How Portishead people coped during WW1

November 26 2018
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The remarkable stories of Portishead’s brave men and women during World War One have been brought to life in the latest edition of the Posset Pieces series.

Written by local author and historian Sandy Tebbutt on behalf of the Gordano Civic Society, ‘World War One’ – which launched at a special commemorative concert last month – is the result of 20 years of thorough research into the people of Portishead and their experiences during the war.

Published in colour, the 22nd book in the Posset Pieces series not only recounts the stories of those who gave their lives on the frontline, but also those coping at home, in Portishead.

Many of the stories are accompanied by photos and documents. 

Sandy, who has had a life-long interest in WW1, began researching the book in 1998, trawling through WW1 records and digital archives, and speaking to the relatives of those affected by the war in Portishead.

Sandy explained: “There are 64 men listed on the WW1 memorial at St Peter’s Church, but while I was researching, I found that many more men with connections in Portishead had died than those listed on the war memorial.  The men whose names are listed died in many places across the world such as India, East Africa and Orkney.”

There are many fascinating stories to be read in the latest Posset Pieces, one of which is about a group of women who stepped in to ring the bells of St Peter’s Church every Sunday.

Trained by William Gillingham, they were the first lady bell ringers in the country to ring the Grandsire Triples, which involves 5,040 unique changes.

If someone died at war, they would ring the bells at half muffled peals, such as when news reached the village that Major Chester Todd had been killed in action.

There is also the story of Captain Harry Carritt - Sandy discovered letters which revealed a fearless man who would walk ahead of his men on the battlefield. He was awarded the Military Cross for his bravery.

The youngest of the men who died serving from Portishead was Ben Hobbs, 16, who was working on board a hospital ship when it came under attack.

Explaining her fascination with WW1, Sandy said: “I remember my grandmother telling me about her two nephews from Lancashire who fought in the First World War.

“One sadly died, but the other managed to make it home. It was at that moment that my imagination took hold and my lifelong interest in WW1 began.

“It’s a war that people didn’t really talk much about – it was such an awful time, which wrecked so many lives. So many innocent young boys, thinking that adventure was calling them, who gave their lives.  

“You’ve just got to imagine the distress families faced when these telegrams arrived to tell them that their son, father or brother had been killed.”

 ‘World War One’ can be purchased for £15 from Summit Leisure, and from the Gordano Civic Society website (gordanosociety.org.uk). All profits from the publication go towards preserving the local heritage of Portishead.

Photo: Do you know this family? It's the Way family of Woodhill Road at a wedding during the war