Military Service Tribunals

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Poole and Dorset Herald, 9th March 1916

Local military service tribunals were originally set up in October 1915. Their original aim was to co-ordinate ‘military service requirements with those of civil departments and vital industries’, and as such they considered the postponement of calling up voluntarily attested men for military service. The central tribunal was set up in November. Local tribunals often forwarded cases to them for a final decision, and they also heard appeals against the decisions made in local tribunals.

In 1916 the Military Service Act introduced conscription, meaning that military service was now compulsory. Continue reading

A Volunteer’s View

Edby Ed Perkins, Culture Volunteer

I’ve been intrigued by the First World War since watching Captain Edmund Blackadder wriggling with dismay at the predicament he found himself in on the Front Line on the Western Front.  Well, long before, to be honest. Since being told by my dad about my grandfather’s injury. Wounded at the Battle of Arras, a piece of shrapnel stayed lodged by his heart for the rest of his life. It was too dangerous to remove. He never spoke a word about what he had been through. They didn’t, did they?

But knowing that he must have been through hell, like millions of others, made me wonder: How would I have fared? How would I have felt? With shells, grenades, snipers’ bullets and machine gun fire bursting around me and, perhaps, the threat of gas, would I have held my nerve? Or would the coward in me have crept out?

And so much of the war on the Western Front was a stalemate. ‘We’ve been sitting here since Christmas 1914, during which time millions of men have died, and we’ve advanced no further than an asthmatic ant with some heavy shopping,’ said Blackadder, in the classic TV comedy. But we all knew that the comedy masked a grim period in the world’s history. It took a brave person to volunteer to fight in Kitchener’s Army.

Luckily, it didn’t need courage for me to become a volunteer in Poole Museum’s fascinating First World War project that is looking into how the conflict affected the town and the legacy it left behind. It has been an education, giving me a small insight into what those men, and their families left behind, went through. And what might have befallen you and me if born at a different time.

My assignment is to look at the stories of the survivors. They were the lucky ones. But, even so, a great many of them were damaged by the experience. Each has a unique tale that they could have told, though so many couldn’t bear burden their loved ones what they had been through.

One of those Poole soldiers was William Barfoot. And, on top of the horrors he endured on active service in France, he was to receive bombshell news from back home. On April 20 1916, his nine-year-old son, Jesse, was killed by a train on the railway line by Poole Park.

We don’t know how the news was broken to him but we do know that a few days after the tragedy happened, the Registry of Births and Deaths in Poole sent a request saying payment was due. They wanted the half-crown (12.5p) for the cost of registering the boy’s death. And a penny extra for Stamp Duty.

William lived with his wife, Bessie, with their youngest children in Market Street, Poole. Bessie Amey and William had married in Wimborne in 1901. A labourer by occupation, he must have been out of work in August 1915 for he was sent by the Labour Exchange in Bournemouth to a recruiting sergeant. He was 40 years old and 5ft 4ins, not unusual for the times. The next day he was in the Royal Engineers and less than three weeks later was serving with the British Expeditionary Force in France.

We don’t know how Pioneer Barfoot reacted at first to the awful news of his son’s death. Little Jesse was partially deaf, an inquest would be told. He had always been told to keep off the railway line and Jesse had promised his mum he was going to the Ladies Walking Field. But, on that fateful day, he had climbed over the railings and onto the line with two friends to get a piece of wood. They stayed on the line to collect fir cones and pick up sticks. When one heard a train coming he shouted to warn the others… but Jess did not hear. He was knocked down by the train at the bridge at what local people called ‘the bunny’.

The train stopped as soon as it could. The driver, no doubt traumatised himself, was later praised for the speed of his reactions. But poor Jesse had had no chance. He had died instantaneously.

Across the Channel, though death was a daily fact of life for soldiers on active service, the loss of his third youngest son must have hit Pioneer Barfoot hard. The following year, a little over a year after the anniversary of his son’s death, he was up on a disciplinary charge. On May 29 1917 he ‘absented himself from work from 3pm to 5pm’. He had gone to an ‘estaminet’ – a French café bar. He was given fourteen days’ field punishment under ‘close arrest’. William Barfoot, who would be transferred to the Labour Company before returning to the Royal Engineers to serve with the Water Boring section, was not granted leave until the following October. He would have to wait until the January of 1919 before being demobbed and able to return home for good.

There is something especially poignant in the ordeal of William Barfoot but every soldier’s life revealed in the Poole Museum First World War project can uncover a compelling story. For my starting point in looking at their wartime history I’m using the Poole Absent Voters List, comprehensively drawn up by a fellow volunteer. It lists the servicemen from the town who were registered to vote in the 1918 election, when still in the Armed Forces. Many having them would be voting for the first time.

When Captain Edmund Blackadder, in Blackadder Goes Forth, hears that his batman Baldrick may get the vote, his reaction is predictable. ‘Give the likes of Baldrick the vote and we’ll be back to cavorting druids, death by stoning and dung for dinner,’ he observed.

He was wrong. If anyone deserved the vote to decide on the country’s future it was the men who had served on the Western (and other) Fronts. Their often bleak stories are our heritage. And, perhaps, lessons to be learnt.

 

 

 

Poole and the Army Veterinary Corp

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Image Courtesy of the Imperial War Museum

Whilst compiling a database of Poole servicemen from the Absentee Voters Register of 1918, it soon became apparent that there were a number of soldiers in the Army Veterinary Corps (A.V.C) who all lived in the same area of Lower Parkstone. Seven of these men lived in Courthill Park Road, Florence Road, and King’s Road. Three of them were NCOs and four were privates.

Continue reading

Charlotte Helene Jessie Paterson

Charlotte Paterson 1938

It is International Women’s Day today and the theme of the 2017 campaign is ‘Be Bold For Change’.  To celebrate this I want to write about Charlotte Helene Jessie Paterson who was born in Scotland but lived in Poole for over 50 years.

Miss Paterson came to Poole in 1903 at the age of 29 and lived at Corfe Lodge, Osborne Road, Parkstone until her death in December 1955.  On the 1911 census she is listed, living with her siblings.  Her brother, Archibald Richard Paterson, a doctor of medicine is head of the household and under the heading ‘Employer, Worker or Working on own account’ he has filled in that Charlotte is part of the Conservative and Unionist Women’s Franchise Societies.  Her sister is also recorded as part of the Women’s Suffrage Societies.

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On 7th January 1938 the Wessex Gazette reported that Miss Paterson received an M.B.E in the New Years honours.  Her award was for “political and public services in East Dorset” however the newspaper records:

She had already deserved well of her country before her public career in Dorset commenced by reason of her remarkable services to the British and French Armies during the Great War.  She entered Germany before the Armies of Occupation and her most cherished possession is one of the French tricolours which was hoisted in celebration of the Peace Treaty. 

The newspaper goes on to state that Nurse Paterson joined the Cornelia Hospital staff in Poole on 8th August 1914 after nursing in London.  As she was an expert at speaking French in October 1915 she went to France and spent the war on the front line fighting area.

For a few months she was at a large hospital east of Paris and she was then sent to the Queen of the Belgians Hospital, at Lapanne, close to the villa of the gallant Belgian Royal family.  She was among the very first to receive the Queen Elizabeth Medal with Red Cross from the Belgian Queen.  It was only given to those nursing within range of the enemy guns.  At that time her hospital suffered the ordeal of an enemy bombardment, lasting twelve days and nights, during which she had several remarkable escapes from death.  She was in charge of the reception pavilion where the wounded- they could be brought in twenty minutes from the firing line- were taken and received their first operations.

As she was the only British nurse she was recalled for her proximity to the fighting, she rebelled and ended up joining the French Army who had a shortage of nurses.  Straight after the war she entered Germany with a French nurse and they reported their findings to the British Commander at Metz who asked her to carry out similar work there.  She was ultimately awarded the Croix de Guerre.

After the war Miss Paterson served on Poole Town Council 1924-1934 and represented Poole on the County Council.  She campaigned to get the first female police officer appointed in Poole and also established an Occupational Centre for Mental Welfare in Poole.  In 1924 she was made a Justice of the Peace.

After Charlotte’s death in 1955 the Poole and Dorset Herald published an obituary:

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A fitting tribute to a woman who was definitely courageous and ‘Bold for Change’.

 

Parkstone Man’s War Adventures

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In Poole History Centre you can access the Poole and Dorset Herald for the war years- in fact you can access the newspaper from the 1840s- 1970s.

Local historian, Bryan Gambier, uncovered a fascinating First World War story when using the 1934 Herald for research.  The story reads like an adventure novel but recounts the real life experience of Parkstone man- Ernest Fendley.

The Poole and Dorset Herald serialised Ernest’s story over a number of weeks in May 1934.  The story begins:

Few experiences during the Great War can have been more amazing in their way than those of Mr Ernest Fendley, of “Coneyhurst”, Balston Road, Upper Parkstone.  Taken prisoner at Mons, he escaped within a few hours and spent the whole of the war period in hiding and then openly posing as a Frenchman behind the German lines.  Death would have been the penalty had he been caught by the invaders, but he was young, agile and quick witted, and managed time and time again to evade recapture by the proverbial “skin of his teeth”. Early in the war Mr Fendley had been reported killed, but within a fortnight of the Armistice he came home to his surprised parents, and today is a very popular bus driver in the employ of Bournemouth Corporation.

After escaping capture on the 24th August 1914, Ernest walked to try and rejoin British lines.  He ended up in France in the town of St. Quentin but had to go into hiding as Germans had occupied the town.

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Ernest was taken in by a Frenchman, M. Curley, and was in hiding in his family home for the next two years.

The Herald reports:

Eventually he was befriended by an old Frenchman whom he calls M. Curley, and in whose house he hid for two years […] Mr Fendley tells of the anxiety under which he lived for those two years, and how he had to make full use of his youthful wits and agility to escape the vigilance of the suspicious German police.

In January 1916 Ernest made his narrowest escape, he was sleeping in the family home when the Germans crashed through the front door at 7am.  He had to run into the master bedroom and hide “up over the paper ceiling”.  Although one of the Germans did thrust the blade of his sword up through the paper ceiling he missed Ernest and didn’t have time to continue the search.  The Curleys were arrested but didn’t betray him.  After this Ernest never slept in the house but in a nearby loft.

Towards the end of 1916 Ernest was becoming expert at French and he also learnt that someone in the village was against him “we get so many letters sent to The Herr Kommandant that you [M. Curley] are hiding an Englishman that we have to keep coming here.”

However, due to the military situation after the Battle of the Somme the Germans lost interest in the hiding place of one alleged Englishman.

On March 1st 1917 the whole of the civilian population of St. Quentin was to be evacuated to other towns further behind the lines.  There were around 18 young Frenchmen without identification cards and Ernest joined this group. He successfully posed as Frenchman Francois Venet and eventually was posted to work in a slaughter house until March 1918.

Throughout the remainder of the war Ernest was moved around and it was a “terrible period of food shortage”.  He and fellow prisoners would make dandelion stew to supplement their rations.

After the Armistice Ernest was able to travel back to England as an Englishman and enjoyed a happy reunion with his family on his return to Poole.

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This is an incredible story, and is fully available in Poole History Centre if you want to read more.  It shows the wealth of information available in newspaper archives and also highlights a very personal and unique wartime experience of a Parkstone man.