Wendover Remembers, January 1918

Val Moir and Mike Senior  |  Published: Jan 1st 2018

In Germany and in Austria-Hungary civilians protested against the shortage of food.  In the Middle East TE Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) organised Arab forces to carry out guerrilla attacks against the Turks.  In the United States President Wilson put forward his Fourteen Points as a basis for peace discussions. These included open diplomacy, freedom of the seas, reduction of armaments, the removal of economic barriers the restoration of Belgian independence. Prohibition was introduced into the United States. 

Corporal Alfred Drake of the Royal Engineers Signal Service was killed on 15 January 1918 when the cellar in which he was sleeping collapsed on him.  Alfred was born in Wendover, the son of Alfred (hay binder) and Sarah Drake of the Tring Road. Aged 26 he was killed near Nurlu, in the Somme region. He and his wife Annie lived in Hampstead and he enlisted in Kilburn. An extract of a letter written by his commanding officer was published in the Bucks Herald on Feb 2. - I always regarded him more as a friend than an NCO, and I have never met a man more to be relied on. He was buried in a little cemetery quite near us, the service being carried out by the Assistant Chaplain. I will get a cross made as soon as possible.  

At home, January 1918 brought bitterly cold weather. The scarcity of oil made it difficult to keep warm or prevent the water pipes from freezing. A request was sent from the Parish Council to the officials at Halton Camp asking if some of the small wood from the tree felling in the area could be sent to the poor of Wendover. The reply stated that all the wood had been requisitioned by the Army but the matter would be borne in mind.

In the School Log Book Mr Molineux reported a steep drop in attendance and several cases of mumps. He also noted the death of Mr Alfred de Rothschild who had been such a great supporter of the school. On the anniversary of his birthday and at Christmas, Mr Rothschild gave each child a shilling and members of the staff a guinea. The flag was flown at half-mast.

The Chairman of the Parish Council said that it was with extreme regret that they heard of the death of Mr de Rothschild. Wendover was represented at the funeral by Mr Joseph Rance and Mr Fred Pedel, two members of the Council. The funeral was held at the Jewish Cemetery Willesden. The Council wished to record some of his good deeds and kindness to the inhabitants of the town. The Soup Kitchen which opened in 1912 provided soup and bread for the poor each winter; the assistance given to local churches irrespective of creed; and the lavish hospitality given to over 4,000 inhabitants at the Coronation of both Edward V and George V. Many public improvements had also been made possible through Mr Alfred’s generosity, such as the widening of Tring Road and the rebuilding of the Halton Perch Bridge. His great kindness in so many ways would ever be honoured by the inhabitants of that part of Bucks. The Council signified their approval by all rising.

In his will Mr de Rothschild left his Mansion House, Park, farm and lands known as the Halton Estate to his nephew Lionel Nathan de Rothschild. Lionel, a keen gardener found the soil unsuitable for growing his beloved Rhododendrons and sold the property to the Royal Air Force for £112,000. This was believed to be well below its real value of £360,000. Lionel went on to buy an estate at Exbury in Hampshire and developed a beautiful Rhododendron garden.

Alfred de Rothschild, courtesy Wendover Remembers
Alfred de Rothschild
soup kitchen, courtesy Bucks archives
Soup Kitchen attached to the Congregational Church, Tring Road opened in 1912.
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