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Article by Pat Jenkins, 2013
Rushden's 'Gurkhas'
Defending Rushden From The Hun

j W Reynolds
            I doubt if anyone seriously thought that an invasion of Britain by the Kaiser's Army was likely, but it probably seemed a good idea to be prepared. Also there were jobs to be done which did not need highly trained fighting soldiers. So the National Reserve was created in 1915 and consisted of men too old, too young or too infirm for the Army, but who wanted to do their bit. They carried out local defence duties and guarded key points like internment camps.

            They eventually became the Royal Defence Corps. They wore plain clothes with a brassard "G.R." on their sleeve.

By 1917 they had been divided into four classes -
A - Undertook to serve until the end of the war.
B - Mainly men exempt from service because of occupation.
C - Boys under age.
D - recruits who could leave at two days notice.

            In 1915, Earl Spencer, Lord Lieutenant of the County, sent out notices around the County, encouraging the setting up of Local Defence Volunteers. Possibly this order was taken up by William James Reynolds, a teacher at Newton Road School. The Muster Book of Rushden volunteers still exists and very interesting it is. It lists, in alphabetical order, men and boys, with their ages, addresses and the reasons why they were exempt from Military Service. Apparently they called themselves "The Rushden Gurkhas".

the book
The book used to record names, addresses, ages, occupations and infirmities
             We meet Cyril Allen, aged 16 of Brookfield Road, who was a clerk in a surveyor's office and was too young to join up. At the end of the book comes Percy W Wills, aged 20 of Station Road, who worked in the shoe trade, possibly making boots for the Army. Most of the men in the book are exempted on this account.

             There are many 16 year olds in the book, possibly this was the youngest age allowed. The oldest men are H. Savage of Ebenezer Terrace, aged 54 and a shoe hand, and Fred Shaw, also aged 54, of Queen Street, exempted on grounds of age. The book mysteriously says "age - not regulation standard". There are 204 names altogether, from all parts of the town.

            We may, or may not, feel sorry for Percy Glenister, Don Chamberlain, Jack Ingram and Harry Joyce who were exempted from service on the grounds of bad teeth.  A. J. Clark had an invalid mother dependent on him and Albert Griffiths and Percy Gates were not big or broad enough. Shoe manufacturers Alfred Sargent, who built and occupied our house in Newton Road, is there, also Horace Wright, who also lived in our house.

            This  book is a fascinating survivor of a past time and another glimpse into the history of Rushden.

Pat Jenkins

Our thanks to Stella Reynolds and family for the gift of the book and the photo of J.W.Reynolds.

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