Donhead St Mary Bellringers - August 2016 Report

July 2016 saw national commemoration of the Battle on the Somme. How did the Great War affect bell ringers in the Diocese and in the Donheads? We can turn to the Annual Reports of the Salisbury Diocesan Guild of Ringers (the ‘Guild’), which showed 6 members in St Mary’s; St Andrew’s had not joined the Guild then.

The Annual Report for 1914, issued in May 1915 for the AGM, has a Roll of Honour for “Ringers who are serving their King and Country”, including W. H. J. Sansom from DSM. The report says “the war has inevitably curtailed the activities of the Belfry and that for two main reasons. In the first place, the ringing fraternity, always alert to interpret the proper sentiments of a Christian people, have rightly felt that in a time of such intense public anxiety the joyous tones of the bells should be little heard except on occasions of religious observance or national celebration. And a second reason redounds to the credit of ringers even in greater measure than the first. So readily has this great body of Church workers responded to the call of duty, that the ranks of the Guild are considerably depleted by the absence of many of its most energetic members on the service of King and country”. A year later, it reported that 23% of Guild ringers were on war service. The Roll of Honour is now in Gothic Script. No report was issued for 1916 but in the 1917 report the Roll of Honour is for the fallen, and there is a Roll of Service, which shows W. Sansom, F. J. Sansom and F. Bridle from St Mary’s. At the end of the war, all 3 returned home safely. The Guild reported that “525 out of a normal membership of a little under 750 [had] responded to the Country’s call to arms, the great majority in the days of voluntary enlistment”. Ringing had been greatly reduced “due to restrictions on travelling and other difficulties created by the War”.

Donhead was lucky. Berwick had 6 ringers (out of 8) in service, of whom one fell. In the Guild, 69 fell.

Christopher Sykes