The Great War
My memories of the Great War were, for an eight year old varied and disjointed. I can remember maps appearing in the daily papers showing the 'front line' with an ever-increasing bulge as the Germans pressed towards the coast, everyone became more and more worried It was probably this, and that the thunder of the guns could be plainly heard, which stamped on my mind even the place where I was standing in the Rectory garden as I read aloud the headline in the paper "Amiens line stands as firm as a rock".
As history books now tell us, this was at the least a slight exaggeration, and we were none of us told of the slaughter and misery endured so long by friend and foe alike. At that time the population of Moulton was only just over 500, but there was hardly a month went by without the news of the loss of a husband or son, the sorrow being shared not only by the family, but by the whole village. Those who were killed and could be brought home to be buried were laid to rest in that part of the Churchyard approaching the stile leading to the plantation, and invariably a simple cross made of iron at the Blacksmith's shop served as a headstone.
It was in 1917 that food and materials were in very short supply. I remember my mother, without losing any of an egg, managed to cut it into two equal halves, to be shared by my younger sister and myself. At this time too, a most upsetting incident, which happily never went any further, but which all the youngsters in the village worried about, was when a certain gentleman from the War Office took stock of the trees in the plantation near the Church and made a mark with white paint on many of them, telling us that they would be cut down to help the war effort.
To us the loss of these woods where we spent many happy hours playing was unthinkable. But as I have said, nothing further happened, and undoubtedly the poor quality of their timber saved them for us. At that time the Chestnut trees lining the path up to the plantation were very young - I remember the only ones big enough to climb were the first three on each side.
But we did have an event or two which helped us to forget the war for a short time. We held a concert in the School. There was no electric light anywhere in the village, but we rigged up a stage and ' footlights' consisting of about a dozen candles put into holders fastened to a long board the width of the stage. Each candle had a tin shield placed to reflect the candle light onto the stage. Without a doubt this was the work of one of the Mr Poulters, and with the audience in darkness, very effective it was.
The biggest cheer of the evening was reserved for Mr Ben Middleditch who I remember, was in uniform and was undoubtedly on leave from ' the front'. He sang such songs as "Keep the home fires burning" and "Keep right on to the end of the road". He had a good baritone voice and sang in the Church choir for many years after peace was declared.
November 1918 came at last, and on the night of the 11th my mother put into operation what must have taken a long time for her to prepare. Candles were fastened in such a way that, after dark, every separate window pane in the front of the Rectory was lit up with its own steady flame. It was a lovely, and I think a very fitting sight and the villagers, drawn by the light, stood on the lawn and watched until the danger of setting light to the Rectory made us rush from room to room, blowing them out.
One could only imagine the variety of the thoughts of these onlookers, ranging from those who we knew had lost a husband or son to those who hoped and prayed that their loved ones, prisoners of war or still at the front, would come home safe and well.
We hadn't been at the Rectory long before, due I believe to the melting of a heavy fall of snow followed by an equally heavy downpour of rain, the level of the 'brook', as it was known to us in those days, began to rise quickly. As children, and never having seen such a situation before, we stood fascinated on the wooden footbridge which in those days was far from strong. We watched the water slowly rise until it reached the top of the supporting uprights. By this time the whole bridge was shaking with the force of the flood water, and we just had time to 'retire' through the gate to the Rectory before the water blocked all access. By next morning the water had risen still further; approach to all the bridges was barred, and we had to use our pony and trap to travel via Gazeley and Kennett to do our shopping.
Never again did the brook flood so much, and we wondered what would have happened had German Prisoners of War not been employed the previous summer in the laborious task of clearing and deepening the channel, with spades , from Dalham to Kennett.
© HJ Child
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