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LASTING MEMORIES: The impact of World War I on Tring

 Published on: 25th February 2024   |   By: Panayiota Demosthenous   |   Category: Uncategorized

The First World War, otherwise known as the Great War, will forever be remembered for the huge impact it had on towns and cities not just in the UK, but globally. Tring is no different.

From building temporary hospitals to recruiting young men to fight, the town was forced to adapt to survive.


Recruitment for the Armed Forces

When the First World War broke out, Tring was quick to encourage new recruits to fight on the front line. An account from the parish magazine says that 600 men volunteered soon after the news spread that soldiers were needed.

The Tring branch of the Church Lads Brigade, an Anglican youth organisation which was instrumental in supplying young volunteers to fight in the war, made up more than 80 of these volunteers. This rose by 300 men when the Military Service Act was introduced, meaning the total number of soldiers made up one-fifth of the town’s population.

It was not only humans that needed recruiting. On August 7, 1914, the day following the annual Agricultural Show held in Tring Park, horses of every size and breed were requisitioned across Tring, numbered and catalogued ready for war.  What happened to them is not known, but it is highly unlikely that any were ever returned to their owners.


The need for temporary hospitals

As injured men began returning from the war, the need for temporary hospitals skyrocketed. Before the outbreak of war, the British Red Cross earmarked suitable buildings for use as temporary hospitals.

During the war, at least three military hospitals, which made up one larger establishment, are known to have existed in Tring.  Although little information can be found about them, a letter printed in the Bucks Herald published on August 22, 1914, said: “At present, no hospital exists in Tring but should the War Office require such, arrangements are being made by the local detachment whereby a fully equipped hospital could be set up in a few days [referring to Victoria Hall in Tring].”

Victoria Hall later became a fully-fledged military hospital, along with several other schools and buildings such as Tring School and Tring Market House.


War Memorial

Following the First World War, the Tring War Memorial was erected thanks to donations of £450, which would have been equivalent to more than £26,500 today. For context, in 1915 this could buy you 16 horses or 43 cows, and was equal to more than four years of skilled labour.

The memorial was completed in November 1918 and was unveiled by Reverend Dr Thomas Charles Frey and General Sir William Robertson. It is inscribed with 107 names of fallen soldiers, including seven men who had won decorations such as the Victoria Cross and Distinguished Conduct Medal. Hundreds flocked to Church Square to watch the unveiling, and looked on in appreciation of the men who fought for Tring and their country.

Special thanks to Tring Local History Museum for providing several of the images and records in this feature, exploring some of the local men who fought and died in the war.


Charles Harrowell

Private, 1st Bedfordshire Regiment, service no. 14280. Born in Tring.  Son of Charles and Elizabeth Harrowell of 17 Langdon Street, Tring. Formerly employed as a clerk with the London and Northwestern Railway, Charles enlisted at Hertford. It is believed that Charles was killed in battle in April 1915. He was just 19 years old. An excerpt from the Bucks Herald from May 1915 reads: “Another Tring lad has given his life for King and country. A bright, cheerful young fellow, he was extremely popular with all who knew him. Great sympathy is felt for his parents.  His mother is prostrated by the sad news.”


James Harrowell

Rifleman, 9th King’s Royal Rifle Corps, service no. R/24249. Enlisted at Watford.  Killed in action on October 22, 1917, aged 32. Born in Tring. Son of Charles and Elizabeth Harrowell of 17 Langdon Street, Tring. Husband of Caroline Johnson of 40 Wingrave Road, New Mill, Tring. An excerpt from the Bucks Herald in November 1917 reads: “The news of his death has been received with profound regret by his many friends, and the deepest sympathy is felt with his wife and parents, especially as this is the second loss sustained by the family, [following] his brother Charles Harrowell.”


Stanley Pratt

Stanley James Pratt was an observer with the RAF 48th Squadron based at Bertangles in France. On July 5, 1918, Stanley’s plane did not return from operations; it is understood that he and the pilot were buried by the Germans with full military honours. His name is included on both Tring’s War Memorial and the Arras Flying Service Memorial in France.  A postcard from Stanley that he sent to his friend George Emery for Christimas in 1917 has been recovered and kept at Tring Local History Museum. Stanley wrote: “With best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.” George later added a message to the postcard, detailing the death of his friend. It reads: “Stanley J Pratt killed July 6 1918 aged 18 years and nine months.”


Photo credits: Tring Local History Museum, Chris Reynolds 

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