Joy Of Cranleigh – What was happening in Cranleigh in November 1916?

(Above: The boys of the Church Lads’ Brigade responded to this poster as soon as they were old enough)

The local branch of the Church Lads’ Brigade started its winter programme with enthusiasm, despite the fact that at least seven of its ex-members had already died in the War, besides others wounded. Physical drill and dumb bell exercises were carried out on Mondays in the Village Hall, rifle practice was held on Wednesdays at the miniature range in Knowle Park, with the Bible class
on Thursdays in the Kent House tearoom (over the present Barnardo’s shop). There were currently 20- 30 members.

The Village Hall was also the venue for the annual general meeting of the Rifle Club. Sir George Bonham of Knowle was in the chair, and declared that ‘the benefit of these clubs is being gradually
recognised.’ It currently had 45 members, most of them from the Voluntary Training Corps – the ‘Dad’s Army’ of the First World War – consisting of men who had failed the Army’s medical test or were over the age of conscription.

Mrs Rowcliffe, commandant of Oaklands Red Cross Hospital, appeared before the Hambledon Tribunal, which heard appeals against men being conscripted into the armed forces. She put in a strong plea on behalf of Abraham Osgood, 34, the hospital orderly. He was the only man employed in a hospital of 30 patients, and he worked the kitchen garden of over an acre, looked after twelve pigs, besides poultry, and attended to the drainage system and heating apparatus. An older man simply could not get through the work. Mrs Rowcliffe was a forceful lady, accustomed to getting her own way. Nevertheless, Abraham was allowed only three months. The tribunal seems to have been getting tougher in granting exemptions.

The Cranleigh Women’s War Work Committee, meeting in the Schoolroom behind the Baptist Chapel, had produced 1,096 articles for the armed forces in the past year. This included pyjamas, shirts, vests and knitted ‘comforts’. 157 workers were enrolled, and attendances had numbered 1,163. It must have been a hive of activity. The women had supplied the needs of Oaklands Military Hospital, and had sent a steady stream of parcels to Friary Court in London, the central depot of the Queen Mary’s Needlework Association.

In Oxford, three friends passed a music hall where a show called ‘Blighty’ was being shown. They commented, ‘What a great idea for a song!’ Four hours later they had written it. Before long it was being sung in the trenches to gramophones, and throughout Britain. Were the people of Cranleigh singing it too?


Take me back to dear old Blighty!
Put me on a train to London Town.
Take me over there,
Liverpool, Leeds or Birmingham,
well, I don’t care!


The Cranleigh History Society meets on the 2nd Thursday of each month at 8.00pm in the Band Room. The next meeting will be on Thursday November 10th, when Janet Balchin’s subject is
‘Sir Henry Doulton, builder of Woolpits’.

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Cranleigh Magazine