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Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Upchurch at War 100 Years Ago in 1918 by David Wood

The final year of the war began with Intercession Day in the church on the first Sunday of the New Year. Large numbers of parishioners gathered to pray in a congregation that included special village constables led by chief constable Len Harvey from Otterham Farm and members of the Upchurch Branch of the Anglo-Saxons wearing their official scarves and badges.

News from the battle front arrived about Private William Sharp from Wetham Green who had joined the Buffs in 1916. The Germans had captured him and set him to work on the Belgian railways then interned him in a prisoner-of -war camp until the end of the war. Edward Muggeridge, reported missing for ten months, was finally presumed dead and Percy Betts perished when a German submarine sank his ship HMS Kale. A special memorial service for these men took place in the church on April 14th. In August Fred Paige and William Lamb were killed then soon after this Lamb’s ten year old son William drowned while bathing in the river at Shoregate. George Banfield, Albert Stapleton and Wilfred Baker all died in the conflict while Stuart Mercer tragically got killed soon after the announcement of the Armistice.

Better news involved William Woodley who had worked as a butcher’s assistant for W H Hales in Upchurch before the war. He received the Military Medal and an additional silver bar for bravery. He later visited his former school at Holywell to cheers and congratulations from pupils.

Money raising activities continued throughout the year. The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel raised a total of £9/11/6d for the war to assist the Honduras Church Association, while in May an operetta took place at the Infant’s School in aid of the Soldiers and Sailors Fund. A concert which included dancing by infants was followed by an operetta ‘The Court Card.’ The cast included twenty two youngsters from Newington’ with admission on the night costing 6d. The concert raised £8 for the Memorial Fund.

The annual Empire Day event took place in The Paddock during May. Edith Robinson served as May Queen and Ted Tress as her consort. After the May Queen ceremony Nellie Cheeseman performed an old country dance followed by the Infant’s School pupils performing maypole dancing. Rosa Smitherman recited Rudyard Kipling’s poetry then Mrs Webster, the wife of local doctor Irby Webster presented gifts and education awards to children from the village schools.

On Wednesday August 21st a garden party and sale of work was held in The Paddock. Various goods were sold at stalls and entertainment included Upchurch Junior Handbell Ringers, a cricket match between ladies and gentlemen, a tug of war competition and pony and donkey rides. The takings were donated to the Upchurch Prisoners of War Fund, the Memorial Fund and for making comforts for wounded servicemen.

Jars of jam continued to be produced at the vicarage with a final sale in late 1918. The jam factory had made a big contribution to the war effort. Parishes throughout the country had been urged to start jam factories by the government earlier in the war. In Upchurch money from the sale of jam contributed to the establishment of a marble memorial tablet and a memorial stained glass window in the church.

During the war two savings associations operated in the village. Len Harvey from Otterham Farm conducted a coupon system while Holywell School ran a savings association. In total £133/6/5d was deposited and 172 savings certificates purchased.

The year finally ended with Christmas decorations being hung in the church. On Christmas Eve children from the choir accompanied by Reverend Dicker and sexton Mr Giles went carol singing around the village to raise money for the Kitchener Home for War Orphans. They raised £1/2/6d. On Christmas Day 60 people attended the church service then Upchurch Girl’s Friendly Society staged a drama in the Infant’s School. A short concert including humorous songs by Fred Wyles and Bert Cox served as a cheerful ending to the war years in Upchurch.


About David
David Wood was born and raised in Upchurch and is able to write from personal experience about many people and aspects of the village and of changes that have taken place over the years, making ‘Memories of Upchurch’ a very readable book and a detailed historical study of the village.

Memories of Upchurch is available direct from David
Email: david3702001@yahoo.co.uk or from us here at
Upchurch Matters. Price £12 + £3.50 postage and packing.
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