World War I
It was reported in the Taunton Courier, on 5th July 1916, that Howard Champion, Private 10431, 7th Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry, had been killed by a shell at Ypres on 9th June. Born in Stoke, he was the youngest son of Henry and Margaret Champion.
The year before, another Stoke family had suffered a double loss. Not only did Joseph and Mary Miller lose their son Herbert, who died of wounds on active service in France. They were still grieving for their daughter Annie, who had died in February, aged 12.
Bill Chedzoy, who had emigrated to Canada, was one of the luckier ones:
Taunton Courier 24th January 1917
“Wounded - Much sympathy was felt for Mr and Mrs Samuel Chedzoy, of Meare Green, on their receiving a telegram last week saying their elder son, Private William J Chedzoy, (above) was seriously ill in France, having being wounded in the chest. Then came days of weary waiting and suspense, but they have since heard that is progressing favourably. Private Chedzoy was born and brought up in this village, and was formerly a ringer before going to Canada. He volunteered for service, came over with the Canadians and joined the Battalion of Royal Grenadiers. His father has been sexton in this parish for 42 years."
In the village itself, apart from the occasional devastating news, life continued more or less as normal. One of the few entries in the school log book is an excerpt from County Council Circular E60 end of 1915: “With a view to economise fuel and light and also to release the older children earlier in the afternoon the County Education Committee has considered it advisable to make a new rule to the effect that in agricultural parishes the Afternoon Session of public Elementary Schools shall be from 1.30 to 3.30 pm." The end of the war is not noted in the school log book. It was closed for two weeks due to an outbreak of inluenza. It was not until 1924 that Armistice day was observed, as it was not until then that the half term holiday was brought back to October.
Following the Military Service Act of 1916, which brought in conscription, much time was spent convincing the local tribunal that certain individuals were vital to local industry and the war effort. A George Pocock was granted exemption on the grounds that he was the only competent boatman employed by the Drainage Board in an area covering 30,000 acres.
Exemption was also granted to Stoke withy grower and basket maker, Edmund Boobyer, on behalf of Herbert Hembrow who looked after the withy boiler. It was argued that 22 women employees were dependent on his work and they were involved in supplying government orders. This was backed up by letters from the Office of Works regarding the supply of baskets to the Pigeon Flying Service and chairs for the Office of Works. Even more important than the baskets was the supply of willow to the large city basketmakers, producing a whole range of goods, from shell cases to military hampers.
Willow Leaving Stoke for the Railway Station