Wendover Remembers, February 1916
The great Battle of Verdun began on 21 February 1916 when the city was shelled and the Germans captured the French frontline. Fort Douaumont fell to the Germans on 25 February. The fighting around Verdun lasted ten months and in total there were over a million casualties. Marshal Petain was given command of the defence of Verdun which was never captured by the Germans. The Royal Flying Corps formed its first single-fighter squadron (No 24) flying DH22s. At sea, the P&O liner Maloja sank after hitting a mine in the Straits of Dover. 155 died. The sloop Aribis was sunk by a German destroyer and the Harwich Force flagship, Arethusa, despatched to search for the enemy, struck a mine and sank. In Africa, German troops in Cameroon surrendered to a joint British, French and Belgian force.
In Wendover, the main business of the February Parish Council concerned a pamphlet from the Board of Agriculture which stressed the importance of food production. Counsellor Blake proposed the following resolution: “That the Council, having considered the Board of Agriculture leaflet, are of the opinion that whilst it might be desirable in many localities to adopt the suggestions contained therein, the solution of the food problem would be to a large extent solved if arrangements were made for easier and cheaper methods of transit of surplus supplies such as those invariably produced in a district like Wendover; they therefore urge the Government to take immediate steps to lower the present prohibitive railway rates, and also to arrange for the collection of surplus supplies from those persons who do not produce enough to make it worth their while to obtain a market for it”. He remarked that “the allotment holders did their best in the production of vegetables. Wendover was in the position of having grown more than the requirements, but the difficulty has been to find a profitable market for their produce. Now that the railways were under government control, they should ask them to give such facilities in the matter of transit as would ensure a better distribution of food products”. The Parish Council also considered the following letter: “Sir, As a visitor may I call the attention of the Council to their apparent indifference in protecting the locality against the visitation of Zeppelins? I observe many of the tradesmen with large out-side lamps and lighted windows. Also public lamps with light shooting upwards. Protection is better than cure. Yours, Observer”.
Three Wendover soldiers were home on leave during February. The Bucks Herald of 19 February reported that: “Pte. F Slade (RAMC) formerly deputy organist at St Mary’s Church has been home on furlough, looking remarkably fit and well. He attended the services on Sunday, taking his accustomed place in the choir. Pte F. Matthews and Pte A. Dell, also members of the RAMC, were home with him”.
The Bucks Herald of 12 February reported that Sidney Scott, landlord of the King and Queen public house, was summoned for selling brandy adulterated with water 4 degrees below the limit. In his defence Mr Scott stated: “I purchased the brandy from Messrs Gulliver of Aylesbury to the quantity of two gallons as proof spirit. I diluted it myself. I did not measure the brandy when I received it from Messrs. Gulliver. I diluted it by adding five pints of water, which I boiled first, and allowed to get cold. I did not add more”. He also stated that he took his directions from the Licensed Victuallers Hand-Book. The defendant, giving evidence on oath, said he had kept the King and Queen public house for three years and a half. He purchased a two gallon jar of brandy, and then proceeded to “break it down” by adding five pints of water. If there was excessive diluting it was certainly quite a mistake. The Chairman said: “It was evidently quite a technical offence, the justice of which would be met by the defendant paying costs 16s (inclusive of analyst’s fee) without a conviction”.