Sunday, 21 October 2018

Henry George Moss (Private M2/097873) — Royal Army Service Corps

Henry George Moss (Private M2/097873) — Royal Army Service Corps
50th Division Motor Transport Company

George, as he was generally known, was an Eton Wick boy and man. He was the fourth son in a fairly large family, born on August 3rd 1891 and baptized two months later on October 4th. His father, Edward George, had built the family home in Moores Lane known as Myrtle Cottage, and Henry George, with the others in the young family, enjoyed their early Childhood in this rather remote house on the edge of recently developed Boveney Newtown. Some years later the family moved to number 3, Castle View Villas in Sheepcote Road, Eton Wick; these houses are not to be confused with Castle View Terrace in Victoria Road.

Like his brothers, he attended the infant school at Eton Wick, and when seven years old he went to Eton Porny School to complete his education. He left school in July 1905, a few days before his 14th birthday. It is not known what work he pursued for the next nine years, or exactly when he enlisted in the Royal Army Service Corps. Certainly, George was a soldier by the spring of 1915 when his name appeared in the Roll of Honour of the May issue of the Parish Magazine.

At the end of the first year of the war, there were 258 serving soldiers and 48 sailors from the Parish of Eton and Eton Wick. Included at this time were three Moss brothers. William was in the Royal Engineers; he survived the war but sustained a gunshot wound to the knee in 1915, and Edward, who served with the 3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards, also survived the war. Along with Henry George, there were three other brothers, six in all, and a sister.

The 50th Division, otherwise known as Northumbrian Division, was part of the pre-war territorial Force; there is, however, no evidence of George having been a territorial soldier himself. The 50th Division Motor Transport (M. T.) Company was part of N Corps M. T. Column, serving Xlll Corps. The Northumbrians were at the Second Battle of Ypres in April and May 1915 and on the Somme during the latter stage of the battles, between September and October 1916. They were engaged again in the Battle of Arras in April 1917, and at Passchendaele in October and November of the same year. They fought at both St. Quentin, in March 1918 and on the Lys the following month. This was during the great German offensive throughout the spring and early summer of 1918, when the outnumbered British and French forces withdrew from previously hard won territory.

Following the collapse of Russia, large numbers of enemy troops had moved to the Western Front and shifted the balance of power in favour of the German army. The 50th Division was one of several sent to a normally quiet sector on the Chemin des Dames to rest and regroup, only to be hit hard by the third stage of the German onslaught at the end of May. The enemy attacks finally slackened and were held in July, until a week or two later the final allied advance reversed the situation. The Division subsequently took part in the storming of the once impregnable Hindenburg Line in October as part of the Xlll Corps, Fourth Army, on the Somme.

George was not to survive the last three weeks of the war. He succumbed to the terrible epidemic of influenza that was decimating populations throughout 1918 and 1919. On November 2nd, 1918 the Windsor and Eton Express reported:

Moss H. G. of Myrtle Cottage, Eton Wick, the fourth son of Mr and Mrs Moss of that address, died at a Casualty Clearing Station in France of bronchitis and influenza on October 21st 1918.

He had seen many of the great battles fought in Europe during four years of war, and the Divisional record suggests that he had probably seen as much, or perhaps even more than the village's other casualties. He was 27 years of age. Henry George Moss is buried in the Roisel Communal Cemetery Extension, France; the grave is number 13, Plot 1, Row D. The Roisel cemetery is east of PĂ©roone and south of Villers Faucon in the Somme region. It records the Great War burials of 721 UK soldiers, 106 Australian, 29 South African, 6 Canadian and about 50 Germans. George is commemorated locally on the village Memorial and on the Eton Church Gates Memorial.

Roisel Communal Cemetery Extension courtesy CWGC

This is an extract from Their Names Shall Be Carved in Stone  
and published here with grateful thanks to the author Frank Bond.

Note. The Census for 1911 records him as George Henry, aged 20  and single working as a Footman (domestic) and living with his parents at Myrtle Cottage. He was one of 9 children who all were all alive on the day of the Census.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Time for Reform: Nonconformists and Mrs Tough

A small number of families continued to attend the services of the Congregationalists, and as late as 1877 the Minutes of the Windsor Church described Eton Wick as 'flourishing'. But in that year a new personality, who was to have a decided influence on the lives of a great number of people, arrived in the village.

This was young Mrs Tough, who until recently had been Annie Moore of Rotherhithe, London. She came as a young bride to live at Bell Farm. Annie was an active Primitive Methodist and within a very short time had taken over the Congregationalist meetings and was conducting her own services and Sunday School in the Iron Room and cottages.

There is no doubt that Mrs Tough was successful in attracting families to her services and children to the Sunday School. Indeed, she was so successful that she soon incurred the displeasure of the new curate whose area of special responsibility ' included Eton Wick. In November, 1878, he wrote a short letter to Mrs Tough stating very clearly that he would be very obliged if she would kindly not encourage the children to attend chapel Sunday School, as he had forbidden them to attend it and he wished them to attend the Church Sunday School only. Mrs Tough sent a very spirited reply in which she assured the curate that she would do all in her power to urge the children to come to her meetings. As she explained, she had already made 'concessions to the Church in as much as chapel Sunday School was held at an inconvenient hour so as not to coincide with any church services, and parents and children were quite free to attend both. The letters were published in local and national papers and created quite a stir. Perhaps it was not surprising that the Church reacted in this way, for there was still much rivalry and intolerance nationally between the Established Church and the Nonconformists. Moreover, it was only three years since the Church in Eton had become separate from the College, and this was not a moment to welcome rivals.

Undaunted, Mrs Tough continued her work and mission in the village. Hers was a very personal religion. She sought out those who needed her help to find the way to Salvation - even those who did not recognize the need but had found solace, or pleasure, in alcohol; beseeching, cajouling and encouraging them, until they returned. Nine years had to pass, however, before the Iron Chapel could be replaced by a new building. Until the development of New Town there simply was not any available building land. Even then it was only the persistence of Mrs Tough that won from the developer the small plot of land on which the present chapel stands. He gave it as 'a reward for perseverance’. The money was raised by subscriptions and, even though the chapel was small, no little effort was needed by the collectors. Eton Wick was still a relatively poor community and the rich of the parish were firmly Church of England.

Within the chapel community were several people who are worthy of mention and whose names are recorded in stone on the walls of the chapel, but it is Mrs Tough who was known throughout the village. Her upright, forceful nature made her loved and feared. Even as an old lady she would wait outside the chapel until just before the service began to encourage people to come in. She died in 1930 and the Tough Memorial Hall was built in her memory.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

The Story of Oliver James Stannett in his own word - Part Three

I had started going to Eton Porney School when the 1914-18 war broke out. George and Albert both joined up in the Royal Life Guards at Windsor.

While going to Eton Porney School we used to have a Christmas party and magic lantern show every year. On this particular day I had my lunch taken from the cloakroom. (This was the only place we were allowed to put it, with our coats.) So I went to see the Head Master who lived on the premises and informed him that someone had taken my lunch.

Mr. Baker was very concerned and told me to wait a minute. He came out after five minutes and gave me two large pieces of fruit cake and two sandwiches. "There you are," he said. "And don't forget you will have no cake with your tea." But I had all the cake I wanted. I was worried because I thought that I wasn't going to get any at the party but when it was passed round the table I looked up at Mr. Baker and all he did was smile and nod his head so I got stuck in.

When I was about eleven years old, Eton College had a soup kitchen in Eton High Street where one could buy offcuts of bread. It cost tuppence for half a pillowcase full. John (Brewer) and I used to go every Friday morning and we would sit in the playing fields on the way home to search our cases for pieces of cake or currant bread - sometimes we were lucky other times not.

On other days we used to look into the dustbins of the college houses for anything that was any good. We always had plenty of writing materials, books with only two pages written on in pencil and pen nibs and pennies all stuck together. Very often we would find a cake in a cake box which had been thrown away by the boys. They always put it on top of the dustbin.

Sometimes when nothing else was forthcoming we would find a 71b. tin of golden syrup with a nice lot of treacle inside. Then we would go along to the meadow. This was a meadow which ran nearly the length of the common. Near home, we would find the best and youngest clump of sour sorrel, which was very sour. Then we sat down and dipped the sorrel in the treacle and enjoyed life. So when we got home we did not want any tea, if there was any.

On the occasions when there wasn't the treacle tin came in handy. We three (Mum's brothers and myself) went collecting birds eggs and cooked them on a fire. We used to have birds' eggs often. At least we had something to eat. Autumn was the best time for swedes, turnips and spuds. We used to cook wheat when we had nothing else. When I look back I often wonder if it did us any good but I'm sure it did.

Dad took an acre of grassland for an allotment. This was when we shook the villagers. They were all puzzled about how the ground got dug without anyone working on it. I was given to understand that the men in parts and around the village were arguing about it. I used to wait for Dad to come home from work and after he had his tea he would say, "Come on Olly let's show 'em." We went to the allotment, of course, it was dark when we got there. He uncovered some bags of lime which we proceeded to throw over the ground. We dug until midnight or thereabouts. The moon came up a bit and we could see what we were doing. We always covered a certain amount of ground. Whatever we covered, we dug without leaving any sign that we had been there. It was surprising what we managed to do.

On Sundays we did planting only, you see, at that time Dad was working in the coal yard near the gas works. It was always getting dark when he got home. But what amused me was that men came out of two or three pubs to watch us. They all came up the path to see what we were doing. Dad told them how it was done and they got some lime for their own ground. Dad and I managed to do a whole quarter acre in three weeks.

This is an extract from the autobiography written by Oliver James Stannett (1903 - 1988) and republished here with the kind permission of his relatives who still live in Eton Wick.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Eton Wick Newsletter: Our Village April 2011

The way things were — Floods 

Seafaring fishermen are quite superstitious and do not like whistling when at sea. They believe it is 'whistling for the wind' which will blow up fiercely. Hopefully, in writing about past floods it will not be tempting providence. 

Eton Wick is reputedly on a flood plain* and I occasionally get asked about past events that I presume is the result of insurance premiums. It would be a comfort to believe the Jubilee River is a definite guarantee of no future flooding locally, but of course, when it comes to weather, nothing can be a certainty. 

As a schoolboy in the early 1930s, I well recall the Eton Wick Road being flooded across the `slads' on at least two or three occasions. This is the first area to be flooded near Eton Wick. The 'Slads' is that grass stretch both north and south of the main road a few yards east of the rail viaduct. On the walk to 'Porny' school we excitedly saw water on the 'slads' south of the road and sure enough on the way home later, the water had risen enough to be across the road and covering both sides of the old grazing land, enough to necessitate the long plank footbridge being erected between the viaduct and the Folly Bridge cattle pound, from where the ground rose suddenly above most flood levels. (See photograph on page 4). The footbridge was quickly constructed by pushing steel handrails through the top of about 30 steel posts permanently in situ across the 'slads' and then fitting planks about 1 — 1½ feet above the ground and secured to brackets fitted to the posts. When not in use, the handrails; brackets and planks were safely stored under one of the viaduct arches. They were not used much after the 1947 flood. Gradually the posts rusted and fell into the grass but the other materials and planks seemed to vanish; perhaps as rumour suggested, were misappropriated. The last of the posts, I understand, went to Windsor as a future item of interest for the local museum. One of the most flooded parts of Eton Wick was along Common Road, although rarely getting into homes. 

History records very serious floods, but in the last 120 years, there were just two that were
really exceptional, the first in 1894 and the next in 1947. In many ways, these were very different in timing and cause. The deeper flood came in November 1894 after heavy rains beyond the river's ability to cope. Coming in early winter made it very difficult for inundated homes to dry their possessions effectively. It was perhaps four months before doors and windows could be opened to the elements. The 1947 flood was quite different. It came in March after six weeks of almost constant snow and rain falls accompanied by hard frosts. The result was a thickness of packed and frozen fall on deeply frozen ground. The improved March weather thawed the surface and, being unable to soak through the frozen ground, found its level on the surface. Perhaps a repeat of the 1947 weather would be beyond even the Jubilee River to cope with. Of course, the 1947 flood did allow for the summer to effectively dry out. This latter flood came about 19 months after the end of WW2 at a time when Eton Wick had no electricity; there was a severe shortage of fuel; food and clothing was still rationed and most of the young (and not so young) were desperately trying to set up home after nearly six years of war service. 

Against this background, I will mention a few particular incidents, but doubtless, those of you who experienced the 1947 flood will have your own favourite memories. My family home was an early 18th Century detached house that stood near the Common Road Jubilee oak tree. In 1894 this house was occupied by a Miss or Mrs Tarrant. In mid-November, the ground floor was flooded and the good lady was obliged to move upstairs. Like many others, she had several chickens and these also went upstairs. The 1947 flood did not get beyond the doorstep but I did see Mother pushing a knitting needle between the living room quarry tiled floor to anxiously measure how much more the water had risen. 

A few homes away lived the village blacksmith, Jack Newell, along with his daughter and her husband, Jennie and Allen Dowson. This was the end house of Hope Cottages which is one side of the lane to Common Road, with Wheatbutts Cottage on the other. Jennie was watching the village policeman coming down the flooded lane to make sure all was well. He suddenly disappeared from sight, so she went through the house to follow his progress. No policeman, but his helmet was being swept away in the flood. The water had concealed a deep hole it had 'washed' in the road and the PC had tumbled into the depths, along with his cycle. 

Wartime shortages were still resulting in food rationing, shortage of almost all goods and building materials, and very inadequate heating. My sister had recently been allocated a house in Eton but was still obliged to get the family food allowance from 'Chantlers' of Eton Wick. To get the supplies to Eton my brother paddled his kayak boat from Sheepcote Road along the flooded Eton Wick Road to the 'slads', then turning right across the Eton Recreation Ground, across Church Meadow and up Brocas Street, where he secured the boat and waded through Eton to Tangier Lane. There was continuous water all the way between Eton Wick church and Windsor Bridge. Many homes, the church and some shops were flooded. The photos we see often did not show the worse or the deepest floods, simply because everybody had too much practical purpose at hand and nobody knew where it was at its worse anyway. When floods are not 'rising' they have turned and are falling. Most roads were flooded and eventually the Eton Wick Road became too deep and hazardous. Workers and shoppers were conveyed to Slough, through Dorney by lorries belonging to R Bond (Contractors). 

A substantial anti-aircraft gun site had recently vacated Donley Common and home seeking ex-service persons had taken over the empty Nissen huts as squatters. Overnight the huts were flooded and women and infants were pushed to safety in a galvanised bath tub, a few by boat. South View residents had food passed up to the bedroom windows by boat. The army used DUKW vehicles to supply small bags of fuel and emergency foods. 

Floods as severe as those have many side effects. When water rises it forces rats to come above ground and there are many more rats than we are normally aware of. Other wildlife is obliged to converge on the remaining dry areas. When floods subside they leave the land and gardens strewn with flotsam —straw, rubbish, wood etc., and after the land is contaminated causing risk of tetanus. A village youngster died after just such an infection in 1947. Hopefully this is the past and we will not see the like again, but doubtless if it comes to it, everybody will do what is necessary — sink or swim. 

Frank Bond 

Above — in March 1947 - using the slads plank bridge. The Willow Tree public house is the higher building. Pub signpost also shown. Willow Tree cottages in the fore. 

Frank Bond 

The complete Our Village Collection can be found here. The Eton Wick History Group republish Our Village with the kind permission of publishers, the Eton Wick Village Hall Committee. 

The effects of flooding of 2014 were reported on in 15th Issue of Our Village on page 22.

*Note The Environment Agency flood map can be found through the UK Government website.

Flood Planning Map courtesy of the Environment Agency