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INTRODUCTION


















The historical background to the outbreak of the First World War has been extensively debated and written about over many years and it is not appropriate to attempt to repeat here what has already been expressed more eloquently by earlier researchers. Suffice it to say that for several decades before 1914 the storm clouds had been gathering over Europe, borne out of imperialism, a series of alliances and a feeling of a need for militarism on the part of several nations. What is not in doubt is the fact that the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria by a Serbian nationalist in Sarajevo on 28 June lit the flame that engulfed the Continent within a few weeks.


From that fateful day at the end of June the general feeling was that it was not a question of if but when war would break out.   Once the stone had been thrown in the pond it was inevitable that the ripples would spread until they reached the furthest bank. Throughout July the major nations began to order mobilisation of their forces and on Tuesday 4 August, following Germany’s invasion of Belgium, Britain declared war on Germany.   Lord Kitchener, the Secretary of State for War, at once appealed for the immediate enlistment of 100,000 men.   The famous poster showing Kitchener staring straight ahead, finger pointing and announcing “Your Country needs You” is still a compelling image and that, along with local recruitment drives in every city and town, instilled a tremendous sense of patriotism among the nation’s young men. They were encouraged to take up arms and they responded in great numbers over the following weeks and months.   To qualify they were required to be not only fit for service and at least 18 years of age but it was laid down that they would not serve overseas until they reached the age of 19.   It is apparent, however, that these age restrictions were often ignored with many recruits giving false names and ages in order to join up.   It is estimated that approximately a quarter of a million under-age boys were recruited and the records show that in certain cases boys as young as 15 years of age were killed on the Western Front.  Two local lads who appear to have been among the under-age recruits were brothers, Alan and Gordon Stockbridge.   Though not born in Hatfield the family moved here when they were quite young and the boys were probably both working at Pryor Reid Brewery and living in the old town at the outbreak of war.  Records indicate that they enlisted in September 1914 as members of the Hertfordshire Regiment and gave their ages as 19, though they were just 17 and 16 respectively.   They were posted to France early in 1915 and both lost their lives on 18 May 1915, (at the Battle of Festubert), probably soon after the eighteenth birthday of Gordon, the older brother. Many of these boy soldiers were swept along by the overwhelming tide of patriotism but others were simply encouraged by their mates to enlist and saw this as an opportunity to experience some excitement and get away from their humdrum lives.


Hatfield Volunteer Corps 1915


Written by Brian G Lawrence

Researched & Compiled by Christine & Derek Martindale



PUBLISHED BY HATFIELD LOCAL HISTORY SOCIETY



Hatfield Answers the Call



1914 - 1919


Table of Contents


INTRODUCTION ………………………………………... PAGE 7


THE LOCAL SCENE …………………………………….. PAGE 13


FAMILY STORIES ………………………………………. PAGE 23


SPORT,SOCIAL & COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES ….. PAGE 33


SUPPLIES,SHORTAGES & RATIONING …………. PAGE 39


TANK TRAILS IN THE PARK ……………………….. PAGE 45


GALLANTRY AWARDS & OTHER REWARDS …… PAGE 49


ARMISTICE & PEACE CELEBRATIONS …………… PAGE 53


HATFIELD’S WAR MEMORIALS ……………………. PAGE 63




















Troops entering Hatfield, 16 August 1914

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Festubert, after the battle.

Where Alan and Gordon Stockbridge lost their lives on 18 May 1915


Copyright Hatfield Local History Society.  March 2016

Hatfield Local History Society