Wendover Remembers, January 1919
January 1919 saw the opening of the Peace Negotiations which were dominated by the “Big Four” – President Wilson of America, Clemenceau of France, Orlando of Italy and, of course, Lloyd George of Britain. It is noteworthy that members of the British Empire (Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and New Zealand) were present and, when eventually the Peace document was signed, they insisted that they should be among the signatories. Now that hostilities were ended the members of the British armed forces – 3.5 million in total – had one thing in their minds – to return home. As recorded below the process was slow. Frustration among the troops turned into outright disobedience and rioting. In January alone there were at least fifty mutinous acts in the British Army all related to dissatisfaction with the demobilisation arrangements.
After the Armistice was signed many employers became impatient with the delay in getting their workers home and back at the job. To get men released from the Army before their allotted time, many letters had to be written and forms completed. Locally, the Rural District Council requested that the Local Government Board agree that Mr E J Chapman, sanitary inspector for the Wendover District should be allowed to return home. The Chairman said there was a serious blockage in the drainage at Wendover, and other things that needed attention. He therefore thought they ought to make a special appeal for Mr Chapman’s release from the Army. It would cost the ratepayers a lot of money if an epidemic broke out through things not being properly looked after. He added that the housing question was a pressing one and surely the Council could ask for the return of Mr Chapman to look after housing as well as other matters. The Clerk said he had written a very strong letter and filled up three forms. It was decided to take no further action in the matter at present.
Tremendous expansion was taking place at Halton and building workers were desperately needed. On 4 January an advertisement appeared ‘Required for URGENT GOVERNMENT WORK AT THE AERODROME, HALTON PARK, 200 Joiners, 200 bricklayers, 100 pipe layers, 2,000 Navvies and Labourers, 100 Plasterers and 100 Drain Layers.’ The first hospital at Halton which opened in January 1919 was part of this project. The makeshift wooden huts of that date were replaced in 1927 by the substantial Princess Mary’s R A F Hospital, closed in 1995 and demolished in 2007.
A sign that things were getting back to pre-war routines appeared with an advertisement for a Motor Bus Service. The Bucks Herald printed –‘We understand that a reliable Motor Bus Service will shortly be resumed to Whitchurch, Waddesdon, Wendover, Thame, Tring and Leighton Buzzard. This should prove a great convenience to persons living on or near the route traversed. The Buses will provide a rapid and comfortable means of conveyance between the points named.’
The Bucks Herald in January reported that life in Wendover was returning to normal. ‘The old spirit of Christmas was revived in many family circles. Several of the men were home on leave, which added to the joy of their friends. In the early part of the week the shops made a tempting display of various commodities, and had a busy time. The principle shops closed until Saturday. On Christmas Eve children went round carol singing, and ringing of bells added to the joy of the season.’