September 5, 2015

1913, Autumn

Autumn 1913 …

The season began well enough, we enjoyed several good Harvest Festivals.  Then news gripped the town of the tragic death of Mr William Steggles. You see everyone knew him …

William worked for the Great Eastern Railway and then ran the Five Bells after his dad had run for many years.  Then William went on to set up his own business doing what he did best, carting stuff for the G.E.R. He was healthy enough and there seemed no apparent reason for him to drown himself, but his body was found submerged by the town’s bridge.  An inquest held to look into the circumstances surrounding his death heard that he liked a drink, so perhaps one too many had contributed to his demise? Anyway, the town came out in force for his funeral.  Local shops closed and houses along London Road, where the cortege travelled, closed their blinds as a mark of respect. We looked after our own back then.

The hint of war was already in the air. Twenty-three of our magnificent Red Cross nurses held an inspection at the home of Colonel Hamilton. An officer from the Royal Army Medical Corps inspected them in the gardens of Brandon House, and they received high praise for their work and smart appearance. The Major even suggested that Brandon would be strategically vital in the event of an invasion and casualties would be brought to the town and cared for!

6pm, Saturday 18th October. The King passed through the town on this evening.  Apparently he was on his way home to Sandringham from a shoot near Newmarket – a guest of the German born banker, Sir Ernest Cassel.

In this last autumn before war there was no shame attached to having German links.  When Mr Goldsmith, the Stowmarket M.P., visited Brandon late in October to talk about Home Rule in Ireland and the new National Insurance Act, the townspeople applauded him.  The audience sounded out their approval of his speech by shouting “hear, hear” and there was much slapping of backs.  At that time they didn’t know that Mr Goldsmith was born in Germany, but at that time it didn’t matter.  Although Colonel Hamilton introduced him to the town as Mr Francis Goldsmith, his actual name was Franck Adolphe Goldsmith.  A year later poor Franck’s political career was dead in the water.  His German roots were revealed in the war and he became a victim of anti-German hysteria. He was not a bad Member of Parliament, he even went on to fight in Gallipoli with the Suffolk Regiment.  Funny how those we thought of “as our own”, would soon be viewed with suspicion …

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