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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 4: The Home Front and The Long Haul

The euphoric triumphalism of the Summer of 1914 - ‘over by Christmas’ - didn’t last long. August saw the German army storming across Belgium and advancing to the outskirts of Paris itself. Because at this stage the Allied forces involved were mostly French, the true gravity of the situation was not generally appreciated in Britain, but in France there was widespread fear of a swift German victory.


However, the Allies - who had disagreed over tactics - managed to sort themselves out. A few generals were dismissed, Lord Kitchener fired off some urgent messages from Whitehall, and in the face of apparently imminent disaster a brilliant counter-attack was planned and launched. Its aim was to drive the Germans back from the river Marne, north of Paris, and inflict a heavy defeat on them by outflanking their forces to the east of the capital. Crucial to this plan, for the first time in warfare reconnaissance aircraft were used to spot movement on the ground and relay the information to the military commanders.

The Battle of the Marne in September 1914 was the Allies first and greatest victory of the entire War. They pushed the Germans back some forty miles, until they managed to halt the Allied advance.

Both sides, having suffered heavy casualties - half a million men were killed or wounded, most of them French and German - then decided to dig in, literally. The trenches which they created following the Battle of the Marne remained more or less in place for the next four years. Finally the generals, the troops on the ground and eventually the public at home accepted that this was now a war of attrition.

Over by Christmas? Three more Christmases would pass before this appalling conflict came to an end.

Slowly the British public abandoned the jingoistic fervour of the summer of 1914. The newspapers began to report the casualty figures, and as these rose inexorably during the following months and years the mood of the nation slowly changed. Kitchener called for more men, and hundreds of thousands responded to the call.

Women too found themselves involved in new ways: as nurses and ambulance drivers just behind the front lines; as workers in munitions factories, satisfying the artillery’s voracious appetite for more shells, and in taking over jobs previously done by men. My own mother, then in her teens, left her Norfolk village to come to London and work for the rest of the war as a telephonist.

It was a long while, however, before the full horror of what was happening across the Channel became generally recognized.

The poet Laurence Binyon could speak at the end of 1914 of those mud and blood-stained young soldiers in triumphant terms: ’they went with songs to the battle, straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow’. Even in 1916 the war correspondents were still sending back dispatches describing our gallant young men bayonet-charging the enemy lines, putting terror into the hearts of the frightened Hun.

But slowly the truth filtered through: this war, uniquely, would involve the whole nation and touch every single family in it. It would be long and difficult. It would demand resilience and courage.

And it would not be glorious.

David Winter


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