In May 2013 a group of residents started planning to commemorate one of the most momentous events of the last century – the start of the First World War one hundred years ago. The intention was to stage an exhibition in the Village Hut, itself a much loved survivor of that same war in July 2014.
Our village is probably typical of many rural villages in Buckinghamshire at that time. Almost all the men worked on the land. Many of the wives made and sold lace. The children went to school, sometimes, in Newport Pagnell. Life expectancy was quite low. Health care and housing were often poor. Lathbury had no great family in the area to look after them. They had a rector and his family in the Rectory and the big house, Lathbury Park, had been run as a private school, preparing young men for their entrance exams for the universities, the army or the colonial service.
In 1914 Lathbury probably had a population of about 150, much the same as now, but the spread of ages was very different. In the 1911 census, the closest source of information at the time, there were 57 children under the age of 21, 36 women, 24 men under the age of 40 and 23 men aged 40 or more. During the War, we believe some 35 men joined the forces. Six did not come back and are remembered on the village war memorial, while those that did return included those who had been wounded or gassed. It’s a truly remarkable record for such a small village, but possibly quite typical of this area. The war and its aftermath were to change Lathbury dramatically and life was never the same again.
Preparing for the exhibition started with searching for information about the six casualties named on our memorial. These included two brothers who served in the Royal Navy, one dying at the Battle of Jutland. The other four were in the Army, three in the local regiment of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. One of them had five brothers who also all joined up.
But the exhibition was also intended to reflect the effect of the war on a small village. With the men away at the war, how did the women cope? What was the effect on agriculture, education, food, life in general? We were anxious to trace descendants and family members of those who lived in Lathbury at about that time.
In particular we were looking for those connected with, among others, our six casualties:
Albert Bertram BRICE (1894-1916)
Percy John BRICE (1895-1914)
Walter Edward DORRILL (1889-1914)
William Robert HARCOURT (1894-1918)
Walter Ernest JOHNSON (1889-1916)
Thomas STOWE or STOW (1889-1917)
The result of our efforts can be seen on the attached pages.