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Bugbrooke and the Great War - Page 2. August, September 1914
Bugbrooke in the Great War. Events 100 years ago to 4th August 1914
100 years ago, on August 4th 1914, Great Britain declared war on Germany. It was the culmination of weeks, months and even years of tension and within a very short time it had become the 1st World War. There was not a village anywhere which did not feel the consequences and Bugbrooke was typical amongst them.
Bugbrooke in 1914, was a village with a population of 800 living in around 150 dwelling centred on what are now High Street, Great Lane, Ace Lane, Church Lane and Camp Hill.. Men worked in a range of jobs with many engaged in farming and the railways.
Whilst there were national newspapers, and several Northampton newspapers, in Bugbrooke the principal communication was via the weekly school newsletters. Children would bring news into the school from around the village, the headmaster would compile a letter write it on the blackboard, and the children would copy it and take it home. One of the surviving volumes covers 1913 and 1914, and provides a unique insight into the day to day workings of village life, as well as relaying letters from past pupils from around the world. These letters can be viewed on the LINK website via the Site Directory, as can the school log books for the period up to 1918.
Most of the news was very mundane in content. Village sport was a regular feature, and the successes and failures of Bugbooke Football Club and Cricket Club were avidly reported. The football match against Kislingbury was particularly well followed with over 300 spectators watching the match on the field at the back of the primary school. The progressions of the seasons were noted as was the weather, and any good show of flowers was worth a mention in the letters. Births, marriages and deaths are of course reported, and given great prominence were letters home from past pupils often from great distances around the world. These letters from past pupils are mainly either from ex Dr Barnardo’s children who were fostered here while attending school or from men who had joined the forces and were travelling the world.
Many of the Barnardo’s children fostered in the village, were sent with little notice to Canada or Australia to new lives and kept in touch with Bugbrooke School where they had obviously been very happy. Other Barnardos children after they had completed school returned to the Barnardo’s home in London, where they were apprencticed to a trade, before making their own way in the world. The Westle children were typical of these. Henry, William and Ruth, were fostered in the village, and appear regularly in the school log books, William getting specially commended for his drawing in 1908. In the 1911 census, all 3 had returned to London living in Barnardo’s house, and apprenticed. They were clearly not forgotten in the village however, as both boys are remembered on the memorial plaque to the fallen in Bugbrooke church.
There is also regular news of correspondence from boys who had joined the services. Private Eric Poole, who lived in Browns Lane, Bugbrooke, joined the Northamptonshire Regiment in 1906 and was a regular correspondent from Malta and later from Egypt. He was clearly enjoying every minute of being in the army, and in Malta met up with another Bugbrooke correspondent Thomas King who was a Signaler on HMS Britannia. This was in 1913 and early 1914, but the suspicion of the Germans, Austrians and Turks comes clearly through. Trooper J Barnes was a reservist with the 11th Hussars, doing service in Wexford, Ireland and sending postcards in July 1914 to the school.
There were around twelve men serving in the forces before the Great War with connections to Bugbrooke. If their letters home were typical, it was clearly a great life for a young man. Everything changed however in the summer of 1914. Soon Private Poole and Trooper Barnes would form part of the British Expeditionary Force, sent to France in August. Both will die in the war and appear on the church war memorial.
There had been much excitement throughout Northamptonshire in Septemeber 1913, and this is well reflected in the school letter of the 26th September. At this time there were major army maneuvers in this area, involving 75,000 troops, simulating 3 armies at war. These were designed to simulate the situation which occurred in real life less than one year later, namely the response to Germany attacking France through Belgium. The King was staying at Althorp during this week, and he was reported around Bugbrooke. The Leicester and Staffs Yeomanry were camping on the Rectory lawn in their hundreds, and the Park saw much activity. On one day almost 3 thousand soldiers passed through on their way to Towcester. 22 biplanes were seen passing over on one day (always a rare sight in those days), as well as the airship Delta.
Many of the Bugbrooke pupils from that era, were sent on their way with a rare working knowledge of telegraphy and radio. The headmaster Frank Wright was a pioneer in this field and Bugbrooke School was well known as one of the few working telegraph stations. All pupils learned morse code as part of the curriculum.
On the first day of the war, everything changed. Prior to the outbreak of war, there was no indication in the local newspapers, or the school letters, of any threat of war. From 4th August, the news in both would be dominated by it.
At the school, officials descended and confiscated all of the radio equipment to avoid information leaking to the enemy. It was never returned, and with the death of Frank Wright in 1919, the expertise died away.
Alliances played no small part in the scale of the conflict, and what started as a local war spread very rapidly through these alliances to a extent that no-one could have envisaged.
Out of a Bugbrooke population of around 800 around 150 men served in the Great War, and 29 did not return.
Geoff Cooke (for the 100 years project)
Men Enlisting between 4h August 1914 and end September 1914.
Bugbrooke in the Great War.
Events 100 years ago from 4th
August 1914 to the end of September
to the end of September 1914
One hundred years ago the First World War had just been going for a couple of months. In some ways life in Bugbrooke went on as usual but in other ways there were great changes. Many of the young men (and not so young) were volunteering and leaving the village to fight for King and Country.
At the start of war the French had a large conscripted army and the British had a smaller, but professional, army backed up by the might of the Royal Navy. The Germans had a large well equipped army and a well thought out plan. Many on both sides were expecting it to be resolved quickly. “It will be over by Christmas” was a common saying. In early September one of the Bugbrooke old schoolboys, Signalman Thomas King on HMS Britannia, wrote to the village that “The general feeling in the Navy is that Germany has taken on more than she can manage”.
Back in Bugbrooke in September 1914, the School letters continued to have a mix of news of men enlisting, news from some in training or already overseas and the day-to-day happenings in everyday life such as the fact that Mrs Higginbottom and Mrs Barford had a lovely show of snapdragons and Mrs Collins had some beautiful asters. In the letter of September 4th 1914 the first list of local men in the services appeared – Tom King (the adopted son of Arthur and Elizabeth Walker) was in the Navy on HMS Britannia. Most joined the Army – Bailey Clarke, James Clarke, Mark Clarke (three brothers – sons of William and Rose Clarke), Charles Rush (son of James and Emma), Eric Poole (son of William and Sarah), Frederick Wooding (son of John and Charlotte), Major Percy Grove (a military man from Eastcote), James Barnes (who was brought up by his grand-parents William and Sophia), Joseph Bannard (from Staverton), PC William Latimer and John Marshall (son of Henry and Elizabeth). Many more were to follow including John Marshall’s father Henry. There is also the first mention of Eva (Evelyn) Moore the daughter of Bugbrooke farmer John and his wife Harriet. Eva qualified as a nurse in Berkshire before moving to Goring on Thames. At the outbreak of war she volunteered and was accepted into Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service Reserve.
Eastcote house, which formerly had belonged to Mrs Gresham, was taken over by some societies which looked after needy sailors. In September 1914 it was occupied by around twenty German and Austrian sailors whose ships were prohibited from leaving England. As the war progressed it was to take many more.
In the Northampton Independent of 22nd August there is a photo of a group of “steel backs” including Mark Clarke from Bugbrooke.
Quite a number of service men wrote back to the village and their views and comments were included in the school’s weekly newsletter.
Philip Campion wrote in his diary summing up the mood of most people before the outbreak of war as “we were all peacefully carrying on at our various occupations. Practically all were blissfully ignorant of the circumstances which eventually brought about the war. We relied on our fleet for protection.” He said he was animated by the same spirit by which the first 100,00 joined Kitchener’s Army, and decided that if the war was continued he would enlist along with some friends in Rugby. He left the corn harvest with one more field to go and went off to Rugby recruiting depot with the idea of joining the cavalry as “it seemed more exciting”. Unfortunately, he found that the recruiting for the cavalry there had ceased, and so he went off to Warwick to join the Yeomanry.
Before being accepted, he had to satisfy Colonel Charteris and Lord Willoughby-de-Broke of his riding skills, pass a medical and tell his Lordship which pack of hounds he hunted with. He replied that he hunted with the Grafton but omitted to say that it was on foot! After swearing an oath on the Bible he was signed up. After a week’s leave, training started in earnest. Uniforms eventually arrived but took some getting used to. Finally Philip and the rest of the Warwickshire Yeomanry moved around East Anglia before settling on Newbury Racecourse.
On the 25th September the village heard that David Moore, son of Griffith, licensee of the Five Bells, and his wife Ellen, had been promoted to Quarter Master Sergeant.
Other local men that enlisted in the first months of the war were Harry Ambler (born in Wiltshire but an apprentice architect living in Bugbrooke); the Bubb brothers – Edwin and Henry; James Joyce (son of James and Edith); Charles Abner King (a Bugbrooke farmer born in Titchmarsh); Wallace Nightingale (son of Josiah and Mary); the Payne brothers – John and William (born in Essex but William was a jockey living in Bugbrooke); John Pritchard (son of Owen and Mary (born in Bugbrooke but living before the war in Marylebone); Arthur Turland (son of William and Mary) and the Turland brothers – Charles and Philip (sons of Charles and Lavinia); The two Westle brothers Henry and William (Barnardos boys who had been fostered and schooled in Bugbrooke) and Horace White (son of Arthur And Ellen). Before the war they had a variety of jobs such as grocer, labourer, motor works apprentice and tailor – now all to be soldiers.
Because of the effect of the war on shipping in food from overseas, the Board of Trade issued a notice recommending the use of glucose for sweetening instead of sugar until fresh stocks arrive. It was available from the Yeast Company and No. 11 Marefare at 2 pence (old pence – just less than 1p) a pound in glass jams. It was reported that it was quite transparent, like treacle and tasted like honey and treacle mixed.
Rifle ranges were prepared at Nobottle and Harpole for training and a number of soldiers were billeted in Kislingbury. Many big guns were transported along the railway and Belgian refugees came to live in some empty cottages in Litchborough.
Three sons of the school master, Frank Wright, enlisted at the start of the war. Frank William Wright was born in Stoneleigh in Warwickshire like his brother Reginald before his father came to Bugbrooke School. Frank married Clara Jane Brooke in 1907 and was working as a Newspaper reporter in Huddersfield before the war. He had served in the Territorial Force, in volunteer battalions of the Royal West Surrey and the Duke of Wellington’s Regiments. He enlisted in 12th (Service) Battalion, the York and Lancaster Regiment, raised in Sheffield on 5 September 1914, on 11th September.
The youngest Wright brother, Percy, was born in Bugbrooke. He followed his eldest brother into the profession of journalist before enlisting on 20 October in 1/8th Battalion, The Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby Regiment).
Reginald Wright, who was believed to have previous service in the Royal Engineers and was therefore a Reservist, attested at Huddersfield on 4 December 1914 in the Army Service Corps (ASC), to be employed in Motor Transport. He had married Olive Ellis in 1912 and was working as a motor mechanic.
The initial German attack through Belgium met stiff defence which allowed the French to prepare and the British Expeditionary Army to land. The battle at Mons followed and the Germans pressed towards Paris but were then pushed back to the River Aisne. Both sides’ hope of a quick win was soon dashed as they faced each other across the trenches
David Marshall (for The 100 Years Project)