The Way We Were with John Taylor: Letting off steam

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The local press has always been important for recording social history, and while browsing the archives it was pleasing to note that Lady Smith has been relieved. Thank goodness, poor woman must have been desperate. But then it transpired it was really Ladysmith, in South Africa, and the piece referred to the lifting of a siege during the Boer War.

As with the First World War, during the Boer War letters were published in the local papers from men at the front, and one of those on military service was Trooper Alfred Woods, from Little Brickhill. Having joined the Yeomanry he was sent to South Africa where his camp at Moedwill, in the Rustenburg district of Transvaal, came under attack by the Boers. Despite being outnumbered the British troops drove off the attackers but with 161 casualties, killed and wounded. Thus on Friday, October 5, 1901, Mr and Mrs John Woods received a telegram from the War Office stating their son was had been killed. He was aged 24, and only some three years earlier his sister had died at the age of 20. On Advent Sunday the volunteer soldiers of the Fenny Stratford and Bletchley district marched to the village church for a service to dedicate a brass tablet to his memory. Hundreds of people awaited admittance but the church became so packed that 200 had to be turned away. The service was conducted by the vicar, the Rev Banting, and included in the wordingof the tablet was: ‘This memorial is erected by his friends to a brave young soldier who gave his life for his King and country. A bugler sounded the Last Post to bring the moving service to a poignant close.