MIDDLEWICH AND THE GREAT WAR
100 years on this project not only remembers those who fought and worked so hard for victory and peace in the “war to end all wars” but also looks to the impact that this era made such as the role of women in society, medical advancements and scientific discoveries to name a few. This project is intended to provide a reference for all who wish to know more about the Great War.
This Great Was Project will continue to collect information over the next four years. We are keen to know about Middlewich people serving in WWI and also wish to hear about today’s residents and families.
This project is collaboration between Cheshire East and Older People, Middlewich Town Council and the Middlewich Royal British Legion. The project was largely funded by Cheshire East Council with further funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Middlewich Town Council. Although this section looks at the affect of Great War as a whole it may help to appreciate why so many people were affected if we consider one of most well known battles of war:
Somme July 1st 1916
The battle of the Somme must rank as the most disastrous in the history of the British Army, the 1st of July 1916 was the day that turned no man’s land into a scene of indescribable horror and carnage.
There were 3 major faults in the British strategy to overwhelm the German forces. Firstly, a continuous bombardment of the German lines for 7 days prior to 1st July was designed to destroy the ranks of barbed wire trenches and to inflict as many losses as possible. It did neither. The wire remained intact and the German troops simply went deeper underground. Secondly, the British generals assumed that the Germans were unaware of the allied plan, in spite of the fact that over 1.5 million shells had been dropped on the German Lines followed by a series of mines being detonated totalling 30 tons of dynamite. The blowing of whistles meant that a frontal infantry attack was imminent, the several minutes gap between the shelling ceasing and the British soldiers advancing gave the German machine gunners time to scramble out of their bunkers and wait for British troops to try and get through the barbed wire. The troops had added difficulty with ground conditions after shelling and each man was carrying with him a lot of equipment. The British attacked in large numbers, they were cut down by continuous machine gun fire in a short time. No man’s land became an area of the dead, dying, partially and seriously wounded men. It was impossible to rescue them during the day, and the wounded men that could move raised their rifles in the air, this was seen by the German snipers and they began to pick them off at will. 57,470 British soldiers died on 1st July 1916 alone.
The Battle of the Somme continued until 18th Nov by which time both sides had lost a combined total of 1 million including 300,000 killed. Of the British Troops, 72,000 including our allies were lost without trace and commemorated on the Theipual memorial. The saying that “War is for the purpose of killing people” was certainly achieved from 1st July to 18th November 1916.
This list is not just the fallen but also those who were prisoner’s of war, or on the honours list and the roll of serving men from Middlewich.
“I congratulate Middlewich on it’s substantial contribution to Military Forces”,
Lord Kitchener, F.M.
God grant us through all times such souls as these,
Who know no fear, who seek no meed of praise.
E.H. Fernie, Chaplain, Australian Forces (formerly of Middlewich Parish Church)
What has Britain done?
On every front the flag unfurled,
Fought a world-war round the world.
F.B. Hodgins, New York Herald.
Following the outbreak of war in August 1914, the British Red Cross formed the Joint War Committee with the Order of St John to pool fundraising activity and resources and work together under the protective emblem of the Red Cross.
Members of the British Red Cross and the Order of St John were organised into Voluntary Aid Detachments. The term VAD was also used for an individual member as well as a detachment. All members were trained in first aid and some undertook training in nursing, cookery and hygiene and sanitation.
Throughout the war VADs worked in hospitals, convalescent homes, rest stations, packing centres, medical supply depots and work parties. The Joint War Committee organised the volunteers alongside technical and professional staff. It also supplied the machinery and mechanisms to provide these services in Britain and in the conflict areas of Europe, the Middle East, Russia and East Africa.
VOLUNTARY AID DETACHMENTS
1909 SCHEME FOR THE ORGANISATION OF VOLUNTARY AID IN ENGLAND AND WALES
The scheme for the organisation of voluntary aid in England and Wales defined the British Red Cross’ role in assisting the government in wartime by providing supplementary aid to the territorial medical service was granted on 16 August 1909. A similar scheme for Scotland followed in December 1909.
WHY WAS IT NEEDED?
The Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907 reformed the reserve forces of the British Army by transferring existing volunteer and yeomanry units into a new territorial force and by redesignating units as part of the Army Reserve.
Part 1 of the act defined the position of the county Branches of the British Red Cross, to work with their respective county territorial associations. The scheme laid down the terms by which the organisation would work with the Territorial Army.
WHO WAS INVOLVED?
The executive committee appointed a small committee to consider the situation with the director-general of the Army Medical Service. The executive committee sent a copy of the scheme to every president, vice-president, honorary secretary and committee member of each county Branch. Colonel Sir James Magill was appointed organizing secretary.
WHAT HAPPENED AS A RESULT OF THE SCHEME?
As a result of the scheme, the Red Cross organised voluntary aid detachments (VADs), made up of men and women, in every county to carry out transport duties and staff rest stations and hospitals.
The Red Cross selected suitable buildings for general hospitals, prepared schedules of equipment for the hospitals and submitted schemes to establish auxiliary hospitals and convalescent homes for wounded servicemen.
Each county Branch appointed a county director to be in charge of raising detachments. All VAD members were to be trained in first aid and nursing through St John Ambulance Association. Volunteers were also trained to make use of local resources to improvise stretchers and other methods of transport, and to convert local buildings into shelters and rest stations for the sick and wounded. By October 1910, 202 detachments had been registered with over six thousand volunteers.
An amended scheme was published in December 1910, which gave county associations authority to employ other means of raising detachments, including registering with the St John Ambulance Brigade and St John Ambulance Association units. A few territorial force association detachments were also raised.
In March 1911, a sub-committee recommended uniforms which would readily distinguish the wearers as belonging to the Red Cross detachments, but which would not appear to be too military.
Membership of the Detachments grew still further on the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. The British Red Cross and the Order of St John, a body that was also empowered to raise detachments under the War Office Voluntary Aid Scheme, combined to form the Joint War Committee. This Committee administered the joint wartime fundraising and relief work with the greatest possible efficiency and economy, under the protection of the Red Cross emblem and name.
During the First World War the Joint War Committee administered over 3000 auxiliary convalescent hospitals in Britain staffed by local Voluntary Aid Detachments. As the war progressed and more men were called up for military service, female VADs took on new roles including ambulance drivers, cooks, clerical workers and telephonists.
A further revised scheme was issued in 1923. Detachments could again consist of men or women, but the service was to be of two kinds:
> mobile – where on mobilisation members would be expected to go wherever their services were needed
> immobile – where they would carry out their duties from their own homes.
The Voluntary Aid Detachments formed part of the Technical Reserve of the Forces of the Crown.
In addition, British Red Cross detachments were raised and trained to accommodate those wanted to help but who could not give the commitment required by membership of the Voluntary Aid Detachments. The Red Cross detachments were intended to provide and replenish the personnel of the Voluntary Aid Detachments, to supply a reserve in time of emergency and to carry out the duties of a National Red Cross Society.
VADs continued to be at the core of voluntary services until the reorganisation of the Red Cross in 1984.
This article features staff records cards from Ravenscroft Hall when it was a Red Cross Hospital Annexe. Thumbnail images of the cards are shown below. To view full size just click on the thumbnail image.
Prior to the Middlewich Town Council Great War heritage event on the 4th and 5th October 2014 we challenged the Middlewich community to think of acts of commemoration of the Great War and its era through research, workshops and networking. Documents such as the Roll of Honour, minute books of the schools, MUDC documents, papers relating to families, newspapers and war records of the Red Cross have been utilised. Middlewich Schools, community groups, churches and residents alike to explored and researched this important era and brought it all together for the event.
This section looks at the research and many of event preparations that took place.The Project was launched in October 2013 at Middlewich High School and featured:
- The mayors Speech
- The HLF Successful bid – press release
- The Project breakdown – chart
- Followed by publicity material
Willowmere is a residential development for older people in Middlewich, it provides care and assisted Living but also has excellent community facilities. The theme was taken up by staff at Willowmere who put on a WWI day for their residents. They invited residents to bring items and photos etc. for a display that was put up in the foyer, and talk about their families’ role in the war effort. Many had followed their parents into war, so had knowledge first hand of the Great War and had to then do their ‘bit’ only a few years later. In the afternoon a High Tea took place with Music Hall entertainment by the Buttered Muffins.
Thank you to the team at Willowmere for allowing me to scan the pictures the residents brought to show us and to Mr and Mrs Taylor who gave permission for me to interview them.
SONGS & POEMS
Charlotte Peters – Rock, a Cheshire poet-performer and songwriter- singer, produced songs and poems based on her research both locally and nationally. Charlotte attended some previous events to get inspiration for her work, which is not only written but performed. Here are some examples of her work.
We look back now along the years
To where the century is met
And see – we think we understand
The hope – the loss – the grief – the tears
But we don’t understand it yet
We find the photographs we kept
When granddad or great-granddad died
We look – and think we understand
The bleakness where our forebears stepped
Look through – and don’t be satisfied
We need to find the single fact
To set in its own history
Not cease – until we understand
Struck down by one act that we lacked
Make life from then return to be
Electric – strong – our right and will
Compares in no small part to then
Yet minds – caught up – can’t understand
How young men then were brought to kill
And – fatalist – were dying when
With carnal screams the mortars rained
To slaughter bloodied – buried – boys
In death they did not understand
In life they did as they were trained
Those little men they used as toys.
1914 – The Pals
– A WWI soldier visits the primary schools complete with his kit ready to fight. Scott Knowles brings with him a special show and tell about what regiment he was in, the kit he is issued with and what it was like for some of the soldiers going to the trenches. A Unique look at the ‘tommy’ which allows the children to explore objects and the tommy questions about his life in the trenches.
Sewing and costumes – Research and a workshop on WWI outfits for events, lookied at sewing patterns of the day and the knitting patterns the local women of the time used to use for comforts for the troops. We also charity shopped and altered clothes for effect.Fabulous work by the Knit and Natter Group in Middlewich, who not only helped with costumes but made a whole display based on the work of the Red Cross for the October event.
EXAMPLES OF CLOTHING STYLES FOR 1900 – 1920
A few ideas for you to try for the Middlewich Great War Weekend, lots more options can be seen online! Children tended to be dressed as little adults, their own fashion started in the 1920’s, women started to wear more tailored clothes and the fuller dress and corset went into decline.
EXAMPLES OF CLOTHING STYLES FOR EARLY 1900S
Clothing in the early 1900s had styles all of their own. Styles of that period were researched to encourage people to dress in contemporary styles for the Great War Weekend.
This informative document from Tesco shows how the shortages affected the local population. Household budgets had to to be re-evaluated and this showed in some of the recipes that resulted, examples of which can found in the WWI recipes section.
The shortage of labour in farming and transport saw people turning to providing their own food but resulted varied from town and ciuntry. Price controls on staple foodstuffs resulted and the government launched a series of propaganda notices about managing food stocks and recipes, that for the first time, altered the way people used various ingredients. Two of our interpretation boards ‘Middlewich & The Great war’ and ‘Agriculture and Horticulture’ show examples of this and how people coped.
Examples of Great War recipes are shown below.
The Middlewich Town Council Great War heritage event took place on the 4th and 5th October 2014. We challenged the Middlewich community to think of acts of commemoration of the Great War and its era through research, workshops and networking. Documents such as the Roll of Honour, minute books of the schools, MUDC documents, papers relating to families, newspapers and war records of the Red Cross have all been utilised. Middlewich Schools, community groups, churches and residents alike explored and researched this important era and brought it all together for the event.
The images are all of the October weekend itself, we are hoping to collect more, so if you visited us over the weekend and have photographs plus some feedback about what you thought of the event, we’d like to hear from you. Thank you in advance.
The event was supported with commemorative service and parade, contemporary entertainment, re-enactments and period costume worn by entertainers and public alike.
Middlewich Town Council & Middlewich Heritage are highly appreciative of the efforts made by so many people and as the press release below shows, the project goes on way beyond the Great War Weekend:
Mayor’s Parade and Service
Northwich ATC Band lead out the mayors parade on Sunday morning starting from the Civic Hall and moving on to the Bullring to lay a wreath, They then lead the parade back to the Hall for a special service, drama performance and much more!
The parade was bigger this year with many of our groups and star attractions taking part, our Middlewich Rose Queen was one of the guests of honour attending the parade with the new Winsford Salt Queen. Our queens,as per tradition, were taken on the parade by our visitors Arclid shires and Clydesdale’s!
THE FINISHED INTERPRETATION BOARDS
This section shows the Interpretation boards that were on display at the Middlewich and Great War Weekend and formed part of the Winsford Salt Fair through our Towns Partnership between Winsford Town Council and Middlewich Town Council.
For our Event we wanted to collect together information on how Middlewich Urban District Council dealt with the Great War and the impact it made on our community. Stories of bravery, ground-breaking discoveries, the hard work on the ‘home front’ and the long-term problems the war caused for families and employment.
The six ‘main’ boards are the Middlewich view of the war and for this I am very thankful for all the hard work done by local historian Allan Earl for pulling all his research together. Editing these was a joy so forgive me for trying to keep as much information as I could on the boards! Together with designer Irene Inman we sought to keep the design of the WWI newspaper to relate the information.
Many thanks also go to Cheshire Libraries for their help in supplying the local newspapers on micro-film; these again form a good research platform and do contain many images, stories and reports of the local men. Other thanks go out to Cheshire Archives and Local Studies for their guidance and access to MUDC documents.
For the individual boards these were done in a different way, I wanted the design to stand out more as they were placed at other sites over the weekend and have individual information regarding the Waterways, Agriculture & Horticulture and Food.
The Winsford and Middlewich Boards were a shared venture which explored the ties between our two townships and the effects of the Great War on our shared trades. The townships have been growing from different settlement reasons over different time periods but both became important Market Towns. We share a Salt History and trading background and both built on the idea of using an American Pageant to help revitalise industries affected by the Great War, here is the story…
‘LINDSAY’ ON A MISSION
A special boat was at Canal Terrace ‘Lindsay’ the old working British Waterways narrow-boat came over with her volunteers from the Etruria Boat Group and crafters from the Nimble fingers. ‘Lindsay’ is also on a special mission to raise money to restore the historic sister boat ‘Keppel’.
WEEKEND PHOTOGRAPHS AROUND TOWN
As well as a variety of other atractions around the town Tony and Sandra Bull of Arclid Shires and Clydales were there on the 4th and 5th with two of their fabulous horses and a reproduction carriage which can take 3 people. A competition resulted in the winners being rewarded with a ride in the carriage around Middlewich over the weekend.
This section looks at Middlewich in a wider context, what was the town like on the run up to war? The selection of pictures and maps relate to how the town looked from around the 1900’s, the familiar background which was home to the many that served their country.
Middlewich Urban District Council was the local authority in control. Before 1974 and the creation of the Borough Councils, Middlewich U.D.C was largely responsible for the management of the Town. There exists many letters, documents and other primary sources which tell the story of the response to the Great War and its role within it.
Postcards and telegrams were the main routes of communication and highlight the struggles and affections of those involved in the War effort.
During the war there were many newspaper or booklet publications. Some of the publications were in aid of various funds such as the British Red Cross.
A good resource spot for General information and overview of the town at war is via a book ‘Middlewich 1900-1950’ by Allan L Earl.
This section contains WW1 media that does not directly to Middlewich but is nationally relevant to the period.
A wide range of topics were covered including public information, recruiting, appeals and news reporting together with a good deal of humour.
Postcards featured heavily as a means of keeping in touch and delivering a pictorial message to the recipient.
FROM THE FRONT
When you come home
THE BATTLE FIELD & NEWSPAPERS
More Fragments from France:
Boulogne Base Agricultural Show and Fete 1918:
Art & photos