This page has contributions from Gordon Roberts who has gathered information from various historical sources and local newspapers.
The 1918 influenza pandemic was the most severe pandemic in modern times. It was caused by a virus with genes of avian history. There is no universal consensus regarding where the virus started unlike today’s coronavirus which everyone knows started in China. It is estimated that about 500 million people, or one third of the world’s population became infected. There was no vaccine to protect against influenza infection and no antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infection. Control efforts were limited to non-pharmaceutical interventions such as isolation and limitation on public gatherings.
The mortality rate was very high particularly among the British soldiers, who having being badly injured in many cases, then succumbed to the flu outbreak. One such soldier was a member of the Sankey family of Kingsland, who was sent home to recover from his wounds only to fall victim of the influenza virus. The rules which applied in 1918 are just the same today in tackling the coronavirus but we also now have antibiotics and many more “strings to our bow” The writer finds himself being in the most vulnerable age group and threatened with four months of isolation, This will cause huge problems for those caught in the trap but we can always sneak out in the early hours for some fresh air, exercise and shopping at the all-night supermarket.
THE HORRORS OF WAR. REPORTS AND LETTERS FROM THE LEOMINSTER NEWS
A FOLLOW UP TO THE PREVIOUS ARTICLE ON THE FIRST WORLD WAR
The following is the gist of a letter from a local soldier serving with the First Battalion of the Herefords in the Dardenelles but in hospital in Malta recovering from enteric fever and dysentry. It was written in October 1915.
When we arrived at Sulva Bay, we went into action the same day and the Herefords advanced under heavy fire of shells, machine guns, snipers and shrapnel etc. It was wonderful how the boys advanced as if they were used to that sort of thing. The County can rely on the Regiment doing its very best to crush Mr. Turk. I suppose you have already heard of the bad conditions in Gallipoli, especially the bad drinking water. We have to rely on mules to transport our provisions. There is no cover on the beach which is shelled regularly. I was lucky not to have got knocked out many times. The tablets to purify the water are awful and even worse than those the doctors give you, but because of the bad water, enteric fever and dysentry are prevalent and I have had my share in this respect.
I was sent to hospital in Malta where I have had good treatment and am pleased to say that I am getting in the pink again and am due to leave here for a convalescent home before coming bank to England on furlough. We have had to dig wells a few feet deep, but the snipers were painted to look like leaves and were forever shooting at us. I think the people back home would hardly care to wash their hands in the water we have as drinking water. We were all sorry to lose our old Colonel Sir Arthur Croft, but he was a brave man and would not send anyone where he would not go himself. He died a hero in a good cause.
I remember him giving commands on the day he died. We had left our trench to fall in at daybreak when the naval guns stating bombing the Turkish defences. Our Captain kept shouting “come on B company” we are losing the advantage of this firing. He gave us an order to advance in extended order and rush the enemy’s lines, but we little thought we would lose our dear leader.
The following is the gist of a letter from another local soldier serving at the front with the 5th Shropshire Light Infantry in France also in October 1915.
We have returned from the trenches having had a cruel time. We were only in for 48 hours this time, but it seemed like weeks. The facts are that on Saturday morning at 4’clock, we attacked the Germans trenches It seems that the Germans had got to know that our attack was going to happen, and had massed the Bavarians and Prussians in front of us and they are some of their biggest fighters. We lost a good many officers and men and the Germans started a counter attack with liquid fire and sulphur. The slaughter was terrible and I thank God that I am alive. When the Germans were attacking, our telephones were cut by their shells and orderlies had to carry the despatches by hand. All our orderlies had gone however, and there was no one left to get a message through for reinforcements.
I was acting as the Co’s orderly and had to stay with him but was anxious to take the message and at last they let me go. I ran all along the trenches and had to get over heaps of dead, dying and wounded. It was a terrible ordeal. Shells were bursting all around and I was hit in the back by a piece of shell which rebounded off the side of the trench. It left a nasty bruise but I got through and delivered the message. An officer from another regiment said I deserved the Victoria Cross, but there were thousands of brave deeds, some of which did deserve VC’s or DCM’s but there were no officers to report them. We have four officers left with us out of twenty. Evans is wounded in the hand and Culley in the abdomen. He was left on the field but crawled back to our lines and made his way to the dressing station. Poor chap, he suffered terribly and was congratulated by the doctor for his pluck. We are now back at the rest camp.
The following is a letter published on 17th December 1915 of a tragedy in the Dardenelles.
We deeply regret to inform you that unofficial reports have been received to the effect that Lance Corporal H. L. Watkins who went to the Dardenelles with the First Herefords was frozen to death on the morning of 28th November. According to this letter written by Private Bridge, the terrible weather was experienced from the 26th to the 30th of the month. On the first night the men spent the night up to their knees in water. On the night of the 27th, it appears that the battalion left the trenches and it began to snow and rain and freeze. All the blankets were were wet and some of the poor fellows had no coat to wear as the water had washed them away. Private Bridge relates how he and others became separated from the Battalion spending the night in the open with the result that they suffered from frostbite.
He goes on to say that he himself is in hospital in Malta and says that when he enquired about Harry Watkins, he heard that he had been found on the Sunday morning frozen to death. He adds that he could hardly believe it but several others confirmed that it was right. It will be a great shock to his folks back home. Deepest sympathy will be felt by the whole of Leominster and the district and by his father Councillor John Watkins and and his family. It will be recalled that Lance Corporal Watkins joined the First Herefords just before the outbreak of war and when the Battalion was mobilised and sent to the Dardenelles, he endured and survived the terrible landing at Sulva Bay and the subsequent hardships. He was twenty-five years of age and was a member of the choir and Sunday School of the Leominster Primitive Methodist Church.
His family received official confirmation of his death on Christmas Day
THE HEREFORD LIGHT INFANTRY AND THE FIRST WORLD WAR
The outbreak of war in August 1914 set in train a vast recruitment effort to bring Lord Kitchener’s Army up to 500,000 men, but that, so it proved was just for starters. Recruitment meetings were held in all the villages of North Herefordshire. On Sunday 7th September 1914, such a meeting was held at the Croase chaired by Mr Longford of Waterloo Mill and attended by other grandees of the village such as Dr. Williams, Mr. R.H. George. Alderman Nock, Mr. C. Price, Mr. C. Nock and also Mr.C.H. Harvey of Leominster. The speaker was Colonel Scobie, the recruiting officer for the area who must have been man of considerable passion, persuasion and patriotism. Also present was 2nd Lt F. Leather whose task it was to recruit 427 men for the Headquarters Company of the Army Service Corps as part of the Welsh Division. He was particularly interested in men who were comfortable working with horses or had other rural skills such as blacksmiths, farriers, saddlery and harness makers and wheelwrights. At the end of the meeting thirteen young men signed up including two of my uncles, Arthur Watts aged twenty-one and his brother James Watts aged nineteen. They both became farriers and survived the war to tell the tale but it was something they never talked about.
After a period of training, the men who joined the Army Service Corps were ready for deployment overseas which usually meant the battle front in France and Belgium. Fortunately, most of them served behind the front lines of battle although some had the arduous and dangerous mission moving equipment and ammunition to the front often through the night without any light to guide them. Those recruits who did not join the Army Service Corps usually joined the county regiment, the Hereford Light Infantry and in particular, the First Battalion, which was an entirely different “kettle of fish”. During a long period of training at places such as Aberystwyth and Northampton, the battalion’s strength reached the required size of 967 men and 27 officers and by this time they were properly equipped for battle. Meanwhile in the Spring of 1915, the ill-fated Dardenelles campaign was started on the Gallipoli Peninsular. Britain, France and Russia sought to weaken the Ottoman Empire by taking control of the Straits so that the supply route to Russia would not be jeopardised A naval bombardment of the Turkish defences started in March 1915 but this proved to be inadequate and ineffective.
In April 1915, an amphibious landing took place by British, and also Australian and New Zealand troops who had been diverted to Gallipoli from their intended destination, the Western Front. They met very stiff resistance from the Turks and the casualties were very high indeed and many deaths from dysentery and enteric fever followed later. This had a huge impact on the Australian and New Zealand people which eventually brought about ANZAC day, a commemoration of the the sacrifice made by so many young men and which is still solemnly honoured today. The First Battalion of the Herefords, now properly equipped and trained were sent as reinforcements to the Dardenelles and landed at Sulva Bay on 9th August 1915. With the Turkish Army on the cliffs above the landing beach, the soldiers were subjected to murderous fire even before they had disembarked. Within three days, nine of their officers had been killed or wounded including the Battalion’s Commanding Officer and Adjutant However the Battalion fought bravely on under very formidable conditions of extreme weather, plagues of flies and other insects, unsanitary conditions, water shortages and poor food.
After eight months, the campaign was abandoned and defeat or at least a stalemate had to be accepted with Winston Churchill having to take much of the blame. As a result he resigned from the Government and joined the Army to fight in France. During the course of their war in the Dardenelles, many letters were sent by the soldiers to their families, often from hospital beds in Malta. Examples to follow later.
ANOTHER OF MR SANKEY’S OUTINGS.
Mr C. Sankey would appear to have been the Kingsland Travel Agent of 100 years ago In September 1921, he organised an outing for the Church Choir to Worcester, their first outing since the start of the Great War. They left Kingsland at 6.30am and had breakfast in Worcester before visiting the porcelain works. Afterwards, there was a trip by steamer to Stourport on Severn where they had dinner, and then tea on the return journey, arriving back in Kingsland just before 10.00pm. One year later, in September 1922 the outing was a little more ambitious when Gloucester was the destination. Once again, the Leominster News of 22nd September 1922, gives a very graphic and enjoyable account of the outing as follows.
“The members of the Kingsland Church Choir spent a full and happy day on occasion of their annual outing. The programme, which included a charabanc trip to Gloucester and a steamer trip from Gloucester to Tewkesbury, had been planned by the Secretary Mr C. Sankey in his able and efficient manner, and thanks to his excellent arrangements, the trip passed off in the most pleasing manner possible. The party numbering twenty-three, assembled at the Rectory at 6.00am and a few minutes after the hour, left in Messrs. Bird’s charabanc passing through Leominster and England’s Gate to Gloucester, Here the party halted at the Monico Hotel, where the proprietress Mrs Baldwin had prepared a substantial breakfast. Fortified for a round of sightseeing, the members of the choir proceeded to the Cathedral and enjoyed a guide to take them all over the magnificent pile of buildings.
The tour proved full of interest at every point and occupied two hours. After a visit to the museum, the docks and other spots of interest, a return was made to the hotel at 2.00pm when all partook in an excellent dinner. After lunch Miss Jobling proposed a vote of thanks to Mr Sankey for the admirable way he had got up the trip. She remarked that he had had full charge of the arrangements and the success of the outing was largely due to his efforts. Mr Sankey replied that this was the 21st trip he had arranged for the Kingsland Church Choir. He welcomed Mrs Hamlen-Williams and said she would be able to explain to her husband how the money had been spent and what a great amount of enjoyment had been given.
At three o’clock, the party boarded Mr. Bathhurst’s steamer “The King” accommodating one hundred and ninety passengers, and had an enjoyable trip on the river to Tewkesbury. The weather was ideal and the sun sufficiently powerful to make a trip on the river thoroughly enjoyable. At Tewkesbury, the Abbey and other parts of the delightful old town were visited. The return journey on the Severn commenced at 6.00pm with Gloucester being reached at 8.00pm. Here a good tea was enjoyed after which the return journey was commenced, Kingsland being reached just before midnight with the party giving three cheers for Mr. Sankey. The trip was rated to be one of the most enjoyable the choir have ever had, everyone young and old enjoying themselves to the full The Secretary would like to convey the thanks of the Choir to the parishioners on Kingsland for their generous support”.
THE ENGLISH CUP 1922
The following article appeared in the Leominster News of May 5th 1922 under the heading EXPERIENCES IN THE METROPOLIS.
The excursion from Kingsland to witness the final of the English Cup proved to be a great success and we are indebted to a member of the party for the following account of the trip which commenced at Kingsland Station on the morning of Saturday 29th April 1922. Kingsland Life readers once they have read this article, might well think that the writer has chosen his words carefully leaving much to the imagination.
“Only those who have taken part in such a trip can realise with what pleasure a party of forty, all happy, cheerful, smiling folks, set out from the village of Kingsland to see the final of the English Cup at Stamford Bridge, London. The trip had been arranged in connection with the Kingsland Football Club. and everyone was in full anticipation, knowing that the splendid programme had been left in the capable hands of Mr. C. Sankey, who was Secretary for the excursion, and all would be well carried out.
The party left Kingsland Station by special train at 4.40am, in an engaged corridor coach, every care been taken to provide “light refreshments” as the journey was a long one. The morning was cold, but during the journey the sun came out, making the country look its best and Paddington was reached at about 9.30am. Two large charabancs were already waiting to convey the party to Lyons Corner House where a sumptuous breakfast was waiting. One of the party was seen conveying a large jar on his shoulder along the platform containing —————? and later we read the description of him in the London newspapers. After breakfast, the charabancs returned and the party enjoyed a two hours ride through all the principal thoroughfares in London, returning again to the hotel for lunch.
After lunch, the party started out for Stamford Bridge which was a sight never to be forgotten. Teeming crowds, vehicles of every description rushing along all with the same object in view to see “The great match of the season”. In the hustling and pushing, our party got dispersed but got together again later to our starting point. All were refreshed with tea and music, afterwards visiting the various theatres and places of amusement. Our thoughts then turned to the one we had left behind at Stamford Bridge, having lost his way. But being a bright lad, he made many enquiries and got back to Trafalgar Square, having remembered the lions he had seen there in the morning. Here he asked a friendly policeman “had he seen Mr. Sankey? or could he tell him where them Kingsland folk had dinner. This resulted in the policeman putting him on the tube and sending him to Paddington to await the arrival off his friends.
The party left Paddington at 12.45am arriving at Kingsland at 5.45am after spending a day which will not be forgotten by anyone who was fortunate enough to be one of the party”.
THE AERIAL RAILWAY
It’s very unlikely that there is anyone in Kingsland who can remember the aerial railway which conveyed timber to Kingsland station. My father often talked about it which filled my mind with all kinds of images of long pieces of sawn wood or even tree trunks dangling from a wire rope and swinging crazily above my head. It wasn’t quite like that as the following extracts from the Leominster News will confirm.
The Leominster News dated 14th February 1919 reports “that considerable progress is being made on the construction of the aerial railway which is intended to convey timber from Shobdon Wood to Kingsland station. The iron standards which will carry the wire rope have already been erected for some distance. A number of men have been engaged in putting in additional sidings at Kingsland station. One set of rails is ready for use and a second siding is nearing completion. Some four months later, the Leominster News reports that the aerial railway which has been constructed from Lye Pole to Kingsland railway station for the purpose of conveying timber was used for the first time on Thursday 13th June 1919. Unfortunately, things didn’t go according to plan and a loaded cradle had arrived at the station when the overhead cable broke. The cable descended with considerable force and struck an onlooker, breaking his leg. Others who were assisting or watching the trial of the new railway, had narrow escapes”.
Two weeks later, however, the Leominster News reports on 27th June 1919 “the aerial railway from Lye Pole to Kingsland station is now working in a satisfactory manner after the unfortunate accident which was due to the snapping of a coupling in the cable. Captain E D Williams is now the officer in charge. The distance from Lye Pole to Kingsland is three and a half miles, so that there are seven miles of continuous cable. The railway is not working at full capacity at present but is delivering one hundred tons of wood a day to the station. The railway runs at four miles an hour and the fall between Lye Pole and the station is one hundred feet”.
The timber was then carried away by train to be used as pit props. I have no record of how long the aerial railway remained in use, but the advent of motor vehicles probably made it inefficient and redundant.
NB – if anyone has an old photo of this we would be very grateful! Please let us know via the Contact Us page.
CHRISTMAS 100 YEARS AGO
Kingsland must have been a rather sad place at Christmas 1918 as were the other villages in the area. So many young men had been killed in the war, and of those that did return including my uncles Arthur Watts and James Watts, many were in poor health due to battle wounds, effects of gas warfare, malnutrition and maltreatment as prisoners of war, influenza and what was known in those days as shell shock. Some had still not received their release from the Army, but none-the-less, the Leominster shopkeepers were trying to make the best of it, and were advertising in the local paper, special products for Christmas. Wholesalers were seeking to buy mistletoe, and holly with berries one of whom was Sullivans of Lincoln House near the Crifftins. They were also dealers in fruit and I am reminded that they would buy the damsons from our orchard every year. After picking, we would put them into wooden crates and take them the short distance in a wheelbarrow.
There was a dance at the Croase Room on Boxing Day, in aid of the Fire Brigade Fund with dancing from 8.00pm until the unearthly hour of 3.00am. What stamina people had in those days. A grand sum of three pounds was raised and tickets cost one shilling and sixpence each. This was followed by a Cinderella Dance at New Year with dancing only until midnight. Tickets were one shilling. On the 14th December, the men of Kingsland would have gone to the polling stations to vote in a new government, but the ladies would have stayed at home because they were not allowed to vote. This changed in 1920, and women were then eligible to vote if they were over thirty years of age. The coalition government of David Lloyd-George swept to power for another term. It is interesting to compare this with what happened after the Second World War, when Winston Churchill was unceremoniously rejected.
The successful candidate for North Herefordshire was Major Charles Ward-Jackson who lived at Street Court. Even in 1918, “spin” and “fake news” were features of the election campaign, and Ward-Jackson had to rigorously defend his war record and also that he had no investments in Germany and his wife’s nationality which some said was also German. However, he and his wife threw themselves wholeheartedly in into village life and gave generously to various causes. However, he remained Member of Parliament for North Herefordshire only until the next election when he won the seat of Harrow in Middlesex, taking over from the notorious Sir Oswald Mosley.
Strangely, but very sadly, three people who had given valuable service to the village, died during the Christmas and New Year period of 1918/1919. Firstly the village bobby, Police Constable Roberts died very sudddenly aged just thirty-six years of age and was married with two children. He had been stationed at Kingsland for only six months. He was reported to have been in the best of health, but after being on point duty in Leominster, he apparently caught a cold, which rapidly developed into pneumonia, from which he failed to recover. His funeral took place at the Parish Church attended by many police officers from Leominster and the surrounding villages. He was replaced in due course by PC Hardwick who turned out to be a demon for catching people without lights on their bicycles.
Secondly, a couple of weeks before Christmas, the death occurred of Mr Walter Gatehouse, organist for many years at Kingsland Church. There is no record of his funeral at the village church, but a carol service was held shortly after Christmas which he had arranged and which was in aid of the National Institute for the Blind. The sum of three pounds fifteen shillings was raised which would be the equivalent of about twenty pounds today. His death must have caused serous difficulties for the church and the choir over Christmas, but Miss Jobling, who seems to have been a talented lady, stepped into the breach and continued as the church organist for some time afterwards. Thirdly, a former vicar of Kingsland, the Rev William Henry Bradley died suddenly on the golf links at Bournemouth. He was replaced at Kingsland by George Hamilton-Baillie, the predecessor to George Jobling and who left the parish under a cloud to say the least.
An evening’s entertainment at the school was a sell out and highly successful. It was arranged by Dr. Williams again in aid of the Fire Brigade which it seems he ran as though he owned it which in effect he did. The entertainment was provided by Mr. Gosling’s Concert party. Private Albert Evans was reported to have been awarded the Military Medal. He was from Kingsland and his grandmother lived at Shirlheath. Meritorious medals were awarded to Staff Sergeant Henry Sidney Williams whose wife was living at Croase Cottage. He was probably the son of Dr. Willliams. The same medal was awarded to Sergeant Williams of Cobnash farm.
Finally, it was reported by Mr. Jenkins of the Old Hall, that an early lamb, a healthy youngster had been born on his farm. Some good news at last.