WE’VE told the stories of the Powerstock men – as far as they are know so far – who fell in the First World War. It only remains in the coming weeks to publish excerpts from Tim Connor’s background chapter – Powerstock in War: A Home Front, 1914-18. Here is the second extract:

As the war continued its impact on this remote village tightened. Volunteers provided insufficient manpower, yet the creation of the huge New Army created labour shortages at home and the threat to diminished food supply made its effect felt even in the farms. The introduction of conscription early in 1916 brought with it tribunals at which appeals against military service were tested. While the few objectors to war on grounds of conscience are well known, the less controversial routine business of the tribunals casts light on conditions in the village where almost everyone was engaged in agriculture, and so on work that could be seen as of ‘national importance’, and sometimes men were providing the only income for a young family or an elderly parent.

Tom House of Glebe Farm came before the Tribunal in March 1916. He claimed he needed all four sons working for him, but struck a deal whereby Duncan could stay as a shepherd with Thomas James, while Fred and Charles joined up immediately. Many cases of farm carters claiming exemption from military service underline the importance of the small-scale nature of rural transport. Hamilton George Legg, of Nettlecombe, Albert Bush at Mappercombe, Thomas Lathey near Castle Lane, Oscar Harold Gale of the Knapp, Powerstock, and William Thomas in North Poorton, all carters, gained temporary exemption.

Other trades too could claim need: James Biles, 21 of Whetley, ‘hurdler, thatcher, crib maker and sheep shearer’ gained a temporary exemption, just a month before the death of his brother Fred in Gallipoli. In May 1916 Hugh Leaf, 31, ‘shoeing and general smith’ gained a conditional exemption, just as his elderly father William, a veteran of the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny, suffered a fall in his bedroom from which he died a month later.

Some claimed no ‘need’ at all. Two brothers, Thomas, 29, and John, 20, Slade, farm labourers of West Milton, had to be arrested by PC Vatcher from Nettlecombe for refusing to answer two notices to report to the recruiting officer.

They were accused of a lack of patriotism, protesting ‘this was a free country and as they had nothing to fight for they took no notice of orders’. They were quickly sent off to the 3rd. Dorsets, where, it was later reported, ‘they have both seen a good deal of active service’.

It is hard to reach an exact number of men from the parish who undertook military service, for the Roll of Honour has several omissions.

In Nettlecombe for example, working from the census of 1911, already a few years out of date by 1916, it appears that there were about 35 men of military age in a population of about 173, of which one can only account for the war service of 14.

Several others may well have joined up, but the rest were either unfit for military service, like young Edward Score who severed his thumb and forefingers while cutting roots at Mappercombe, or gained exemption.

As the men went off, the women increasingly took their place, even if some farmers found this difficult to accept. In May 1917 the paper reported that there ‘were now a great number of women trained for land work’ and ‘some dozens’ had already begun.

It appealed to ‘village women’ to register their services with the village Registrar, whose name would be found in the Post Office.

Mrs Nicholson and Mrs Rickman again took the lead at a meeting ‘with a very large attendance’ to encourage volunteers.

Awareness of the increasingly public role of women in the community, evident from the earliest months when they had met in the Reading Room to listen to a talk on Women and the War, was now shown in many money raising efforts and in lectures from the Ministry of Food on the ‘special need for economy’. The formation of the Women’s Institute in the autumn of 1917 did much to focus domestic economy; at a meeting to discuss ‘What is most needed in Powerstock’ in May 1918, they felt the greatest need was for a local co-operative market. Land Girls must have come to help the village war effort, though the only one I know of was arrested for stealing a pair of silver sugar tongs, worth 12s.6d., from Lynch Farm.

In July 1916 an Open Air Patriotic Meeting was held ‘under the large sycamore tree in the centre of the village’, to hear a powerful speech by the vicar and as at Bridport they declared ‘their inflexible determination to continue the struggle to a victorious end’. But the increasing shortage of food, not to mention the succession of notices of dead and wounded men known to them all, placed increasing pressure on the parish.

The Dorset War Agriculture Committee tried to promote potato growing. Seed potatoes were distributed throughout the county, and steam ploughing was advocated to break up the ground in preparation. In June 1917 the parish council invested in two knapsack sprayers and materials for the making of Burgundy mixture, an early fungicide, but results were slightly disappointing: the county produced 12,300 tons of potatoes in 1917/18, but consumed 20,200.

The War Agriculture Committee also advocated the use of schoolboy labour and those under 14 could expect 10s. for a 52 hour week. At the school, boys were taught gardening, and in March 1915 they were given a lesson in pruning the currant bushes. By the end of the war they were out gathering blackberries – in one week in September 1918 they found 199lbs.

But compulsory rationing arrived in 1918, and in January the Mayor of Bridport warned that butchers would only be allowed to sell half the amount of meat they had sold three months earlier. Whether rationing was at all enforceable in a country parish is another matter.