Berkshire’s Home Front 1915: Operation Gramophone

I first noticed the mysterious reference to ‘Operation Gramophone’ in the Berkshire Record Office catalogue a few years ago, when I was working on some Petty Sessions records for a client. Intrigued, I checked various local history sources but drew a complete blank!

On closer inspection, the scant surviving records for Operation Gramophone were initially a bit confusing. However, once put into the context of the Home Front in 1915, they started to make more sense.

home front WW1 Berkshire

Police Superintendent  Charles Goddard

Zeppelin air attacks on the east coast of Britain began in January 1915. Not surprising then, that by 17th February, Police Superintendent Charles Goddard (1861-1946)1 of the Wokingham Division was requesting help from the Special Police Reserve and Special Constables, in the event of a ‘hostile air-craft invasion.’2 He wanted men, who on hearing the alarm, to be verified by a special code, would be prepared to ‘go direct to their post’ to carry out orders, as yet undefined. I believe that this was the beginning of what became known as Operation Gramophone.

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Berkshire’s Home Front 1914: Emergency Defence

home front WW1 Berkshire

In August 1914, the Chief Constable of Berkshire, Major Arthur Faulconer Poulton (1858-1935)made an appeal to Berkshire’s Special Constables to organise a guard on all vulnerable points liable to outrage. Suggested points included: rail and river bridges (especially over the Thames), ‘water works, reservoirs, lighting works, magazines, churches, town halls and other large buildings’.

In addition, Special Constables were expected to register and watch all aliens, specifically ‘alien enemies viz those of German nationality who are now under certain restrictions‘.

By December, the threat from the enemy within was compounded by a real fear of invasion. I have a copy of a confidential circular issued under the remit of the Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) instructing Berkshire’s Emergency Defence Committees in the event of ‘a landing of a hostile force in the South or South East coast’. It states that as soon as the order was issued to ‘denude’ Kent, Sussex and Surrey of all ‘cattle, sheep, horses, vehicles (both horse and motor), consumable stock, suitable for man or beast and all other commodities which may be considered of use to an invading force’, both people and resources were to be removed to special centres in Buckinghamshire and Berkshire. Continue reading

Was your ancestor bumped on the boundary post?

I remember going to the Wokingham Carnival in the 1970s and 1980s, watching the parade and going to the fair. It was great fun but I certainly don’t recall the mayor being ‘bumped’ on the boundary post. It seems that carnival day or ‘Joy Day’ in Wokingham was a lot more anti-establishment in the 1920s and 1930s. Whilst doing some work at Reading Local Studies Library, I came across three pictures taken on 11th September 1929, showing three local bigwigs (including Mayor Ernest Whaley and well-respected Police Superintendent Charles Goddard) being manhandled over a boundary post as part of a ‘beating the bounds’ ceremony. They are wonderful pictures and you can see them too, if you follow these links

http://readingimages.epixtech.co.uk/loc/1174384.PDF
http://readingimages.epixtech.co.uk/loc/1174382.PDF
http://readingimages.epixtech.co.uk/loc/1174383.PDF