It’s 100 years since the end of the First World War, and celebrations are taking place countrywide to honour the dead and all those who fought for their country.
And Tring is certainly doing its bit.
It all started back at the end of June when a service was held at St Peter’s and Paul’s Church to mark the re-dedication of the Tring war memorial, following extensive renovation works by the church. The service was led by Revd Huw Bellis, and ended with the laying of a single wreath on behalf of the town by Tring Mayor, Cllr Penny Hearn and Air Vice Marshal, Sir Michael Simmons.
More than 350 people gathered at the memorial on Church Square and the service concluded with a group photograph taken to recreate the sunny day in July 1919 when Tring celebrated Peace Day. The photograph was taken by Mike Bass from a window very close to the position of the 1919 photographer.
Copies of the photo will be sold to raise the final £350 to finish the work on the war memorial.
Tring Will Remember
The Poppy Project is an ambitious craft installation that will adorn Tring Parish Church, both inside and out, this November to commemorate and honour all those who gave their lives in WW1 – and especially the 116 men from Tring.
In 2014, the church’s craft group visited the Tower of London to see the ceramic poppies in the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation and were moved by the sheer scale of lives lost and the impact of such an installation. And so the seeds were sown.
Janet Goodyer from Tring Parish Church said: ‘Since then, patterns have been written and circulated, knitting needles dusted off, red wool purchased and donated, black buttons collected from button boxes and charity shops – and the fun started! ‘
Add to these poppies, 116 fractured poppy patchwork roundels all named for each of our men lost, and we are very excited about it. The community effort has been overwhelming with poppies coming from around 200 knitters so far. We have had donations of wool from America, and more locally from George and Alana at Tring Shoe Repairs.
But it is also the stories that go with making these poppies; helping with depression and relaxation, therapy following surgery, bringing people together socially, a nearly 90-yearold picking up knitting needles after 20 years, thinking her knitting days were over. A community coming together.’
The team decorated the war memorial gates and archway into the church with poppies for the Tring Memorial restoration celebration, but this will be bigger and even more spectacular. Don’t miss it!
As well as the memorial service and poppies at the church, the Tring Yarn Bomb Contributors are also planning something special. They want to keep their exact plans under wraps, as a special surprise for the morning of 1 November, so we won’t reveal too much. Suffice to say it will be spectacular.
‘We’re planning lots and are busy knitting to prepare for the big day,’ promises organiser John Cole-Morgan. ‘We’re making thousands of purple, red and white poppies, as well as knitted animals to honour the animals that helped during the war effort, which we plan to sell to raise money for the Royal British Legion, Help for Heroes, PDSA, 4Paws and the Tring Park Memorial Gardens. We hope the town will really get behind us!’
Tring and the Great War
In the years 1914-1918 the people of Tring, and everywhere else in the UK, found themselves involved in the most dreadful war the world had ever seen. It was brought home to them early on when, at the Tring Show in August 1914, all the horses on the showground were bought by the War Office. Soon afterwards, thousands of raw recruits from the north-east of England – men of Kitchener’s Fourth Army – were billeted across the town, doubling its population, while a camp was prepared at Halton. Initially 600 men volunteered for service; later, conscription added another 300. In all, that was one-fifth of the town’s population. Many were attached to Territorial units like the Hertfordshire regiment, which suffered terrible losses at the Second Battle of Ypres and the Battle of the Somme. Others were in Regular Army units such as the Bedfordshire Regiment. A fair few joined the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and some signed up with the battalions formed at Halton. Many different regiments had Tring people in their ranks, as did the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines, the Royal Flying Corps and, later, the Royal Air Force.
Of the 106 men (eight of whom were officers), whose deaths would be commemorated; 97 were killed in action, one died in an accident and eight from disease. Their valour and courage is shown in the number of decorations they achieved. Edward Barber won the Victoria Cross, only to lose his life days after the event that merited it. Other medals they were awarded included; one Distinguished Conduct Medal, three Military Crosses and three Military Medals. Of course, almost 800 men returned, many grievously injured or scarred with indelible memories.
The effect of the war was profound for everyone, whether serving or not, and the urge was strong to commemorate those who had given their lives. Earlier conflicts, such as the South African war, had seen only the names of volunteers listed on tablets. The idea of a public, open-air memorial was proposed in March 1917 and by August various designs had been considered. The one chosen was an Old English cross carrying the figure of Christ, 23 feet above a square plinth on an octagonal base. It was designed by Philip M. Johnston, FSA, FRIBA, architect to the Diocese of Chichester, with 23 other memorials to his credit.
It was not possible to erect it, as hoped, by St Peter’s Day 1918, but in late October the firm of Norman and Burt of Burgess Hill began work. The memorial remained draped in the Union flag until 27 November 1918, when the sun broke through leaden skies and a dais was put up in Church Square before a great assemblage of people. On it stood the Vicar, the Revd Henry Francis, representatives of other denominations and Mr Johnston, the architect. General Sir William Robertson, General Officer Commanding in Chief, Great Britain, declaimed ‘In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost and in the glorious memory of the men and boys of Tring who have died for their country, I unveil this cross.’ The Revd T.C. Fry, Dean of Lincoln (who until 1910 had been headmaster of Berkhamsted School) said he was there, ‘because among those commemorated were the sons of some of his dearest and most beloved friends. His sorrow mingled with their sorrow and his pride with their pride.’
After the signing of the Peace Treaty, a Service of Thanksgiving was held on Sunday 6 July. After the hymn ‘Palms of Glory’, the National Anthem was followed by the Last Post, while the bells played a muffled peal.
With thanks to Vivianne Child of Tring Together and Tim Amsden from Tring Local History Museum for their help with this article.