Conceived and written by Shirley Morse and originally staged in 2014, this production has been made possible by a grant from Tesco “Bags of Help” scheme.
The First World War claimed the lives of William John Smith the Town Band’s principal cornet player, who was born and lived at St. Mellion. He joined the 1st Btn. Kings Royal Rifle Corps and was 19 when killed in action on the Western Front on 14th Sept. 1914, just a few weeks after the war had begun. Also Robert Hicks Pike, born in Callington in 1878, he ran his late father’s drapers shop in Fore St. before he was conscripted during 1916 into 2nd Btn. Grenadier Guards. He died in action on 6th July 1917 aged 39.At the beginning of the war, Callington warmly welcomed refugees from Belgium. Articles from the Cornish Times of the period showed that fund-raising concerts and Christmas parties were given and presents provided for refugee children.
Local men were not slow to enlist although, later in the war, Exemption Panels were held to deliberate on the importance of a worker’s job. Farming was obviously of great importance although blacksmiths were recruited to care for the millions of horses on the battlefields.
One of the sketches in the show tells of the storm of indignation caused when Colonel Williams, while on a recruiting campaign, accused the men of Callington of cowardice. Little did he know that most eligible man had already enlisted.
The Music hall scene is set in Compton Hall, where many fund-raising concerts were staged, this later became the present Callington Town Hall.
Lord Kitchener may have pointed his finger from posters declaring “Your King and Country Needs You” but it was Vesta Tilley, a variety star, dressed as a soldier, that drove men to “Take the King’s Shilling”. She sang “Oh we don’t want to lose you but we think you ought to go, For Your King and your country both need you so”.
Music halls during the Great War were the nightly entertainment to bolster moral.
The play tells the story of World War One through newspaper accounts, personal stories and the actions of British politicians and Generals. With the aid of newspaper boys with their headline sheets, historic events will be interleaved with the words of servicemen who fought in what was described as “THE WAR to end ALL WARS”
The writings of British, Germans, French and New Zealand soldiers tell of the unimaginable horrors and the courage of those who fought. All against a background of what was going on back home, which tells of the women, liberated from household drudgery now working in munitions factories, on the land or a “clippies” on the buses.
There is particular emphasis on the story of William John Smith, the Principal cornet player, who never returned. Music played an important part and is used in the production to add emphasis to events.
Callington Town Band was in existence in 1859 and reformed in 1996 after a 30 year break and consists of all ages and ability. The band meets every Thursday evening 7:30pm in the HERITAGE CENTRE, Liskeard Rd. www.callingtontownband.com 01579 350336