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Aston And Weston – 1914/15

During the initial stages of the war many volunteers answered the call to arms and offered themselves for military service. In Aston and Weston public meetings were held during August 1914 when prominent members of the village communities carried forward an appeal, headed by the Duke of Devonshire and the Lord Lieutenant of Derbyshire, for strengthening the numbers of the Regular Army and the Territorial Force. There was a spirit of enthusiasm at both village meetings, the Aston one being presided over by Rev. James Shuttleworth Holden, rector of All Saints’, Aston, and at Weston by the Chairman of the Parish Council, Mr. J. Cotton. It was later reported that in Aston 16 men came forward. By that time there were already 20 Aston men serving and for Weston 12 young men were in the Army or Navy.

A month later Weston Parish Council held a meeting in the National Schoolroom to form a committee to deal with distress and hardship arising from the war. October 1914 saw the Parish Council of Weston discussing the provision of accommodation for Belgian refugees at a meeting held in a room at the Plough Inn. 

Prior to the outbreak of war, there existed in the two villages a vibrant branch of the Red Cross Society headed by the president of the branch Mrs. Winterbottom. The branch played an extremely important role during the war years and was instrumental in establishing two Auxiliary Red Cross Hospitals in Aston. The first convalescent hospital for wounded soldiers and Belgian refugees was made available in Aston Lodge in January 1915 through the kindness of its occupant Mr. Reginald Boden J.P. Shortly afterwards, by means of a generous gesture by Col. William Dickson Winterbottom and his wife, an Auxiliary Hospital was opened in the west wing of Aston Hall. This was to contain 33 beds for the convalescence of wounded officers and other ranks. The costs associated with the upkeep of the hospitals was borne largely by voluntary contributions collected weekly in both villages, many members of the communities contributed a fixed weekly sum. The local doctor, Dr. S. B. Gay of Shardlow attended to the medical requirements of the soldiers, assisted by the village nurse and local members of the Red Cross Society. Professional nurses were also in attendance and these ladies were, mainly, members of the Voluntary Aid Detachment.  A note sent by the Matron, Annie Buxton, to the Board of The Grove requesting approval of the suggestion made by a Miss Boden stated – “Through an enquiry of Miss Boden of Aston Lodge the Matron has undertaken to have made in the House 200 Sand Bags for use in the trenches. The inmates and officers are making these during the evenings and the Matron asks the Board’s approval of her action. – signed Annie E. Buxton, dated November 1st 1915”.

It is very clear that the communities of Aston and Weston were very quick off the mark in their support of the war effort from the day that war was declared. In the early days and weeks following the 4th August enthusiasm ran high and many men queued at recruitment centres in their eagerness to join the ranks. There was much talk of “it will all be over by Christmas”. Prominent families of Derbyshire, whose connections and involvement in military organisations such as Yeomanry Regiments,  generally led and urged along the need for communities on the ‘home front’ to put their shoulder to the wheel. The parishes of Aston and Weston were not found wanting in taking up the common cause and throughout the ensuing four years of conflict these communities continued to give willingly in many ways.