Monday, 28 July 2014

Thankful villages

I'm reasonably sure that by the time this year is ended, let alone by the time we get to 2018, I shall be suffering from World War I overload.  I am not meaning to be disrespectful to those of my grandparents' generation who suffered so much, but still, today, we are battered almost senseless by a seemingly never ending procession of wars.  We have had Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine . . .  But to revert to WWI, it was only this weekend that I first heard of the Thankful Villages.

Occupying a prominent place in most towns and villages in England is the war memorial.   This was probably erected in about 1920 to commemorate the men from the town who gave their lives during what was then called the Great War.  Very few war memorials existed before then, but the war of 1914-18 had affected every family in the country in one way or another, the first war ever to have had such wide-ranging reverberations, and there were few families which had not suffered the loss of one or more menfolk.

But there are a few villages - just 53 in England and Wales, none have been identified in Scotland - which are collectively known as the
The Rodney Stoke memorial
Thankful Villages, a term coined in the 1930s by the children's author Arthur Mee.  In these villages, every man who left home to fight in the war, returned alive.  Not necessarily whole, but alive.  There was no memorial erected in those villages to commemorate the local men who had died fighting for their country.  That does not mean that those villages have no memorial.  In Rodney Stoke, Somerset, there is a memorial window in St Leonard's church inscribed, "All glory be to God who in his tender mercy has brought again to their homes the men and women of Rodney Stoke who took part in the Great War 1914 - 1919".  (I wonder how many other memorials erected then mention women?)

Of those 53 villages, there are a smaller group of 13 which are Doubly Thankful, having lost nobody in the Second World War either.

What a pleasant change to learn that there are places with no war memorials as we know them.


Jenny Woolf said...

How very interesting. I have never ever heard of this, but I guess that by the laws of chance there would be a few places that had no losses. And how thankful they must have been. I shall look up Thankful Villages now.

Mike @ A Bit About Britain said...

Yes, I have heard of Thankful Villages. Taking nothing away from the sacrifices made, it is a myth that Britain lost a whole generation. Fascinating background.