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those, from Burpham and Jacobs Well who gave their lives in the 1914-1918 war

‘Burpham Will Remember Them’

In the early 1900s Burpham was in the Parish of Worplesdon and together with Jacob’s Well was essentially one large, scattered, community.

‘The War to End All Wars’ - Part 2: Gallant Little Belgium

The posters were everywhere. Lord Kitchener, eyes blazing and finger pointing imperiously, proclaimed 'Your country needs YOU!'

And up and down the land during those first anxious months of the Great War young men, often urged on by families and girl friends, responded by lining up at recruitment offices in order to enlist in the Army. Those who didn't, for whatever reason, were in danger of receiving a white feather in an anonymous envelope, the badge of cowardice.

Most, like my own father, needed no such urging. For him, as he would explain to the end of his life, the war was a moral duty in defence of 'gallant little Belgium', which had been invaded by the German army on its way, it hoped, to northern France. Britain was bound by its treaty obligations - the famous Entente Cordiale- to share in the defence of France, so (as my father and millions of others saw it) there was a solemn duty to keep our promises.

That is not, of course, necessarily the way history sees things, but I am sure that most of those young men who queued up to volunteer did it for one of two reasons, or, more probably, both of them: patriotism and public pressure. Crowds cheered the young recruits as they marched off to training camps. It would,

everyone confidently asserted, 'all be over by Christmas'.

Defeat was unthinkable. These young men - many of them barely fit, through poor diet or unhealthy backgrounds - would face up to the Kaiser's hordes and crush them.

At that point, the country was not an unwilling participant in war, but totally committed to it.

In the event, the euphoria didn't last long - indeed, barely as far as Christmas.

The German army, well-drilled and equipped, simply barged its way across Belgium. There were bloody battles at Ypres and Mons, but it was the Germans who did the crushing and the Allies - British and French - who did the retreating.

However hard they fought, at each point where the generals drew a line and said 'no further', the German army simply paused for breath and then swept on. Casualties on both sides were high, and slowly the truth began to filter into the public consciousness at home. This war would not be short; it would not be easily won; and it would be desperately costly.

David Winter


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