1st Apr 1916. Great Blizzard




The weather during the last six or seven weeks has been remarkable for its uncertain end generally boisterous character. The direction of the wind during most of the period has varied from north-west to south-east, and fierce gales springing up suddenly now and again have removed a large number of trees from the landscape and done considerable damage to buildings, &c. But the most disastrous visitation came on Monday night. After a fine, fairly calm day, the wind began to increase soon after dusk, and later snow commenced to fall. About midnight the wind developed into a tempestuous gale, coming from the north, which drove the snow with blinding force. The temperature was not so low as might have been expected, and much of the snow melted as it fell ; but in spite of this, it had accumulated in open places to a depth of at least six inches by breakfast time, and as the storm continued till about six o’clock on Tuesday evening—making about 24 hours in all—that measurement was increased as the day wore on, and deep drifts and snow wreaths accumulated.

Trees and shrubs became overladen with it, and large numbers were blown down or broken so badly as to be completely spoiled. The roads were strewn with branches large and small, and on several roads free passage was obstructed by fallen trees and large limbs.

In places the snow had drifted many feet deep, and some of the rural postmen who set out from Rugby to go home in the early hours of the morning had to return. The Churchover man was stopped by deep drifts at Brownsover, and the Barby postman found no less than six trees down in one place, and it was impossible to get by with his load.

So heavy was the fall of snow in the rural districts around Rugby that on Tuesday night it was impossible for the mail vans to get into the town. Letter bags from Lutterworth, were forwarded by the G.C. Railway, but no bags were received from Southam, Welford, or Long Buckby.

Letter carriers and milk retailers, found great difficulty in completing their rounds, but they stuck to their work pluckily in spite of the inclement conditions.

The telegraph and telephone wires suffered very seriously, and were down to such an extent both in the town and country that the Central Post Office at Rugby was cut of practically from everywhere. It was therefore impossible to receive or despatch telegrams. It is feared, with the present shortage of labour, it will take a month or more to reinstate all the wires.

The cause of so much damage being done to the wires was duo to the fact that the snow, being wet, instead of dry, as it would have been with a lower temperature, clung to the wires, and soon made them look like thick cables. The extra weight, together with the wind pressure of a gale travelling 60 or 80 miles all hour, created a strain which the wires and poles could not withstand. In the early hours of Tuesday morning many of the streets of Rugby were spanned by festoons and tangles of thickened wire, and Post Office men had to go round cutting them away to allow the safe passage of the traffic.

The telephone line between Rugby and Newbold suffered considerably. Posts were tilted in all directions, and fallen wires were for a time a source of danger to pedestrians.

On the Bilton Road the telephone wires were broken away entirely by trees or branches crashing down on them.


The effects of the storm first became apparent at the L. & N.-W. Railway Station about midnight on Monday, when telegraph wires in the neighbourhood commenced to snap asunder. This extended in all directions during the early hours of Tuesday morning, and by 6 a.m. Rugby Station was practically isolated so far as telegraphic or telephonic communication was concerned. Afterwards the first intimation received of the arrival of trains was at the signals just outside the station.

In normal circumstances, the Euston to Rugby expresses occupy 1 ¾ hours, but on Tuesday it took trains six hours to travel the 83 miles. This was duo to the almost entire collapse of the wires, with the consequent suspension of what is known as the block system. The method adopted was to run trains from one signal box to another, and instructions were given at each to those in charge of the train to go forward cautiously ; and as there are between Euston and Rugby about sixty boxes, most of which were stopping places, the reason for the delay is obvious.

The 10.15 p.m., express from London, which usually reaches Rugby at 11.55, was on Monday night pulled up at Cheddington owing to a telegraph polo having fallen across the down fast line. The train returned on the same metals as far as Tring, and was then sent forward on the slow line to Rugby, The newspaper train, which was due at Rugby at 3 a.m., did not arrive until 9.30, and the first passenger train from London, which should have arrived at 5 o’clock, did not reach Rugby till 10.35. The traffic from the North was delayed to a greater extent than this even.

At Rugby Station, as elsewhere in the Midlands, no attempt could be made to adhere to the scheduled times, but Mr Hedge and the platform staff did the best they could to cope with a difficult situation. Many trains were cancelled or combined with others to save working trouble.

At country stations also there was great uncertainty about trains, but the dilemma of would-be passengers was to some extent relieved by the stopping of expresses at those stations to pick up passengers.

For hours London was without news of express trains, which were long overdue from Lancashire, Yorkshire, and Scotland. At St Pancras, Euston, and the other London termini of the main northern and western lines, friends and relatives who had come to meet passengers strolled about the platforms, lingering from time to time before the arrival indicators, waiting with patience but without anxiety for tidings of the progress of the trains. Stationmasters answered their inquiries with an outward cheerfulness which cloaked an inward restlessness. As the afternoon passed, the missing trains, one by one, came in—five, six, and oven ten hours after their time—and the stations regained their normal activity and noisiness. The passengers were much too pleased to have arrived at last to grumble at the delay. The journey had been tedious, but the carriages were warm and comfortable, and, if the continual stopping and “ crawling ” had been trying, at any rate—as one of the passengers remarked— “ it was better sitting inside than getting out and walking it.” There had been no trouble in getting food, for the periods of waiting in the stations on the way had been long enough for any man to satisfy his appetite.


The attendance at the elementary schools of the town was naturally very meagre on Tuesday morning. In some instances there were not sufficient to justify the holding of a session. Those who did arrive were often wet-footed, and it was not surprising that the head teachers sent them home again and closed the schools for the day.

Under the auspices of the Young Women’s Christian Association, a concert was to have been given in St Matthew’s Parish Room, but owing to the exceptionally inclement weather, and the sparce attendance in consequence, the event was postponed.

Between Rugby and Bilton the havoc to trees and shrubs was considerable. An elm tree at Oakfield came down across the road during the afternoon, and completely blocked the thoroughfare for the rest of the evening. Soon afterwards another, near the Hon E W Parker’s residence (Westfield), fell right across one of the greenhouses and entirely demolished the portion on which it rested. The road was partly blocked by two others at Bilton Hill, and in the vicinity of the churchyard a deplorable scene was presented. The very fine cedar tree growing inside the entrance gate to the church-yard, and some fir trees near to it, also a large elm. all of which lent a picturesque appearance to the church and its spire in the background, were laid low and entirely destroyed. In the grounds of Bilton Hall regrettable damage was also done.

This is the worst blizzard that has been experienced over the Midlands since the great storm on the 18th of January, 1881. On that occasion the temperature was down to about 20 or 25 degrees below freezing point, and the drifting snow accumulated to a much greater extent than on Tuesday last. The railway traffic between London and Rugby was entirely suspended for two or three days, and when the trains began to run it was necessary for gangs of navvies with shovels to travel with them, to remove the snow which was constantly blown into the cuttings from the adjacent fields.

But we have to go back 50 years for a parallel to the dislocation caused by the breakdown of telegraphic communication. Almost every pole and wire between Rugby and London was brought down, and for several weeks telegraphic messages to or from the South had to be carried by train between Euston and Rugby.

Since the blizzard the sun has shone brightly, and the temperature has been springlike in the daytime, This has helped on the thaw considerably.


So far as the L & N.W. Railway is concerned, it is estimated that it will take months to repair the damage done in the vicinity of Rugby to telegraph posts and wires. To the south of Rugby Station the havoc was simply appalling. On Tuesday gangs of workmen from the north began to arrive, and by Thursday the numbers had extended to some hundreds, and every available man will be needed. A length of poles, extending for several miles along the line, and erected within the last 12 months, has, it is reported. been smashed to splinters by the gale, and, of course, the many lines of wires it carried are broken down.

Rugby Station is being used as a centre for repairing purpose, and on the up platform on Thursday tons of wire of various kinds, brought from different depots, were to be seen. The trains were still running irregularly, the method of proceeding from one signal box to another being still necessary, and until a train actually arrived, the officials were unable to say whence it came or whither it was going. No guarantee could be given when a train starting out would arrive at its destination, or even whether it would get there at all ; and with a reversion to conditions prevailing before the block system was introduced, the travelling public had to submit cheerfully to many inconveniences.


The scene on the Barby Road was wintry in the extreme. Near the Polo Ground the snow drifted to a depth of some feet, reaching across the footpath to the height of the fence. More remarkable still, perhaps, was the large number of trees that were blown down. It seemed incredible that in so limited an area so much damage could be done, and the spectacle presented on Wednesday when the gale had passed and almost a dead calm prevailed, and the sun was shining brightly, gave one a good idea of the havoc that can be wrought by such Arctic weather. In this locality a motor cyclist got into a deep drift, and had great difficulty in extricating his machine from the bank of snow in which it was firmly embedded.

The Hillmorton Road, beyond the Great Central Station, was at one point quite impassable for vehicular traffic. The omnibuses were unable to run in that direction, and an attempt to resume the service on Wednesday ended in failure.


Arrangements had been made for a sitting of the Local Tribunal for the Crick District at Rugby on Wednesday, but the weather was so bad that on the previous day it was decided to postpone it. Notices to this effect were sent out to the members by Mr J W Pendred, the Clerk, but Mr I Wakefield, of Crick, and Mr T Lee, of Lilbourne, duly put in an appearance, their letters not having reached them—another effect of the storm, which had quite disorganised the rural postal service, so much so, that at most of the villages round Rugby there were no despatches or deliveries of letters till Wednesday afternoon.


On Thursday afternoon between 20 and 30 boys attending Rugby School offered their services to the Urban Council officials to assist in clearing the streets. The offer was gladly accepted, and they were immediately provided with shovels and squeeges, and under the supervision of Mr W H Clench, road foreman, they quickly and energetically set to work, and a distinct improvement was soon perceptible in the streets in which they were “ set on.”

BRANDON.—Last week the Avon was in flood for several days, and the road between Brandon and Wolston was deep in water. During the storms of Monday night and Tuesday of this week, the telegraph wires and posts on the Coventry Road were blown down, and a number of trees were uprooted.

BRAUNSTON.—Writing on Thursday, our correspondent says:—Scores of telegraph and telephone poles down, and had no mail in here since Monday.

BRINKLOW.—Considerable damage was done in this neighbourhood. The local telegraph and telephone services were cut off, owing to the wires and several of the poles being broken down, and the railway service was dislocated. Numerous trees were uprooted and broken down, and in places there were very deep snow drifts. The Schools were closed on Tuesday and Wednesday.

DUNCHURCH.—A very large number of the trees forming the avenue on the London and Holyhead Road from the Rainsbrook on the Daventry side to Knightlow Hill were blown down, and of course stopped all traffic. The telegraph wires, the repair of which, after the havoc caused by the fall at Christmas, has recently been completed by the Royal Engineers, were again broken down for long lengths in many places. Along the Southam Road, too, many trees were down, and for the first time in the memory of the oldest inhabitant the Southam mail cart failed to reach Dunchurch on Tuesday night. No letters were delivered in Dunchurch till 4 o’clock on Wednesday afternoon. Mr Butlin, the postmaster, having then fetched the bags from Rugby, and also those from Bilton. All round the district timber trees, fruit trees, and shrubs have been destroyed wholesale, and at Bilton Grange Gardens, and also at Cawston House, the damage is deplorable. Drifts of snow from four to six feet deep occurred all round the district

RYTON-ON-DUNSMORE.—Great havoc has been done by the snow and wind to telegraph poles and wires. Numbers of trees were uprooted ; tiles, slates, and pots were blown off, and considerable damage done.


A portion of the wall adjoining the Grand Hotel in Albert Street was blown down.

A chimney-pot was blown off the roof of Mr F E Hands’ house in Sheep Street, and fell into Drury Lane, narrowly missing several persons who were passing at the time.

The Watling Street Road is practically impassable, owing to the large number of telegraph poles and wires which have been brought down, and some time must elapse before this can be cleared. Many of the posts, each 12in. in diameter, were snapped off and a large number of trees in the neighbourhood were destroyed.

The worst effects of the blizzard occurred in the region of the Midlands, between Derbyshire and Staffordshire and Tring. But it was very severe over the West of England and South Wales, while London and the South Coast did not escape altogether.

Twenty-four trees are down between Stretton and Blue Boar on the London Road, and whole lengths of telegraph wires.

Agricultural operations, which have already been much retarded, have been further hindered for a week—a very serious matter for the country in all the circumstances. Further, numerous sheep and lambs were buried in the snow, and many of the latter have died from exposure.

Only a dozen wires of private telephone subscribers in Rugby, out of 240, were unbroken.

Notwithstanding the inconvenience and privation railway travellers have had to endure, their sympathies and admiration were entirely with the engine drivers, firemen, and guards who so persistently stuck to the difficult work of getting their trains safely through in the face of such terribly trying conditions.

A considerable number of railway travellers who have been stranded at Rugby Station, and unable to proceed further, have had to put up for the night at Rugby hotels.

The experience on the Great Central was no exception to that on of other lines, so far as the destruction of telegraph wires was concerned, but the delay of trains was not so great. Four to five hours late on Tuesday was the rule, two to three hours on Wednesday, and about an hour on Thursday.

A number of express and other passenger trains were lost in the Midlands for a considerable time. The 10 a.m express from Euston arrived in Glasgow at 4 o’clock on Wednesday morning. In some cases trains were more than 24 hours late.

Soldiers on leave experienced very great difficulty in reaching their destinations, and many valuable hours were lost in travelling. Men returning to France were provided on demand with a railway statement, giving particulars of their delayed journey.

Deep snowdrifts rendered Hillmorton and Barby Roads, and also the Hillmorton—Dunchurch Roads impassable. Near Willoughby the London Road was blocked for nearly a mile by snow wreaths. The road from Bilton to Blue Boar was also blocked.

One of the poplar trees which were planted many years ago in the fence on the Clifton Road side of the land now forming the grounds of the Lower School, by the late Mr W I Tait, the founder of the Rugby Advertiser, was laid low.

About a dozen motor ambulances, travelling from the North to the South, after being obliged to deviate from the proper road, were held up at Rugby on Thursday night, owing to the impassable condition of the roads.

Yesterday (Friday) trains from the North reached Rugby about 3 hours late. The journey to Euston occupied 3½ hours, and to Birmingham 1½. Travelling to other places was correspondingly slow.


Extract from “ London Gazette,” February 26th :—Lieut. R. H. H. Over, A.V.C., to be Captain, to date from August 5th, 1915.

Lieut. F. W. Simmons, an Old Boy and former member, of the staff of St. Matthew’s Boys’ School, has been appointed Captain in the 51st Battalion of the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force.

Eighteen offers of homes have been received by the officials of Rugby Union for the children (five in number) of a soldier fighting in France, admitted to the Institution from Wolston. One lady came down from London on Monday in the hope of being able to take one of the children away with her, but this was not permissible.

Gunner G Smith, R.F.A, has written to Mr W T C Hodges, his old schoolmaster, stating that he has been wounded a second time. During a heavy bombardment a German shell burst over his head, and a portion of it passed through his cap and bruised the back of his head ; a bullet went through his shoulder, and another part of the shell badly injured his foot. He is at present at Eaton House, Cheshire, the residence of the Duke of Westminster.

Mr F O Rybot, manager of the London City & Midland Bank at Exeter, and formerly at Rugby, is having a busy time as Treasurer of the Devon and Cornwall Belgian Relief Committee. Throughout the two counties over £21,000 has been spent in the year.


In the list of the King’s awards for heroism on the battlefield published to-day is the name of another St Matthew’s Old Boy, Pte A Norman, of the 3rd Rifle Brigade.


An official intimation was received on Sunday by Sergt. Goodwin, of Rugby, of the death on October 7th. 1914, of his eldest son, Pte. Albert Goodwin, of the 2nd Warwicks, previously reported missing. Deceased joined the Army six years ago. When war broke out he was with his regiment at Escutari. Returning to England in September, he went with his Division to France in October, and it was in the retirement at Ypres that he lost his life, a few days after his arrival at the seat of war. Pte. Goodwin was in his 23rd year.

[Private Goodwin is remembered on the Croop Hill War Memorial]



The Government has decided that in future the lists of casualties shall give no particulars other of the theatre of war in which the casualty occurred or of the battalion to which the officer or man belonged.

This decision has been arrived at in the public interest, and is a matter of military necessity. It is requested that the particulars above referred to may not be mentioned or published in obituary notices sent to newspapers by relatives or friends.



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