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Lest We Forget
by Wendy Austin

In Britain the searing grief experienced by millions following the horrors of World War One left many people numb and in a state of shock.  Gradually, all seemed to agree that the sacrifice of the serving men should be commemorated in some way, but the length of time it took to decide on the style, siting, and fund raising method for a war memorial varied greatly from community to community.  (The war memorial in Tring was most unusual in that it was erected and dedicated shortly before the Armistice of November 1918 – in fact Tring was written up as setting a splendid example to the nation as a whole.)

In the villages north of Tring, it took three years from the time that the subject was first broached until the erection of the completed memorial.  The historic day for Long Marston and Marsworth fell on Sunday afternoon 7th August 1921 when the second Lord Rothschild performed both unveiling ceremonies, dressed in the uniform of his regiment, the Bucks Yeomanry.
 

Long Marston War Memorial.
  The village school at the rear was destroyed
by bombing during WWII.

Long Marston selected as its design a Celtic cross carved from a single slab of silver-grey granite set upon three high steps, and sited in the centre of the village near the school (which no-one then dreamed would be totally destroyed by bombing twenty later during the next world conflict).  It was estimated that the cost would be £400 after allowing for carving the names and inscription, supplying a rail fence, laying turf, and planting ornamental trees.  It is recorded that the foundations were set by James Chandler & Son of Long Marston, and the erection carried out by Newman & Harper of Aylesbury.  Before the ceremony the villagers assembled to the music of the Long Marston Band, and ex-servicemen under the charge of Sergeant Proctor formed a guard of honour for Lord Rothschild.  As it happened, a London troop of Boy Scouts were camped in nearby fields, and two of their officers acted as standard bearers.  The short service was conducted by the Rev. R. H. Rowden, assisted by Mr. Bates of Aylesbury representing the village’s Wesleyan Methodist Church, following which a speech given by Lord Rothschild in which he laid great stress on “the call of duty”.  Whether or not the fine words held any shreds of comfort for the bereaved wives, mothers, fathers, fiancées, and others, we cannot know.

The party then progressed to Marsworth to perform a similar ceremony.  Marsworth architect A. J. Gurney charged no fee for his design of a Gothic cross, which was sited in a prominent position in the churchyard on rising ground fronting the road.  Constructed of Portland stone gifted by William Mead, owner of Tring Flour Mill, the cost of carving and erection amounted to £140, which was raised by public subscription.  Of the 55 men of Marsworth who served in the Great War, 11 did not return and their names are inscribed on the base of the cross.  A similar speech by Lord Rothschild was followed by the sounding of the Last Post by trumpeters from the Wendover Boys’ Brigade, and their band led the singing of the National Anthem.
 

The Wilstone War Memorial.

Three months later on 3rd October 1921, the village folk of Wilstone experienced the same sad occasion as their neighbours.  Again, the design chosen was a Celtic cross made of Cornish granite, but it did have one notable difference, for the base was of stone that originally formed part of the swing bridge over the Wendover Arm of the Grand Junction Canal.  This, and the generous donation of railings by local farmer Percy Mead, helped to keep costs down to £140.  After a service on the village green led by the Rev. R. H. Rowden, Percy Mead read out the nine names of the fallen and Capt. G. M. Brown MC of Tring unveiled the memorial and addressed the crowd.  Following a minute’s silence, a prayer was said by Arthur Bagnall representing Wilstone Baptist Church and the Long Marston Band, under the baton of Mr Prothero, played the Last Post followed by the Reveille sounded by a troop of RAF trumpeters.

The scenes enacted in these villages no doubt followed a similar pattern and were accompanied by the same emotions as those experienced by every community across the land.  But it is good to remember that in Puttenham things turned out differently.  This tiny hamlet can be called a ‘Thankful Village’, that is, one that lost no men in the carnage of the Great War.  The term was first used by historian Arthur Mee, who estimated that at most there were 32 such villages and hamlets in the whole of Britain, although he could only positively identify 24.  Puttenham was certainly the only one in Hertfordshire, and the relief and joy that greeted the 15 returning servicemen can only be imagined, although how much physical and mental scarring they carried home with them is impossible to say.  At the Harvest Thanksgiving service of 1925, a tablet was unveiled in the south aisle of St. Mary’s Church.  Its simple inscription speaks for itself:


 

A
Thankful Village: the Puttenham Memorial. 


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