Englefield in the Great War
August Bank Holiday 1914 saw the playing of a popular cricket match in Englefield: the annual Timber Yard versus House and Gardens fixture. This picture is believed to have been taken that day. Mr Benyon paid for the lunch, served as usual by Mr and Mrs James Claydon, and Mrs Benyon provided the tea. Henry Benyon scored 44 for the House and Gardens team, Edward Buckland 20 and Alan Burtenshaw 10. For the Timber Yard Alfred Lamperd scored 19 runs and Seymour Joyce 34; their bowlers were Frederick Fisher and George Claydon. But even as they played that quintessentially English game in that quintessentially English setting on a glorious English summer’s day several of the players were receiving mobilisation telegrams; and as they no doubt enjoyed a refreshing drink in the Workmens’ Club that evening Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey was watching the street lamps being lit in Whitehall and remarking, “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”
Like every other village and town in the country, Englefield played its part in the First World War. Some men had enlisted in the new Territorial Force created in 1908, others had joined the Regular forces before the war or had former Regular service with a Reserve commitment. In addition to these, who received that fateful telegram on August Bank Holiday, many more volunteered in the first few months and were followed by yet more in 1915. Others who were too young or too old to volunteer had to wait until they became eligible for conscription in the later years as they became old enough or the age limit was gradually increased. About 90 men who lived in the village or were otherwise connected with the estate eventually served during the war and although the memorial in the church records only four names from the parish, more than twice that number of men who had close associations with the village and the estate made the final sacrifice.
In addition to those who died very many others served in World War 1. A bronze plaque is fixed to a wall in the Gardens recording the names of those on the Gardens staff who served. In addition the Rector published the names of those who had enlisted in the monthly Parish Magazine. The Reading Standard newspaper regularly published supplements documenting the progress of the War and the local regiments with photographs of many Berkshire men who died, were wounded or were decorated and the captions gave their name and home address. After the War these supplements were made into a series of leather-bound volumes and it is thanks to these that we are able to include in our Roll of Honour more names than those that were listed by the Rector or commemorated on the war memorial in the church. Very few official records of those who served in the Great War remain, most having been destroyed by a bomb in 1940.
On the home front too, villagers of all ages made their contribution to the war effort. The enthusiastic Voluntary Aid Detachment had their preparations well made long before August 1914 and Englefield House became a war hospital under the direction of Mrs Benyon from the very beginning. Those too young or too old for military service did their bit by growing food, collecting waste paper, wild fruits and nuts and by taking on those tasks normally performed by the men who were absent.
© 2021 Richard J Smith