Wendover Remembers, March 1918

Bolshevik Russia signed the Treaty of Brest Litovsk with the Central Powers. The terms were punitive. Russia was obliged to give up a million square miles of territory including most of its oil, coal and iron-ore producing areas. It lost a third of its population. Effectively, Russia was out of the war and this enabled Germany to transfer 900,000 of its best troops from the Eastern Front to the West. The Germans now took the opportunity to launch their massive Spring offensive, the Kaiserschlacht, against the British and French lines. The Germans advanced 40 miles and threatened the important rail centre of Amiens.

Two men from Wendover were killed during the fighting in France. Private (Acting Lance Corporal) Mark Simmons of the 2nd/4th Ox & Bucks Light Infantry was killed on 21 March 1918 aged 36 years. Mark was the son of Thomas and Phoebe Simmons and at the time of the 1911 census was living with his wife and children, Ada, Arthur and Mark in Clay Lane. It was almost a year before the family had definite news of his fate. The Wendover News in December 1918 stated “Mark Simmons, missing.”

Private William Birch of the 5th Battalion Ox & Bucks Light infantry was killed on the 23 March 1918 aged 28. William was the son of Mrs Harriet Birch of 4 Tring Road, Wendover. In October 1917 the Wendover News stated that Birch had come through his fifteenth action safely but reported him missing in the December 1918 edition.

Members of the Aylesbury and District National Farmers Union discussed the problem of high wages paid by government contractors and munitions factories enticing farm workers away from the land. At a time when the Government required farmers to put more land under cultivation extra labour was needed. Locally many men and boys were induced to take up work at Halton and Wycombe where pay was as much as £3 per week as opposed to only 25-30 shillings per week for work on the land.

The School Log Book records many hours spent gardening. On March 1st the 8th and again on the 15th, eight hours were occupied digging in the Herron Path plot and on March 22nd “extra gardening lessons have been given this week in preparing the Tring Road garden for cropping.” The school was certainly doing its bit to feed the country.

A report in the Bucks Herald of March 9th published the case of sixteen year old Henry Nash who came before the court to answer a charge of receiving 12lbs of beef knowing it to have been stolen. Henry worked for Mr Purssell of Small Dean Farm and for over two years fetched swill from the camp. On the occasion of this visit one of the cooks at the camp produced the beef and said “here’s a bit of meat for you”. He did not think the meat had been stolen and put it under the seat of the cart as “if he had put it with the swill it would have been spoilt.” In the Tring Road the Military Police searched the cart, found the meat and returned Henry to the camp where he identified the man who had given it to him. Both men were handed over to the civil police. Wood, the cook admitted the offence but Nash pleaded not guilty. Nash said he had been in Mr Purssell’s employment for 10 years and when Mr Purssell was ill for 3 years he had managed the farm. He could neither read nor write as he went to work when he was seven years old. Mr Purssell gave Nash a good character, saying he had never found him anything but honest and trustworthy, He had never been educated, and did not understand or realise the seriousness of things. Nash was fined £10 or two months hard labour in prison, Wood, the cook had to serve two months in prison with hard labour.

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