RETURN OF REPATRIATED PRISONERS.
Several Warwickshire and Northamptonshire prisoners of war, who have been repatriated under the terms of the Armistice, have returned to their homes during the past week.
We understand that one of the men was captured near La Bassee on August 9th. With a number of comrades he was taken to a camp six miles behind the lines, when they remained for several days, subsisting on a daily diet of a quarter of a loaf, a small portion of black sausage, and water. After refusing to give any information to the German Intelligence Officer, they were removed to Fort Macdonald at Lille, where they were kept in close confinement for six weeks, their sole exercise being a daily visit to the canteen to draw their nauseating rations. No tobacco was provided, and there were no facilities for washing—in fact, our informant was only allowed to wash once during the three months of his captivity. The Germans behaved with the uttermost brutality to the unfortunate men, and orders were in many cases quickly followed by blows with the butt-end of a rifle. Several of the prisoners died as a result of the scanty food and revolting conditions under which they were kept. When the German retirement began, the prisoners, numbering about 400, were ordered to “ man-handle ” the horse transport from Lillie to Tournai, and on arrival at this place they were placed in a camp near the Railway Station, which at that time was receiving constant attention from the Allied airmen. Unfortunately, a number of the prisoners were killed in some of the raids. At Tournai the midday meal consisted of boiled red cabbage, and the men considered themselves lucky if they were allowed a small portion of bread for tea. This diet, however, was little inferior to that served out to the German troops. The next move was to St Reneld, fifteen miles from Brussels, and while they were at that place they were thrilled with the news of the signing of the armistice. Apparently the news was motived as enthusiastically by the Germans as by their unfortunate victims, for the enemy troops immediately gave themselves over to orgies of drinking and pillaging, many of them also selling machine guns and other military equipment to the Belgium civilians. The day after the armistice was signed, the prisoners were ordered to pull the transports Brussels, but on the way they met a party of released British prisoners, whereupon they pulled the transports into a field and returned to the camp, where they were released and sent on their journey back to the British lines without any ration. On the way they subsisted on field turnips and food given to them by the Belgian civilians, and after walking for fifteen miles they fell in with a detachment of the British Army, by whom they were enthusiastically received. “ They only gave us ordinary army fare,” our informant added, “ but after the unappetising food we had been served so long, it seems quite a banquet.”
As an illustration of the callous nature of the Germans, it is sufficient to add that shortly before he was captured our informant was wounded by shrapnel in the leg and face ; these wounds were unattended by his captor—were simply left to heal naturally.
Two of the men, Gunner Harry Maule, R.G.A (captured during the Battle of Cambrai in November, 1917), Pte Francis Bailey, R.W.R, hail from Long Lawford.
During the next few weeks the remaining prisoners of war will probably be repatriated, and we shall be pleased if relatives and friends of any local prisoners will inform us of their return, together with any further particulars which may be of interest to our readers.
RUGBY PRISONERS OF WAR FUND.
A special meeting of the Rugby Prisoners of War Help Committee was held at the Benn Buildings on Monday last, Mr William Flint, C.C, presiding. There were also present : Mrs Wilson, Mrs Anderson, Mr A E Donkin, J.P, Mr F R Davenport. C.C, Mr R P Mason, Mr G W Walton, Mr C J Newman, Mr A W Shirley, and Mr J Reginald Barker (hon organising secretary).
Mr Barker said that the immediate repatriation of our prisoners of war being made one of the terms of the armistice, the committee would welcome the news that it no longer necessary to send individual parcels of food to our prisoners in Germany. It would, of course, be several weeks before all the men returned to England, and in the meantime the Central Prisoners of War Committee were despatching food in bulk for distribution, as opportunity occurred, through the British Red Cross Society Depot at Rotterdam. The work the Rugby Committee had undertaken during the past 3½ years had thus reached the end, and there was now no need to appeal for further subscriptions and donations, because the money they had in hand would provide for any outstanding liabilities with Regimental Care Committees and leave a substantial balance. The armistice news had resulted in an almost complete falling-off in financial support. During the first week of the current month over £100 was received, but the last nine days had produced only £11. The committee had provided all parcels necessary up to the end of November, and there was a deficit of £350 on the month, but it was fortunate they had sufficient funds in hand to meet this. Mr Barker gave the committee some interesting figures. He said they had raised nearly £7,000, not including a sum of more than £1,000 remitted direct to Care Committees by adopters of individual prisoners of war, which helped to relieve the strain on the local fund. Nearly £4,000 of this amount had been raised in the past twelve months, so that with the growth in the number of prisoners there had been an equal growth in the revenue. Twelve months ago there were 61 men on the Rugby list, costing £125 per month, and they concluded their efforts, with a list of 149 men, costing over £500 per month.
On the proposition of Mr Newman, seconded by Mr Walton, it was resolved that the committee postpone their final meeting for a few days to enable the Hon Secretary to have the accounts completed and present the balance-sheet to a public meeting of subscribers to the fund.
The Chairman said he could not let the committee depart without thanking them for the good work they had done and also to voice the thanks of the committee to the people of Rugby and district for the very loyal support they had given over a long period. He also paid a special tribute to the Hon Secretary for the very efficient manner in which he had organised and managed the whole of the affairs of the committee (applause).—Mr Donkin said he envied Mr Barker the success he had attained in his efforts on behalf of our prisoners in Germany. He felt Mr Barker would always be proud of his work and rewarded by the knowledge that the prisoners were grateful to him for all he had done.
Mr Walton proposed a vote of thanks to the Chairman for the courteous and generous manner in which he had conducted the meetings, remarking that he was always in his place, even on occasions when he was far from well.—Mr Donkin seconded, and the resolution was enthusiastically carried.
Mr Barker thanked the committee for their kind expressions. He had had their whole-hearted support all through, and had received much encouragement from the Chairman. He valued the many letters he had received from the men in their prison camps and the knowledge that the parcels were of such vital importance to the prisoners had determined him to continue to the end the work he had undertaken. Now that the end had come no one was more thankful in the knowledge that the men were now being released from their sufferings, and that the food sent had helped largely to relieve their distress.
LOCAL ENGINEERS AND THE CRUEL TREATMENT OF BRITISH PRISONERS.
The following communication baa been sent to the Prime Minister :—
“ SIR,—I have the honour to confirm a telegram sent you this evening, and which correctly represents the feeling amongst the engineering community employed at the different works at Rugby, reading as follows :—
“ The whole of the engineering community employed on munitions of war at Rugby is much concerned to learn the harrowing details of the manner British prisoners are endeavouring to reach our lines, and demand that some adequate and drastic measures be taken immediately to feed, clothe, and transport these men, irrespective of any difficulties or restrictions imposed by the armistice or the German authorities.
“ I have the honour to be, yours obediently,
“ (Signed) J P GREGORY.
“ c/o The British Thomson-Houston Co, Rugby.
“ November 20, 1918.”
LOCAL WAR NOTES.
Lieut J H Clark, R.A.F, who before joining the Army was employed on the outside construction staff at the B.T.H, died on November 4th as the result of an aeroplane accident.
Mr J M Skinner, of 83 Abbey Street, received a message of sympathy from the King and Queen on November 6th on the loss of his son, Pte R J Skinner, of the West Yorkshire Regiment, who was officially reported to have been killed in action. However, Mr Skinner last week received a letter from his son, in which he says he is in good health and anxious to have a “ peep,” into Germany.
Trooper Frederick Farndon. of the Prince of Wales Inn, Rugby, has been awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for distinguished and gallant services rendered on the occasion of destruction or damage by enemy action to transports.
Mr C E and Mr Clements, 33 Winfield Street, have lost their son, Gunner E E Clements, R.F.A, from pneumonia, under sad circumstances, after seeing a lot of service in France. He worked as a fitter in the L & N-W Railway Sheds, and when war broke out he answered the first call, and joined Kitchener’s Army in August, 1914. He served three years in France, and was twice badly wounded. During the big German offensive in May this year he was gassed. On recovering he returned to his regiment, when he was called out of the ranks and told that he would have his discharge in two days’ time after good service. On the following day he was struck down with influenza, which developed into pneumonia, to which he succumbed on the 14th inst. The funeral took place at Rugby Cemetery on Saturday last. He was borne to the grave by six of his former workmates, and a large number of flowers testified to the esteem in which he was held.
THE INFLUENZA EPIDEMIC.
The influenza epidemic still shows signs of abating, although the death-rate continues alarmingly high. During the last week 16 deaths from this cause were registered locally, making a total of over 120 since October 14th. There is still a considerable amount of illness in the town and district, but fortunately in the majority of cases it is not of so virulent a nature as that experienced at the beginning of the epidemic.
A SAD RECORD.- During the past week three military funerals have taken place – a record that has never been experienced previously in the parish. The deceased soldiers were: Pte L Howkins (6th Devons), Pte G Hughes (Oxford and Bucks L.I.), and Pte W Evans (Royal Warwicks), all of whom died from pneumonia. There have been four other deaths and a great deal of illness in the parish.
MR T BRAIN, postman, Mill Street, Dunchurch, has received official news that his son, Pte G Brain, R. W. R, was killed in action on November lst. Pte Brain, who had only been in the Army eight months, played three quarter back for the Dunchurch Football Club, and was also a member of the Dunchurch Brass Band and a ringer at the Parish Church.
BILTON PARISH COUNCIL.
THE NEW BILTON MORTUARY.
Several matters of more than usual importance from a parochial point of view were considered at a meeting of the Bilton Parish Council, held at New Bilton on Monday, when there were preset : Messrs J H Veasey, vice-chairman (who presided), F M Burton, J J Cripps, A J Askew, J H Lambert, R Lovegrove, A T Watson, F J Smith, F W Hunt, and F Fellows (clerk).
THE INFLUENZA MORTALITY.
The New Bilton Ward Committee reported that, whereas the yearly average of interments in the cemetery was only 40, no less than 20 funerals had taken place during the past month. . . . .
THE WAR MEMORIAL.
A letter was read from Capt M E T Wratislaw (chairman of the Council), in which, after apologising for his absence owing to military duties, he said : “ As regards the War Memorial, I have not been able to give the matter any lengthy consideration, as, of course, the armistice has only just been signed, and peace is not yet declared, so that I think a public meeting is a little premature. I hope New Bilton will not be forgotten. Any form of memorial should be, if possible, in both wards. The first thing would be to perpetuate the names of all fallen by a tablet in both wards. If a museum or reading room is built I have a nucleus in the Potter Bar Zeppelin frame and some shell noses for the former. I do not like the institution of a club for discharged men only. We still have the invested balance of King George’s Coronation Fund, and a drinking fountain might be erected in both wards, with the addition of the roll of all fallen men and a tablet of the Coronation. Again, the provision of open spaces in both wards would have my strongest support.”—Mr Lovegrove suggested that the Council build public baths or a free library. They had the power to do this by adopting certain Acts.—The Chairman, however, expressed the opinion that any memorial should be provided by voluntary subscriptions. Moreover, if they adopted Mr Lovegrove’s suggestion, it would mean higher rates in future for maintenance, and many of the smaller property owners in the parish were already hard put to it to raise the present rates.—After discussion, the further consideration of the question was referred to the respective Ward Committees, who will report to a subsequent meeting of the Council.
DANCE—After the cessation of hostilities a dance was got up at the Schools to celebrate the happy event, and also to assist the Soldiers’ Christmas Parcels Fund. It proved very successful, and by its means £3 8s 6d has been netted for the fund. The Excelsior Band (leader, Mr W Priest) volunteered their services, and the refreshments were kindly provided by Mrs Henry Powell. The arrangements were made by Mrs G Wright, Misses O Powell, M Whitehead, A Whitehead, C Spraggett, M Spraggett, and N Lane, assisted by Mr H T Wright (late of R.W.R) and Pte Alex Askew (N.Z Medical Corps).
THE ROLL OF HONOUR.—The Long Itchington roll of honour contains 230 names. Of these 29 have given their lives for their country, five are missing, four are prisoners of war, eight have been decorated, one has been mentioned in despatches, 16 have been honourably discharged, and upwards of 50 are known to have been wounded.
FEEDING THE GUN.—In connection with the campaign to raise the money of War Bonds in this district, the gun arrived here at 10 o’clock on Tuesday morning, and remained until 1 p.m. The children welcomed it with cheers and waving flags, and a goodly number of people assembled round it when it was unlimbered on the village green. The demonstrations given by the genial corporal gunner in charge were much appreciated, and the shrapnel scars on the carriage were examined with a pathetic interest.
A VETERAN NATIVE.—The arrival here last week of Gunner Wm Salt, R.F.A, from Mesopotamia on a visit created no small interest, and he received a hearty welcome not only from his own family, but from many old friends. He enlisted 17 years ago, and it is now some 13 years since he last came home. He was located in India when the War broke out, and eventually proceeded to Mesopotamia, where he has for some time past been attached to General Maude’s staff.
MILITARY CROSS FOR CAPT D C M BEECH.—News has reached Brandon that Capt D C M Beech has been awarded the Military Cross Captain Beech is the Second son of Colonel R J and Mrs Beech of Brandon Hall. He received his military training at Sandhurst, and before the war broke out was connected with the 20th Hussars. He was early in the fighting, and at the very beginning saw much service in France. He was afterwards sent to Egypt. Here he acted as Brigadier-Major (temporary), and did fine service. Capt Beech lost his elder brother at Ypres, and is now the sole surviving son of Colonel Beech. The news caused much pleasure amongst the residents at Brandon. His father, Colonel Beech, has also been much service in France, but recently has been very ill. The hard work in France told upon his constitution, but we are pleased to say that, although still confined to the house, his health is improving.
SCHOOL CLOSURE.—Brandon School has been closed by the Medical Officer of Health. Fifty per cent of the scholars were absent, through illness, on the last day of opening. The whole of several families are in bed through influenza.
FUNERALS.—The funeral took place in Southam churchyard on Monday . . . of a German prisoner, who died after a short illness at one of the local prison camps, in which many of the men have suffered from the prevailing epidemic. The coffin. covered with the German flag, was borne to the grave by deceased’s fellow prisoners, many others following. The English guard of four formed the firing party. Lieut Crawford was the officer in charge. The service was conducted by the local Roman Catholic priest.
RUGBY PETTY SESSIONS.
TUESDAY.—Before Dr Clement Dukes (in the chair), and Messrs A E Donkin and T A Wise.
SEQUEL TO NEW BILTON TRAGEDY.—On behalf of the Rugby Board of Guardians, Mr H Lupton Reddish applied for an order to be made committing a boy named Jack Ernest Hill, aged 13, to an Industrial School. He said the boy was an illegitimate child, and his mother committed suicide on November 4th while distracted with grief at the death of her husband, which took place the same evening from pneumonia. On November 6th the boy was taken to the Workhouse, and on the 10th inst he ran away. He was fetched back the same day, and subsequently was taken before the Guardians, when he promised Canon Mitchison to behave better in future. An hour later he ran away again, and was brought back at nine o’clock by his aunt. He was then seen by Mr Robotham (the vice-chairman of the Board), and after giving a further promise of amendment, he was cautioned that a repetition of the offence might result in him having to appear before the Justices. Early in the afternoon he ran away again, and was brought back by his aunt. Three years ago the boy was brought before the Bench on a charge of stealing apples.—In reply to the Chairman, Mr Reddish said the boy was not a suitable subject for a lunatic asylum, and there was as yet no means of dealing with him under the Mental Deficiency Act.—Continuing, Mr Reddish said in August last the boy had a sunstroke, and he suffered from partial paralysis of the left side. He was backward in his education, and it was thought that if he was sent to an Industrial School he would be under supervision and discipline, and would also be taught a trade. It was impossible for the officials of the Workhouse to keep a watch on him, and the Guardians could only punish him to a certain extent by locking him up—a procedure which was not advisable in a case of this kind.—The boy was sent to an Industrial School for three years. . . . .
CHEESE.—On November 7th, in France, of pneumonia, following influenza, the Rev. WILLIAM GERARD CHEESE, M.A., Chaplain to the Forces, Vicar of Duddington, Northants., aged 35, youngest son of the late Rev. J. A. Cheese, Vicar of New Bilton, Rugby.
CLEMENTS.—On the 12th inst., at Horton War Hospital, Epsom, EUSTACE EDWIN, the dearly beloved eldest son of C. E. & M. F. Clements, Gunner, R.F.A., of “ flu ” and pneumonia ; aged 25 years.—Deeply mourned.
COLING.—In ever loving memory of Corpl. ARTHUR TOMPKINS, who was killed in action “ somewhere in France,” November 8th, aged 21 years.
“ We pictured his safe returning.
We longed to clasp his hand ;
But God has postponed our meeting
Till we meet in the Better land.”
—Deeply mourned by his sorrowing Parents, Brother, Sister, and Dorothy.
DAVENPORT.—At Queen Alexandra Military Hospital, Millbank, London, Pte. C. W. DAVENPORT, Coldstream Guards, the dear and only son of Charles and Maria Davenport, of Harborough Magna, died November 14, 1918 ; aged 24 years.—“ His end was peace.”
“ A light is from our household gone,
A voice we loved is still.”
HUGHES.—In loving memory of Pte. JAMES AMOS HUGHES, who passed away on November 11th at the Military Hospital, Dover, after a short illness, aged 22 years.
“ Father, in Thy gracious keeping,
Leave Thee now Thy servant sleeping.”
—From his sorrowing Father, Mother, Sisters and Brother, also Brother in France.
WEBSTER.—Killed in action in France on September 28th, ARTHUR, the dearly beloved grandson of Thomas Webster, of 71 Abbey Street, Rugby, aged 19 years.
“ A day of remembrance, sad to recall,
The loss of our dear one, loved by us all.
We think of him in silence, and his name we oft recall ;
But there is nothing left but his photo on the wall.
Fondly we loved him. he is as dear to us still,
But in grief we must bend to God’s Holy Will.
If we could have raised his dying head, or heard his last farewell,
The grief would not have been so hard for us that loved him well.”
—Too dearly loved to be forgotten by His loving Grandad, Aunt & Uncle, & cousins Eveline & Frances.
WILDMAN.—On November 2nd, in hospital in France, died from wounds received in action, JOSEPH WALTER WILDMAN.