Stanton in World War One
Stanton before the War
Stanton appears to have been a thriving rural community, with most men employed in the quarries, on farms, or at Stanton Hall. Women’s occupations were seldom registered in the Censuses, and the 1911 one, closest to the War, was no exception. The School was full, and took pupils from Birchover as well. There was no school bus, and those children had to make their own way to and from Stanton, usually on foot.
Amongst other businesses, there was a pub, a butcher’s, a blacksmith’s, a joiner’s and two churches. The Wesleyan Reform Chapel was popular and also offered a Sunday School. 19 male members of this congregation later joined up. Various travelling salesmen made their way to the village, so it was possible to secure most items for domestic life without having to leave the village.
Stanton during the War
Stanton would have been no different to the rest of the country in terms of being affected by the war in many ways, not all shown or on the surface. Worries in families about loved ones on military service, lack of contact with those overseas, grief for those killed, pressures on men to enlist, and anxiety about financial, emotional and psychological survival, would all have had their impact.
By 1917, everyone in the country knew someone who had been killed. In Stanton this happened from the fifth day of the battle of the Somme in 1916. Clara Barker, who later married Daniel Holmes, wrote to her sister :
‘Nell has had a letter from Edgar this morning. They have been in the thick of it. Auntie has heard nothing from Stanley she is in a terrible way. Edgar said he knew Stan’s regiment had been in a severe gas attack, but he knew nothing more. I do hope she will get good news I really think it would finish her if anything happened to him. I wish the blooming war was over it seems too terrible for words to think what the poor beggars have to suffer’.
Meanwhile the village would appear to continue on its own way. Food shortages, prevalent elsewhere in the country would probably not have affected it, and women would not have been filling mens’ jobs as occurred in cities and towns. However, there was a problem with sufficient farm labour. In January 1916 the Parish Council minutes record: ‘Mrs M.McCreagh-Thornhill explained Lord Selbourne’s scheme at length by encouraging women to help in agriculture and relieve the shortage of labour caused by the withdrawal of men from the land, to increase the food ? by bringing into cultivation waste land and to encourage the keeping of poultry, pigs etc and generally to take a helpful intelligent and patriotic interest in these and other matters of a like nature and thus help their country in a time of stress which is likely to increase as the war is prolonged.’
Whilst in March of that year, it was resolved to undertake a house to house canvas and to ‘try and establish a womens’ committee to undertake the suggested house to house canvas with the object of forming a local register showing what women and girls are willing to help and the work they can do.’ Accordingly, names of 11 women were proposed and accepted for this committee, representing Stanton in Peak, Stanton Leys, and Birchover.
However, the scheme clearly hit the buffers. At a later Parish Council meeting in 1916 ‘it was resolved to put up notices appealing to the women and girls of the parish who are able and willing to do farm work to send in their names so that a register of such offers,if any, can be made for the information of farmers and others who may require such labour. The formation of a womens’ committee to arrange for a house to house canvas of the parish failed as no one seemed willing to undertake such a canvas and the above resolution was passed as a further effort to achieve the same end.’ There is no record as to whether this scheme succeeded.
An attempt to increase volunteers also failed, the parish council minuting in March 1917,
‘A circular was read from Bakewell Rural District Council re. the establishment of a Sub-Committee for the purpose of a house to house canvas for Volunteers for National Service. A motion by Mr C.E.Wright and seconded by Mr A.Webster that no action be taken in the matter, as the scheme was not practicable for this parish.’
These entries for farm labour and volunteers are the only official ones for the currency of the war.
Keeping contact with those serving would however prove difficult and worrying. Nevertheless, one gets the impression of a village carrying on, at least outwardly, in as normal a way as possible.
Stanton after the War
Lloyd George, the then Prime Minister, declared that he wanted to, ‘Make Britain a country for heroes to live in’ but the reality in the country was that many returning ex servicemen faced unemployment, homelessness and poor housing, as well as learning to live with the consequences of physical and mental injuries on a scale never seen before.
2 million incidents of wounding were recorded between 1914-1918. Stanton men were among them.
Many men found themselves simply unable to speak about their experiences. Never before had sorrow and trauma been so prevalent. The country was also in massive debt, 127% of its national income being debt accrued, similar to Greece recently. 8% of the population found itself paying income tax, as opposed to 2% in 1913.
Women, under 30 and non-householders, were frustrated by their lack of a vote despite helping the war effort enormously by taking on men’s jobs, and had to deal with potentially traumatised returning husbands, partners, and sons and securing their reintegration back into family life.
How much of this affected Stanton is impossible to judge, because issues of unemployment and housing were probably not pertinent, but the emotional baggage that the whole community would have carried would have been echoed around the country. Nevertheless the village did rally round. Parish council minutes record the following :
May 1919 Mrs Thornhill be asked to give up a piece of land permanent (sic) as a War Memorial for Stanton
Albert Prince (war veteran) elected as Secretary for War Memorial Committee;
July 1919 At a public meeting, Peace celebrations were proposed involving sports, procession and bands (proposed by Cornelius Holmes (war veteran), Committee set up with Cornelius Holmes as a member);
August 1922 Sherwood Foresters memorial mentioned in relation to a Flag Day being held.
All the men who survived returned to Stanton and many lived out their lives in the village and/or the surrounding area: Leonard Prince became the landlord of The Flying Childers; George Stuart Broomhead was a crane driver at a quarry and a chimney sweep in the evenings; Jim Fryer worked as a joiner and undertaker, taking over the business from his father; Thomas Raymond Housley worked at Cauldwell’s Mill as a salesman; George Wragg was killed in a crane accident at a quarry ; Daniel Holmes moved to Birchover where he ran a shop; George Gladwin returned to his job as a gardener at Stanton Hall; Alfred Prince was a joiner for Stanton Estate and a local preacher; Albert Prince was disabled but made beautiful wooden objects; and George Siddall ran a transport business.
Arthur Whitworth was employed, along with his fallen colleagues Charles Penistone and Harold Harvey, as a gardener at Stanton Hall. His father, Henry, was the Head Gardener. He was the eldest of five children.
Arthur Whitworth elected to join the Royal Navy, but because their complement for fighting ships was often full, became one of a number of naval recruits who were formed into fighting battalions to help out at the Front.
He died, either through wounds, illness, or a combination of both, in Birmingham after the war on 2 April 1919. He is buried in Stanton cemetery, where there is a family memorial to him.This is also his official war grave.
Jack Holmes was one of 4 brothers who enlisted, and the second eldest. The others were Sam, Daniel, and Cornelius (known as ‘Nid), all of whom survived. The Holmes family lived in the house now owned by Harry and Trisha Wright. He is also commemorated on the Youlgrave War Memorial, having married Jane Brassington in 1913 and moved to Youlgrave.
His brother’s war diary states he was killed by a strafing aircraft, but he has no known grave. He died on 24 March 1918.
Bertie George Davie
Bertie George Davie was living in London, where he was a company director, when war broke out. He was married to Flora, and had 2 sons by 1911, the eldest of whom, Humphrey, was the father of Nicholas, the current owner of Stanton Hall.
He was already involved as a volunteer in the Army (similar to the Territorials today) firstly with the Royal Sussex Regiment, then the Middlesex Volunteer Rifle Corps, before joining the Post Office Rifles, where he had reached the rank of Captain by 1911. He then rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel when he was wounded by shrapnel in France. He was returned to England for surgery, nursed in Sussex, but died on Christmas Eve 1917. He is buried in Stanton cemetery.
John Bernard Siddall
John Siddall was the second son in a family of 7 children. His elder brother, Peter, also served and survived.
John Siddall joined up firstly with the Sherwood Foresters, then moving to a Shropshire regiment before joining the Machine Gun Corps.
He was killed, on 20 March 1917, by a shell at the Front, and is buried in France.
Leonard Prince was the son of Albert Prince and Elizabeth Dent. Not long after his birth his mother died. Albert Prince was a ‘quarry manager’, and Leonard a ‘tool sharpener at gritstone quarry’ in the 1911 census, where his age is given as 20 years old.
He enlisted as a volunteer early in the war, arriving in France in July 1915 (photo below), firstly with the Northants regiment, then the Notts and Derbyshire, then the Royal Engineers, and lastly the Royal Berkshires. His army movements follow a path of filling in where numbers had become low.
After the War
He married his sweetheart Elizabeth Alice Wright in 1919, not long after the war ended. He took over the Flying Childers pub about 1926, where he remained until his untimely death in 1955.