Wendover Remembers, November 1915

Val Moir and Mike Senior  |  Published: Nov 3rd 2015
Derby Scheme

November 1915

The cold winter weather set in on the Western Front and large scale offensives were abandoned. Even so, trench raids and other minor operations were encouraged and the casualties continued to mount. In the Balkans the German, Austro-Hungarian and Bulgarian forces inflicted heavy losses on the Serbian army and Serbia fell. The fourth battle of the Isonzo started in Italy.  In Britain, voluntary enlistment was failing to keep pace with army requirements. A scheme was introduced by Lord Derby, the Director of Recruitment, whereby men between the ages of 18 to 41 were asked to state their willingness to serve. They would be called up in succession, single men first and older married men last.  The scheme, administered by local “influential and tactful men”, collapsed when it became clear that half the single men had failed to register. It was the failure of the Derby scheme that made conscription inevitable in January 1916.

In Wendover, Thomas Carter, who had served in the Boer War and was the local blacksmith, was one of the “Influential and tactful men” appointed to oversee the Derby scheme in the village. It was his job to record the population of the parish, establish the number of eligible men and encourage those who had not yet enlisted to register. The effect of the Derby scheme was, at least, to prompt a further influx of volunteers. Nine Wendover men enlisted together in November 1915. They varied in age between 15 and 45 and they came from families who, for generations, had been involved in the preparation and distribution of hay.

They were known as the “Hay Tiers”. There was a desperate need for fodder for the horses in France and the nine men joined the Forage Department of the Army Service Corps. They were to serve only in Britain. A uniform was provided, but they were obliged to pay up to three shillings a week for it. The younger members of the group were allowed to be with the Forage Department for one year or until they became eligible for normal enlistment.

In November, normal Parish affairs continued. The Parish Council received a letter from the Vicar requesting three shillings per month rent for the use of rooms. The Council asked that the sum should be three shillings with light and fire and, without them, two shillings.  Counsellor Tarry thought that the Council should find somewhere else to meet, but when Counsellor Hubbard asked him if he knew of another room he had to admit that he did not. After a few weeks of discussion, it was agreed in December that the Parish Council should pay three shillings in winter and two in summer.

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