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Charlton Marshall Village HistorySun, 21st July 2019

Charlton Marshall Village History

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First World War

World War 1 in the villages. Just a little background as we come to the annual Remembrance ceremonies.

Much has been done nationally and locally to commemorate the centenary of WW1. Through books, television programmes, films, and musicals such as War Horse we can have a much better understanding of, and feel for, what was going on. Since I published my book on Charlton Marshall, new online search tools have become available, and locally Blandford U3A has researched the stories of the men on local war memorials; in particular Christine Smith from Charlton Marshall has researched both ours and Spetisbury's, and Blandford St Mary's has also been done. Copies of ours and Blandford St Mary's are deposited in Blandford Museum, Charlton Marshall Parish Council has a copy of ours while Spetisbury's is on the brink of completion.

Immediately war was declared in August 1914 thirty men from Charlton Marshall and Spetisbury volunteered and within a month almost as many more had joined them. During the course of the conflict at least sixty two men from Charlton Marshall and eighty from Spetisbury either volunteered or were called up; conscription was eventually introduced in January 1916 for single men aged between 18 and 41 – with certain exceptions. Thirteen men from Charlton Marshall and fourteen from Spetisbury are recorded on the war memorials.

We do not know how many families were directly affected in our villages but the impact on communities numbering only a few hundred must have been considerable, especially as those who were absent were among the most active and healthy. Can we imagine the emotions of a young wife who is told a month after the outbreak of war that her husband has died from wounds received in action, only to learn a few weeks later that he is in fact a prisoner of war?

In November 1914 Bertie Martin from Charlton Marshall was home with a bullet wound to the head but the parish magazine reported 'His trying experience does not seem to have damped his ardour in the least, and he hopes to return to the front shortly.'. He was eventually to lose his life on July 1st 1916 on the first day of the battle of the Somme and is buried in the Serre Road Cemetery in Somme. Bertie was a 'regular' having seen 10 years' service by the outbreak of war, including 6 years in India and Ceylon. Others too who joined up, had seen former service and knew something of military life, but it is doubtful if anything could prepare them for the new mechanised warfare of 1914-18.

In the villages all sorts of fund-raising took place and the women sewed and knitted to provide items for the troops – both those on active service and those repatriated wounded. Some Belgian refugees were housed locally.

Mark Churchill.

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