Wendover Remembers, September 1918

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

September 1918
On the Western Front the German Army was gradually forced back to its main defensive position – the Hindenburg Line. British troops captured Cagnicourt, Villers and Queant. The French crossed the Somme and American soldiers achieved success in the St Mihiel area capturing 15,000 prisoners. The Hindenburg line was breached by the British on the Canal du Nord and at St Quentin. An Anglo-Belgian force made advances along a 23 mile front in Flanders. While the German troops continued to resist strongly, their morale was collapsing. An ally of Germany, Bulgaria, signed an armistice after being defeated by Serbia. In the Middle East British forces began the Battle of Armageddon to drive Turkey out of Palestine and Syria.

Private George Tomlin of the Ox & Bucks Light Infantry, aged 22, died of wounds on the September 13 1918 in France. George was the son of George and Mary Tomlin of Addington Cottages and was one of the first Wendover men to enlist on 24 August 1914. His brother, William, served with the Royal Engineers. On the 1911 census, George, age 15, was listed as houseboy. He had been a member of St Mary’s Sunday school and a chorister.

Private E Frank Birch M.M. a signaller in the Bedfordshire Regiment was killed in action on 21 September 1918. He was shot by a sniper while trying to link communications across a road in St Quentin. Ernest Frank, known as Frank was the son of Thomas and Matilda Birch. The following tribute was printed in the Bucks Herald: Mr & Mrs Birch, Wellwick Cottages, have received official information that their son, Pte, E F Birch, M.M., Bedfordshire Regt., was killed in action on Sept 22. Frank was 25 years of age, and joined the Forces in November 1914, enlisting in Croxley Green, where he was apprenticed to a wheelwright and blacksmith. Previous to this he worked for Mr Dell at Wellwick Farm, living at home with his parents. At this time he was a member of the band of the 1st Wendover Company, Boys Brigade, being highly esteemed and respected by the officers and his companions. He had seen much service since the war, and when the news came some time ago that he had won the Military Medal it was a source of great pleasure to those who knew him. His parents have received a sympathetic letter from his comrades, who speak in terms of warm appreciation of his character, and a letter which they have received from his Commanding Officer shows the true spirit of the lad. The officer says: - I am writing to express my deep sympathy in the loss of your son, who was killed in action on the 22nd. He has been in the Signal Section under me since 1916, and a stouter, braver, and more hard- working fellow I have never had. He was very much respected and liked by all his fellows who join me in expressing our deepest sympathy. I was with him when he earned his Military Medal, and can vouch that he thoroughly deserved it.’

At the Aylesbury Petty Sessions Court Hugh Cyril Elthringham of Wendover Dean Farm was summoned for using petrol or its substitute for purposes not authorised by the Motor Spirit (Consolidation) and Gas Restriction Order, 1918. P.S. Blane said: ‘At 3pm on Sept 4 he saw defendant at Aylesbury, driving a private motor car which contained two other persons. He stopped him and enquired for what purpose he was using his car. He replied that he had driven from his farm in Wendover to Aylesbury market. Witness asked him if he had any special business to do in Aylesbury, and he said he had not, but attended the market as a farmer. Witness asked him what time it was necessary for him to arrive and depart, and he replied that he usually arrived about 1 o’clock and left again about 3. Witness also asked if he could not accomplish the journey by rail, and he replied that he could not, as it would take up too much of his time. Supt. Wootton said that under the Order defendant was entitled to drive his car to the nearest railway station. Wendover Dean Farm was about a mile and a half from the station. A fine of £3 was imposed.’

A case of bigamy was transferred from the Petty Sessions to Bucks Assize Court in September. Ezekiel Smith (25) chain–maker, Tipton, now a 2nd A.M. in the Royal Air Force at Halton Camp, was brought up on remand, charged with bigamously marrying Ada Elizabeth Franklin, of Wendover, at High Wycombe, on March 16, his lawful wife being then alive. Sarah Ann Smith said she was married to defendant on June 2 1912 at St Matthews Church, Tipton. They lived at Chapel Street, Tipton, and there were three children by the marriage. In evidence the court heard – ‘Her husband was in the Royal Air Force at Halton Camp, and had corresponded with her regularly. William Franklin, cartage contractor, Rose and Crown Inn, Wendover, said his daughter Ada Eliza, who was 28 years of age, became acquainted with defendant last year. He visited the house, and witness knew him as a single man. Defendant married his daughter at the Registry Office, High Wycombe, on March 16, and he witnessed the marriage. Rebecca Franklin, the mother, also deposed to witnessing the marriage and signing the register. P.S. Bryant stated that he arrested defendant at Buckland Wharf, near Wendover. When he read the warrant defendant said, “I expected this. I got the girl in trouble, and did it to save her from disgrace.” Defendant was committed for trial at the Bucks Assizes. Sir Ryland Adkins, who appeared for the prosecution, said prisoner’s only excuse seemed to be that he had got the girl in trouble, and did it to save her from disgrace. His lordship said ‘There is a good deal of discussion about bigamy, but there are two very different classes of bigamy. When a man got possession of a girl by representing himself to be a single man, it was to his mind, very little removed from rape; and there was the other class, where a man who got a girl into trouble, tried at any rate, to take away the disgrace from her by marrying her, although he was a married man. Though it was none the less a serious offence, it was in his opinion, a less serious form of bigamy. Prisoner’s record and character were good, but he could not pass this over, and should sentence him to two months imprisonment. He had been in prison for one month already, and the sentence of the Court was that he should remain in prison for another month.’

George Tomlin, 22
George Tomlin, 22
E. Frank Birch, 25. Photo courtesy Phil Birch.
E. Frank Birch, 25. Photo courtesy Phil Birch.
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