore in his kitbag, and this was duly done without detection. The defendant said that he had been out of the country when the regulations were made, but the chairman, although sympathetic to the case, said that only by imposing penalties could this dangerous practice be stopped.
‘Tommy Atkins is a bit of a linguist in his way, and the language which he speaks is hard to understand, save only by those who fraternise with him. If, for example, you - an ordinary civilian - were to walk into a barracks, begin a conversation, and be told to stop ‘chewing the mop.’ would you have any notion what not to do? Of course you wouldn’t, and yet your burly warrior friend would merely be giving you to understand that he was tired of your arguments. Should he call you a ‘square-pusher,’ you may be quite sure that he has no small opinion of you as a lady killer, whilst, if he also adds that you are ‘tippy,‘ you may take this as a distinct compliment to your personal appearance. If suddenly you hear him talking about his ‘long-faced chum,’ don’t be frightened; he is probably only addressing a Cavalryman’s horse.’
SPECIAL CONSTABLES (MAY 1915)
‘The majority are on duty for at least four hours a day for a week. They have to be out in all weathers and at all hours of the night or day. From 2 o’clock in the morning until six is the worst time to be on duty. This is especially trying for the man who has to be at business by nine o’clock. The ‘Special’ is not paid, his services are entirely voluntary. They are armed with truncheons and may be called upon to act as guards or escorts, besides the military, to German interned civilians when the prisoners are transferred from one place to another. A Special has the same authority and power as a regular police constable.’
(The following memo was issued in December 1914 by Major Otway Mayne. He was the Chief Constable of the county, and at an Investiture at Buckingham Palace would be presented by the King on Wednesday, January 13th 1915 with His Majesty’s Police Medal, for long service.
‘Special constables may, if they wish, join volunteer training corps for the purpose of making themselves proficient in drill, but they will not be allowed to resign their appointments as special constables in order to do so. It is to be recognised that their primary duty is as special constables, in which they have made a solemn declaration to serve, and from which they cannot be released except under special circumstances.’
As Chief Constable, since the beginning of the war he had lost all his reserve men through enlistment, after which an application from the War Office arrived, through the Home Office, to lend them drill instructors. Consequently he sent six of his most trusted and capable sergeants, but then came a request for men in the police force to join the military, and once again the county force became depleted, creating a greater reliance on special constables. The Marquis of Lincolnshire was appointed by the Lord Lieutenant of Bucks as the county’s Chief Commandant of the Special Constabulary, whose members in March 1915 were issued with a new and more dignified badge, this being a medallion of bronze with the county arms, the chained Swan, in the centre. Around the outer circle was the inscription; ‘Bucks Special Constabulary, 1914.’)
THE ANGEL OF MONS
‘A Reverend, who returned home in August 1915 after two months’ ministerial work at the front, had several times been told of the story of The Angel of Mons, and was reminded of the Biblical prophecy that at the time of a great crisis on earth “great signs shall there be from heaven.” He was in contact with a nurse in a convalescent hospital who was told by a patient that at a critical period in the retreat from Mons they saw an angel with outstretched wings, like a luminous cloud, between themselves and the advancing Germans. At that moment the German onslaught slackened. Unable to credit the story, she was later discussing it with a group of officers when a Colonel looked up and said; “Young lady, the thing happened. You need not be incredulous. I saw it myself.”’
(Writing from the front in June 1915, a member of the Bucks Territorials remarked that he was near a big chateau which the Germans shelled every day. Yet although the place was in ruins a picture of the Virgin Mary always remained intact. “It is very funny, but it is the same in many cases.” Another soldier reported that at the rear of the lines stood a ruined church, and although the structure had been reduced to a heap of bricks, the crucifix remained undamaged.)
THE ORIGINAL TOMMY ATKINS
‘Several regiments claim to have had in their ranks the original Thomas Atkins, whose signature, incorporated in a specimen pay-sheet in an Army pocket ledger, became later on a nickname for all private soldiers. He has, for example, been identified with a hero of that name in the old 33rd Foot, the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, who died fighting in Flanders more than a century ago. Another account has it that he was a certain Gunner Thomas Atkins of the Royal Artillery, who was a good enough scholar to be able to make out his own monthly pay sheet, esteemed a wonderful thing in those days. There are other claimants, but the bulk of the evidence seems to point to a certain Thomas Atkins who served in the Rifle Brigade during the Peninsular War as having been the real originator of the title. Many stories are current concerning the prowess and daring of this hero. It was at the storming of Badajoz and Atkins was one of the “forlorn hope.” The breach had been barred by the garrison with huge wooden beams stuck full of sword-blades. The storming party carried noosed ropes, with which to drag these away; but Atkins, impatient of delay, thrust his head and shoulders underneath one of them, and exerting all his immense strength, and using his knees and elbows as levers, he tore the sword-studded beam bodily from its place, allowing his comrades to dart through. Meanwhile, however, the enraged defenders had beaten poor Atkin’s head to pulp with the iron-shod butts of their muskets.’
‘The name given by the British troops to the enemy’s trench mortar, or ‘minenwerfer,’ is ‘The German Undertaker.’ A certain type of German howitzer shrapnel is known as ‘The Woolly Bear,’ from the thick white smoke that it emits when it bursts. As to the British ordnance, a certain heavy howitzer, whose dull boom is audible above all the other guns, is termed ‘Mother,’ whilst another is known as ‘Baby.’ As for the French names, the heavy field howitzer shell known by the British as a ‘Jack Johnson’ is ‘Une Marmite,’ and the smaller field howitzer shell, ‘Une Petite Marmite.’’
(Despite the trench warfare, French farmers carried on as before, and men were often at work on the land only a short distance behind the firing line. As one of the more bizarre aspects of trench warfare, at one part of the line the British troops would regularly call out “We haven’t seen our fat Ludwig,” whereupon a German of huge girth would stand on the parapet of his trench, wave his hand, and then disappear again. After this, the fighting recommenced.)
In a letter in 1915 from General Sir William Birdwood, General Officer Commanding the Australian and New Zealand Forces at the Dardanelles, he states that “Our complete moral superiority over the Turk is partly due to a very clever invention of a man named Beach …” The man was Lance Corporal W. Beach, of the 2nd Battalion Australian Imperial Force, and his invention was a periscope for rifles, such that only the muzzle was apparent over the parapet. “We understand from prisoners that he dislikes this intensely.” The idea was forwarded to Lord Kitchener, for consideration.
‘Take one pound of beef sausages, prick them well, and put them in a saucepan. Add one pound of tomatoes, cut up, and half a pound of onions, chopped, cover with water, and cook gently for one hour, stirring occasionally so that the sausages do not stick to the pan, but do not break them. Before dishing up, remove the fat from the top with a spoon, put in a little thickening, and allow to boil up. Serve very hot. This is sufficient for four people.’
WHEN BULLETS WHINE
‘In the firing-line it has often been noticed that bullets travelling at high speed produce two sounds. A man fired at from about 400 yards hears first a vicious crash. That is the bullet passing. A little later the report of the rifle comes along. The speed of sound has, in fact, been beaten by the speed of rifle bullets. Modern military rifle bullets, when fired, travel at from 2,000 ft. to 3,000ft. in one second. Sound can only travel along at 1,100ft. per second. So it happens that when a man who is fired at hears the report of a rifle, he knows he is safe - at least, from that particular shot. It is naturally at long ranges that the two distinct sounds are most noticeable. At a range of 1,000 yards a bullet arrives at least a second, and sometimes more, in advance of the report. The sound of the flying bullet is caused by a vacuum at its rear. The ir thrown fiercely back from the nose of the projectile travels round and rushes to the rear, as water to the stern of a fast moving boat. Thus a crash is produced - or, in certain cases, a kind of whining snarl, like no other sound on earth.’
WINSTON CHURCHILL (APR. 1915)
‘The war correspondent of the Giornale d’Italia (Rome ) reports, regarding the last days of the siege of Antwerp; “I was in the battle line near Lierre, and in the midst of a group of officers stood a man. He was still young, and was enveloped in a cloak, and on his head was a yachtsman’s cap. He was tranquilly smoking a large cigar and looking at the progress of the battle under a rain of shrapnel which I can only call fearful. It was Mr. Churchill, who had come to view the situation for himself. It must be confessed that it is not easy in all Europe to find a Minister who would be capable of smoking peacefully under that shell fire. He smiled, and looked quite satisfied.”’
‘WIRELESS’ IN WAR
‘There are several forms of wireless equipment used in warfare, and under favourable conditions a range of from 150 to 200 miles is possible with one of them. The most portable “station,” however, is the cavalry type, which weighs 640lbs, and is carried in equal proportions by four horses. Its range is not a wide one; it works over a distance of from twenty five to thirty miles. The engine and dynamo are mounted on opposite sides of a rigid saddle on the first horse, together with four gallons of petrol and a quart of lubricating oil, tools, spare parts and a telescopic driving shaft. The second horse carries the transformer (which changes the current to a higher or lower voltage) in a wooden case, and, in another wooden case, the receiver. The third horse caries the masts, which in some cases are in sections and in others are made on a telescopic principle. The fourth horse carries halyards, stays, and the aerial wires, which are wound round drums and packed away in a fibre case. The apparatus can be erected and the operator at work within ten minutes.’
In the aftermath of war, the world looked towards a brighter future, where exciting new ventures could be contemplated.
AEROPLANE ENGINES (OCT. 1920)
At an Air Conference in London, ‘It was suggested that, to improve the power of aero engines, a steam turbine might be employed. It was generally believed, said the speaker, that there is a limit in the size of the cylinders which can be used in the ordinary petrol engine, and that this limit is probably somewhere about 100 horse-power for aero engines. The British engine with the largest number of cylinders now under construction is the Napier Cub, with 16 cylinders, and designed to give 1,000 horse-power. If larger engines than this are required for aeronautical purposes, and it seems probable that they will be required, a different type of engine is desirable. The steam turbine seems to be worth experimenting with. So far the solutions of all the problems of a steam aero engine have not been found, the main difficulty being the design of an efficient condenser within permissible weights.’
ATOMIC ENERGY (NOV. 1919)
‘According to a well-known scientist there is a hidden force by which the world can be blown to atoms. This force he describes as atomic energy, which is present in most substances, the supply being inexhaustible. If, says the savant, the atomic energy in an ounce of matter could be utilised, it would be sufficient to raise the German ships at Scapa Flow and pile them on top of a Scottish mountain. The majority will imagine that radium is the only matter which gives forth atomic energy. Solid, liquid, and gaseous matter, however, is full of the new energy, which will probably first be utilised for wireless telephony through the earth. The power of the new force may be gathered from the remark that the human race will not discover how to use it “until it has brains and morality enough to use it properly; for if the discovery were made before its time and by the wrong people, this planet would be unsafe.”’
BOTTLED BLOOD (NOV. 1919)
‘Developments of war surgery have led to the discovery that human blood for transfusion may be kept for three to four weeks before use. The bottled blood is always ready for any emergency, and it is claimed that patients injected with it show the same remarkable improvement as when the blood is taken directly from the artery of the living donor.’
CHANNEL TUNNEL (JAN. 1920)
‘In five years’ time it is possible that a tunnel costing thirty millions will connect England with France. It is understood that the naval and military authorities who have been considering the question of the Channel Tunnel are in favour of the project. It will be remembered that when the Prime Minister received a deputation on the subject it was stated that all political objections had been removed, and that those Ministers who had opposed the Channel Tunnel before the war were now in favour of it. It was also stated that the Prime Minister expressed his whole-hearted approval of the project, and recognised its value to commercial and industrial development. Sir Francis Fox, the consulting engineer, when he explained the scheme to the House of Commons Committee of the Channel Tunnel some months ago, said that it was proposed to sink a shaft from both sides. Geologists are of opinion that the strata on both sides are identical - first a beautiful white chalk, under which lies a grey chalk, which is impervious to water. The lining of the tunnel will at first be cast-iron segments, but as the work is advanced these will be removed and ferro-concrete substituted. There would be a water-lock, which they could flood, added Sir Francis, so that even a rat could not get through, and they would reserve the right to blow up some portion of the tunnel in case of emergency. It would be quite possible to run trains from London at intervals of a quarter of an hour to all parts of Europe, and eventually to Bagdad and Capetown via Cairo.’
(From Oct. 1920. ‘The Channel for the first time in history has been cycled across. The hero of the feat is Mr. Harold Ashton Rigby, who left Boulogne at 7.30a.m. and landed at St. Margaret’s Bay, Dover, at 6.30 the same evening. The cyclist encountered several squalls on the way, and the sea was very choppy. During the latter part of the journey Mr. Rigby was very fatigued.)
DECIMAL COINAGE (APR. 1920)
‘The deliberations regarding decimal coinage which commenced in 1918, have taken a definite turn, and the Royal Commission on Decimal Coinage has reported against any change. “It is not advisable to make any change in the denomination of currency and money on account of the United Kingdom with a view to placing them on a decimal basis. In any scheme for reducing the existing system to a decimal basis the pound should be retained. The pound and mil (sic) scheme is the only strongly supported scheme which complies with this condition, but the advantage to be gained as regards the keeping of accounts is in no way commensurate with the loss of the convenience of the existing system for other purposes.” Grave difficulties would be created by the alteration of the penny, and the scheme could not be tried as an experiment or on a voluntary basis. “It is unlikely,” say the Commissioners, “that the public at large, who have expressed no desire for a decimal system, would take advantage of the opportunity afforded them, or would either abandon the existing nomenclature of the coins, including and above the sixpence, or that they would think of them as representing mils instead of the shillings and pence to which they are accustomed.” Tremendous difficulties in the alteration of insurance policies and the fact that 13 years would be required by the Mint to produce the new coinage, helped the Commission to come to its conclusions.’
POCKET MOVIE CAMERAS (JAN. 1922)
‘Two Italians recently invented a remarkable instrument which is a cinematograph camera and projector combined. This is so small in size that it will slip easily into the pocket. In appearance it resembles an ordinary folding film camera. On one side of the magazine is a spool containing a roll of film 40ft in length, which is sufficient for more than 600 pictures. The end of the film is attached to another spool, which is driven by a small clockwork motor. To take a “movie” you simply wind up the works, point the camera in the right direction, and press the button. The little motor draws the film across, and at the same time opens and closes the shutter at the rate of 900 times a minute! The camera is used also to throw the picture on to the screen. After development the film is wound round a spool, the back of the camera is removed, and a lantern attachment is fixed on. Then the motor is wound up, the button is pressed, and there you are! Such an instrument will enable amateur photographers to keep motion records of friends, relations, and children.’