Look Back With Little: War commemoration

Kate and James Turner
Kate and James Turner

The centenary of the outbreak of World War I has meant that 2014 is proving to be a busy time for many local history groups.

This has come about because of a desire to reveal the different forms of commitment in town and villages.

Researchers with a specific interest in Hornton have adopted an interesting approach – one which should lead to a better understanding of why men forsook their traditional ways and replaced them with feelings of patriotism – country before self. Was involvement in the war seen as a more worthy cause than doing battle with village life, which in many cases could be hard and unyielding?

One curious aspect of villages such as Hornton appears to have been a strong desire to join up. Linked to this appears to have been a near total disregard for personal safety. Indeed some men may well have been spurred on by a belief that the war would be of short duration. Just how great was the impact of the war on life in Hornton was revealed by Arthur Miles in a booklet of recollections of an Oxfordshire village and its people.

This was published in 1992 and contained significant comments such as ‘young men were taken from the plough to face the call of duty and of these nine made the supreme sacrifice’.

Arthur goes on to reveal the extent of injuries amongst those who survived the conflict but whose medical treatment meant disabilities for the remainder of their lives. An interesting aspect of involvement in the war effort is revealed in back issues of the Banbury Guardian.

The newspaper published lists of donations to the Red Cross Hospital, which was located in West Street, Grimsbury. A typical entry revealed the proceeds of a sale of cushions by Hornton Church. A working party led by Mrs S. Miles raised £2 10s (£2.50).

On another occasion a proportion of the vicar’s Easter offering was diverted to the same cause. On the eve of the war there was a strong feeling that the level of services and way of life in Hornton was worthy of protection. This was revealed by Valerie Elliott, countryside editor to the Times. Compared with today the village had four pubs, two off-licences, a butcher, a baker, several other shops and a Post Office. Work for most meant the farm or the quarry.

Accepted practices were the carrying of water from a well, reading by candlelight or oil lamps, a tin bath, and a long trudge to Banbury for items not available in the village.

In his booklet Arthur Miles has revealed a pattern of life that must have been repeated many times over.

His home was where his grandfather first started working, his business based on building work. He shows that it also included a wheelwright, a blacksmiths and a funeral service.

Mentioning of the quarry serves as a reminder that it was during the period 1914-1918 that there was a growing need for iron ore and in turn this gave rise to ironstone extraction by the Oxfordshire Ironstone Company.

In order for this to happen a track had to be laid from the Great Western sidings at Banbury. The labour was largely German Prisoners of War housed in the Warwick Road Workhouse. When in 1967 the Banbury Guardian announced the company’s closure there was a sense of the end of an era that might never have happened but for World War I.

Pictured left are Hornton residents James and Kate Turner. Mr Turner died at Passchendaele on April 14, 1916 and was with the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry 6th Battalion.

His wife Kate (nee Gardner)succeeded her mother in running Hornton Post Office in Bell Street until her death in 1972 aged 87.

l Commemoration rather than celebration is the keynote of a weekend of events at Hornton on Saturday, August 2 and Sunday, August 3.

The venue is Hornton Sports Pavilion where events will be staged both days starting at 11am with a bugle call to summon all those who like World War I songs.

The programme also includes demonstrations of trench cooking, a talk about the Somme, a quiz and concludes with a joint service at St John the Baptist Church timed for 5.15pm.