November 2014: Westcott and The Great War – Peter Bennett

This talk, held on Remembrance Day, marked the centenary of the Great War and looked on how the war affected Westcott and what life was like during the war years. The year 1914 began well. The football team came top of the league, but grim events were to follow. By August the nation was at war; 327 Westcott men went off to the war; 36 did not return.

Apart from this appalling loss, the war affected Westcott in many other ways, some of which were quite unexpected. Our school woodwork master was in Berlin when war broke out – he was interned and returned safely for the Spring Term of 1919! We gained a railway halt for troops coming to fire on a range north of the village – for military use only, it was demolished in 1928. The Army took over the Isolation Hospital, and the school billeted a battalion on its way to the front. The school also helped to ease food shortages. Gardening classes cultivated the plots of absent men to grow food for their families and a notable event was the great ‘Horse Chestnut Gathering’ which ultimately led to the creation of the State of Israel!

An early event after the war was the construction of The Hut as a place of recreation for returned servicemen; this later became the village club which continues today to the great benefit of the village. Mr Geake put up the village sign and the thatched bus shelter in memory of his son and both these have been a focal point for the village ever since.