St Ives during World War I

St Ives during World War I
What was the experience for St Ives during one of the most cataclysmic events ever to effect Great Britain? Certainly there were changes to the town. Many of our men marched off to life changing experiences. Some never returned. For those left behind, there was a strange mix of mundane ongoing routine and earth-shattering news. Read on for details of the effect of World War I on St Ives and its people. Read the personal stories behind every one of the brave men who gave their lives and are listed on the St Ives War Memorial. And read of those St Ives men who gave their lives but are not listed on the War Memorial.

St Ives prepares
In 1914 the only means of obtaining news was by word of mouth, letters and newspapers. War was declared on Tuesday 4 August 1914. First mention in the local newspaper, the Hunts Post, was in the following edition on Friday 7 August 1914. Before then there was no clue. So the war must have come as a great shock to most St Ives residents.

Once war was declared, the town certainly didn't hang around. The day after the Mayor invited all the young men of the town to a meeting in the Corn Exchange to ensure there were enough Red Cross volunteers. Prices immediately increased and the banks closed for a short period. The Hunts Post was full of more news of the war, from hints for housewives to the first news of the recruitment campaign.

St Ives Red Cross Hospital
St Ives Red Cross Hospital catering for wounded soldiers in the Methodist Church
In just eight weeks, 750,000 young men from around the country joined up to go to war. In every town and city training camps were set up. Within three weeks of war being declared, St Ives was preparing to billet soldiers for one of those camps. A Red Cross Hospital was set up ready to take wounded soldiers, the first in the country to receive recognition from the War Office.

Pubic buildings such as the Corn Exchange and the cattle market were requisitioned by the Army. By the beginning of September 1914 soldiers arrived in the town. Leisure facilities were prepared for them. Pubs closed earlier, at 9.30pm. Military sentries were posted around town and motorists, cyclists and pedestrians were warned if they failed to stop when challenged they would be fired upon. Hemingford Meadow became a training ground, the exercises attracting large crowds of spectators. As suddenly as soldiers under training moved into the town, they were back on the move to unknown destinations. Rumours abounded, such as the tale of a local German spy.

Having sent heads of households a form to list resident young men, they soon received their call-up. The first meeting to recruit young St Ivians was held mid September. The Hunts Post published hints for soldiers bound for the Front. The White Feather Association sought to shame St Ives men into enrolling. The Hunts Post published cartoons aimed at those young men, even targeting fathers of young children. An advert was published for the Bantam Battalion, reducing the minimum height of recruits to 5ft.

Fife & Forfar Yoemanry in St Ives
The Fife & Forfar Yeomanry, stationed in St Ives in 1914
The first chilling figures on wounded and dead were published. The local volunteers were on constant guard around the town. But life continued. Broncho Bill's circus performed in Hemingford Meadow. The Town Council met weekly, the Workhouse Guardians fortnightly. In the local court a procession of townspeople had cases heard.

Such news as the first use of gas by Germans was a particular worry for worried families. It wasn't long before the first wounded local man returned. Then news of the first St Ivian killed at Front. The first letter is published telling of experiences in the trenches.

There were extraordinary examples of sacrifice. The Hurl family of The Waits had 5 sons serving. Later, their photos were published.  The Kiddle family had father and four sons serving. The Hunts Post printed a list of St Ives men serving.

Some local recruits had a very positive experience of Army life. A daily serving of meat was a rare luxury in the early 20th century. Add to that supplies of cigarettes and rum, and the adventure of foreign travel such as in Egypt. But for many there were nightmare experiences. The drip feed of casualties and deaths continued, Private G Hammond's being the first photo to be published of a St Ivian killed, followed by that of Sergeant Bert Attwood.

The town saw a series of military funerals, the largest being for Lieutenant Dennis Ivor Day, son of the Town Clerk and one of two Day brothers to lose their lives in WWI. And then first news of deaths from major battle disasters came through, with the death of Private Thomas Allen at Gallipoli. His widow and two very young sons were left to mourn his loss. Later, local lad Trooper Ben Corbett  wrote of his experiences in Gallipoli.

WW1 Military Tribunal
Conscription was introduced early in 1916. The above image makes fun of a local Military Tribunal, but the weekly hearings were serious affairs, hearing appeals through occupation or personal circumstances against being called up.

In the second half of 1916 there was positive news of the Battle of the Somme. Then came the weekly news of St Ives men injured or killed. By Feb 1917 France were preparing for victory. But  food shortages arose through increased German submarine activity. Food rationing followed.

With the Battle of Arras from spring 1917 onwards, more deaths and casualties featured in the local news. More sober figures were published of dead and injured. And another surge in deaths following Passchendaele.

What happened in 1918. How did St Ives celebrate the end of war? More details will follow. To read more than 700 newspaper cuttings about St Ives and its residents from 1914 to 1918, click here. To get weekly news of St Ives during 1918 and further updates to this page, click here and like the Facebook page.

St Ives War Memorial
There are a number of tributes around the town to local lads who gave their lives during World War I. A plaque in the Methodist Church commemorates 16 members of the congregation who died in WWI. There's a similar memorial to members in the Literary Institute.

The most obvious is St Ives War Memorial, located in the Market Hill, erected on 11 November 1920. Created in the image of the Cross of Sacrifice designed by Reginald Blomfield, it features an elongated cross with bronze longsword pointing downwards. Made of limestone, a close look reveals hundreds of tiny fossils on its surface. There are more than a thousand similar memorials in Commonwealth war cemeteries across France, Belgium and throughout world, generally where there are more than forty graves present. Many memorials in Great Britain also used Blomfield's design.

The following words are inscribed on the St Ives War Memorial plinth.
MEN OF ST IVES WHO HAVE FALLEN IN THE GREAT WAR
MDCCCXIV MDCCCXVIII
WE HERE HIGHLY RESOLVE THAT THESE DEAD
SHALL NOT HAVE DIED IN VAIN.
The Monument shows 74 names of those killed in WWI. Below are listed all those names (note, names being added weekly at present until completion). Click any entry to read the personal story behind the name.

Of the 74 names, 32 have no known grave. Why so many? There are a variety of reasons. Thousands of small burial plots were created on or very close behind the battlefields. Although registered, in 1918 many were over-run first by the German advance and later by the Allies pushing East again. This resulted in uncertainty about their exact locations. Additionally, plots were destroyed by shelling.

Sometimes bodies were not found. If killed during an assault the soldier might lie in no man's land for some time, increasing the chances of burial by shellfire. And a direct hit by a shell would leave very little evidence, the unfortunate soldier being blown to smithereens.

There are also St Ives men who gave their lives and are not listed on the War Memorial. In early 1918 the Lord Lieutenant asked Town and Parish Councils to maintain a Roll of Honour. St Ives Town Council decided to do a house to house canvass to gather the names of those who had given their lives. Some names were missed. Maybe the families were too traumatised to respond. Possibly they didn't want the names publicly displayed. Or no matter how thoroughly the canvas was carried out, some households were missed. The stories behind those missing names are also included below.

In the life stories, no special mention is made when men were awarded the Star MedalBritish War Medal and Victory Medal. Never awarded singly, these medals were issued to all British officers and men who served in any theatre of war during WWI.

Some of the entries include a photograph of the person named, but most do not. If you are able to supply a photo, or any additional information, please get in touch via the make contact page.

Names on the St Ives War Memorial Names missing from the War Memorial
PTE JOHN W BATEMAN
CORPL FRANK BOWD
PTE WILLIAM BROWN
PTE CHARLES R BUTLER
PTE HERBERT BUTLER
PTE PERCY E BYATT
2ND LIEUT WALTER H CATER MC
L/CORPL BERTRAM A CLACK
PTE ERNEST W CLARIDGE
L/CORPL ERNEST A CLEMENTS
GNR HARRY C COOPER
2ND LIEUT D IVOR DAY
FLT CMR RN M JEFFREY G DAY DSC
L/CORPL ERNEST W DEAVIN
PTE GEORGE HOUSDEN DELLAR
L/CORPL ALFRED C DODSON
PTE FREDERICK A DUNKLING
PTE JAMES C FEARY
STOKER CLEMENT M FREEMAN
PTE WALTER G FULLER
PTE GEORGE P FYSON
SGNR JAMES V GALE
PTE FRANK L GEESON
PTE WILFRED J F GIDDINGS
PTE DANIEL GRAY
PTE GEORGE W HAMMOND
CORPL JAMES J HAND
L/CORPL ROBERT J HARRISON
PTE EDWARD BYATT
SGT HORACE F EAGLE DCM
PTE WILFRED G EDWARDS

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