On 1 July 2015 Year 9 students at The Hemel Hempstead School spent a morning carrying our First World War research using artefacts and newspaper stories from the Gazette. They produced a number of pieces of writing which are featured below.
Territorials at Hemel Hempstead by George McCormack
Troops at Hemel Hempstead by Ethan George
Christmas 1914 in the Trenches by Ailsa Goff and Grace Lockyer
Great Britain at War by Sophie Murphy and Steph Adu
Home from Belgium by Tom Deering, Joe Metcalfe and Jack Noonan
Mr & Mrs Smeathman’s Sad Loss by Nathan Withers and Joshua Cartwright
On 24 June 2016 a further group of Year 9 students produced these pieces of writing:
Air Raids by Simi Parekh, Aneesa Siddique and Snega Aravinathan
WT Smith’s Lucky Escape by Annie Martell
Herts Footballers Save the Day by Ed Grayson, Eashan Panchal and Joe Hutchings
The Battle with the Turks by Robbie Tripp and Aman Vyas
WT Smith by Emily Rojewska
The County Tribunal by Mitchell Rees and Roxy Wittrick
Prisoner from Hemel Escapes the Germans by Yasmin Jayasinghe & Amy Scrivener
Refugees by Hollie Partridge
Letters from the Front by Josh Coveney and Kyle Patel
The Battle of Jutland by Aidan Mitchell and Piyush Shrestha
On 27 June 2017, Year 9s wrote these pieces:
Goodbye to the Troops by Charlie Cottrell
Discharged and Disabled Soldiers by Poppy Nixon and Emma Sharpling
World War One in Hemel Hempstead by Munro Manners
Letters from the Front, 1915: stirring stories from the trenches by Will Ashton, Sam Hancock and Scott Bowman
The war’s effect on health by Harvey Taylor and Xander West
Farmers and Prisoners of War by Anya Mistry, Ella Norman and Zara Rafiq-Craske
Wounded Soldier’s Experience in Egypt by Megan Sullivan and Shajida Rahman
In August 1914 The London Territorial Field Artillery also known as the 8th London Howitzer Brigade arrived in Apsley, along with the Royal London Rifle Brigade, and made base in Shendish.
The local Hemel Hempstead residents were less than pleased about the 'invasion'. The Gazette told us that all schools and public buildings were requisitioned to house the soldiers and many private properties were asked to make room in the house for 'the khaki boys', which many people objected to. The Gazette tells us 'the presence of the military has lent animation to the streets' and 'scenes such as only witnessed in a Garrison Town' which shows the extent of the control and the effect the territorial army had on the town. The two brigades which stayed in Hemel Hempstead left for France in March 1915. There is a book written about these events called 'The London Gunners Come To Town'.
Gazette, 15th August 1914, p. 4.
By George McCormack
1 July 2015
When we think of World War One, images of muddy trenches, colossal explosions and rotting piles of dead soldiers come to mind. An idyllic, picturesque, rural village of Hemel Hempstead probably isn’t what we expect, but Boxmoor (in 1914) accommodated troops from the Territorial Army. As you can imagine, it was somewhat of a predicament, as calm town folk were suddenly being bombarded with loud, young soldiers. However, to my surprise, a Gazette article expresses how “the doings of the soldiers have naturally created a great amount of excitement among inhabitants”. So what actually was it like when the soldiers came to Hemel?
The Territorial Army was made up of volunteers and reserves, who were willing to join any war when their country called upon them. A group of them were sent to Hemel Hempstead, as there was an army headquarters nearby. Ordinary people from the town, were expected to look after these men and let them live in their homes for the duration of their stay. The Gazette describes how, “many inconveniences have been caused to the residents”. These included men getting lost and going to the wrong houses; locals being woken up at five thirty by the army bugle and issues with food arrangements. Despite this, the report presents the idea that there will be “nothing but happy memories of their visit”.
These kind of statements - combined with the friendly, colloquial writing style - create a positive outlook on the visit. Yet I cannot help but somehow be sceptical of the source. There’s no first hand interviews from locals so we can expect that the opinions in this article are based on rumours and small town gossip. Maybe this is just another piece of optimistic propaganda, made to show that everybody supported the war.
Overall, I believe that the ideas expressed in the Gazette are true. Although it says that everybody was happy to host the soldiers, it also describes the expected issues that come with young army men adapting to rural life. This balance shows that this was not a government censored piece of propaganda but a genuine account of events from a genuine person.
What I have learnt from the article is that everybody (even small rural areas like Hemel Hempstead) were called upon to perform their duty for King and Country. However, more importantly, most people in 1914 were honoured to do so. That poses the question: would we still have the same level of patriotism today?
Gazette, 22nd August 1915, p. 5.
By Ethan George
1 July 2015
The first article (2nd January 1915 page 5) relays a letter from Private A. Summerfield that was sent to his wife explaining what Christmas was like in the trenches. The conditions were cold and ‘raining nearly all the time’, this made staying in the trenches quite an uncomfortable time. This is seen in one particular quote ‘my feet get so cold and you can't run about in the trenches to keep warm’.
In this first article talk of how they spent Christmas is quite brief and really there are more questions asked about life at home for example: ‘the mills, are they very busy?’. This suggests that home sickness took away some of the Christmas spirit from the soldiers as Christmas has a lot to do with spending time with family and loved ones that unfortunately, most couldn't do.
There is no talk of any carol singing or football matches that have been typically associated with the Christmas of 1914. In the trenches they received King and Queen Christmas cards and a Princess Mary's tobacco box. In the quote ‘I want you to take good care of them until I get home’ shows how Private Summerfield sent his gifts home, treasuring the Christmas gift he had received displaying there was however some Christmas spirit.
Gazette article dated 16th January 1915, page 7.
It appears that the purpose of the article was to share with the public Christmas experiences in the trenches to lift the spirits of citizens and keep morale high in a time of need.
We know that postcard and letters home were often checked and censored before being posted so the conditions may have been worse ‘we are up to our knees in mud and water’. This shows the bad conditions due to the weather without going in to too much detail. Private Leslie Roberts writes at the end of his letter ‘Snipers around here but our heavy guns are much superior to the enemy's and have done enormous damage’ it is unclear weather he was told to write this but he probably did to give some hope to people back home.
Private V. Batchelor writes ‘went again into the trenches on Christmas Eve and spent a week there’ he also says that singing could be herd from both the German and British trenches showing the Christmas spirit was still with them despite the fact that the war had already gone on longer that anticipated.
These primary sources are reliable in that they mostly give true vent fact as well as a first hand opinion but they can be questioned after going through censors. Further more, parts of the letters home may have been cut out of the newspaper report.
Gazette, 2nd January 1915, p. 5 & 16th January 1915 p. 7.
By Ailsa Goff and Grace Lockyer
1 July 2015
Hemel Hempstead developed after the Second World War as a new town, however, during the First World War, it existed as a mere settlement. The Hemel Gazette during 1914 portrayed the war negatively. The journalists were not biased as such, instead they provided the public with facts and figures to support their claims. Food rationing was not a major problem in Britain initially. The national archives claim that there was a lot of panic buying when war started which caused food shortages. This is a very reliable source because the information on the archives are the original source so we believe the evidence to be true. The shortages did occur, but this didn’t last long. A bigger problem was rising prices.
The article we studied was based solely on the local effects of war and informs the public on what they could do to help. The opening line of the article was ‘The one and only topic of conversation is the war’ this immediately informs the reader about the extent and impact of the war on those on the home front, Not only were the soldiers affected by the war but friends and family back home had their lives transformed.
Gazette, 8th August 1914, p. 5.
By Sophie Murphy and Steph Adu
1 July 2015
Mr Levasseur, a Hemel man, has his story told in the Gazette 29th August 1914. In my opinion, I think certainly the purpose of this article is to inject opinions and ideas into the public that the Germans occupation is bringing devastation and they need to be stopped. The article tells that his business in Malines (now known as Mechelen) prospers well until the German troops - described to come ‘in countless men’ – start to sweep through Belgium. The man describes the Germans actions to be vastly destructive as he says in the article ‘one woman I saw carried a dead child in her arm’. Mr Levasseur, eventually, was forced into the decision of leaving Malines as the soon after the king of Belgium had arrived there, the beautiful cathedral (only 1km from his house) was ‘bombarded’ with shells.
From this article, we can tell that the public were told stories that stimulate emotions towards people who have their life in danger. The Germans, in the article, are presented as villains as they are described to bring destruction with them as they come into Belgium. This propaganda used to build hate towards the Germans is disguised well in the words of a story in a newspaper. Also, if the article fails to do this, it certainly succeeds in trying to get the public to help the war effort and to encourage people to stop people close to them being hurt (in this case Mr Levasseur as a resident of Hemel, targeting the Hemel community).
Gazette, 29th August 1914, p. 8.
By Tom Deering, Joe Metcalfe and Jack Noonan
1 July 2015
On 24th October 1914 Hemel Hempstead was shocked to find that two of its beloved citizens were struck down during WWI. Julian, aged 26, and Cecil, aged 24, Smeathman were brothers who both attended Lockers Park School for a short time before transferring to other public schools. They both did different jobs as Cecil fought as an infantryman, whilst Julian was an engineer. Not only did their death affect their parents, Julian left Gladys Monia Browne a widow after marrying on 1st October 1914. The news was given when Cecil died in hospital. 30 minutes after the telegram arrived another telegram arrived detailing that Julian had died.
The Hemel Gazette produced an article on the story on 31st October and they called their deaths an ‘Irreparable loss’ however this article can be seen as biased from the quote ‘This war is bringing such misery to so many families in the world’ this implies that the gazette was against the war. Cecil is buried in Bailleul Communal cemetery while Julian has no known grave and is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing, Ypres.
Gazette, 31st October 1914, p. 5.
By Nathan Withers and Joshua Cartwright
1 July 2015
At the start of the war, Britain was not prepared to deal with the threat from enemy airships and aircraft. Traditionally its home defence focused on defending the coastline rather than its airspace and with most of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) operating overseas, few aircraft remained to defend Britain!
The Germans launched their first attack using airships named Zeppelins. When the airship flew 11,000 feet above ground it was able to switch off its engine. This enabled the airship to carry out surprise attacks due to the fact of it being able to drift silently to the designated area.
Due to the air raids several civilians had to move out of London and into Hemel Hempstead in order to restore the country back to its original position. The accommodations of the public has been horrific to the extent of many not being provided with any form of shelter and were left to be homeless. Also there was a major lack of supplies to provide to the public on a Monday night in September 1917. Leading to Tuesday night many were found spending the night on the moor due to the air raids which is what was causing a large number of people to flock from London city to Hemel Hempstead moving northwest in the country. A majority of the people who were moving were women and children.
Moving on to Wednesday night the situation was discussed and referred to a special meeting that took place in the Hemel Hempstead town hall ran by councillor Higgins, who explained “For the people in Hemel Hempstead to the terror which the raid were creating in the minds of the children.”
If anything was done it should be done quickly, but councillor Higgins realised that there would be difficulties on the way. He spoke about getting accommodation on his own place and thought about the little children, considering their well being and providing them shelter for the night.
Councillor Flint agreed with Councillor Higgins on the idea of opening Boxmoor Hall. Councillor Day had a tremendous amount of inquiries for the accommodation and if it could be prepared then he was quite sure there was no need for anyone to sleep on the moor. The Mayor said the difficulty was the machinery and did not think it was a matter for the Town Clerk or the Council since there was no police force in the place.
Councillor Craft suggested a list of places where accommodation could be obtained and handed to the stationmaster at Boxmoor. Councillor Stratford pointed out that the matter concerned the women and children, and he thought if the ladies of the different religious organisations were asked to deal with it, they should. On the other hand Councillor Gold said something should be done immediately as he saw women and children not knowing where to go late at night, which made him feel bad. Eventually it was decided to give authority for the opening of Boxmoor Hall and Town Hall as temporary shelter. Necessary arrangements were made to enable anyone to secure accommodation, this was requested to the police.
Gazette, 29th September 1917, p. 8.
By Simi Parekh, Aneesa Siddique and Snega Aravinathan
24th June 2016
Mr. Mont Smith, who lived in Apsley, received a letter from his brother, Lance Corporal W. T. Smith, describing a somewhat lucky escape from German shells.
According to WT Smith, the British troops had taken over a German trench on Sunday 15th March 1915, and the next day (at around 11am) they received an attack targeting their own trench, landing in three different areas. The shells did some damage (although “no damage worth mentioning”), so the British soldiers feared that Germany would finish them off once they were within range.
However, the British artillery suddenly commenced, causing Germany to cease attack. Smith therefore assumed that the artillery had blown up the German battery. “Things during the afternoon seemed to be a little quiet until about 5p.m.”, when the German troops were given the signal to advance towards a point on Smith’s left, causing a “terribly rapid” fire. The attack continued for hours, resulting in about 1,000 British casualties.
The next morning, the British soldiers launched a counter-attack which pushed back the “Huns”, as they are often referred to. This resulted in more heavy losses, and fighting continued along a large part of the line. During the night, the shelling was “extremely heavy”, but by the morning “everything seemed in its normal state again”. Nevertheless, the Germans continued shelling the trenches. During this time, Smith narrowly escaped a shell falling on a room that he had only just left. He described the room as closing in, “just as if it had been a pack of cards”. All his equipment was buried, but he had survived, which he was very thankful for; he considers himself “extremely lucky”.
Gazette, 27th March 1915, p. 8.
By Annie Martell
24th June 2016
All clubs have folded in the Hertfordshire Mid-Week league and the County League due to the lack of players, as the Great War is upon us. On January 6th 1915 the Hon. Secretary and other important figures in the community discussed issues surrounding the beginning of the war.
Altogether, the combined Herts leagues have supplied 2,254 men to the forces contributing on the Western Front. Each club has given an average of 14 players to the army, which speaks volumes about the Hertfordshire spirit and patriotism. We need football players to conquer the barbarous enemies.
The brave Herts soldiers have taken upon the duty of fighting against vile dishonourable countries. They have given the country hope, and have set a perfect example to hope every man and woman should act throughout this dark time. This is an urge for the public to support the war effort, and show the enemy that we are not alone and that we fight together and united.
The Herts Mid-Week and County League draws have been postponed. The final between Barnet and Alston and St. Albans City in the charity shield presented by the great and well-respected Lord Howick should also be put back to a later date.
There were in fact 51 teams that wished to play throughout the war, but weren’t permitted to, but would have been unable to do so, as they did not have a suitable amount of players to raise a team.
To conclude, the Herts players have brought pride to man and country, by their formidable decision to decide to go to war in Germany and Austro-Hungary. They are risking their lives for us, and we should be eternally grateful.
Gazette, 15th January 1915, p.7.
By Ed Grayson, Eashan Panchal and Joe Hutchings.
24th June 2016
Even though the attention of the war went to Europe, many British soldiers fought in Mesopotamia specifically in Turkey. Christians believed that in Mesopotamia the Biblical Gardens of Eden were situated. One brave man from Hemel Hempstead went to fight in this particular war in Turkey.
“We marched out of camp on the 17th of November at 5:20am and marched another 10 miles and then waited for a command.” This quote from the brave and honourable Hemel Hempstead man shows that the Brits put a lot of effort into coming in to the war in Turkey, and that it was very well planned.
They were then 1600 yards from the Turks who had no idea that the Brits were so close. When they were around 1000 from the Turks they fired their first shots with their rifles. “There were so many dead and wounded soldiers lying on the ground near us,” recounted the man. The conditions of fighting were as bad as even the biggest battles during the war. Meanwhile they were advancing and dominating this battle against the Turks. The loss of men on the British side was nowhere near the loss of lives by the Turks and finally on December 8th an officer appeared on the Turkish side waving a white flag. They had surrendered and it was a great feeling.
This brave Hemel Hempstead soldier gave all his time to fight for king and country. He has really made this town proud and we are lucky to have him as an inspirational character for the people of Hemel Hempstead.
Gazette, 24th April 1915, p. 7.
By Robbie Tripp and Aman Vyas
24th June 2016
On Sunday 15th March, 1915, Lance Corporal W.T. Smith and his fellow companions were put under attack by the German opposition, or the “Huns” as they were commonly called. Smith was part of the British Expeditionary Force and wrote the letter to his brother, Mr. Mont Smith, who lived in Apsley, a few days after the attack. The Lance Corporal told his brother of his lucky avoidance from a German artillery attack and how the relentless bombardment from the Huns lasted for hours on end.
The evening before, the British Expeditionary Force had taken over some trenches and the Lance Corporal had thought that “Everything seemed in its normal state.” However, the next morning at around 11am, W.T Smith and the rest of the battalion found themselves under attack. “The Germans started using [their] trench for a target with some heavy shells” and, as far as Smith was concerned, they were successful due to the fact that “they landed three [shells] in different parts of the trench” although Smith states that they did no damage worth mentioning. However, it still frightened the soldiers and they seemed to be convinced that “once they got the range, they would finish [them] off.” This being said, Lance Corporal W.T. Smith was surprised when the artillery “suddenly commenced”. Triumphantly, Smith realised that the “British Artillery must have located and smashed up the German Battery.” Which means that the retaliation of the allied forces must have been successful. During the afternoon, the BEF fell into a mild deception of safety as “the afternoon seemed to be a little quiet” but this was soon broken as at around 5pm, the Germans were given a signal to attack, a little to the left of where Smith was posted. It is said that “a terribly rapid fire was put into [them]” and that the attack lasted well over an hour. Soon after, the forces learned that the Germans had taken advantage of key points. This resulted in thousands of casualties on both sides. “The extent of the killed and wounded [was] thought to be about 2,000 Germans, which is twice the amount of the British lost or injured.
In the early morning following the event, the British counter-attacked. This counter attack led to the Germans being “driven back from the positions they had taken with more heavy losses.” During the whole night, the shelling was extremely heavy and, again, when daylight came, everything seemed to be in its normal state. Despite that, the trenches were still being shelled during the morning. This is when Smith has his lucky escape. “[Smith] had only just vacated one place for another, when a shot came and closed it in, just as if it had been a pack of cards.” W.T. Smith still believed himself to be extremely lucky, regardless of the fact that his kit was henceforth buried in the room.
Smith states in the letter that one of the soldiers involved at that present attack said that “it reminded him of a crowd returning from a football match.”
Gazette, 27th March 1915, page 8.
By Emily Rojewska
24th June 2016
'The local conscientious objectors have their appeals dismissed.'
Many local conscientious objectors and other cases came before the County Tribunals at St Albans, heard by Mr E. B. Bernard, Lady Ebury, Rt. Hon. T. F. Halsey, Messrs W. Reynolds, H. Slade E. A. Mitchell Innes, K.C., F. S. Judd and W. Gooding.
Mr P. V. Procter, Boxted Farm, on behalf of his mother, appealed for Hugh Vernon Procter due to the occupation of 450 acres of land and 70 head of cattle. They had to milk the cows. Due to the shortage of labour, H.V. Procter, a cowman and stockman, was indispensable, and if he joined the army they would be compelled to give up the milking business. Six men had already left them for the army, including two cowmen and they were now working their two farms with half the amount of people, only five. He also has 13 horses, 8 colts and 14 milking cows. Conditional exemption was granted as the man in question, had to work on the farm.
Frederick Wakefield, Cuckoo Farm, Berkhamsted, appealed for Arthur George Wakefield, on the grounds that one man could not work the farm of 110 acres. The case had been adjourned for corroborative evidence.
The military appealed against Joseph Burch aged 32 who was a milker and a stockman. Mr W. Mead, the employer, was a farmer, butcher and dairyman who lived in Tring. He appealed for two men as stockmen, but the local tribunal had found that the only other men besides these two men couldn’t do the work required as they were unable to do the work provided as they are either too old (aged) or crippled. In the article, it says that General Fenton was ‘prepared to assent to a temporary exemption’ which meant that the men weren’t required to fight in the war for at most six months. He also felt that Mr Mead owned many more cows that he could care for and look after but, there were more men working on the farm as well. He would not object to six months exemption. But in the end, the tribunal took the General’s advice and a temporary exemption for six months was given said by the chairman.
In a second source studied named the ‘Tring case’ a man employed by Mr Frank Brown of Tring Urban named A.W Blackley was appealed by the military as well. It was claimed that it was a temporary case of exemption, but not conditional. This case says that the man, Mr Frank Brown has a step-mother was prone to having fits and an invalid and unable step-sister looking after his step-mother. But the tribunal said that it could be possible to arrange other agreements for both if their care. In the article it says that ‘the mother was undoubtedly dependent upon him’. It also says that if the man went into the army it would only be a shilling two or less so it wouldn’t make a big difference. But the result was that the general said that it could be possible to take a cottage nearer the other two and temporary exemption was given for three months.
Gazette, 25th March 1916, page 8.
By Mitchell Rees and Roxy Wittrick
24th June 2016
Private Lovell was 21 at the time and from Hemel Hempstead. He emigrated to Canada in August 1914, and joined the overseas contingent and after his training in England he went to France with the 2nd Brigade. In April 1915 he was captured by the Germans who took him to Giessen. It was a large camp where the conditions were very bad. Many prisoners were too weak to walk, however all the prisoners were made to do hard work which considered of digging ground for potato planting.
Lovell and some other prisoners were sent to Schaneburg on April 24th 1916, where he now had a companion to endeavour to escape. They avoided their guards and after travelling for 30 miles they came across a German patrol where they gave themselves up. As a result they were sent to Papenburge and were treated very badly. The prisoners were kept in a confined cell for seven days before being sentenced of fourteen days of confinement with only bread and water for food and no exercise was allowed. The prisoners had to sleep on bare boards and got no sleep 3 out of the 4 nights and where then worked from 6am to 7pm. Lovell said “what you read in the papers does not half describe the cruelty”.
On 13th July 1916 they had an escape plan to leave the cruel place they were at by using disguises of tramps, the removal of boards and the cutting of wire entanglements. Their escape was done while the guard had gone into his hut for a short time. They travelled in the night and slept in hiding places during the day. They saved and ate food from the parcels they were sent from home to keep them alive until they reached safety. However their supplies only lasted for six days and they had no food for three days. They ate things they found in the hedges and were fired at by soldiers.
They were resting in a hay field and discovered men were cutting their crops, so they hid in the grass and slowly and quietly made their way to the centre of the field from the sides. When the men went in for a break that was their time to escape. They were spotted trying to get away so the group was separated and they had to swim a stream for 100 yards.
On July 23rd they reached England and instead of seeking discharge he refused to do so and returned to France. Without being sent the parcels he received from home none of his escape plan would have been achievable and he was very grateful for them.
Gazette, 12th August 1916. p. 5.
By Yasmin Jayasinghe & Amy Scrivener
24th June 2016
By October 1914, thousands of unfortunate men, women and children had fled their homes in Belgium, desperately seeking asylum in Britain after the devastation of trench warfare in their country. Migrants landed all over Britain. Those that reached the borders were transported to London and then homed all across the country with generous British families, offering them hospitality. In November 1914 refugee numbers in Berkhamsted spiked to 63 with many more living in Hemel Hempstead and Tring.
Since October, the Hemel Hempstead committee had formed a relief fund, providing help and support to the Belgian migrants. On the 24th October the Mayor announced that the fund had received £10,015 18s 60d which went towards housing the refugees. A special thanks was given to ‘the Hemel Hempstead district swimming and lifesaving society’ and ‘the Princess Theatre’ for their contributions to the fund.
By the end of October, other neighbouring towns had also helped out the cause:
However, many residents of Hemel Hempstead were concerned in how the increase in refugees would affect their employment. Many people considered Hemel as ‘very full’ and were reluctant to take in any more. The Hemel Hempstead committee put in place rules and regulations regarding how the refugees could work and function within the country. A meeting at the Hemel Hempstead Belgian refugees relief committee was held at the town hall to discuss these matters. It was decided that the earnings of the refugees should go partly to the families who were housing them, but mainly in aid of getting them back quickly and safely to their own country. A law was also put in place that no work must be given to Belgians if it interfered with earnings of British citizens.
Gazette, 24th October 1914, p. 2.
Gazette, 7th November 1914, p. 8.
By Hollie Partridge
24th June 2016
Lance Corporal Westfield (from Hemel Hempstead) wrote a series of letters home from the trenches in 1914. These were published in the Hemel Gazette. Despite him writing all of these letters, he does not show where abouts he is on the western front. Westfield was part of the 3rd Worcestershires, 3rd Division, British Expeditionary Force. From arriving in late 1914 he continues writing letters from the front line until his injury in March 1915.
In another letter he talks about his Christmas Day. He had a ‘splendid’ two course meal and got a present from the royal family including ‘fine tobacco box and pipe’. He sent these gifts home to keep for when he returned home. He wrote his letter, injured, from a hospital in Dublin.
He was shot through the left cheek under his eye. He was lucky as the bullet had missed his eye but passed through his nose. He managed to get away from the situation with just a broken nose and a large scar in his cheek.
On the last day of the year, 1914, him and his regiment were treated to a concert followed by chocolate, cigarettes and wine. This was given to them by Herts Terriers. Westfield was unsure how long these would go on for but presumed until the weather got better and the morale would improve.
Gazette, 26th September 1914, p. 3.
Gazette, 21st November 1914 p. 8.
Gazette, 16th January 1915 p. 8.
Gazette, 27th March 1915 p. 8.
By Josh Coveney and Kyle Patel
24th June 2016
Wednesday, 31st May 1916, Stoker F. Pearce, who was well-known in Hemel Hempstead, was a sailor who fought in the great Naval Battle of Jutland, a battle between the Imperial German Navy's High Seas Fleet and the Royal Navy's High Fleet.
Stoker F. Pearce fought on H.M.S Warspite and was there on 31st May when the German fleet was spotted. He recalls that he spotted them at 5:30 pm on Wednesday, and mentioned “suddenly we heard one of our big guns go off and followed by others, and we then heard that we had caught the enemy’s fleet out”. When he saw them, he shot fifteen inch shells into to enemy fleet, but by that time, the allies had already lost three battle cruisers. On the positive side, we sunk about half of the enemy’s fleet.
After a while, the allies sighted their fleet with Admiral Jellicoe, so they went off. When they came back, they had a nice welcome home. However, they came back, they were extremely disappointed, because they had been robbed of their complete victory and lost their sister ship the Invincible. Despite the way they were feeling, they had congratulations from the king telling them how proud he was of them.
Gazette, 15th July 2016, p. 3.
By Aidan Mitchell and Piyush Shrestha
24th June 2016
World War One. Mud, gunfire, explosions, shouting. For the country, for the people, for the world. And even in a place such as Hemel Hempstead these conflicts were going on. But it wasn’t all those things you expect from a big battle of two opposing forces.
A Territorial group of English soldiers were sent into Apsley in August 1914. The local residents and workers were not positive about the quick entrance of the group, changing the level of volume of the usually quiet town. The soldiers transformed the place from an ancient market town to an army camp. They had to evacuate buildings including houses and schools, and their visit was longer than they anticipated. Even areas as close as Gadebridge Park were part of great military activity.
After a while the residents living in Hemel Hempstead got used to the soldiers and begun to be thankful for the defence of their country and local areas. Later there were concerns about the health and safety of the soldiers, and so the YMCA organisation came along, patched up the men and entertained them.
The Brigades then finally started to leave after Christmas. The 5th stopped at Berkhamsted, but the rest got out, and the locals only knew they were going to be “Somewhere” in the continent, of to war again, supported by the people living in Hemel Hempstead, now that their market town has greatly benefitted from their services!
Surprisingly out of all the brigades sent to these areas only 2 people died - one being in Bovingdon, and the other in Hemel Hempstead as result of a fatal accident before departure.
This article written by the Gazette is very positive - especially the fact that only two people died. It may just be more lies and propaganda to boost the positivity of war, and there are no accounts of residents there at the time - but the description of detail makes it seem vivid and legitimate.
It is still good to know that in a place such as Hemel Hempstead soldiers still fight for their country in honour, and other places are not prioritized over us.
Gazette: 20th March 1915, p. 8.
By Charlie Cottrell
27th June 2017
In September 1917, the counties, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Huntingdonshire created a disablement committee in the interests of helping discharged soldiers and sailors in London. The organising secretary, Mr E.A.B. Barnard, visited local committees in Bedfordshire, Huntingdonshire and a few in Hertfordshire to ask the following questions.
1)’The approximate number of discharged disabled soldiers in the area.’
2)’The number who required training.’
3)’The number suffering for tuberculosis and requiring treatment.’
All of the following committees replied well, meaning that the secretary obtained the information that he required. In Bedfordshire, there were 440 men for the first, 4 for the second and 32 for the third. And in Hertfordshire, there were 637 men for the first, 10 for the second and 20 for the third, where as in Huntingdonshire there were 220 men for the first, 15 for the second and 16 for the third. This then totals to a number of 2,056 disabled men in three counties, with 50 who required treatment. However, it was thought that at least half of the 2,056 men would have needed some kind of training to ‘enable them to look to the future in confidence.’
The secretary said that the discharged men who were suffering for tuberculosis formed a greater portion of the men than any other class of men discharged from the army. Lady Salisbury, stated that she had a small sanitorium at Hatfield formerly used by the county council and that it would be available for anyone's use if needed. The sanitorium was quite small with only 12 beds, however she was glad to help in any way possible.
The local Government later refused to let Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Huntingdonshire use the sanitorium in Cambridge because Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambs would be affected. The local Government wanted to force Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Huntingdonshire to start a scheme of their own instead of using Cambridge’s. Mr Coote thought the committee should set to work quickly to find an appropriate building that could accommodate cases from all three counties as there was a lot of people all around. It was very important that they were able to get it done quickly. Hatfield was agreed to be a good suggestion to be a sanitorium, however there was a disagreement as it was thought that the area was ‘too swagger a place for this purpose.’ They kept being refused grants and no one would support them, also they did have a scheme in mind but they could not follow it through without the appropriate amount of money. So, they thought they might take up Lady Salisbury’s offer to use her sanitorium and start a sanitorium as an experiment. The secretary said all sorts of things had been suggested, however all of them had been terminated because of the Government. Mr Coote said that they would do whatever was needed, even if they had to take it to the council. The Hertfordshire County Council had a scheme for building a large sanitorium and purchased a site, but the war put the project on hold.
The county insurance committee had a proposal that the tuberculosis cases would be dealt with through the funds that already existed in connection with the army and the navy, but the difficulty arose that they could not provide accommodation for the cases. They could not get the materials to build the sanitorium but they claimed that if they only had more freedom they would be able to hire a large house and then start talking about building in a more realistic context.
Lady Salisbury and Mr Coote then helped the discharged and disabled soldiers and sailors find jobs and start training. This ended well as they provided many people with jobs that they really needed.
Gazette, 29th September 1917, p. 2.
By Poppy Nixon and Emma Sharpling
27th June 2017
Since news of the war started in Hemel, the town’s atmosphere changed as the newfound soldiers appeared for their training for 7 months, making it feel a bit more crowded than before. According to the Gazette, the soldier’s ‘temporary stay’ was ‘a lot longer than anyone expected.’ The soldiers sent were apart of the County of London Royal Field Artillery, they came in the peak of summer, and the small town was transformed into a military camp. There were guns, horses and wagons everywhere, everywhere from gadebridge park to the moor was filled with military objects. However most people (especially the shopkeepers) had warmed up to the soldiers at this point, and the comfort of the soldiers became an issue of the men and women of the town, and with some help of the YMCA, they set up tents for the soldiers entertainment. But sadly, when it got colder the YMCA tents had to be put away and the horses were put into stables. They anticipated to stay about 3 months, however they stayed right past Christmas and then some. It was assumed that the soldiers would leave after Christmas, but their leave was cancelled, and those who had left returned. And it was then assumed they would stay until the end of the war, however this was dismissed when they were told their departure was set for February.
Gazette: 20th March 1915, p. 8.
By Munro Manners
27th June 2017
During the First World War, letter writing was the predominant communication method between soldiers and their loved ones. The British Army Postal Services delivered around 2 billion letters during the war.
Soldiers often wrote letters in spare moments either from the front line or in safer, less advanced positions. They would also receive letters from family and friends, boosting morale and keeping connected to the homes they left.
In the trenches, many details in letters were considered censored; this included:
Where you were stationed
How many soldiers there were
Names of soldiers of officers
What weapons you had
Details of planned attacks
Soldiers who were injured
Soldiers who were dead
Most letters were checked by an officer to ensure that the content was acceptable before being sent off.
On Saturday, the 15th of June, 1915, The Gazette brought out a report on ranging experiences and memories from the front line soldiers in WWI. Many of these included traumatic occurrences and unspeakable, fatal events.
One letter tells of being gassed and the horror experienced by a foot soldier. It came coming towards them like a “thick green cloud” and he later says that nobody could live in such horrendous conditions. Also, he explained he had to “crawl” away from the scene of the attack due to the fatality of the encounter.
One report is about how a letter was recovered by a fellow comrade after the bag that was carrying it got blown off a man's back. It speaks of how a shell hit the bag off Corporal W. Barbers back leaving him with devastating back injuries but he survived, a lucky escape. A comrade later discovered the letter and had it sent to Miss Barber.
A letter (titled “Violent Cannonading”) describes how shells were “whistling” overhead and that four officers were badly wounded. He goes on to say that bits of shrapnel came through their roof and went through his cap cover. He expresses his trepidation and clearly describes his experiences including his “urgent messages for more stretcher bearers.” His commanding officer was shot in the lung and he reports that many escaped. Next, he tried to reach the Menin road, leading to Ypres, walking past lots of dead men or ruined stretchers. The letter ends here.
Gazette, 15th June 1915, p. 5.
By Will Ashton, Sam Hancock and Scott Bowman
27th June 2017
This report from The Gazette was published on July 22nd 1916, and was an analysis of the 1915 public health report for Hertfordshire.
The 1915 annual health report for Hertfordshire was different, to say the least, in comparison to other years. The report was filed by Dr. Hyslop Thomson, who said that an ‘adverse influence’ had stemmed from the War in terms of public health in Hertfordshire. It documents such factors as the county’s population dropping, in 1915, to an estimated 305,122, when it had previously been at around 325,000 in 1914. Also, there was a decrease in birth rate. Illegitimate births (meaning a child is born when its parents are not married) were documented at 229 in that year, out of the total birth rate of around 6,000. The approximate 4,800,000 men away fighting would’ve certainly had an impact on this decline in birth rate and population.
On top of this, the death rate had risen, and was expected to continue to rise as the war continued, and the thousands of men dying per day would continue. However, there were threats back home increasing the death rate too, such as infant mortality- in other words, out the little amount of children being born, many were dying before the age of 1. Also, diarrhoea was becoming a huge problem, with the hot and dry summer having an impact too.
Another notorious killer was tuberculosis, a horrible lung disorder. On a side note, many people in mainland Britain were sent to hospitals built on some of the islands such as, possibly most notably, the Royal National Hospital Ventnor, in the Isle of Wight.
Unfortunately, tuberculosis was not the only terrible illness which plagued Britain through the war, with many cases of smallpox, measles, scarlet fever, whooping cough diphtheria and croup, being reported to doctors throughout 1914 and the following years leading up to the end of the war, and even beyond that. These became known as the ‘six epidemic diseases’ in the early 1900s.
To add to the medical worries, only straying towards the mental aspect of it, many soldiers fell under the effect of shellshock in the trenches. They were traumatised by the continuous bombardment from enemy artillery fire. This bombardment would supposedly cripple the enemy severely, however the enemy would simply take shelter in one of the many trench dugouts/artillery shelters. Thousands of soldiers were discharged from service back home to recover from ‘shellshock’, which is now known as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). The effects of PTSD had both short term and long term effects, from the continuous tinnitus from the sheer noise the bombardment gave off, to the non-stop nightmares/flashbacks they would have, years after the war, of the memories of seeing their friends dying right before their eyes, and the violence and torment they would have endured throughout their years of service in the trenches. However, sometimes, they didn’t wait to get home - the trauma they faced caused many to take their own lives, rather than continue fighting.
Back in Britain, there was a huge worry over the common house fly. There were many calls from doctors, namely Dr. Hyslop Thomson, which talked about how they carry lots of bacteria and lay eggs, which hatch into maggots within a number of hours, before eventually becoming the fly’s direct spawn after a matter of weeks.
The report concluded with saying that more measures need to be taken nationwide to cure these diseases, and subsequently improve the life expectancy in Britain, to try to put things back together after this dreadful war.
Gazette, 22nd July 1916, p. 2.
By Harvey Taylor and Xander West
27th June 2017
The newspaper report portrays the argument about farming development and the prisoners of war.
Prisoners of war
A meeting had been held in London deciding that more prisoners of war were to be located in Hemel Hempstead and protests against the rise in pay for prisoners were made.
Farming and tractors
Later on in the report the issue of farming and scarce amount of land were discussed. It was felt that more acres of land were needed for arable cultivation for the harvest. A scheme was put in place to sort out the issue to insure that more land was given. As well as the lack of land, it had also been noted that many of the farmers were inexperienced when it came to the farming so supervisors were put in place. In addition the shortage of tractors was a topic that was outlined in the argument as it was brought to attention that with the lack of tractors, farming and harvest couldn't commence. Furthermore it was stated by Mr Turner who reminded them that there was a neither sufficient horses nor men to help with the farming expansion.
After the complete “Agricultural Returns” for 1917 had been received, it was shown that the acres of land for crops had increased a mass amount in the last year.
The war office made a scheme to introduce soldiers to have the opportunity to work- jobs including tractor drivers, steam plough or horse plough men were offered and training was provided. Men were given a proficiency test and only those who passed were eligible to be selected by commissioners from the department and the executive committee to have a job.
Gazette, 13th October 1917, p. 3
By Anya Mistry, Ella Norman and Zara Rafiq-Craske
27th June 2017
Private George Lee comments on his experiences from a Red-Cross train on May 9th 1917.
The brave soldier, of 100 High Street, Hemel Hempstead, had been treated by the humanitarian organisation after being “put out of action” by a machine gun injury.
In a letter home, mentioning his poor conditions in France, he continues to account his current situation in the 15th General Hospital receiving medical attention and “plenty of good food”.
On April 11th, during his final “dash” away from the Turk’s line, Private Lee obtained a wound to the foot inflicted by two bullets from an enemy machine gun. He deemed himself to be “jolly lucky to come off so light” after observing worse injuries that had come to those he was surrounded by.
After being shot, Lee attempted to make his way to a safe place. He was eventually identified and taken to the dressing station by camel, a place at which he stayed the night. Private George Lee then describes the following journeys to new stations as “rough”, from the constant lurching of the trucks used for transportation. However, throughout the struggle of war, everybody tried to remain in “good spirits and laughter”.They soon arrived at El-Arish where their next night was spent before travelling to Kantarrah.
He then ends the letter by expressing his gratitude towards the Red Cross for their kindness, hospitality and “cocoa”.
Gazette, 23rd June 1917, p. 7.
By Megan Sullivan and Shajida Rahman
27th June 2017