Wendover Remembers, September 1915

Val Moir and Mike Senior  |  Published: Oct 1st 2015
Thomas Murray Ford, reproduced by kind permission of Peter Jewell
Thomas Murray Ford, reproduced by kind permission of Peter Jewell

SEPTEMBER 1915

On land, at sea and in the air the war continued. Heavy fighting took place on the Western Front with the French offensive in the Champagne area and the supporting British attack at Loos. At Loos, the British used chlorine gas for the first time. The attack was only partially successful and British casualties amounted to 43,000. In the Aegean Sea the British transport ship, the Southland, was torpedoed and, several days later, the Ramazan was sunk by a German submarine with the loss of 300 Indian troops. Zeppelin raids on the east coast of England resulted in 7 dead and 50 injured. A Zeppelin raid on London killed 20 and wounded 86. 


Meanwhile, soldiers billeted in the Wendover area found various ways of relaxing. In September 1915 the Bucks Herald recorded that a group of six bell-ringing enthusiasts rang 1,260 changes in 40 minutes on the bells of St Mary’s Church. This was acclaimed as a record in the bell-ringing world. The six soldiers belonged to six different Regiments and came from six different counties – the 4th Royal Berks, the 4th Devonshires, the 4th Royal Sussex, the 5th Somersets, the 4th Duke of Cornwall’s and the 5th Gloucesters.


An appeal by the Wendover author Thomas Murray Ford for men to join the Bucks Volunteers and train in his grounds at Scrubwood prompted an acrimonious response from a mysterious “M” also of Scrubwood. “M” stated that to be of any military use the Volunteers would require efficient officers and drill instructors. “M” was convinced that these could not be found and without such leadership, the men would only be playing at soldiers. Week by week the correspondence in the Bucks Herald became increasingly heated. On 4 September, Murray Ford wrote that “M”’s response “read like a waster’s excuse for the slackers. It is impossible to believe such an unpatriotic effusion was ever penned by an Englishman. ‘M’ may be an enemy alien and therefore is not required to do his bit.  Certainly, his anonymity proves him to be no British man, for a Briton is not ashamed of his name”. “M” replied by questioning Murray Ford’s patriotism because “he had in his employ a fit man under 30 years of age who should have joined the army but had been encouraged not to do so”.  Back came Murray Ford : “...the man in question was married with a family and although quite ready to serve in the army would not enlist so long as the supply of unmarried men was adequate. In this he has my most hearty approval and support”.  Scrubwood was clearly an exciting place of strong feelings and argument. Murray Ford himself volunteered for military service at the age of 60, deliberately falsifying his age.


Bank opening hours were in the news in September. The Bucks Advertiser published the following information: “The Union of London and Smiths Bank Limited now opens daily except Thursdays from 10am to 2.30pm. On Thursday 9.30 to 11am”. The “Smith” part of this Bank had a strong local connection as its founder was a member of the Smith family who owned the Wendover estate and were the Lords of the Manor. Abel Smith (1717-1788) was one of the leading bankers of his time. His son, Robert was also a banker and MP and became the first Lord Carrington. When, in 1797, he took his seat in the House of Lords all the other members walked out. “He was in trade, you see”. 


In September, the long-awaited Public Convenience was opened in Back Street.

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