Wendover Remembers, February 1917


During February 1917 two important events took place which affected the future course of the war. First, the Germans on the Western Front voluntarily withdrew from their trench positions to the highly-defended Hindenburg Line leaving an area of destruction between themselves and the French and British troops. The Germans considered the Hindenburg Line to be impregnable. Second, the Americans, already exasperated by the German U-Boat policy of unrestricted aggression, edged towards a declaration of war against Germany. In February the Zimmerman telegram fell into the hands of British Intelligence. Zimmerman was the German foreign minister who sent a telegram to his opposite number in Mexico inciting the Mexicans to attack America. The Germans believed that the Americans would then be too preoccupied to join in the war in Europe. In return Germany promised, if they won the war, to help the Mexicans to regain the territories they had lost to the Americans in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. Britain passed the telegram on to America, and it became the main reason for America’s entry into the war.

Somewhat less momentous events were taking place in Wendover. In February 1917 Sir Arthur Lee KCB, MP, of Chequers Court, Ellesborough was appointed to an important (though unpaid) government position as Director General of Food Production. He was responsible for the distribution of seed, fertilisers, feeding stuffs, machinery and labour. It was Sir Arthur who bequeathed Chequers to the nation. In the Trust Deed for the exchange of the property Sir Arthur expressed his hope that “the inducement to spend two days a week in the high and pure air of the Chilterns and woods may result in a real advantage to our nation as well as to its chosen leaders”.

On 16 February Mr Molineux, the Headmaster of the Wendover School, recorded that troops at Halton had been confined to camp because of an outbreak of “spotted fever”. Consequently, many parents were afraid to send their children to school. These fears seemed justified when on 23 February, Mr Molineux noted in the school log book the death of 14-year-old Lily Beagley who had left school the previous year. She had died of “spotted fever” which, in fact, was a form of meningitis.

Wendover was much saddened to hear of the death of Mr George Bushell who had been the headmaster of Wendover School immediately before Mr Molineux. Mr Bushell had served the school for 30 years. He played a full part in the life of Wendover being the Church organist, choir master and Sunday School superintendent. Before becoming head of the village school in 1883, Mr Bushell had run a private boarding school, the Chiltern House Academy, in Aylesbury Road.

The annual report of the Literary Institute revealed that both the use of the Institute and the profits had fallen dramatically. Several of the older members had died during the past year and many of the younger ones were away fighting for King and Country. Nevertheless, the billiard table and the Reading Room were well used by the NCOs from Halton Camp.

Written by: 36