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Book Reviews, July 2016

Painswick and the Great War By Carol Maxwell and Peter Jackson

Many such books published over the past couple of years have concentrated on recording the lives of those listed on their local war memorial and those who fought in the Great War. This book, however, looks in much greater depth at the events that happened between 1914 and 1918 and the impact on the community of Painswick.

The book consists of 82 pages, illustrated by a wide range of pictures, some of which are in colour, including photographs of those who died, military documents, pictures of postcards sent home, newspaper cuttings, posters, sketches, cartoons, local photographs, maps, charts and statistical tables. There are two appendices, one on general statistics of the war, the other on the medals awarded for service during the conflict.

After a general introduction, referring to a time of great sadness for some residents but prosperity for others, the authors have used quotes from local newspapers and parish magazines to demonstrate the patriotic propaganda used to encourage the young men of Painswick to enlist, and the women to support them.

On the 9th September 1914, the first Belgian refugees arrived in the county, virtually empty-handed, and, by November, 65 refugees had reached Painswick where the community was required to find accommodation, food, clothing and work for the newcomers. Records for Painswick School show that 8 Belgian girls were in attendance whereas two boys were sent to Marling School, in Stroud. To provide work for the men who had arrived from Belgium, the Painswick war committee opened up Kings Mill and turned it into a chair making factory, employing the men, many of whom were wood workers. One refugee, Monsieur Alphonse Bal, carved the decorative part of the war memorial screen in St Mary’s Church.

The book continues, with sections on the serving men, making good use of press reports bringing news from the front, information on the wounded and the care they received, plus a detailed analysis of the age of the recruits, their previous occupations and where they lived in the village.

A large section, entitled ‘Meanwhile in Painswick …’ discusses life at home and covers every conceivable aspect from committees and rationing to land girls, mill and factory workers. There is a delightful section on ‘The Chronicle of Painswick Platoon’ including ‘In that day, the Elders of Painswick took counsel together saying: “Let us send into all the Country round about and form companies of Ancient Warriors and of such as cannot go forth to fight the Great Beast in foreign parts.” ’

Copies of postcards sent home by Ted West, some of them of places where he was serving and others hand-drawn, illustrate the soldier’s determination to remain cheerful and not worry his wife and daughter. One shows Ted’s drawing of the outside of their dugout and mentions 30 steps down to his living quarters!

The book then covers the wounded and those discharged as unfit to serve, listing the various reasons why – a sad glimpse at what the soldiers actually suffered. Next comes the section of nearly 50 Painswick men who died, and the Roll of Honour, with photos of some of the men and some of the Commonwealth War Graves to be found in the churchyard. Finally, there is a short section on Willoughby Dickinson and his movement for world peace, through The World Council of Churches and the League of Nations.

This book is on sale at three venues in Painswick: at the Painswick Pharmacy, the Painswick Community Library and the 'Patchwork Mouse'. It is also on sale at the Stroud TIC and the Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum in Gloucester. It can also be obtained by contacting Carol Maxwell (carolmaxwell@talktalk.net; Tel: 01452 813387).

‘Painswick and the Great War’ may be a relatively small book but it is absolutely packed full of interesting insights into the life of a Gloucestershire village during the ‘war to end all wars’. A fascinating read!

Liz Jack

A Noble Band of Heroes By John Dixon and others, Published by Tewkesbury Historical Society, 2015; ISSN: 1742-6030.

This very comprehensive book has been produced as a commemoration of those from Tewkesbury who lost their lives during the Great War. It consists of over 300 high-quality pages of text and maps together with many photographs, some black and white, some colour.

The book is divided into five sections:

1. Introduction: The Great War The first section gives the background to how this book came into being and an explanation of the use of the term ‘The Great War’.

2. Tewkesbury’s Memorials This brief section shows how, to begin with, newspaper items listing those who were serving in the armed forces were produced, followed by Rolls of Honour, but these were later replaced by more permanent memorials, in schools, churches and organisations leading to the unveiling of the Tewkesbury War Memorial on 7th May 1922.

3. The War through the Eyes of the Combatants Apart from the later collection of individual biographies, this section occupies the largest part of the book. Beginning with a short synopsis of events of the war as a whole, this section is divided into the events of each of the four years of the war and the later consequences. Each year starts with a list of dates and a map of the relevant area of conflict; the following text describes the events of that period, particularly from the point of view of the Tewkesburians involved; each section is well illustrated with images of postcards, posters and photographs. Throughout, footnotes are included giving the sources of various pieces of information.

Although the First World War was mainly one fought by soldiers in the Army, information on naval and aerial warfare is also covered. Details of the various campaigns during the war are also described.

A postscript demonstrates that war does not end for the participants exactly when the armistice is signed. Despite the ‘miraculous change’ written about by the Vicar of Tewkesbury in December 1918, life had not returned to normal. The wounded, their nurses (including the one female death) and the hospitals, the ensuing unemployment, the Spanish Influenza pandemic, those who were awarded gallantry medals and those who were omitted from the war memorials – all receive mention in the final part of this section.

4. Appendices Often placed at the end of the book but here found towards the middle, this section contains the appendices and indices. Military terms, ranks and units are explained and medals described and illustrated. People not included in the biographies of those who died, from Kitchener to Kaiser William II, not forgetting lesser mortals such as Mrs Mary Letitia Didcote who unveiled the town’s War Memorial, and Sergeant R G Williams who sent a poem home from the front, have their place here.

Indices to the people, regiments and places mentioned in the first half of the book are given here, followed by a list of the biographies in the second part of the book.

5. Biographies of ‘Our Noble Band of Heroes’ This section fills over half of the book. It is a collection of biographies of all who died in the Great War. Each soldier, whether volunteer or conscript, whatever their rank, is given his (or her) own page, organised by alphabetical order of surname.

Across the top of each page is a banner containing the full name and rank of the soldier, their Army number and regiment, when and where they died, where they are buried and commemorated.

Beneath the banner are two or three photographs for each soldier; these pictures include photographs of the cemetery or grave where the person was buried, the regimental badge, an image of one of the medals one and frequently, a picture of the soldier himself.

The rest of each page consists of details of the life of each soldier, their family, childhood, school and religious life; this is followed by their enlistment and experiences before and during the First World War and how and where they died.

This prodigious work is the result of the efforts of several people to whom John Dixon gives thanks. Congratulations to all involved; it must have been a mammoth task. An amazing amount of research has been put into all sections of the book; the result is exceptional. So many different aspects have been covered. It will be of interest to all those who know and love Tewkesbury, but especially to the military historians.

The book is available from www.ths.freeuk.com price £14 plus p&p or from Alison’s Bookshop, High Street, Tewkesbury for £15.

Liz Jack