Storrington Local History Group

Storrington, West Sussex – email

The Home Front


Volunteering for the Red Cross

As the young men of the village were willingly enlisting their services and “joining up”, so those who remained at home sprung into action to do what they could for the war effort. Just after war was declared a large number of residents met at the village hall to set up a central organisation ( with sub-committees being appointed in the surrounding villages of Sullington, Thakeham, Parham and Rackham) to co-ordinate the relief work with the Red Cross. The latter set up the Storrington 146 Women’s Detachment with Mrs. Henderson, who lived at The Chantry in Chantry Lane, as the Commandant. Mr Charles Mant, the local veterinary surgeon, gave the use of his house, The Geddings in Church Street, as the local Red Cross Depot. These detachments were known as Voluntary Aid Detachments.

Charles Mant. Photograph courtesy of Storrington and District Museum.

What the people of the neighbourhood did

Women immediately began making garments, known as “comforts” for servicemen. These included socks, scarves, mittens and knitted sleeping helmets. The women were obviously very industrious as the Red Cross’s annual report for 1914 stated: ‘this detachment has made an enormous amount of things during 1914 and distributed over 1,231 garments’.

Among the recipients of these garments was the camp at Shoreham where new recruits to the army were trained. Belgian refugees who had arrived in Storrington also received them. The Report paid tribute to those who had helped mentioning “Mrs Emile Mond” (Angela Mond of Greyfriars House, Greyfriars Lane) and “all the ladies of the neighbourhood”. It also mentioned the “lads of the Storrington Band” who gave all their collections to this detachment saying that nearly all of these young men had enlisted.

Medical supplies for the Military

Another Red Cross Report for the Sussex Branch spoke of the setting up of working parties for the preparation of hospital requisites, bandages, splints, swabs, clothing, etc., which it expected to be needed. Later on when military authorities sent out requests for supplies of socks, shirts, blankets, belts, etc, for the troops, this work, although not strictly Red Cross work, was also included in the activities of the various centres. Some of these working parties lapsed over the following year due to VAD members being engaged in the work of the voluntary auxiliary hospitals being set up in different towns and villages, but some centres, which did not have hospitals, devoted themselves more exclusively to this branch of the work and Storrington was one of them. Originally it may have been thought that Storrington would have a hospital using Charles Mant’s house, The Geddings, as the premises, but the fact that the village was ten miles from a town and five miles from a railway station, it became unlikely. In May 1915 the house was converted into an official “War Hospital Supply Depot” entirely supported by local contributions except for a grant of £5 from Red Cross HQ in December 1915. By that time over 1600 yards of flannel had been used and many dozens of blankets, pairs of socks and jerseys had been dispatched, totalling 6033 articles including a steriliser. This level of contribution from the Storrington branch continued throughout the war with the Red Cross reports for 1916 and 1917 making mention of it. In fact, the 1917 report stated that Storrington was the only detachment in the Chichester Division that did work directly for the Red Cross. Indeed hospitals at home and abroad received large quantities of useful things from Storrington. The detachment had many members who were skilled in carpentry and these people had made trolleys, screens and bed tables.

‘The Geddings’ in Church Street (large house behind the two figures) about 1920. Photograph courtesy of Storrington and District Museum.

Fund raising events

To raise funds for this work the people of the village carried out a variety of activities with jumble sales and revues/entertainments to name a couple. A national fund-raising feature of the Red Cross was the setting up of ‘Our Days’. The 1915 ‘Our Day’ found the ladies of Storrington and Washington out selling flags along the route of the bus from Worthing. The Worthing Gazette reported that “no one could possibly secure exemption from the polite attentions of the ladies with the flags”. Occupants of vehicles were assailed quite as persuasively as the more accessible foot passengers and the response was “prompt, cheerful and general”.

For the 1916 ‘Our Day’ a fete was held at The Chantry, home of Mrs. Henderson, the Commandant, where an auction sale of live poultry, dresses, jewellery and ‘war trophies’ was held. These had all been donated by local people. Again the sale of flags produced sums from all around.

The following year there was a three-day event where stalls, guessing competitions, the sawdust tub, fortune telling, silhouette portraits and a “fortune making game”, were among the attractions on offer.

In October 1918 a public auction was held with more than 300 lots. Most of the items had been given by Mrs. Henderson. At the beginning of the war, when it had been anticipated that Storrington would have an auxiliary hospital, appropriate gifts such as blankets had been received and these were now included in the lots for disposal. Others included a five-seater motor car which was bought for £103! A 4lb piece of cheese; a box of matches (which was sold for £2.75!); a dinner service; Irish, Italian, Spanish and Genoese lace, and an African fox rug were all on offer!

Egg Collections

Another form of “fundraising” that the villages were part of was the national movement to collect eggs for wounded soldiers. Florence Trotter of Gerston (later St Joseph’s Hall) in Greyfriars Lane, directed the enterprise locally and in one week in July 1915 425 eggs were collected. Most of these were sent to the central Red Cross Depot at Chichester and a few to the military hospital at Bignor. The national ‘One Million Egg Week’ in 1915 highlighted the increasing demand both at home and abroad with requests from hospitals in Malta and Egypt where there was a great need for the wounded from the Dardanelles Campaign.

Apart from eggs being donated, money was also given to buy them along with fund raising events, one such being an entertainment revue at the village hallxviii. Indeed fund-raising efforts did not diminish throughout the duration of the war. In February 1917 members of the Storrington Girls Club gave a concert at the village hall in aid of the Red Cross Depot and in February 1918 another was given by a local musical party ‘The Flutterbys’.

Financial help came in another form from Lady Tyrrell of the Red House, Storrington, in response to a request for pupils for a gardening school for ladies to be opened in Storrington. She offered to financially assist “any lady or pair of friends” willing to begin training in order to provide “educated hands” to raise garden produce and eggs.

 The village hall, venue for numerous fundraising events. Photograph courtesy of Storrington and District Museum

Food shortages

The concern over food provision was shown as soon as war broke out with notices being placed in local papers informing people of goods imported from countries involved in the war which would be subject to curtailment resulting in rise in pricesxxii These included:

– wheat, oats, eggs, barley from Russia

– flour from Austria Hungary

– oats, eggs, sugar from Germany

– butter, vegetables, sugar, chocolate from France

The concern over food supply continued throughout the war. After conscription was introduced in 1916 numerous exemptions from active service were granted by the Thakeham Military Tribunal to those employed in agriculture and market gardening where it could be shown they were “indispensable”. Temporary exemptions were granted with the proviso that the individual remain in the same occupation. By late 1917, however, some applicants were granted protection certificates by the Agricultural Committee giving them conditional exemptions without a time limit.

Complaints about the quality of bread available were general. The local inspector under the Food Orders reported this to the Thakeham Rural District Council but said he had not detected any cases of wasted bread Indeed, the importance of bread in the diet saw the Parish Council putting forward the suggestion in a leaflet asking people “who could afford to do so to use substitutes for bread thereby leaving more for the working classes”. The leaflet stated “the working men need bread because of its sustaining properties, its comparatively small price and its convenience as a food. It is absolutely necessary for them to have it”

Meat shortages meant that butchers were open on certain days only for the sale of meat. The Thakeham District Retail Butchers Association issued a notice to the effect that all butchers in the Association’s area would be open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Welcoming the Belgian refugees

There was great support locally for Belgian refugees who had suffered so badly during the German invasion. As with other towns and villages, housing was made available for them and funds raised. Some of the rooms in Charles Mant’s house, The Geddings, were made available to

them xxviii and Maud Petre, of Mulberry House in the Square, opened her home to them as wellxxix

In December 1914, wanting to help the Belgians, the church choir of Bury decided to sing carols in order to collect money. The group, consisting of girls and boys and some men started five days before Christmas and went as far as Amberley and Pulborough walking many miles in poor weather to raise money for the ‘Daily Telegraph Belgian Refugees Fund’ national appealxxx. A month before a concert had been held at the Storrington Village Hall in aid of the Belgians. In fact, one of the contributors was one of the Belgian refugees living in Storrington who sang a humorous song in Flemish!xxxi

How the school children helped the war effort

Entries in the Storrington School Log record how the school children were involved in a variety of ways to help. When the Red Cross ‘One Day’ was held in November 1916, the Log noted a drop in attendance due to the children being away at ‘The Chantry’ to join in the fundraising. In November 1917, eight-hundred-weight of horse chestnuts was collected by the children and sent away for the use of the Director of Propellant Supplies! In April 1918 children were planting potatoes in the wartime school garden and in September of the same year they were gathering blackberries for the Army and Navy. Huge quantities were collected over the blackberrying season, the children being taken into the fields by the school staff. Sphagnum moss was gathered by children from the Sandgate Estate and elsewhere for dressing wounds.

The end of war and the influenza epidemic

At the end of October 1918, the School Log was recording 37 children away with influenza. School was closed immediately. On November 18, 1918, school re-opened with the children singing ‘God Save the King’ and giving three cheers for the signing of the Armistice. However, it also records that the influenza epidemic was spreading rapidly through the village. By December 2nd, the headmaster and all the teachers, with the exception of one, were away and only 50 children of the 215 registered were present. School was closed until the end of term. It re-opened in January 1919. By then a number of children had left having returned to London owing to the end of the war and the danger of air raids being over.

Mrs. Henderson, Commandant of Storrington 146 Red Cross Detachment, entering the College field, leading Red Cross nurses in the Victory Parade, July 1919.Photograph courtesy of Storrington and District Museum.

We are pleased to be linked through our project with the British Red Cross. Nurse Edith Ingram of the Storrington Roll of Honour was a member of the Storrington 146 Red Cross Detachment and each year the British Red Cross lay wreaths at the Roll of Honour and at the War Memorial in Storrington.

This year marks the 150th Anniversary of the British Red Cross and we are proud to be linked with them.

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