Cosgrove at War

Wolverton Express 11 June 1915



We have on several occasions made reference to the splendid patriotic example of the small village of Cosgrove. Almost every male of military age is serving with the Colours, and farm work in the neighbourhood is carried on by women and boys. A Roll of Honour has been placed near the Church porch. To the name of the late Captain St Leger Atkinson has been added the words R.I.P. The list is as under:-

Their Country Called.

They Answered.

Their Village Honoured Them.

Royal Navy Lieut. The Hon. E A Gore-Langton, Wm Hillyer
Northamptonshire Regiment Major H Grant-Thorold, JP
Royal Dragoons Capt St Leger Atkinson, R.I.P.
5th Dragoon Guards Second Lieutenant P Atkinson
Northamptonshire Regiment Privates Chas Jelley, Wm Key, John Ratcliffe, John Bird, Wm Grace, George Crisp, Dan Green, Wm Burwell, Harry Green
Royal Garrison Artillery Gunner Walter Moore
Royal Artillery Private Herbert Tack
Prince of Wales Regiment Private Albert Bird
Royal Field Artillery Herbert Hamilton
Bucks Hussars Troopers Wm Slaymaker, Sidney Slaymaker, Reginald Panter
Oxford and Bucks L.I. Privates Ernest and Arthur Jelley, Amos Welch, James Knight, Edward Tack, Albert Childs, Arthur Beasley, Wm Brown, Joseph Lovesey, Wm Whitehead, Harry Green, George Bugby, F. J. Holman, Joseph Brown, Charles Holman
Bucks Territorials Privates J Tearle, George Key, H Jelley, ? Stewart
Royal Polytechnic Rifle Brigade Private J W H Manning, Herbert Lovell (Transports)
R.A.M.C. Fred Vernon Smith, Arthur Albert Henry Curtis, Bert Grace, Frank Reginald Webster, Albert Webster, Robert Humphrey, Arthur Noble, Harry Green, ? Childs

Men who served 1914-1918 and survived

Cosgrove men injured at the Front were treated first at field hospitals like this one

ATKINSON Philip York
EVES Maxwell
JELLEY Arthur   LOVESEY Joseph
STEWART Frederick H.
    JELLEY Charles   LORD Edward  
William J.
BEARMAN Joseph   GORE-LANGTON Evelyn   JELLEY Ernest T   LORD Thomas   SWAIN Ernest
Albert   SWAIN Percy
BROWN Robert   GREEN Daniel   JELLY Henry   LOVELL Herbert  
BURNELL William  
David   JOHNSON Harry E   LUCK Ernest   TACK Albert
BUSHELL Alfred  
    JOHNSON Lewis  
John G
    HALL Frederick J  
    MEAKINS Cecil  
CASTLE Henry   HEWSON Alexander   KEY George  
    VALENTINE Aubrey
CHILDS Alfred T   HILLYER Joseph   KNIGHT James   NOBLE Arthur  
CHILDS Frank   HILLYER William   KIGHTLEY Alfred   NOBLE Harry   WELCH Amos
COLESFIELD Arthur              
    WILLIAMS Frederick
CUTLER Herbert               REASON Stanley   WILLIAMS George

Old Stratford
KIGHTLEY Archibald
SIBTHORPE Charles Frederick
ANDREWS John   COWLEY Arthur   HAMILTON Oswald  
    SLAYMAKER Sidney
    CURTIS C   HOLMAN Charles   LEE Sidney   SLAYMAKER William
BIRD Albert   CURTIS Wg   HOLMAN Frank Geo  
    HUMPHREY Robert   MANDEVILLE Edward   SMITH Vincent
BROWN Charles   FROST L   HUTTON Edward   MANING John  
    HUTTON H.  
    WEBSTER Albert
BUTLER Charles   GREEN Charles  
    WRIGHTON Frank
      GREEN William   JONES Harold Clayton   RATCLIFFE Jn      
      GOODMAN Walter   JONES Harry William            

Cosgrove during the Second World War

John Holman remembers that during the war the Army arrived and put up a massive tent down at the Quarries. They had lots of Army vehicles which were fascinating to the village boys of Cosgrove. There was a guard on the gate to the Lime Kiln Field opposite the Quarries, where there was a depression in the ground 20 feet deep.

John Shervington and John Holman remember a searchlight battery from the King’s Royal Rifles, mostly Geordies, being camped out on the Lime Kiln Field (opposite where the Quarries is now). John Shervington remembers playing football with the soldiers and he watched as one soldier shot a huge pike from the second Arm Bridge – it was a great shot, right between the eyes. He enjoyed seeing a Despatch rider chase after his mate through the village on another day and was delighted to see the riders pass each other on the lanes of Cosgrove without realising it.

John Holman was very taken with the Bren gun carrier they had with them, and remembers them lobbing a thunderflash into the Buckingham Arm from the same second Arm Bridge, which stunned at least a dozen fish, which the soldiers picked up.

One morning John Shervington walked down to the Lime Kiln field and was amazed to find absolutely nothing – the whole camp had packed up and left overnight.

Dennis Tompkins got used to being called “Johnny”, like all the other Cosgrove boys, by Italian prisoners of war billeted locally. They were drafted in to help with harvesting – there were no combine harvesters in those days and the workers would stack up the sheaves and throw them onto the carts.

The Italian POWs wore patches on their clothes to make a target if they tried to run away, but were allowed quite a lot of freedom in the area. They could go down to the Buckingham Arm, fishing, and may have come from a local internment camp. Dennis remembers them shooting the fish with a rifle, which was presumably held by a guard. They would trade with the local children – Dennis brought them a piece of soap and was given a ring they had made in return.

Two POWs from Italy worked on Mr Crowder’s farm. During a Foot and Mouth outbreak more were brought in to muck out, scrub down and disinfect the sheds. It was filthy work and the farms weren’t allowed to restock for six months. When they re-opened Dennis was amazed – the sheds were cleaner and whiter than he had ever seen them.

Memories of the 40s

Life in the village was always quite hard and so the Second World War had perhaps less impact than it did in the cities, where the usual patterns of life had become easier.

Dennis Tompkins remembers the village shop in the Bakehouse, but never really buying anything special – orders were repeated week on week for most families, supplementing what they grew themselves.

A cottage near the Bakehouse was Jack Johnson’s house and he worked in the bakery, which the Normans owned. Jack would bring the bread van round Cosgrove on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, the rest of the week going further afield. Each time he came to their house the family would have two or three big long loaves, which they put into a big terracotta crock with a lid in the pantry. At the end of the week they would pay for eight or nine loaves, which always came to 6/6d.

Dennis’s dad, Albert Tompkins, favoured the Barge Inn. There were skittles which were played a lot, and beer was not pulled at a bar but brought straight from the barrels in the tap room by waiters. The men sat and exchanged local news – which travelled fast in Cosgrove. There were no garden fences in those days down Bridge Road and families would sit outside talking while the children ran about – during the war there were two extra daylight hours and sometimes it was 11 o’clock before the light faded.

At 23 Bridge Road lived two ladies, Miss Marlow and Miss Mary. Miss Marlow worked at the Priory as a cook, where Miss Mary would often come in to help when there was a big dinner to be made. Miss Mary herself worked very hard. She was a laundress at the Priory and would collect all the washing, bring it back to Bridge Road, fetch water from the well at the back of Dennis’s house and launder and iron everything at her own home. She was also a kind of caretaker at the School, where she and Miss Marlow did the cleaning – the school had a coke fire so this was very difficult.

Dennis was thrilled when he began to earn wages from the farms and the Priory. He got 1/3d daily for helping with the cows, and more on a Saturday. For a Saturday and six evenings after school it was usually 6/9d. He was very proud to be able to pay some of his own expenses instead of his mother having to give him money. He took 1/- to school each week for National Savings. When you had saved 15/- you could take your card to Mr Brassett, who would give you a special certificate

Mrs Andrews gave music lessons in the village, and Dennis liked to spend 1/- a week learning to play the piano – this was clearly a good investment as he still played for village events and for elderly people in 2014.

The bus to Stony Stratford cost 2d. It went right through the village, turning in the entrance to the Park and the Lodge and picking people up at several places. Dennis liked to do to the Scala picture house in Stony Stratford, which was near the Plough, and would buy fish and chips for 1/- from an old couple who made the best chips, but who were only open a couple of days a week.

People liked to cycle down the towpath to save time, but a licence for bikes cost 2/6d a year in those days, or 6d as a daily rate. Mrs Ashby lived at the Lock and was a terror to the locals – she always seemed to know if you were coming and shout out for the toll money. One day Dennis and a friend, who didn’t have a licence, came back from Wolverton and whizzed past the Lock cottages in the hope that she wouldn’t spot them – the next day Mrs Ashby caught Dennis and reminded him that his friend still owed her 6d.