Kirton & the World Wars
KIRTON VILLAGE AT WAR
WAR WAS DECLARED 4TH AUGUST 1914
Kirton village had seen a major change immediately prior to the Declaration of War in 1914. The village had been sold and residents had seen a major upheaval. Old established families and employers had left and new residents taken their places.
Local men in villages around Kirton had been volunteering for the territorial army before war was declared. Now patriotism and propaganda saw men enlist. Subsequently conscription was brought in.
In Kirton, 17 men joined the military forces. Their names are recorded on the War Memorial.
How did the War effect Kirton Village?
It is difficult to assess exactly what effect the war had on village life in Kirton as there appears to be little left by way of historical record. The best record we have is that from William Lacey (see below) who can remember many of those on the War Memorial. An appeal was given out to every household in Kirton by the Parish Council but little information about village life was, understandably, forthcoming. We can assume and predict some effects by comparing Kirton village with other villages in the locality.
The economy of the village, as in previous years, was based on farming. With so many of the young men going off to war this would have a profound effect on the morale and on employment. This was a high percentage of the residents and even higher proportion of the working population. The majority of the men who went to war from Kirton were farm workers. At least two families in the parish had two members of the family go off to war.
When the men had left there was still the same amount of work to do but with less workforce. We do not have any evidence of additional migrant labour being drafted in or of “land girls”, although they were working in other Nottinghamshire villages.
We do have evidence that soldiers did return under the “farm furlough” scheme. This was a government scheme which allowed farm workers to return home in times of particular need. Hayden Price returned to Hall Farm under this scheme. Over 170,000 farmers fought in WW1 and 66,000 soldiers returned from the Front Line to help with the harvest.
Six Weeks’ Worth of Wheat
At the outbreak of war Great Britain was worried that food supplies would run out. There was now a demand for food and panic buying.
Britain was not self- sufficient in many staple food stuffs and relied on imports for wheat, sugar and meat.
We know from records from the village shop at Flintham that the Newark Grocers Association sent out a letter to all their “outlets” telling shopkeepers what to charge for basic food stuffs. Suppliers would have difficulty in keeping up with demand and so prices would rise.
Kirton villagers, like others across the country, would struggle for basic foods. There was a reduction in food imports and the government tried to encourage farmers to change from livestock farming to arable, particularly wheat and oats. The government brought in a policy to guarantee these cereal prices. Kirton still had its’ Post Office and the farms would be able to provide basic foods like milk and eggs. Walesby had a baker and confectioner. Tuxford still had a cattle Fair in May and a weekly market.
By 1916 Britain only had 6 weeks’ worth of wheat. The price of food rose by 130 % and the Ministry of Food introduced voluntary rationing.
By 1917 all merchant ships were under threat as Germany introduced unrestricted warfare. One in four merchant ships were sunk and Britain’s food supply was in crisis.
By 1918 the Ministry of Food introduced compulsory rationing.
It is possible that Kirton was affected by the “Ploughing Up” campaign of 1917. At this time D.O.R.A. (Defence of the Realm Campaign) forced farmers to plough up pasture for crop planting. Throughout Britain 2.5 million acres of grazing land was ploughed. Additionally, farmers, not used to arable work, had no say as to what crops were planted where. However, milk was considered a priority food.
The Government also encouraged all small holders and householders with gardens to grow food.
Machinery on the Farm
With the reduction in manual labour and the loss of the farm horse farmers were encouraged to turn to machinery to help with their work. The local Newark newspaper advertise the timesaving tractors. . By 1918 6,000 tractors were working on the land. We know from Bill Lacey that Joseph Woodhead Price had bought a new set of portable threshing tackle.
Boughton Station was in Kirton Parish. For Kirton Villagers it would have been a major link to towns in the area.
The railway was seen as a vital means of transport for the War Effort. It enabled vast numbers of men and equipment to be mobilised quickly. From the outbreak of war to the end of August, 1914 trains to Southampton (for onward movement to France) carried
- 118,000 army personal
- 37,000 horses
- 314 guns
- 5,200 vehicles
- 1,800 bicycles
- 4,500 tons of baggage
Railway workers were often exempt from military service. Some of the less skilled jobs, such as cleaning the trains and carriages were now taken over by women. The line going through Kirton carried coal from the Notts/Derbys coal field to Immingham for the coal powered ships of the Grand Fleet and Merchant Navy.
(The station at Boughton no longer exists. Boughton signal box at Boughton junction was burnt down in 1984 during the miner’s strike.)