Experiences of the Great War: The Peace
During the war, the people of Kibworth and the surrounding villages threw themselves into fundraising for the serving men with great energy and enthusiasm. A Whist Drive and Dance on 20 December 1917 raised £15 in aid of the Working Party Fund. During 1917, the Working Party had made 238 shirts, 20 mufflers, 34 vests, 24 pairs socks, 21 tray cloths, 12 ties, 12 pillowcases, 12 bandages, 53 collars, 4 pairs bed-socks and 6 pairs mittens.
The Kibworth Christmas Parcels Fund raised enough money to send parcels to all sailors and soldiers who had enlisted from the village. Over 260 were sent. Ten shillings was also sent to the widows and widowed mothers of all the men who had lost their lives under arms and to all men discharged as incapacitated for further service. The Kibworth Stall at the Bazaar for the Lord Mayor’s Fund for Disabled Warriors in 1917 raised £352.
Bazaar for Lord Mayor’s Fund, 1917
In East Langton, a concert was held for New Year Gifts to the ‘Langton Boys’ on active service. The Harborough Amateurs performed the operetta ‘Twin Sisters’ and there were humorous sketches, a pianoforte solo, songs and recitations.
For the schoolchildren of Kibworth, 1918 was a year of childhood diseases. At the Infants School, mumps in January was followed by whooping cough in March, chicken pox in June and measles in September. In between these outbreaks, the children learnt enough of reading, writing and numbers to get good results when tested in May. Nature, history and geography along with recitations, singing, physical exercises, needlework, handwork, drawing and games enlivened their days.
The older children of Kibworth Primary School helped with the war effort. The horse chestnuts they’d gathered in the previous autumn were collected by the Director of Propellant Supplies for use in cordite production. In September and October, they were given regular afternoons off to collect blackberries and 221 lbs were forwarded to make jam for soldiers.
1918 saw the founding of many local Women Institutes. One hundred were present at the opening meeting of Kibworth and Smeeton WI in February. There were demonstrations of fruit bottling and drying and how to fill the larder without imports. Exhibits of potato starch, potato butter and potato scones revealed the versatility of this everyday vegetable. On a lighter note, Mrs Bolton gave a recitation and Mrs Poynor played piano solos, followed by games, competitions and tea.
Certificate of Merit for Choral Singing awarded to Burton Overy WI in 1923.
The deliberations of Kibworth Beauchamp Parish Council were also coloured by the needs of the war. In January 1918, they discussed arrangements for extinguishing street lamps by special constables in the event of a raid; later, the state of unattended allotments was to be referred to the War Agricultural Committee, and a date for commencement of potato spraying was decided. In the autumn, plans were made in conjunction with Kibworth Harcourt Parish Council for a December fundraising Whist Drive. The Prisoners of War fund had sufficient money so it was decided to give the proceeds to the Kibworth Sailors and Soldiers Christmas fund instead.
The year was not without everyday mishaps and kindnesses. In March, while cycling through Smeeton Westerby, a Kibworth Grammar School pupil collided with a child, Lily Badderson, who suffered severe cuts around the head and face. In May, the villagers of Foxton collected £23 for carrier George Tebbatt who had lost his horse and was known for his cheery and obliging way in carrying out his duties.
On Monday 11 November, 1918, the Armistice was signed and fighting ended. Both the Kibworth Primary School and the Infants School were closed because of influenza. Six-year-old Harold Cramp of Tur Langton was betting with a friend that he couldn’t run through water-filled potholes so fast that he didn’t get his feet wet when another boy, Harry Smith, came roaring down the street shouting ‘Armist-is-declared an’ our dad’s comin’ home with a medal’.
In Market Harborough, church bells were rung and the Union Jack and the flags of the Allies were hoisted. Factory workers flooded out onto the streets and the drapers sold out of ribbons for the factory girls to wear in their hair.
On 17 November the vicar of Wistow preached on ‘Courage for the Future’, taking as his text Acts 28/15, ‘And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appii forum … when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage’.
Celebrating the Peace
The Versailles Peace Treaty was signed on 28 June 1919, and a public holiday was proclaimed for Saturday July 19 as a national celebration of victory and peace. In Tur Langton, Harold Cramp joined the rest of the village in a meadow to celebrate and made up for four years of rations by queueing up at a large table and filling his allotted paper bag with a sandwich from each pile and a cap of buns on top. After a brief rest on the grass, the children raced ‘two-legged and three-legged, frontwise and backwards, in sacks and out of them’.The labouring men received two pints of best beer each and the old folk were deposited in a marquee and liberally plied with tea and sandwiches.
On 24 July a Peace Peal of ‘Grandsire Triples’ was rung at St Wilfrids, Kibworth. Conductor Fred Staniforth noted in his beautifully written record book that it took 3 hours 2 minutes and included 5,040 changes.
Peace Peal conducted by Fred Staniforth
At the first anniversary of the Armistice, a memorial service was held in Kibworth. Local demobilised service men, headed by the Silver Band, marched to the Bank while a muffled peal was rung at St Wilfrids. The large crowd sang hymns including ‘O God our Help in Ages Past’. Following the service, the relatives of those who had fallen laid wreaths on a temporary cenotaph.
On 14 November, a two minute silence was held at Kibworth Primary School. The children sang ‘Fight the Good Fight’ and afterwards each class wrote a short passage to the memory of those who had given their lives.
A century after the Armistice we still pause to remember and reflect in silence. May we too have courage for the future.
The help of Margaret Pollard of Burton Overy WI and of the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland is gratefully acknowledged. Thank you to Beverley Moffat for the illustrations.