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Bugbrooke and the Great War - Page 7 February 1916 - May1916
Bugbrooke in the Great War – Events 100 Years Ago – February and March 1916
The war continued unabated along the Western Front in France and Flanders, and on a comparatively smaller scale in East Africa and in Mesopotamia. There were small German naval and air raids along the English east coast, while there was manoeuvring of flotillas and fleets on the high seas by both sides, with widespread U-boat activity. In the Middle East, the 6th (Poona) Division of the Indian Army, commanded by Major General Charles TOWNSHEND, was still trapped at Kut-al-Amara, where it had been besieged since 7 December 1915; a relief attempt in mid-January had failed. Back in France, the protracted battle of Verdun began on 21 February, destined to cost many French and German lives.
Thankfully there were no fatal casualties affecting Bugbrooke during these two months and no enlistments are known (they would more likely have been early conscripts, for conscription was implemented from 10 February, for unmarried men initially), though there are few surviving relevant records to be certain.
At home, it was a particularly bitter winter and in Bugbrooke a shortage of coal and coke was an on-going problem for the school, only resolved by the headmaster’s forceful escalation on 13 March. The situation was similar around much of Great Britain and would have made the lives of those men in their early military training particularly arduous.
There had been something of a surge in enlistment in late 1915, possibly prompted by the looming introduction of conscription and the lack of regimental choice that implied. Those volunteers were dispersed at training units around the country in early 1916 and we know of just one who was posted to active service in this period. Born in Bugbrooke in December 1891, Sapper Ernest John ROBINS was posted to 118 Railway Company, Royal Engineers (RE) in France on 6 February after the briefest of training, but as he was formerly a platelayer for the London and North Western Railway, he already had expertise that was no doubt urgently required at the front.
Meanwhile still in England, Alexander Cecil BAKER, born in Bugbrooke in December 1897 and a former shoeing smith, then a Private in the Army Service Corps (ASC), was promoted Acting Farrier Corporal on 25 February. Elsewhere, in training at Biggleswade Signal Depot, was Harry James AMBLER, the uncle of current Parish Councillor Terry Ward. Harry was a former Bugbrooke School pupil, approaching 21 years of age at this time, who was later commissioned as a Signals Officer in the RE, to serve in East Africa.
By now, Philip CAMPION, born in Bugbrooke in June 1894, was back with the Warwickshire Yeomanry in Egypt after convalescent leave back home in Bugbrooke over Christmas. At the same time our only known lady volunteer, Eva MOORE, born in Bugbrooke in December 1874, was busy as a Sister at the military hospital in Alexandria.
Back in Bugbrooke, the headmaster had reported on 21 February that “There is a good deal of illness among the schoolchildren”. On 9 March he noted that arrangements were being made to protect the ‘wireless pole’ (the radio aerial on its mast, presumably) which had been lying on the ground since August 1914 (when the radio equipment was confiscated). Ironically, teaching Morse Code was still in the hand-written curriculum of 13 March, practiced using ‘buzzers’. Heavy snow was reported on several occasions, with that on 28 March bringing down trees and telegraph poles and forming deep drifts. This is being written in a mild February …
Roger Colbourne for the 100 Years Project
Bugbrooke and the Great War – April/May 1916
Who was ABS H. Hope? One hundred years ago the British battle cruiser HMS Queen Mary was sunk on the first day of the battle of Jutland (31st May, 1916). She was fighting bravely, but her end was sudden when an enemy salvo caused a catastrophic explosion. 1,266 men perished (virtually her entire crew). Among the dead was Able Seaman Harry HOPE, whose name is on the war memorial in Bugbrooke Church. Why is he remembered
there? The fact is we do not know.
There are things we have discovered about him. We have his naval record. Harry was born in Nantwich in 1885 or 1886. He joined the Navy as a boy in 1902 when he was still 16. He wasn’t very tall: only 5ft 4 when he joined, 5ft 6 when he was 18. His first ship was HMS Northampton (an elderly vessel used as a boy’s training ship). He moved up to able seaman in 1905. Harry’s career was not unblemished. Early on he spent 14 days in the cells; and he went absent without leave at the end of 1906. At the time of the 1911 Census he was single and aboard HMS Blenheim. In 1912 he “passed educationally for petty officer” though he was never actually promoted. All
these things we know about Harry Hope, but not what connects him to Bugbrooke.
However we can say that Northampton meant more to him than just the name of his first ship. The 1891 census records Harry living at 14 Upper Harding Street, Northampton with his widowed father, a sister and three brothers. His father seems to have later moved away, since the 1901 census shows him to be in Sunderland; but a family connection to Northampton remained. Two of Harry’s brothers married Northampton girls. The entry for Harry Hope on the National Roll of the Great War contains an address of 33 Bath Street, Northampton, which is where his youngest brother, Frederick, lived, with his wife and parents-in-law, at the time of the 1911
census. Presumably Frederick was still there after the war and took on the role of Harry’s next of kin.
The wreck of HMS Queen Mary was discovered in 1991, in pieces on the bed of
the North Sea. It is protected as a war grave.
HMS Queen Mary.
And who was Pte H Westle?
Another name on our war memorial is that of Private Henry WESTLE. He was killed on
the 14th April, 1916 on the Western Front, at the age of just 19. Henry was born in
Marylebone, London; and seems to have come to Bugbrooke after being fostered through the Dr Barnardo’s foundation. His older brother, William, and sister, Ruth, cameto Bugbrooke similarly. All three went to Bugbrooke School. Henry enlisted in April 1914, before the war started. The school letters record that he came back to visit the school shortly before Christmas 1914.
As to the circumstances in which Henry was killed, we know he was in the 5th Battalion of the Northamptonshire Regiment. They were a pioneer battalion and their War Diary records that they were engaged in the unglamorous, but important and still dangerous, task of carrying out maintenance to the trenches, barbed wire etc. The diary entry for 14th April, 1916 notes: “one man killed, one man died of wounds.” We can only presume that one of these was Henry Westle. He is buried in the Vermelles Cemetery near Lens in the Pas-de-Calais. Henry’s brother, William, was to be killed a few months later.
What else was happening?
Not everything was bad news. Another 19 year old was Alexander Cecil BAKER. Before he enlisted in January 1915 he had been a shoeing smith, working for Francis Chapman,
the blacksmith, in Bugbrooke; a useful trade since 13 months later he was promoted to acting farrier corporal. On 15th April 1916, on leave and with permission, he married
Alice FEARY in Northampton (they had a daughter, Gwendoline Queenie, born on 21st November that year).
16th May 1916 was Harry AMBLER’s 21st birthday. He applied that very day for admission to the Officer Cadet Unit.(He was stationed at the time at Biggleswade Signal Depot having enlisted in the Royal Engineers the previous year). His application was endorsed by Rev Ernest Harrison, by the Headmaster of Northampton Grammar School and by three senior officers.Harry did indeed go on to become an officer and served with distinction in East Africa. We will no doubt come back to him in future articles. Harry is an uncle of Terry Ward, for many years Bugbrooke’s postmaster.
Four Bugbrooke men who had enlisted previously, but then been placed on reserve, were mobilised in this period, namely:-
Samuel WARWICK, a 25 year old married man with a young daughter, was mobilised on 8th April. He was later to be transferred to one of the railway companies of the Royal
Engineers where he served as a platelayer in Salonika. (An article containing fond memories of Sam Warwick by Stan Clark can be found on the Link Website. Sam lived in Bugbrooke till his death in 1978 and must have been quite
Herbert MOORE, born in Bugbrooke but living then in Lincolnshire, was mobilised
on 15th May. He went on to serve in France as a gunner with the Royal Garrison Artillery.
William ASHBY, a 36 year old man with 4 young children, was mobilised on 29th May. He was sent almost immediately to France where he served with a service battalion for the remainder of the war.
William PAXTON, a 30 year old man with 2 children, was mobilised on 24th May. He served in France as a gunner in the Royal Garrison Artillery and took part in the battles of the Somme, Arras, Vimy Ridge and Ypres. He too has his name on Bugbrooke’s War Memorial: killed not in action, but by tuberculosis contracted on the front. In November1917 he was invalided out and died the following February.
A new recruit in the period was Frederick PERKINS. He joined up in May 1916, aged 33. He was sent to France later that year where he was to serve as a stretcherbearer in many important engagements. In 1918 he was wounded. Later in his life he lived with his wife and family at Ward’s off the Gayton Road. (The buildings at Wards Lodge still survive but are no longer used for human habitation.)
Jim Inch, for the 100 years Project