August 1914On Wednesday 29th July 1914, the 34th Ewhurst Cottager’s Flower, Fruit and Vegetable Show, was held at High Edser. One of the highlights of the village year, this was always an event to look forward to, but in July 1914 it would have been overshadowed by the worsening international situation.
Less than a week later, on the 4th August, War was declared and the village and its inhabitants were plunged into the turmoil of events that changed the course of history.
Mobilisation of ReservistsReserve soldiers were immediately recalled to join their units. Among the Ewhurst men who were recalled were William Rose, Frederick Aylwin and Frank Sellings.
William Rose was a private in the local regiment, The Queens (Royal West Surrey) Regiment. He was born in Ewhurst and grew up at Ivy Cottage. He enlisted in the army around 1904 and, having served seven years with the colours, was then on the Reserve list for five years. In 1913 he married Margaret Povey at Ewhurst Parish Church, with his friend, Frederick Aylwin as one of the witnesses. Frederick Aylwin came from Bepton, near Midhurst, and was a Reserve soldier with the 1st Battalion South Wales Borderers. In 1911 he was living at the Bulls Head in Ewhurst, where he was working as a barman. Both the Queens and the South Wales Borderers were based at Borden and William and Frank returned to their units immediately. Another Ewhurst man serving with the Queens was Frank Sellings. Frank had joined the Army Reserves in 1911 at the age of 17 and became a regular in 1912.
By the 7th of August the Queens had completed their mobilisation and on the 12th of August William Rose and Frank Sellings arrived in France, the first Ewhurst men to take part in the conflict. The flowing day, 13th August, Frederick Aylwin arrived with the South Wales Borderers.
HorsesIn the first few days of the war, thousands of horses were requisitioned. Although the Surrey Advertiser carried general reports, I have not been able to find any specific Ewhurst examples, but as a farming community this must have hit the parish hard.
Kitchener’s Call to Arms – 'Your King and Country Need You'Lord Kitchener was appointed Secretary of State for War on 6th August and the following day, 7th August called for men aged 19 – 30 to volunteer.
The Parish was swift in its response to the call and a meeting was arranged for the evening of the same day. This was before the advent of radio, let alone TV or the Internet, but word travelled quickly in the close knit community. The following day, the Surrey Advertiser reported in their Saturday edition, - “In view of the Country’s need in the present state of war, a meeting was convened at Ewhurst Church Hall last evening [Friday 7th] for men over 17 years of age.”
The 1911 census for Ewhurst suggests that by 1914 there were probably around 96 men aged 19 – 30 in the parish, out of a total population of 1,118.
A recruiting station was opened in the sub branch of the Capital and Counties Bank premises opposite the school [now Mount Cottage] and a Recruiting Officer was assigned to Ewhurst.
The room used for a recruiting office was to the far left of Cheesman's stores (just out of picture) It is now Mount Cottage.
‘Comforts’ for the TroopsVillagers rallied round to help in whatever way they could. The Surrey Advertiser reported on Monday 17th August 1914 that “A largely well attended meeting was held at the Ewhurst Church Hall on Tuesday, [11th August] when nearly everyone present promised to assist in making garments for the troops. Working parties will meet twice a week at the Church Hall.”
Relief FundsIt was realized that the outbreak of war would cause severe hardship to many. On 7th August 1914, H.R.H. the Prince of Wales made an urgent appeal in The Times calling for a National Relief Fund – and the Surrey Advertiser reported that “The Ewhurst Band gave a performance on Saturday night when a collection was made for the Prince of Wales Fund raising £6”
The village also started a local relief fund - “At a meeting at Malquoits [now Cornhill Manor] on Wednesday [12th August] it was decided to form a committee for raising a relief to be used locally.”
A further meeting about the EWHURST WAR RELIEF FUND was held at the end of the month and the October Parish Magazine reported – “A largely attended Meeting of parishioners was held at the Church Hall on August 29th. The Chairman Walter Webb, Esq., explained the arrangements the Committee had already determined to deal with likely distress in consequence of the War. At the General Meeting which followed, the Rev. A.E. Clark-Kennedy said he thought it would be better that a sum should be fixed to supplement the means of support of the Ewhurst families of married soldiers. It was then resolved that 5/- be paid weekly to such families during the War and during the husbands absence on military service. The same amount 5/- weekly be paid to the family of any unmarried men who have joined the army and upon whom the family have been regularly dependent. A letter to that effect has been sent to parishioners by Mr C.D. Yates, Hon. Sec.”