Platt Parish During The Great War

The First World War was to change Platt and its people for ever. The obvious impact on the village was on its young men, many of whom volunteered for Kitchener’s ‘New Army’ and went off to fight in foreign parts. Over 40 of them died in the service of their country and are commemorated on the War Memorial in the village. One young woman’s story illustrates particularly poignantly the massive burden borne by many of those left behind.

Daisy Parris’ Story

In 1911 young Daisy Ellis married Alfred Leonard Parris, a Grenadier Guard from Offham. Their marriage was celebrated in Platt Parish Church but it was to be short-lived. At the outbreak of war in 1914 Leonard was recalled into the army and posted to France where he died from wounds on November 11th.

Daisy’s younger brother, Edward, enlisted in the army in 1909 and served 3 years in India. He was eventually posted to France and died there in June 1916. Her older brother, James, who was a gunner in the Royal Field Artillery was present at his brother’s funeral but he too was soon to be killed in France in fighting near Arras in April 1917.

As if this were not enough tragedy in one young girl’s life, her brother-in-law in, Leonard’s younger brother, George, died on the Somme in September 1918 during the closing stages of the war.

As well as the direct impact on its people the war also had an impact on many village institutions. Platt Woods are now a publicly owned open space but back at the beginning of the 20th century they were in private hands. The war was to dramatically alter their character.

Platt Woods

At the outbreak of war Platt Woods was a very different place from the woods we see today, dominated by majestic old pines and containing an area of colourful rhododendrons planted in the mid-nineteenth century in Potter’s Hole as part of a proposed ornamental garden.

The war created a huge demand for timber to be used to build trenches, support barbed wire defences and build railways to supply the front and Platt Woods had an abundance of old pines to be exploited.

A lumber industry was established in the woods, which had at its heart a timber yard with a huge saw driven by a steam engine. Trees were felled and logs hauled off to the timber yard by Bessie the horse, there to be processed into poles, planks and sleepers. The local families benefited by their young children collecting the small branches to stoke their cooking and heating fires.

Another local institution to be hard hit was the village stores. Mr Pearson bought a small grocery business in Platt 1895 located in Long Mill Lane just across the road from the local pub, the Blue Anchor.

Mr Pearson had ambitious plans and extended the premises in 1901. He became sub-postmaster, installed a bakery in the rear of the house and Mrs Pearson opened a haberdashery in the front. The grocery was largely in the new extension. However any further plans had to be put on hold after the outbreak of war.

The Village Stores

When war broke out Mr Pearson joined ‘Dad’s Army’ and his baker signed up with the regular army. The running of the stores was left to the women of the family with Mrs Pearson looking after the bakery and his daughter, Clemmie, with the help of Daisy Stratton looking after the shop.

A village institution that was even harder hit was the local brickworks.

Platt Brickfields

Thomas Pascall took over the brickworks in Platt in 1898. Handmade bricks from Platt were used in fireplaces at Sandringham and to build an extension at Harrow School and there is some evidence that the site was in use as early as Roman times. London refuse (largely from hotels) was used to infill the holes left from the extraction of the clay.

Production ceased at the beginning of the war and didn’t recommence until 1920.

Thomas’ son, also Thomas, enlisted with the Royal Fusiliers (the London Regiment) and was posted to France in November 1915 but unfortunately he was killed in action on January 2nd 1916

After the war Thomas Pascall played a major role in the building of the Memorial Hall, Platt bricks being used in its construction. He was for a time Chairman of Platt Parish Council and a Magistrate

Even the local golf course played its part.

Wrotham Heath Golf Club

Leonard Job began building a nine-hole course in 1906 and was appointed green-keeper and professional to the club. In World War 1 Leonard joined the army and was posted to France with the Royal Sussex Regiment

The Army took over the clubhouse. Soldiers were billeted there until huts were built for them on the fairways and two anti-aircraft guns were installed about 200 yards from the clubhouse. A searchlight installed on the high ground

Leonard’s daughter, Nancy, remembered a balloon coming down on the course

Leonard survived the war, returned to the club and the golf resumed

One man in Platt, Nobby Barnes, initiated his own campaign to support the troops fighting on the Western Front.

Nobby Barnes

Nobby worked nights at Basted Paper Mill but during the day he took his empty pop bottle and collected money for the troops. When the bottle had been filled he would break it open in the presence of witnesses and use the money to send parcels out to boys from Platt who were serving at the Front. He collected more than £16 in this way and received several appreciative letters from the recipients of his parcels.

More Personal Memories From People of Platt

Dick Hollands: remembered playing the part of the patient as Dr Gordon Jones gave the ladies of Platt First Aid lessons

Albert Bowen: ran away in September 1914 at age 17 to join the Royal West Kent Regiment. He was a founder member of the British Legion and was awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre

FG Pierce: who was a carpenter with the Royal Engineers recalls meeting Albert Bowen (who had been his apprentice before the war) behind the lines on the eve of the Battle of the Somme. He survived the war but his brother William who enlisted towards the end of the war was mortally wounded in 1918.

Belle Evans: recalled that Mr Percy Minter moved into ‘Staddleswood’ in 1903 with his wife Mary. Percy was with the Admiralty from 1886-1926. He worked as Director of Contracts during WW1, a role for which he received the CBE. During his time in Platt he was a Churchwarden, treasurer of the Parochial Church Council, manager of the primary school and a founder member of Wrotham Heath Golf Club. He also left King George’s Field for a small sum for the use of the football and cricket clubs.

Ivy King: remembers troops, cavalry and guns trundling past their house en route for the Channel Ports. Sometimes they stopped for water

She remembers that nuns occupied Stone Cottage, one of whom was suspected of being a German spy.

Her son served in the army throughout the war and was awarded the Military Medal and bar for gallantry under heavy fire in the Battle of the Somme.