Wendover Remembers, December 1918
The signing of the Armistice on 11 November 1918 was only the first step in tightening the grip of the Allies on Germany. British, American and French forces advanced to the Rhine. The British took possession of the Cologne bridgehead; American forces occupied Coblenz; and the French held the area around Frankfurt. The Armistice brought an end to hostilities, but it did not mean that the war was over. Until a Peace Treaty was signed there was always the chance that fighting might break out once more. The German troops had retreated back to their depots still carrying their rifles. They had been greeted as heroes and garlanded with flowers. President Wilson of the United States arrived in Paris for the Peace negotiations. In Britain the Prime Minister, Lloyd George, decided to consolidate his position by holding a General Election – the first for eight years – and his Coalition Party of Conservatives and Liberals won a landslide victory.
In Wendover, the Parish Council met to consider the best way to celebrate the signing of the Armistice “in a manner worthy of the town.” Several members put forth ideas and comments. Mr James Tarry of the Swan Inn, High Street said that he was present at a dinner given on the conclusion of the Crimean War and should appreciate attending a similar function on this occasion. The chairman quite favoured some sort of village banquet when the men of Wendover returned but also wished to consider a more permanent memorial and the erection of a parish hall had been suggested. He said ‘The idea of a village hall had been discussed in 1911 but had found little support. Now, however, things had altered very much in the Wendover district as Halton had become a permanent camp, and they hardly knew yet whether it would be on the lines of Aldershot or Sandhurst, or become a large industrial concern for the manufacture of aeroplanes. Whatever happened it would have a direct effect upon Wendover and it would become a much more important place than hitherto.’ The town didn’t get its Memorial Hall until 1957. However, the YMCA hut, so important to local soldiers during the war as a social centre, was moved from the School yard to Bryant’s Acre and served as a meeting place and dance hall known as ‘The Sweat Box’. In addition there was a proposal that there should be a permanent record of the names of the men who had been killed displayed in the Parish Church and that the eight men who won honours should be commemorated in some way.
The General Election was held almost immediately after the Armistice on 14 December 1918. This was the first time most women over 30 and all men over 21 were able to vote but for many their votes counted for little as several sitting Coalition MPs were returned unopposed. Major Lionel Nathan de Rothschild who had inherited the Halton Estate from his Uncle in 1918 and later sold it to the Government was one such candidate nominated as Member of Parliament to represent the Mid Bucks Division (Aylesbury). The Bucks Herald of the 7 December reported a ‘lively’ meeting in Wendover when Major Rothschild did face some opposition. A member of the audience complained at the lack of employment for discharged soldiers. The reply “that any man who was worth his salt had been able to find work during the last year or two” was received with noisy hostility, whereupon Major Rothschild undertook to investigate any case brought to his notice in Mid Bucks. He also dealt with the question of the nationalisation of the railways and licensing reform. Mr Molineux, the school headmaster asked if he would support bringing licensed houses more into line with the café system as on the Continent. Major Rothschild said “he was glad of the opportunity of stating that although much had been done for the temperance during the war, there still remained much to be done. The best system undoubtedly was to so reform the public house as to make it a suitable place where men might take their wives and families for a meal and some good beer. (Applause) They did not want the bar, the gin palace, and the misery associated with them. He thought by working out proper reforms we should be able to be as sober in peace times as we had been during the war. (Applause)”
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