The Thankful Villages
November 10, 2013 3:18 AM   Subscribe

"The phrase was first used by Arthur Mee in his King's England series in the 1930s. A Thankful Village, it was said, was one which lost no men in the Great War because all those who left to serve came home again. For example, in Yorkshire East Riding he says about Catwick, "Thirty men went from Catwick to the Great War and thirty came back, though one left an arm behind." It was also said that such villages have no war memorials - or that if they do, they are a thankful reminder of all who served. Any community which enjoyed this rare distinction must have been Thankful indeed, in an age when family and community life broken by war was the norm." -- From the Hellfire Corner research project on Thankful Villages

Fiftythree villages in England and Wales were fortunate enough not to lose any men in World War I; none in Ireland or Scotland. Of these fiftythree, fourteen were doubly thankful, losing nobody in World War II either.

Meanwhile in France, there's just one village which can claim the same: Thierville, which has not lost any soldiers in France's last five wars (Franco-Prussian, WWI, WWII, Indochina, Algeria).

BBC Radio 4's Saturday Live programme yesterday paid homage to the Thankful Villages (which is where I first heard of them) as well as to Medwyn Parry and Dougie Bancroft's motorcycle tour of all the British Thankful Villages, in aid of the British Legion.
posted by MartinWisse (7 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
Statistically, it's inevitable that some English villages would not have had any Great War casualties, but it's still surprising to think that there are some English villages without a cenotaph for their own. The mass mobilization for the so-called War to End All Wars touched literally every community in the British Isles, and Remembrance Sunday will be observed at London's as it has every year since 1920.
posted by Doktor Zed at 3:40 AM on November 10, 2013


Touched literally every community

For the first part of WW1, Britain's was an all-volunteer army. (Recall Kitchener's Army with the famous Britons Want You poster.) A very unpopular conscription was introduced in 1916, but was unevenly applied with hundreds of thousands receiving exemptions. It is hardly surprising that some villages which may have not been favorably disposed to (or on the contrary favorably treated by) His Majesty would have seen very few of their boys volunteering or being conscripted into the army and sent to Flanders. Some communities were "touched" more than others. British conscription was also a factor in the Irish Rising of 1916; Ireland was treated roughly by its colonial masters and it is no surprise that no Irish villages are among the thankful ones.
posted by three blind mice at 4:33 AM on November 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Scots have long accounted for a higher fraction of UK armed forces than the fraction they account for in the general population, in WW1 Scots were ~13% of the armed forces. Assuming a fairly distributed danger of death then that would tend to mean a reduced likelihood of a similar sized town or village not having any casualties.
posted by biffa at 7:04 AM on November 10, 2013


British conscription was also a factor in the Irish Rising of 1916; Ireland was treated roughly by its colonial masters and it is no surprise that no Irish villages are among the thankful ones.

Conscription was not applied at all in Ireland during World War 1. The reference to there being no thankful villages in Ireland in the original post is a bit misleading - this appears to be no thankful villages identified rather than no thankful villages existing. Since the 26 counties that became the Irish Free State proceeded to almost totally ignore their participation in the war for the next 50 years at least, there's a distinct lack of evidence one way or the other.
posted by Azara at 7:56 AM on November 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Worth noting; just because they came back with their bodies, doesn't mean that their minds weren't broken and tormented by WWI.
posted by lalochezia at 8:05 AM on November 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Conscription was not applied at all in Ireland during World War 1

And a little research confirms that. It was threatened, but never imposed. Thanks Azara.
posted by three blind mice at 10:19 AM on November 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I read this post (in silence) at 11 am on 11/11.

At our tiny community hall the other week I was again stunned by the list of great war casualties on the honour board.
posted by wilful at 5:38 PM on November 10, 2013


« Older the body, the rock   |   I would love a swan. Oh, a swan. That would be... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments