A LITTLE RYE HISTORY: Rye in the Great War
In August of this year, the world will mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War, as many still call it.
By Paul Hicks
In August of this year, the world will mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War, as many still call it. A recent book, “The War that Ended Peace,” by Oxford professor Margaret MacMillan is the latest scholarly attempt to understand the causes of the First World War. For many who seek answers, Russia’s annexation of Crimea is a reminder of how an isolated incident (the assassination of an Austro-Hungarian archduke in Serbia) can trigger a much larger conflict.
While the war raged in Europe for more than two years, the residents of Rye and the rest of this country remained largely unscathed, except for the Americans killed in the sinking of the Lusitania and those volunteering at the front. After many bloody battles that resulted in millions of casualties, the allied forces were not able to achieve a breakthrough.
Despite growing criticism of his policy of neutrality, Woodrow Wilson was re-elected President of the United States in November, 1916, with help from the campaign slogan, “He kept us out of the War.” Then, faced with increasing German belligerence toward the U.S., Wilson asked Congress to vote for a “war to end all wars” in April 1917.
That is a very brief background to a small book, titled “The World War History of the Village of Rye, 1917-1918,” which can be found in the reference collection at the Rye Free Reading Room. Written by Chauncey Ives, it chronicles news of the Village of Rye during the 20 months that the United States was at war and for a brief period afterward.
Most of the book is in the form of brief news bulletins, but in the introduction, the author (who was the Village Historian) summarized the times:
“The patriotic activities of the Village of Rye during the World War should always be a matter of great pride and satisfaction to all those loyal citizens of the Village of Rye, who participated in them, and to their succeeding generations. Rich and poor, the foremost and the humblest, men and women, did their proportionate duty…In supporting the National Government with subscriptions to Liberty and Victory Loans the Village exceeded its allotted quota on all five loans…”
April 6: War against Germany declared.
April 17: Cavalry Troop organized to support Home Defense Force. Rye fire Department votes to organize separate company.
April 21: Garden Produce Committee by Rye women; land provided for growing produce.
June 12: Y.M.C.A. released A.M. Chesley, Executive Secretary for work among American soldiers in England and France.
Nov. 1: Apawamis Club, 27 employees in U.S. Army and Navy.
Jan. 23: Coal shortage acute. Village Board President Fremd secures 40 tons from wealthy resident and his own resources.
Feb. 4: Patriotic calendar of wheatless and meatless days during week. Every day sugar and fat saving days.
March 23: German language not to be taught in Rye public schools.
April 1: First Daylight Saving Time inaugurated by law.
May 14: Lieut. Wm. K.B. Emerson killed in France. Received the Croix de Guerre in Serbia and belonged to French Air Squad as artillery officer.
June 13: Thomas Fallon sends telegram to his mother from Canso, Nova Scotia, saying, “Ship lost. All hands saved.”
July 9: Christ’s Church sent its Rector, Rev. R.T. Henshaw, assuming his salary and providing a substitute during his absence for service as a Red Cross chaplain at the military hospitals in France.
Sept. 17: Miss Helen Hall sails for Europe for Red Cross work. Has been in charge of child welfare work in Rye and Harrison.
Sept. 25: Memorial service for Charles A. Batten in Christ’s Church. Killed in action in France, serving with 5th Royal Highlanders of Canada (Black Watch). The British Secretary for War, on behalf of the King and Queen of England, sent his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Wm. H. Batten a communication expressing “their true sympathy and sorrow.”
Sept. 30: Sergeant John Batten, son of Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Batten, serving with 106th Infantry, 27th Division, killed in action in France. Volunteered for a very perilous duty, restoring barbed wire entanglements in front of American lines.
Oct. 30: Chas. H. Johnson dies in France of pneumonia. Enlisted in 5th Marine Regiment and saw much desperate fighting.
Nov. 8: False news of “war over.” Great jubilation suspended when news turned out not to be true.
Nov. 9 Edward McNamara dies of wounds in France. Was in Co. M., 107th Infantry, 27th Division.
Nov. 11: Armistice signed. Noise. Handshaking. Great joy and continuous demonstrations.
Nov. 18: Eugene Martin, colored lad from Rye badly wounded in battle in France. Was chauffeur to Mr. Pliny Fisk. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Peter Martin recall with pride heroic deeds of colored lads who fought and gave up their lives for the flag.
Sept. 18: The Village of Rye pays homage to “Rye’s Fighting Sons.” Plaques for the dead, medals for the living. The Welcome Home celebration was divided into four parts: the parade; the service attending the dedication of the Honor Roll; the dinner for the men at Rye Beach in the evening; and the “block” dancing party beneath colored lights, flags, and pennants strung over and above Locust Ave. in front of the Fire Headquarters.
Even if you do not have an opportunity to read the Ives book, you may want to visit the World War I Memorial that stands directly across from the Square House between Purchase Street and the Post Road. On it are the names of hundreds who served in the armed forces and eight who gave their lives, but we should also remember those who contributed to the war effort as non-combatants at home and “over there.”