The Tale of the Wolford Gun(s)

The following is an extract from Wolford & Burmington Church Magazine, August 1918:

"During July special arrangements were made to organise for the last week of the month a special effort to raise £1,000 by investments in War Bonds and War Savings Certificates. If this could be done, the Government had promised through the National War Savings Committee that a field gun, or an anti-aircraft gun, should be purchased to help our brave men at the front and that it should be named "The Wolford Gun". Two meeting were held on Tuesday evening July 23rd, to open the campaign, one at Great Wolford with the Vicar in the Chair at 7.15 pm and the other at Little Wolford at 8.30 pm when Mr R J Haine presided. Mr H C Lacey of Stratford on Avon and Mr H Glover spoke at both meetings and a cordial response to the appeal made was soon apparent, for at Great Wolford £380 was promised and at Little Wolford, not to be outdone, promised £390. With this preliminary total of £770, the prospect of raising the £1,000 became quite rosy and, on the second day, the £1,000 was definitely reached. Other amounts were steadily added until, mainly through the inducement of a final instalment in the event of success, the magnificent total of £2,000/16s/4d was announced on the last day.

"Wolford may well be proud of this splendid example of far-seeing patriotism, which has given a clear and unmistakeable lead to many other villages in the Brailes Rural District. The total invested in War Bonds and War Savings Certificates from Wolford since the formation of the Association is now known to be over £6000 - an average of over £20 per head of the population".

Now, there are various mentions of a gun in the Parish Council Minutes. In July 1971, "in the matter of the whereabouts of a 1914-1918 war rifle, the property of the school, last seen in the Manor House Sale in 1969, the Clerk was asked to write to the Agent, Matthias family and, if necessary, the police to trace the missing trophy". Between March and December 1972 unsuccessful attempts were made to locate the gun.

Peter Watson believes this gun was gifted to the village as a thank you for village support during the First World War. The gun apparently came with a plaque detailing the gift and he believes it was a German Mauser rifle. The gun disappeared having been stored for some time on a shelf above the coat racks in the School.

Peter Watson has also established that John Hogan, who ran the gun shop in Shipston bought an assortment of guns from Guy Ward when the gun laws changed and getting rifle licences became difficult (1968 Firearms Act brought together all existing firearms legislation in a single statute). John sold on the guns he didn’t want through Biddle and Webb auctioneers in Birmingham. It is believed this assortment included the village gun. Recent enquiries of Biddle and Web have been unsuccessful, they having disposed of their early records.

There are a number of outstanding questions. The gun was certainly disposed of between 1968 and 1971 but what were the circumstances in which the gun was disposed of? Details of its original acquisition would be very much appreciated. Does anyone remember its being in the school? Or when it was? Where might the plaque be now?

Any additions to this tale would be very welcome.

Lawrie Thompson