The Treaty of Versailles was signed on this day, 28th June 1919, it signified the official end to World War 1 and gave the people of New Whittington and the world a chance to live in peace.
For the locals of New Whittington we can hope that the day was a happy occasion, a day where they could look forward with optimism, something they had not done for a long time. They would no doubt remembered their loved ones, friends and family members who had played a part in the devastating war which had unfolded five long years earlier in 1914. But now they had a vision for the future, a future with a comforting promise that never again would men be expected to fight one another in such a way, after all, lessons had been learnt during this war, the future generations could rest assured no government would ever let this tragedy occur again!
Normality had begun to return to the streets of New Whittington, family life had continued when the "lucky" survivors of the war had returned to their homes. Lives were different, husbands, fathers and brothers were living with the memories of the terrible events they had witnessed, many suffering their torment in lonely silence. Many returned to find that they had no job, times in the village had changed during their military service.
For the families, widows and fatherless children of the 85 men named on St Barnabas Church War Memorial then life continued but with a huge void. Some widows were lucky and they married again, raising more children and getting a second chance at love and happiness. Others remained loyal to their true love, living a life with grief and broken hearts.
The sacrifice and memory of both the living and those who gave their lives was duly acknowledged by the local community. They held charity events raising monies to assist those in need of help after the war, names were read out in Church in honour and a memorial plaque was erected within the safe confines of St Barnabas Church; the named of 85 fallen men were inscribed in gold lettering onto the wooden memorial plaque which stands just behind the church organ.
In August 1919 the community raised money to award a silver memorial cup to those "who had been awarded war honours". James Craig was one of the twenty recipients, for his service at Mons. The Derbyshire Times covered the presentation with an article which noted "a touching incident was witnessed when Master Craig, aged 4 years, came forward to receive his fathers cup". This act, when young Gordon Craig toddled proudly down to collect his fathers cup would signify the terrible loss which this community had suffered.
The fallen men were remembered affectionately, photos and letters treasured, memorabilia passed on to their children; and then on to the next generation, the memory of the men was proudly retorted; we had a hero in our family you know. It is as a consequence all of these actions one hundred years ago, that we have been able to remember and honour the lives and times of the community of New Whittington during World War 1.
The stories of the 85 men and their families have been told within this blog, a booklet has been published telling the stories of the men who lost their lives in Belgium, this booklet was given to the school children of Whittington Green School to assist with their visit to the Belgium battlefields in 2018. We have also produced some very interesting and informative material which is available in exhibition form; this has been on display on several occasions at St Barnabas Church and the nearby Barrow Hill Roundhouse. In September 2018 we held a Remembrance Event at St Barnabas Church, family members of the men came form far afield to pay their respects to their own fallen hero. A new memorial plaque was also unveiled, proudly standing on the outside of the church, it has now brought the names inscribed on it into public view.
During my research into the stories of the 85 men I have been humbled, shocked and sometimes brought to tears by the bravery, determination and selfless acts which I have unearthed. It has been an honour to tell these stories and I hope that we can all continue to read them and remember those who gave their lives for our freedom.
LEST WE FORGET
I would like to thank everyone who has helped me along my way during my quest to research the 85 men, their are too many to name but you have all been a great help, without which the stories would be incomplete - Thank you.