The reminiscences of John Bowman, a former Tring postman . . .
In November, it was reported that Arthur Wells who lived at Tringford had been lost at sea. He was a stoker in the Royal Navy, and had been recalled at the beginning of the war. He was serving in HMS Aboukir, a cruiser. His Majesties Ships, Aboukir, Cressy and Hogue were elderly ships of the “Battle” class and all three were lost, torpedoed in the North Sea, on the same day, 22nd September 1914. Reginald Seabrook of Tring, a seaman, was serving on HMS Hogue when it was sunk and he was picked up from the sea.
In Tring, various groups of ladies were knitting comforts for the troops, scarves, gloves and balaclava helmets were welcomed by all the troops in the trenches. The front had settled to a line which was to stay until early 1918. The trench systems throughout were an elaborate mishmash of deeply excavated trenches in the Arras/Somme area, to built up defences in the flat coal mining areas around Vimy/Lens/Bully and the Ypres salient, where water would appear at two to three feet under the surface. Large quantities of sandbags were needed for the defences.
Also wattle hurdles, chestnut paling and withy fascines. The manufacture of these was a rural craft, a local industry. Of course, the manufacture of sandbags was a commercial undertaking. It is estimated that each division of 15,000 men would need over one million bags a month.
The voluntary effort by women’s groups to make sandbags was organised by a Miss Tyler who worked from North London as a collecting point. The purchase of hessian was undertaken locally, in the Home Counties. Women’s groups made the bags measuring 33 inches long by 14 inches wide. By September 1914, 10,000 sandbags a day were dispatched to the front.
The collecting point in Tring was Hazely, a street in Tring, where Miss Helen Brown and her helpers bundled the sacks for collection. All costs for this enterprise were met by public
subscription. Every pound raised provided 60 bags.
A poem written by a soldier of 21st Division: