HAPPY NEW YEAR
Looking back 100 years we saw from last month’s Brumration that the war was having an impact on daily life at home, but 1917 was to see battles on the Western Front whose names were to become synonymous with bravery, sacrifice and the horror that one associates with the First World War. At various times this year we will commemorate the Battles of Arras, Messines Ridge, Third Ypres, Passchendaele and Cambrai as well as countless other engagements.
In the January edition I will focus on the Cadbury family and in February the stories of a number of men from less famous families, but whose contributions to the story of 1914-1918 is just as worthy of telling.
Egbert, known as ‘Bertie’, was the youngest son of George and Elizabeth Cadbury, and the grandson of John, the founder of the family chocolate business. Living in the family home, Northfield Manor House, he was educated at Leighton Park School, Reading, and Trinity College, Cambridge. The Cadbury Family were Quakers and therefore pacifists, but on the outbreak of war in 1914, Egbert left Cambridge to join the Royal Navy. He served on board a Yacht HMY Zafira with other former Cambridge students. The yacht had been converted into an armed patrol vessel.
Egbert was commissioned into the Royal Naval Air Service in 1915 and after flying school training at Hendon he was posted to the Royal Naval Air Station at South Denes, Great Yarmouth. His first action in a Sopwith on 9/10 August 1915 was against four Zeppelins and met with no success. He wrote to his brother Laurence about having ‘cold feet and worse’ in his aircraft. As he was probably flying at 5,000 feet in an open cockpit this is hardly surprising. He also expressed the view that he would never shoot down a Zeppelin ‘unless one catches it unawares’.
In May 1916 he wrote that he was ‘ sick of war’ and expressed in more colourful language than is appropriate for the Brumration what he thought about those he deemed responsible for the war and that they should be forced to fight it out among themselves. By September 1916, having lost several close friends in the Squadron, he expressed his regret at ‘the murder of war’.
On 27th November ten Zeppelins set out on a raid in two groups targeting the Midlands and the North of England. One of these the L.21 was on its tenth raid over England commanded on this occasion by Oberleutnant Zee Kurt Frankenburg of the Imperial German Navy. After crossing the coast North of Hornsea it was engaged by anti-aircraft fire around Leeds, and although an effective blackout shielded Barnsley it dropped two incendiaries and one HE bomb nearby. It then headed SW towards Stoke where it dropped a number of bombs causing little damage. No doubt attracted by the fires of a furnace, it dropped the majority of its bombs around a mine and a brick and tile works near Chesterton breaking a few windows. The last of his incendiaries were dropped at Trentham and Fenton causing no damage.
As L.21 approached the coast on its return Journey it was twice engaged by aircraft from 38 and 51 Squadrons but evaded them and crossed the Coast at dawn near Lowestoft. Flight Lieutenant Cadbury and Flight Sub Lieutenant Gerard Fane took off in their B.E.2c fighters to intercept and were joined by Sub Lieutenant Pulling from RNAS Bacton. Cadbury in newspaper reports of the time indicated that when they caught up with the Zeppelin it had climbed to 8,000 feet, and he approached firing from about 3,000 feet below. He fired all four drums of his explosive ammunition into its stern. It burst into flames and crashed into the sea and there were no survivors. It must have been a chilling sight for Cadbury considering the views he had expressed on the horror of war.
Pulling was awarded the D.S.O and Cadbury and Fane the D.S.C. When in April 1918 the Royal Naval Air Service was merged with the Royal Flying Corps to form the Royal Air Force he was appointed Squadron Commander.
On 5th April 1918 five airships were spotted off the coast but Cadbury was at a charity event with his wife. On hearing the news he rushed back to the airfield and using the only aircraft available, an AircoDH.4, flew off to engage the enemy. With Captain Robert Leckie in the rear-gunners seat he jettisoned any excess weight and climbed to 16,000 feet. He fired and the Zeppelin burst into flames and crashed into the sea. This was the L.70 Commanded by Peter Strasser the Fuhrer der Luftschiffe, the Commander of all the naval airships.
Cadbury and Lieutenant Ralph Keys went on to attack another Zeppelin which was damaged and headed for home. For these actions he was recommended by the Commodore of Lowestoft for the V.C. but he and the others involved were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Laurence took a different path in 1914 to his brother. He was an engineer and fascinated by cars, which at that time were the preserve of the wealthy. In September 1914 Laurence joined the Friends Ambulance Unit, which had been formed by several young Quaker men. It was dedicated to providing relief from suffering at the front.
After training in Buckinghamshire he arrived in France in the autumn of 1914 accompanied by his beloved car which he called ‘the Beetle’. There were many rich men and a few women who took their cars over to France at this time, including Graham Baron Ashe the owner of Packwood House near Knowle (now a National Trust Property). Laurence Cadbury writing home informed the family he was safe after a rough crossing, and that ‘the Beetle’ was alright ‘except for the usual problem with the lights’. Conditions for these affluent young men were not what they were accustomed to: 14-20 men in a small room which was used for cooking, eating and sleeping as wel l as an office, with not enough straw mattresses to go around.
The Friends Ambulance Unit was controversial among Quakers and other pacifists. People like Laurence thought they were serving peoples’ immediate needs without breaking their commitment not to fight. Others felt that the existence of the F.A.U allowed the Army to divert men and resources that would otherwise have been used for ambulance work to fighting at the front.
Laurence had no such doubts. Writing home in December 1914 he refers to ‘our troops’ and notes they have been given some rest and new winter clothing. This for many had been the first change of clothing since they came out in the heat of August. His letters show an increasing sympathy for the war and a sense of comradeship with members of the armed forces.
His letters also reflect his complaints with censorship. He was based in the Ypres area, and described how typhoid was becoming an issue as ‘the people are absolutely filthy… and there is no pretence at drainage or water supply’. He was angry as new censorship regulations did not allow any reference to this. A hospital was set up in a nearby Chateau aided by the Queen of the Belgians.
So we have two Quaker brothers: one who often expressed an interest in enlisting in the army and constantly referred to ‘our troops’, and his brother a ‘war hero’ who railed against the stupidity of those in command.
Marion became a VAD and left England on 16th April 1915 bound for the St Pierre Friends Ambulance Unit hospital in Dunkirk. There were quiet times when she went bicycling in the countryside and even played hockey but there were other very stressful periods when the casualties arrived from the Front.
In the summer of 1915 Marion transferred to the British Red Cross Hospital at Abbeville where she saw at first hand the horror of war, writing home ‘one man had his face burnt away with liquid fire … and most of his mouth and jaw is gone’
She met her future husband, Bill Greeves in France; he served alongside her brother in the Friends Ambulance Unit.