Wendover Remembers, October 1918

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

The series of Allied victories on the Western Front during August and September continued through October.  Attacks at St Quentin, in the Champagne area, Cambrai, and Le Cateau pushed the German troops back to the Selle, the Sambre and the Scheldt Rivers.  In Flanders a major advance was made by the Belgians.  Ostend was liberated.   British troops entered Lille.  On the Italian Front the Austro-Hungarians were pushed back to Vittoria Veneto.  In Mesopotamia the Turks surrendered.  The German High Seas Fleet mutinied.  The German commander, General von Ludendorff, resigned.

The last Wendover soldier to die during the war years was John Henry Smith a Private in the Leicestershire Regiment.  He died in a Germen Prison of War Camp on October 17. Known as Jack, he was the son of William and Lucy Smith, the husband to another Lucy and the father of 5 year old Kathleen Lucy of 7, Sidney Terrace.  On the 1911 census Jack is recorded as an ‘indoor servant’.  He enlisted in Aylesbury in December 1915 aged 35 and joined the Worcestershire Regiment.  He gave his occupation as ‘carman’. The Wendover News reported in January 1918 that Jack was home recovering from trench fever.  He was transferred to the Bedfordshire Regiment and embarked from Folkestone for Boulogne on 31 March. On April 1 he was again transferred this time to the 8th Battalion of the Leicestershire Regiment and was reported missing on 27 May. The official report from the Prisoner of War Camp at Aubrives near Givet, France, stated that the cause of death was pneumonia brought about by influenza.

In 1918/19 the influenza epidemic known as the Spanish Flu killed over 50 million people worldwide and more than 228,000 in Britain. Despite the label ‘Spanish Flu’ the first cases were not in Spain but as a neutral country with a free press the news of the pandemic and numbers of casualties was not supressed as in other European countries. At home Mr Molineux wrote in the School Log Book: ‘Influenza made its appearance in the school and the schools were closed on Thursday Oct17 till Oct 28 and then again till Nov 4.’ Many meetings in the town had to be postponed because of illness and some Church services moved from St Mary’s to the smaller St Agnes Mission Church in Dobbins Lane.

 At the monthly Parish Council meeting an appeal was made for a lamplighter. The report stated that a letter received from Mr G Howlett explained the recent darkness in the town saying he could no longer undertake the duties of lamplighter on account of ill-health. ‘The Clerk said there had been no response to an appeal for applicants for the position, although wages paid averaged 12s. per week during the lighting period… It was decided that individual members should make enquiries, which might lead to the appointment of either a male or female as lamplighter’.

The agents for Capt. Edwin Smith, Lord of the Manor, advertised the sale of cottages in the Tring Road: ‘A few minutes walk from the Station. Between the Town and Halton Camp. Thirty cottages (in three blocks of ten each). Occupying an extremely advantageous position directly on the road from Wendover to the Aviation Camp at Halton, thus forming a valuable Site for business premises.’ The most easterly block of 10 cottages was demolished in 1970 when the route of the Tring Road was adjusted to the north of the old road.

At the A G M of the Bucks Archaeological Society Mr Hollis said that, ‘having heard that the old camp at Boddington Hill, Wendover, was included in the area to be cleared by the lumber-men now working there, he interviewed the officer in charge, asking him to see that as little damage as possible would be done to the entrenchments. He was glad to say that his request was received in a most sympathetic manner, and he was confident everything possible would be done to prevent damage.’


death certificate
Death certificate, John Henry Smith.
York Cottages, c 1910
York Cottages in about 1910. Built in the late C18 to replace huts erected by tenants evicted by Earl Verney in 1768.
York Cottages today
York Cottages today. All photos provided by the authors.
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