Wendover Remembers, July 1917

Val Moir and Mike Senior  |  Published: Jul 1st 2017

The great offensive towards Passchendaele, the Third Battle of Ypres, began on the last day of July 1917. The British and French forces attacked along a 15-mile font and in the initial thrust they took twelve villages and 5,000 prisoners. The battle lasted until November and because of the terrible conditions and heavy casualty figures it has become, in many people’s minds, a byword for the futility and carnage of war. London was bombed by 22 German Gotha aeroplanes. There were 193 casualties. At sea, the British dreadnought Vanguard was blown up at Scarpa Flow. T E Lawrence and Arab forces captured Aqaba from the Turks.

In Wendover Mr and Mrs T Birch of Wellwick had cause to be proud. Their son, Signaller Ernest Frank Birch, serving with the Bedfordshire Regiment, had been awarded the Military Medal. He wrote home: “Well, dear mother, I am wearing the M M now. We had to go before the Corps Commander who pinned them on, and he shook hands with us, and congratulated us – quite a grand affair. There were quite a lot of big folks there, but I didn’t feel at home; it was all too much fuss for me. They have given me a parchment. I will send it home as soon as I can get an envelope. I expect the medal will be sent to you too”. Frank Birch was killed in action in September 1918.

The Bucks Herald reported that on Saturday 14 July a flag-day and sale was held to raise money for the Oxford and Bucks Prisoners War Fund. There were many generous gifts for auction including lambs, pigs. ducks, a large salmon, joints of beef, books, a mowing machine, a typewriter, jewellery, silver plate and ornaments. The Herald noted that among the ornaments was a hair watch guard [watch chain] mounted in gold. The hair was from the tail of the famous horse Hermit which won the Derby in a snow storm in 1867. “The day of the sale proved to be fine and the town looked attractive with bunting around the school yard and main streets. The Essex Regiment Drum and Fife Band paraded the town before taking up its position in the School yard where the auction of goods was to take place. There was keen competition for the livestock and produce as well as for the many ornamental and useful articles for sale and most of the lots realised excellent prices. A pet dog was sold for £5 and a salmon brought £1 and was given back for sale a number of times. Altogether the fish realised £6.2.6. There was keen competition for the hair watch-guard, Mr Alfred Moore of Scrubwood becoming the purchaser for £6.10.0. The total money raised on the day was £207.15.7”.  [At today’s value around £11,000.]

An outbreak of swine fever was reported on the premises of Dr E G Woollerton. Two public houses changed licencees in July. At The Nags Head, in Tring Road, George Dunn was replaced by Joseph Wells and, at The Well Head, Harry Keering took over from George Dobby.

We are indebted to Francis Hanford for the following paragraph….

Up the hill on the Halton Estate, infantry training activity had been reducing for some months as the availability of recruits country-wide diminished. At the end of June, the East Anglian Reserve Division’s Headquarters, now reduced to Brigade status, departed for Crowborough. Some remnants lingered, but command passed to the Royal Flying Corps, who arrived to set up a training school for aircraft mechanics under the leadership of Colonel Ian Bonham-Carter. This technical training establishment was to achieve world-wide recognition and to remain in one form and another until 1993.

The Nag's Head Pub, Tring Road
The Nag's Head Pub, Tring Road
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