Civilian Life in The Wolfords


Since there were too few volunteers to fill the ranks, the Military Service Bill was introduced in January 1916, providing for the conscription of single men aged 1841. In May 1916 the bill was extended to married men and in April 1918 the upper age was raised to 50 (or to 56 if need arose). The upper limit on the number of men conscripted is usually calculated by assuming that all recruits after 1 March 1916 were conscripts: 1,542,807 men, 43.7% of those who served in the Army during the war. However, Derby had enlisted 318,553 single men in Special Reserve B, who were called up in spring 1916, which reduces the conscripted to 37%. The married men who had attested in the Derby plan are harder to categorize because they were not called up from the Reserve but swept up with the rest. It seems that somewhat less than 35% of the men in the army were compelled to serve.


This is, at best, a crude assessment based on the assumption that the total population in 1914 was the same in number and age distribution as in 1911 and therefore only 69 males would therefore have been eligible for service sometime during the war. 168 males were aged, in years, as follows in 1911:

≤14 28 23 51 ≤17 in 1914
15-42 28 41 69 18-45 in 1914
≥43 27 21 48 ≥46 in 1914
Total 83 85 168  

The War Memorial contains 8 entries, the 'Roll of Honour' adds a further 39 and Mrs Warriner's "Active List" a further 8, making 55 known to have served.

Forty four in total were listed on the 'Roll of Honour' which covered the period September 1914 to July 1915, so a very high proportion were certainly early volunteers rather than conscripts.

THE EFFECT ON CIVILIAN LIFE IN THE WOLFORDS of the working male depopulation is not well documented. The effect on the farming community they left behind must have been startling. Women replaced men doing work that had previously been considered impossible, or at the very least inappropriate, for them. The following extracts give small tastes:

  1. "I (i.e. Catherine Shepard ), was just leaving school in 1914 when my father needed help on the farm. Some of his men had joined up and several horses had been requisitioned - no tractors then, and everything was done by horse power. I took over looking after the poultry and various small jobs. I remember turning the handle of a machine for sheep shearing - no electricity then....".
    For much more, see Shepard memories.
  2. "The total invested in War Bonds and War Savings Certificates from Wolford since the formation of the Association is now known to be over 6,000 - an average of over 20 per head of the population....".
    For much more information, see the Guns article.
  3. The Childrens' participation, from the School Manager's Minute Books 1914-1919:

    - December 1914: "I (A J Collins, Headmaster) have been recalled to the colours and have to join at Worcester". There was then a succession of heads, including a Mr Lucas who was also called away on military service.

    - November 1916: "3-8s was forwarded to the Daily News and Daily Telegraph Fund for providing Christmas Puddings for H.M. Forces as a result of collections in the School and the two villages".

    - October 1917: "Arrangements were made for picking blackberries for jam making for the Army but heavy rain stopped the work"..."A half holiday was given in the afternoon to celebrate the success of the Wolford War Savings Association in which the school had played a great part. The total amount subscribed up to Oct 20th was 1,000 representing 1291 Certificates purchased".

    - June 1918: "The effort in the village to get sufficient investments in War Savings Certificates and war Bonds during one week to buy a 1,000 Field Gun to be named after the village resulted in a total of 2,000-16-4d. The school played a very important part in the organisation of the effort".

    - September 1918: "Arrangements were made to commence the blackberry picking for army jam."

    - 11th November 1918: "The news was received at 1pm that the Armistice had been signed by Germany. The rest of the afternoon was spent in games and songs."

    - April 1919: "I, Albert John Collins, late Captain & Adjutant, 30th Battalion, TheMiddlesex Regiment, resumed my duties as Head Teacher after four and a half years absence on military service".


Dated by the late Mrs Hemmings at 1918