1917 May

Percy Holloway
William Bray
Percy Sheldrick
Benjamin Skirman

There is more news than last month to report but inevitably with the war going on it is not all good.

At the Parish Council Mr J Page and Mr R L Hine resigned and were replaced by Messrs J W Burton and R Reynolds. Both were praised for serving the village well. The author and solicitor, Reginald Hine, was moving from Ashwell and taking his family to Hitchin. Reginald Hine was born in Newnham and in the early years of his marriage lived in Ashwell at Beresfords, or Ashwell End House as it was then known.

Accidents could still happen on the home front and injuries were not confined to war.

John Westerman was taking water in a cart to two traction engines ploughing by Station Road when for some reason the front horse kicked him in head and he was now in hospital. (The engines were placed at opposite sides of a field with a wire stretched between them that pulled the plough backwards and forwards.)

Mr Hodgson, a postman from Baldock, was on his way to Odsey to empty letterboxes when he was knocked down by a sidecar on a motorbike driven by soldier. He was treated at the scene and then taken home.

The War

The news from the Front was very depressing this month. There were four reports of injuries and two deaths.

Charles Noble of the Rose & Crown was wounded for the second time. Pioneer William Bray of West End received shrapnel wounds. Pioneers were soldiers who had other duties usually associated with going ahead of the main army to build the infrastructure needed. William was from an Ashwell firm of builders so would have had many of the skills required.

Private Percy Sheldrick had been wounded in the right shoulder but was making a quick recovery and was soon able to use his arm and write home. The wound obviously mended well as he went on to be the famous needleworker.

Private Arthur Canfield of Ashwell was wounded in France. Arthur Canfield is a bit of a mystery to us as we know in 1884 he was born in Ashwell and went to the Merchant Taylors School. In the 1911 census he was still living in Ashwell and working as a farm labourer. On the church Roll of Honour he enlisted on the 10th March 1916 but apart from this one mention in The Crow we can find no further record of his service or later life.

Private Arthur Worboys died of wounds on the 30th April he left a widow, Ethel, and three sons, Reginald, Stanley and Edgar. He was born in Ashwell in 1884 and after going to the Merchant Taylors School he became a farm labourer. He enlisted with the Bedfordshire Regiment in 1915. Unfortunately we do not have a photograph of him although he is remembered on the Ashwell War Memorial.

Private Benjamin Skirman was killed in action France on the 23rd April 1917. The spelling with an ‘i’ seems to be preferred to the more usual ‘Skerman’.  He was the last survivor of the five sons of the late Frederick Skirman, of Spring Head. He was born in Ashwell in 1877 and attended the Merchant Taylors School. He married Elizabeth Dubery in Tottenham in 1897 and they had two sons. He lived in Tottenham from the time of his marriage and thus, although he appears on the Church Roll of Honour, he is not on the Ashwell War Memorial.

On a more positive note is a report from Ashwell Voluntary Aid Detachment and the Bury convalescent hospital. It includes details of running costs, gifts, and contributions, and thanks to many villagers who have kept it running by their unstinting support.

And finally an event that was talked about in Ashwell for many years because Second Lieutenant Percy Holloway literally made a flying visit landing his aircraft at Loves Farm. Percy, 22, was an old Merchant Taylors boy. He became a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps and one day he flew home and landed safely in the family’s meadow. I wonder if the RAF would allow that now? The news spread fast and scores of people dashed off the see the plane among them Albert Sheldrick’s grandmother, who was in such a hurry that she fell and broke her wrist. In fact it was said that on the day it happened you could have stolen anything you liked from Ashwell as every house was empty.

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