Written by Laurence Spring
On 8 August 1914, the House of Commons passed the Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) without debate. During the war the Act was amended and its scope expanded. The Act gave sweeping powers to the Government, including press censorship over troop movements and criticism of the government itself. Imprisonment without trial was also introduced. It was also illegal to:
Talk about naval or military matters in public places.
Spread rumours about military matters or take photographs of military bases.
Trespass on railway lines, tunnels and bridges, or loiter near them.
Light bonfires or fly a kite, which might attract enemy aircraft or Zeppelins.
Ring church bells.
Feed bread to animals.
Write with invisible ink.
Then there were odder prohibitions like whistling for a taxi, in case it was mistaken for an air raid warning, or buying brandy or whisky at railway refreshment rooms. Later in the war there were restrictions on public house opening times, to prevent drunkenness.
The Act also called for the securing of public property which might be of use to an enemy invader. Therefore on 23 November 1914 a meeting was held at Cecil Hall, in the Colman Institute, Redhill, to organise Surrey’s reaction to the Defence of the Realm Act and determine how ‘to secure the civil populations and to assist the military in case of hostile invasion’. It was reported that ‘in the event of the landing of a hostile force on the south or south east coast that military authority would issue orders to denude Kent, Sussex and Surrey (possibly not the north portion) of all cattle, sheep horses, vehicles (both horse and motor), consumable stock suitable for man or beast and all commodities which may be considered of use to an invading force and at the same time they would call upon civilian labour to prepare earthworks etc.’ A man was to be chosen to tour each parish daily to inspect the cattle and any which that were found to be unfit to travel were to be destroyed. However, in the event of an enemy landing, on no account were bridges, railways, electricity and telephone lines to be destroyed unless permission had been received from the military authorities.
Surrey was divided into areas which corresponded to the Petty Sessional Divisions of the county. The South Eastern Area covered the parishes of Betchworth, Buckland, Burstow, Chaldon, Charlwood, Chipstead, Gatton, Horley, Kingswood, Leigh, Merstham and Nutfield. Within each parish a committee was to be appointed to oversee local anti-invasion measures.
The minutes and papers of the committee appointed in Horley have survived and are held as SHC ref 6296/1/1/39-40). They provide a very detailed account of the work of the committee in the early years of the war. George Freeman JP of Pickets was chosen as chairman and Edward Blundell of the Chequers Hotel appointed secretary. The others committee members were Henry Webber JP, of Elm Cottage, Bernard W Parson JP, of Hookwood, the Rev. H J Lewis, vicar of Horley, Walter J Hallett of Oakwood Road, Adolph Brandt of The Chequers Hotel and the Rev R P E Cheeseman, vicar of Salfords.
The first meeting of the committee took place on 26 November 1914 at Albert Road School, but subsequent meetings were held at the Committee Room at the Constitutional Club, Horley. Lewis, Hallett, Jennings, Brandt and Cheeseman were also special constables within the parish.
Set places within each parish were to be chosen where the animals were to gather in the event of an invasion, before they were sent to a general rendezvous, although it would not be until 16 April 1915 that Court Lodge Farm was chosen as the collecting place for cattle in the south of Horley and Petridgewood Farm for those in the north. For sheep the collection point for the entire parish was Horley Lodge. On 26 October 1915 Greenfields, Meath Green Lane, was chosen as the collection point for cars and the Cricket Ground for horses and carts etc. Launders Farm was also chosen as the gathering place for those who were to work on fortifications etc. If the population of Horley needed to be evacuated then they were to gather at Salfords School, The Thorns, Victoria Hall, The Kings Head, and the Chequers Hotel. Boy Scouts were to be used as messengers.
A special constable, with two assistants, was appointed to each of these rendezvous to oversee the collection points. The Rev Henry Lewis, who had been vicar of Horley since 1890, along with six assistants, would be in charge of the population in the event of an invasion. Other special constables would be in charge of certain sections of roads.
In a bulletin issued by the Divisional or Local Committee to the parish committees, it stated, ‘many of the atrocities in Belgium were perpetrated by German soldiers when drunk. It is important therefore, that no intoxicating liquor should be left in any area should a clearance order to be carried out’. However, in December 1914 it was decided that the local committees should deal with the disposal of alcohol in the event of a German landing.
On the committee meeting of 3 December 1914 it was decided to compile a list of all those who owned cars and bicycles. This was later followed by a census of all livestock within the parish. The census discovered that 109 people owned 536 vehicles, ranging from motor cars to horse and carts; Mr Edward Brocklehurst of Kinnersley Manor had the largest number of vehicles, although what these 17 vehicles were is not recorded, whereas Richard Cook, the fishmonger, had just one ‘vehicle’ and Mr Jones the butcher had five vehicles. There were also 779 bicycles in Horley at this time, including 20 bicycles at the cycle shop run by Mr A H Waters and 12 at the cycle shop in Victoria Road, owned by T A Wyatt.
The livestock in the parish was recorded as follows: horses (including ponies and asses), 338; sheep, 1,577; cows, 551; pigs, over 756; goats, 2; neat stock etc, 626 (including 1 donkey). In the event of an invasion the special constables were to divide the animals into herds of not more than 150 head of cattle and lead them to the designated rendezvous where another special constable would take charge of them.
To enforce these regulations there were 25 special constables divided into five parties under a committee member, plus an additional 24 special constables, some of whom were assigned specific duties. Some were in charge of a certain area, for example A S Jennings, with H Buckle and W J H Church as assistants, were in charge of the Burford Farm area, although both Jennings and Buckle later joined the army. By 2 November 1917 they had been succeeded by C E Wiggins, who was in charge and F Sargeant, E Gallup and J Bussell who were his assistants.
On 21 August 1916 the chairman of the Surrey Emergency Committee, who was based at Caxton House, London SW, sent a circular letter to the parish committees informing them that ‘in view of the changed military situation …[it] was no longer necessary that supplies of food and fodder should be destroyed, that live stock should be destroyed or removed or that the civil population should be required to leave their homes’. However, it was still the Local Emergency Committees responsibility to arrange the removal of horses, motors, vehicles etc; control the voluntary movements of the civil population; arrange for the supply of spades, pickaxes and other tools, required by the military authorities; and to place at the disposal of the military authorities persons physically fit to do any work required by them in cases where such arrangements had hitherto been made by the committees.
After 3 October 1916 the Horley Parish Committee did not sit again until 8 January 1919 when it was disbanded. Why they did not sit for such a length of time is not recorded in the minutes. It was at this last meeting in 1919 that a letter from the Home Secretary and Lord Lieutenant was read out to the Committee thanking them for all their hard work.
Minutes and papers of the Horley Parish Emergency Committee (SHC ref 6296/1/1/39-40)
The Gazette website (https://www.thegazette.co.uk/all-notices/content/217)