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History of Ash and Ridley from Earliest Records to 1957
Compiled by Dorothy G. Meager on behalf of Ash and Ridley Women's Institute           Page 74

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First World War 1914 - 1918

There is not a great deal of information available in respect of the First World War apart from what can be learned from the Goodwin family, and the activities of Mr George Day in respect of Farming and Public services (see "Old Established Families.") At the outbreak of war the late Mr Jabez Goodwin and his five sons were conducting a big business as Hay Dealers, they owned stacks in many parts of Kent. They would shift as much as thirty tons of hay into Dartford and Gravesend in a week, the transport being by horse and cart. The Government stepped in and the supply of hay was drastically cut, and three of the sons were taken for the army. The eldest, Mr Fred Goodwin, was made hay buyer for ten square miles around for the Government. The second son, Mr W. J. Goodwin, had the terrible experience of being a prisoner of war. He was captured during the battle of Cambrai, on November 30th 1917, his captivity lasted exactly one year. He returned on the first boat bearing prisoners of war, which arrived at Hull, on November 30th 1918.
   Those twelve months embraced an interlude in life that was harrowing for the then young son of the village hay dealer. The first three months were the worst, as during that period the whereabouts of the captured man and his fellows was unknown in England.
   Death from starvation glared Mr W.J. Goodwin in the face throughout the whole of those three terrible months. He worked at the head of a coal-mine shaft making coke. At dawn the prisoners set out for the mine, water alone having passed through their lips. At mid-day their meal consisted of a plate of watery pickled cabbage soup, a travesty of sauerkraut. Then at eight o’clock at night each prisoner received one slice of German black bread. This was meant for breakfast, but there was never a slice of bread to be seen at the coming of the dawn. Mr Goodwin said "I’ve never seen anything so pitiful as the drama enacted nightly around our single slice of bread. Several times during the night each man of us would take out his slice of bread, look at it longingly, turn it over, after another long look put it away. But at some time before the dawn the temptation would prove too great, the bread would be eaten."
   The Red Cross learned of their whereabouts and parcels began to arrive each week. In this respect they were more fortunate than the French and Belgian prisoners who received only what was sent by relatives and infinitely more 

so than the Russian prisoners who received no succour whatever.
   Escape was impossible for the prison camp was hundreds of miles behind German lines. The only escape attempt in which Mr Goodwin was concerned occurred immediately after his capture, when a band of English prisoners tried to make a dash from the factory in which they were incarcerated, by means of a rope of sacking. But the presence of a sentry beneath the window from which they meant to drop rendered the attempt abortive. Mr Goodwin says "I was treated fairly well and got quite friendly with the sentries, among whom there were both good and bad, and if we suffered from lack of food, so did the German people, especially during the Allied blockade, which was the real factor that ended the war."
   Mr Fred Goodwin was a Special Constable during the war, and remained so until the end of the 1939-45 war. His duties at that time were to parade the main coast road on three nights a week, but without any adventure worth recording. The only diversion was provided by hop-pickers who came that way in the Autumn and who were heartily scared of the constables. They had but to catch sight of one, when up went their hands to be searched, though for what Mr Goodwin could never comprehend.
   As everywhere else in the Country, several of our young men made the supreme sacrifice and their names are inscribed on the Village War Memorial which was erected quite soon after peace was declared. Mrs Campbell, the owner of Ash Manor House and Ash Place Farm gave permission for it to be erected on a corner of her land close to the Village Hall.
The inscription on the Memorial reads as follows:-
To the Glory of God and in lasting memory of the men of this Parish who fell in the Great War 1914-18
     Charles Bennett           Alfred Dedman 
     William Bennett           William A. James
     Alfred H. Chatfield      Alec B. Hamilton Lieut. 
     Abraham Cole              Angus McPhee
True love by life, True love by death is tried,
Live thou for England, We for England died.

   The village did not escape the Influenza Epidemic of 1918 but was not seriously affected.
   The signing of the Armistice in November 1918 was celebrated with a Village Fete, and Firework display.

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