In the sunny pre-war years before the outbreak of the First World War Wolverton was second only to High Wycombe as a population centre in the south.
So it should come as no surprise that when the conflict beganthat summer the Wolverton area provided more than a quarter of the volunteers who joined the Buckinghamshire battalions, or that the railway works played such a key role in the war effort.
Citizen contributor John Taylor has completed the first volume of his new bookWolverton During The First World War. The initial tome covers everything from Belgian refugees to air attacks, and women’s suffrage to the special constables.
Belgium was of course one of the sparks which ignited the four-year war; a conflict between Serbia and Austria led to Germany invading Belgium. And as Belgium’s ally Britain was drawn into the fight.
When Belgium was quickly overrun by the Bundesheer Wolverton was quick to show solidarity with our allies.
As early as September the Wolverton Brotherhood held an open meeting in the Congregational Church, collecting funds for refugees, and by the beginning of October donations to the Wolverton Carriage Works alone had surpassed £200.
The book tracks the arrival of Belgian families to the area, with one contemporary describing “an elderly man and his wife leaving Wolverton railway station, with all their belongings in a biscuit tin”.
The First World War is often presented as a flurry of patriotism, but in Wolverton it gave sustenance to internationalism. On October 31 the town held a Belgian Day, with men, women and children wearing Belgian colours, raising £88 for the Wolverton Belgian Relief Fund Committee.
And it was not just Belgian visitors who were supported. The Wolverton Belgian Relief Fund was one of the initiatives supporting Flemish and Walloonian soldiers at the front, and locals with links to the country helped, too.
WAM Goode, honorary secretary of the National Committee for Relief In Belgium may have put it best: “I trust the day will not be far distant when these children will be freed from German bondage and be able to themselves voice their gratitude.”