Wartime Bletchley

Bletchley During The First World War by John Taylor
Bletchley During The First World War by John Taylor

The world was a very different place 100 years ago. Foreign countries were a lot more exotic and far away, whilst the towns or villages we lived in were far smaller.

Much of the process of change was started or accelerated by the First World War. And with 2014 being the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the conflict, Citizen columnist John Taylor has produced his latest book Bletchley During The First World War. The book reflectis the full scope of the war locally, covering everything from servicemen to schools to Belgian refugees.

Unlike most of the nations taking part in the war, Britain did not have a large standing army, but a wave of patriotism saw countless men volunteer to go to the front.

A Cook and W Souster may have been the first from Bletchley to enlist, with the two former Fenny Stratford students arriving at Bletchley Post Office in the early hours of August 5, 1914.

They were issued with their railway warrants by the Ministry of Labour and sent straight to Leeds, being sworn inthe next day and joining the Royal Engineers.

As war fever spread three more young lads joined the crowds on August 11 – George Wallinger, Tony Clifton and Sid Walduck.

Without telling their parents about their plans they walked to Stony Stratford so they could enlist with a detachement of the RAMC under the command of Colonel Deyns of Bletchley Road.

When the detachment was full they were given a warrant to Northampton, and had to bed down in the crowded barracks overnight.

Eventually the three of them were sworn in an “put in khaki”, but young George failed his medical.

He was sent home to Bletchley High Street, and it was then that Sid’s mother discovered what had happened to her son.

Sid was called into the Orderly Room on August 23 to find his irate aunt waiting for him. He was given a stern ticking off and sent home, discharged for being underage.

But there were lighter moments of patriotism, too. In March 1915 the town had no cases to be heard at the Petty Sessions as crime fell. And in April 1917 three aeroplanes landed unexpectedly in a Simpson field. The next day they took off again, performed aerial manouevres over Bletchley and departed, with no one ever knowing where they were from or where they were going.