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Bugbrooke and the Great War - Page 10 February to May 1917

Page 1 - Overview, Info & Articles Page 2 - August, September 1914 Page 3- October 1914 - January 1915
Page 4- February 1915 - May 1915 Page 5 June 1915 - September 1915 Page 6   October15-January 1916
Page 7- February 1916 - May 1916 Page 8- June 1916 - Sept 1916 Page 9 December 16 - January 1917
Pae 10 February 17 - May 1917 Page 11 June - September 1917 Page 12-Oct 1917-Dec 1917
Page 13 February - May 1918 Page 14 June - Septemberr 1918 Page 15 -Oct 1917-Dec 1918

100 Years Ago – February - March 1917

 The population of Bugbrooke in the 1911 census, was around 1000. Of these, less than 150 were men of fighting age. The impact of the war on the village can be clearly seen by the fact that in February 1917, exactly 100 years ago, more than 100 men from Bugbrooke were actually serving in the war. In addition 12 Bugbrooke men had been killed in action by this time. This situation was paralleled throughout the country, leaving the land empty of workers. Military conscription was now in place, and several village men were appearing before the appeals tribunal. The main reason for the appeals, was that they were indispensable to the farm or business they were involved in. Some were successful, more often others were given a postponement  so that they could make alternative arrangements.

To counter this shortage of men, women were doing more work, and non military conscription was brought in for women at this time to help with the shortage.  We see in the Northampton Independent Newspaper, that Eastcote prisoner of war camp was releasing men to farms within a 3 mile radius.  It is recorded that Mr JW Starmer, farmer of Stowe has 5 prisoners. He pays 4 shillings a day for each of them, with 8 pence going to the prisoner. The 5 are accompanied by one soldier of the Royal Defence Corps. As Bugbrooke was within the 3 mile radius, it is likely that German prisoners were also working here.

In Bugbrooke, it had been a very harsh winter.  Frank Wright, the Headmaster, wrote in the school logbook that it had been many years since they had experienced such intense cold as this last week.  Even with the addition of coal fires it had been difficult to keep the children warm. They moved the classes to those rooms where there were coal fires, including his study.  However on the 17th February the school ran out of coal, and they had very little coke.  There was a coal shortage throughout the village as the cold had caused the canal to freeze up and barges could not bring the coal to the wharf. Cold was affecting school attendance and Frank Wright wrote to the Education Office as well as local contractors to try to get an allocation of coal.

On the 23rd February, Frank Wright recorded that Fred Weatherall joined the school from Rugby.  Fred was the son of Arthur Weatherall.  Arthur was born in Daventry and lived in Upper Heyford with his wife Sarah, his son Fred and other children.  We can see that in 1901 Arthur was 18 and lodging in Winwick, (Winwick is a lost village just north of West Haddon with little more than a manor house remaining). Arthur was a domestic groom working for the manor house and lodging with a domestic gardener who was also employed there. In 1911 he was still working as a groom but married and  living in Nether Heyford.  He was conscripted in early 1917 and joined the Royal Engineers.  It was about this time that Fred joined Bugbrooke School, and it may be that when Arthur left for the war, his wife moved to Bugbrooke to live with her mother who lived at the Wharf.  Arthur was demobilised in 1919 after being wounded in France.

Bugbrooke’s Harry Ambler’s picture appears in the Northampton Independent newspaper on the 17th Feb, reporting that he had been recently commissioned and is under orders to be posted to South Africa.  He was destined to serve with the East African Force fighting well-led German forces in what had been German East Africa.  He sailed from Devonport (Plymouth) on 9 March 1917, transferring ship at Durban, South Africa, on 19 May and disembarking at Dar-es-Salaam on 29 May.

Harry served as a Signals Officer (in an ‘Imperial Signals Company’, RE) on operations in Tanganyika  (now Tanzania) until 10 December, when he was invalided home with a ‘sprained knee’.

Frank Nightingale was appointed acting Sergeant from 16 February 1917.  He embarked at Southampton on 24 February 1917, disembarking two days later at Le Havre.  Frank was to remain in France where he took a prominent part in the Battles of Arras, Vimy Ridge and Ypres, until he was sadly killed in action around Cambrai on 30 November 1917.

At this time, Phillip Campion was fighting in Egypt. In January, he had been involved in the battle of Rafa, and later in March, in the battle for Gaza.  At Rafa, he came through unscathed, although his horse was slightly wounded.

When Rafa was captured it completed the capture of Sinai and laid the way open to march on Gaza.  As part of this advance, it was necessary to rapidly extend the military railway system to bring up men, supplies and artillery in support of the troops. One of those working on this railway was Andrew Eales from Bugbrooke.  Andrew was a railway platelayer before the war and living in Church End with his parents. After he volunteered in 1915, his railway work took him to Egypt and Palestine for the remaining duration of the war.

The first attack on Gaza took place on the 27th February 1917, and was not successful. Phillip Campion with the Warwickshire Yeomanry, was assigned to penetrate the enemy Turkish army between the occupied Gaza city and their reserves several miles further back. The aim was to prevent these reserves being brought up. They were far outnumbered by the Turkish reserves so their brief was to keep a watchful eye on them and move in if they attempted to move.  After the Yeomanry had been shelled for most of the day, the Turkish reserves started to move forward. Being vastly outnumbered the Yeomanry executed an orderly retreat, eventually allowing the Turks to reinforce Gaza during the night. The allies actually entered the city at one time, but they withdrew as the large Turkish reinforcements arrived.

 Phillip Campion describes all of this in his diary and mocks the British newspapers which were shouting about a great allied victory in Gaza.  His vivid account can be read in full on the WW1 section of the Bugbrooke LINK website.

In the wider world of the war, America was getting drawn more and more into it.  Their relations with Germany were getting worse.  Germany had stepped up submarine warfare and warning US ships would be sunk if trading with the allies.  After the US ship Housatonic was sunk off Sicily, the US broke off diplomatic relations with Germany, and Germany held all US citizens in Germany as hostages. Germany secretly approached Mexico to declare war on the US, and the Liner Laconia was torpedoed with 30 Americans killed.

It would not be long before the US entered the fray, causing a major shift in the balance of power in the war.

Geoff Cooke

For the 100 Years Project


Eastcote Prisoner of War Camp


Harry Ambler


Frank Nightingale



          Arras War Memorial


100 Years Ago April -May 1917

The month of April started with news for Bugbrooke man William Bailey CLARKE. He had enlisted at the beginning of the war in the Royal Field Artillery (RFA) as Gunner 27068. He was then one of the first to arrive in France on 16 August 1914. He must have been a natural soldier, for by 1917, he was acting as a Battery Sergeant Major in 36 Regiment, RFA. On 1 April 1917 was commissioned “…for service in the Field” as a Second Lieutenant still within the RFA. He was later to be awarded a Military Cross “For distinguished service in connection with military operations in France and Flanders”.

Since the start of the First World War in 1914, the United States had maintained strict neutrality. Even the sinking of the Lusitania by a German U-Boat in 1915 with 128 US citizens on board did not persuade President Wilson to take sides. However, in 1917 Germany resumed all-out submarine warfare on all commercial ships heading for Britain. Along with the German support for Mexico in a dispute with USA this was enough to tip the balance and America declared war on Germany on 6 April 1917.

The war had now been going on for nearly three years. In northern France the front line had moved very little. The town of Arras is in northern France not far from the border with Belgium. The first Battle of Arras had been fought in October 1914; the second battle began on 9 April 1917. Long tunnels were dug to get the allied troops to the front sheltered from the German bombardment. The Royal Flying Corps (RFC the pre-cursor to the RAF) flew overhead to carry out artillery spotting, photography of trench systems and bombing. On the German side Manfred von Richthofen (the Red Baron) with a superior aircraft wreaked havoc against the RFC. The average flying life of a RFC pilot in Arras in April was just 18 hours.

Walter Frederick EALES was the fourth child of seven, born in Bugbrooke to Charles and Catherine Eales. He initially served with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment as Private 18938, and later transferred to the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry. Walter was killed on 23 April 1917 in the fighting around Arras and is Commemorated on the Arras Memorial (see photograph). He was awarded the British War and Victory medals.

Walter’s older brother Charles took a gunshot wound in the right shoulder on the 11 April. He was no longer considered fit for military service, and served the remainder of the war in the agricultural company of the Labour Corps back in Northampton, as Pte 546153. Unfortunately he died from influenza and pneumonia at home on the 7 November 1918, and is buried in the Towcester Rd. Cemetery in Northampton. He also earned the British War and Victory Medal.

Though the warfare was becoming more mechanised with motor vehicles, light railways, tanks and a few aircraft, there was still a great reliance on horse power. In addition to the cavalry, horses were used for haulage of artillery guns, ammunition and general stores. The vast number of horses being taken for the war effort had a huge effect back at home where they had previously provided the main source of power for agriculture and were still in demand for transport. The loss of so many horses altered for ever the methods of farming and brought about many changes to the landscape of the countryside which are with us today.

In Bugbrooke the School Log records that several children had German Measles on 23 April. By 8 May, pupils Oscar VOGEL, Florrie LANGLEY and Ellen HOLT were very ill, as was former pupil John Oliver WARD. On 13 May another former pupil, James Bernard (Bertie) BLAND died of lung congestion after just two days of illness. He was just 22. Bertie had been born in Holloway, London but had come to Bugbrooke with his mother Kate (who was born in Bugbrooke) when his father died.

The week previously, another former pupil, William Ashby ADAMS died in an accident at Wellingborough School on 5 May. Worse was to follow. On 14 May Oscar VOGEL passed away aged 10, and four days later Oliver WARD aged 13. Four pupils and former pupils had died in just over a week.

Away from the Western Front, Russia was in the throes of a revolution. Russia was fighting on the side of the Allies but was experiencing massive unrest at home. Tsar Nicholas had taken over command of the military but this had increased his unpopularity. The initial revolt had been in February 1917 with the Tsar being placed under house arrest in March. There followed an internal war between the royalist, the socialists and the communist Bolsheviks which pulled the effort away from the World War which continued beyond the Russian border.

In the Middle East, April 1917 saw the second Battle of Gaza where the allied forces were trying to advance against the entrenched Ottoman (Turkish) army. Philip CAMPION from Bugbrooke was involved in the bitter battle which saw many killed on the allied side for the gain of little or no territory. Philip was in the cavalry but the fighting also involved tanks, machine guns and a few aircraft. He wrote a short account of the battle on page 14 of his diary which can be found on the LINK website at www.bugbrookelink.co.uk/WW1/Articles/ .

Several Bugbrooke men saw action in the Middle East. One such was Albert Robert BILLINGHAM. He was the son of Thomas and Mary Billingham and one of three brothers to enlist. He joined the Territorials on 28 October 1914 and transferred to the Northamptonshire Regiment. He served in the British Expeditionary Force in France, then in the Mediterranean and finally in Egypt. On 13 April 1917 he was assessed as suffering from shell shock and declared no longer physically fit. On his discharge papers it stated that he was “sober, steady and well conducted” and that he is “discharged owing to effect of active service.” This was recorded by the head of Bugbrooke School, Frank WRIGHT, in the school log as Albert had been a scholar there.

In the School Log, Frank also recorded that 24 May was Empire Day and marked at Bugbrooke School. At 11:40 the whole school went out onto the lawn and saluted the flag. They then sang ‘Home Sweet Home’, ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ and the ‘National Anthem’. In Frank’s words they “then cheered The King, next the Flag and lastly the one hundred and forty men from the village who have joined the Colours, particularly those on active service most being old scholars from this school.”

Dave Marshall

For the 100 Years Project