With Remembrance Sunday in a couple of weeks I’ve looked out my Grandfather’s wages book for 1914-1915.
Percy Mead lived and farmed at Gubblecote Farm where there were 14 men and boys on the books. The total bill for one week was £14. 18s. 2d. There were several references to the possibilities of a war, but it was thought unlikely. Then on August 8th, 1914 he wrote:
“This week will be remembered in history as the beginning of a European war: England, France, Belgium and Russia against Germany and Austria. All reserves called up both in Navy and Army. 100,000 more men wanted to join the colours, horses commandeered and horses have to go. To-day, news of great Belgian victory over the Germans who have been said to lose 25,000 men killed or wounded. Our fleet is at sea and we are truly expecting some big engagement. May England be the England of old and stand up to the oppressors, and may Germany get all she has asked for and get a thorough good thrashing!”
Every week there was news of the war: 2,700 troops billeted in Tring, 4 soldiers in the cottages at Gubblecote Farm. And then this entry on September 26th 1914:
“Weather fine all week. A frost on some days. Drilled winter oats. Some cattle dear, down calving heifers slow trade Aylesbury. I went this morning but did not buy any stock. The war has claimed some heavy losses for us this week. 3 cruisers sunk in the North Sea – A.Wells going down in one of them, a lad who worked here as a plough boy. T.Bateman loses a son at the front. Another lad who was a plough boy here.”
I have found A.Wells on the war memorial in Tring. Fred Bateman was a prisoner of war, was interned in Switzerland, married a Swiss girl, and returned to Wilstone after the war to live opposite the Half Moon.
During the next 2 years’ entries, amongst the news of the weather and the trade in markets in Tring and Aylesbury, my Grandfather mentions a horrific train crash in Carlisle with many soldiers killed on the way to the front, the many thousands who lost their lives on the front, and his own tragedy when his wife Annie died after a short illness.
I find it very poignant that a party of children from Tring School, including grandson Will Smith, have gone to the Somme area for a few days. Plough boy A.Wells will be remembered, with all those thousands of other men.
The editor adds:
Stoker 1st class Arthur Wells, RN, served on HMS Aboukir in 1914. This is one of the cruisers mentioned by Percy Mead in his wages book entry. In an action on 22nd September 1914, only 4 days before the entry was written, HMS Aboukir was sunk in the North Sea by submarine U9. Two other cruisers which were part of the same flotilla, HMS Cressy and HMS Hogue, were also sunk by U9 that day. 837 men were rescued but 1,459 men died in one of the great naval tragedies of the war.
Arthur Wells is also commemorated on the Chatham Naval Memorial.
There are excellent websites recording and remembering those who fell in the World Wars of the 20th century. www.roll-of-honour.com/hertfordshire and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission www.cwgc.org are two.
Article appeared in the Village News November 2007 page 20. The agricultural story line… by David Mead