Tuesday 23 September 2014

Recruiting at Shillington

C B Harmsworth MP

Wednesday 23rd September 1914: Shillington was one of the first of the villages to have a big recruiting meeting. This was held on the Green on Thursday evening, and the chair was taken by Mr. R. B. Lucas, of Shillington Manor, who was principally responsible for calling the meeting. For the convenience of speakers, a temporary platform was provided by a lorry drawn just inside a farmyard opposite the green and this was decorated with a Union Jack and the flags of the Allies. A large crowd was attracted to the meeting, and they had the pleasure of seeing on the platform gentlemen whose views on politics vary widely, but who are absolutely at one in their view of the European War and the justice of Great Britain’s participation in the conflict.

Mr. Lucas, who served with the Oxfordshire Yeomanry throughout the South African War, and who has a son receiving a military training at Sandhurst, said at the opening that he did not think there was any man, whatever his political views, who could say he was not satisfied with the great and good work done by the Government in this time of crisis.

The Chairman was followed by Mr. C. B. Harmsworth, M. P[1]., who said that his presence on the same platform as the Chairman and Mr. J. O. Hickman symbolised the great fact that in regard to the war this great nation was absolutely united. Mr. Harmsworth strongly appealed to his hearers to help build up the big fighting force Lord Kitchener was asking for, and said he was sure Shillington would do its duty by supplying its quota of men at this crisis – (applause)

Mr. Hickman vigorously backed up this appeal. He emphasised the difference between England and Germany’s regards for “a scrap of paper” and said men were badly needed to stop the progress of German “culture”, which meant homes burned, men shot and women ravished. Germany should be taught the world had no need for such “culture” and, if he might put the position simply, we had bitten off a large piece of tough German sausage, and wanted young teeth to masticate it. Mentioning that he was more fortunate than Mr. Harmsworth, in that he was not beyond the age at which a man who had previous experience could rejoin, Mr. Hickman said he had applied for a commission in the Territorials – (applause). All men who could come forward were wanted to crush the German viper.

“This is the chance of your lifetime”, said the Chairman, and this found some support from the audience. Pipers of the Seaforth Highlanders then entertained the audience, who were delighted by their performances as they marched up and down in the glare of a powerful motor headlight.

Mr. T. Keens[2] followed up the impression made by the other speakers with a forceful statement of the position and the need for volunteers and then Mr. Tom Simkins[3] was called on to the platform to give his view of the situation. In doing so, he touched on the duty of those who could not serve to look after those left behind, and he said he would be pleased to do all he could in this way. He was also open to drive 90 or 100 somewhere to enlist the next day – (applause)

Mr. Robert Long and Mr. James Simkins added their support, and the Vicar of Shillington, the Rev. L. Postgate, described the war as a holy war – a war against the hosts of evil as they were personified by the German Emperor and those who followed him. A hundred men had gone from Arlesey, and he hoped Shillington men would give the recruiting officer a busy time when he came.

The pipers gave a second performance, and before the meeting closed questions were invited. None were forthcoming, and the Chairman then said the right thing to do was to go into the fight without question.

A verse of the National Anthem was sung before the meeting closed, and it was stated that names would be handed in at once or the following morning.

Sources: Luton News 18th September 1914

Shillington Manor [Z50/103/2]

[1] Cecil Bisshopp Harmsworth (1969-1948) Liberal MP for Droitwich 1906-1910 and then for Luton 1911-1922 he was Under Secretary of State for the Home Department in 1915 and Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs 1919-1922. He was ennobled as 1st Baron Harmsworth of Egham [Surrey] in 1939. He was brother of Lord Northcliffe and a director of Amalgamated Press and chairman of Associated Newspapers.

[2] Thomas Keens, county councillor for Luton No. 1 District

[3] Of Bleak House, Shillington 

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