A Lost Generation from Eton Wick
A whole generation who came of age in the early 20th century had their lives entirely transformed by the First World War.
This is starkly illustrated in the diary of Miss Cicely Nottage who was born in Eton Wick in 1898. She grew up living next door to her cousins, Cyril and Douglas Ashman, and was friends with a boy named William Albert Musk, whom she likely attended Eton Wick Infant School with.
Entries into her diary in 1908 frequently talk about playing with the Ashman brothers and her friends. She mentioned a trip to Southend with Cyril, fishing trips with Douglas, and her cousins visiting her on Christmas evening.
In 1919, Cicely used the same diary again, 11 years later. One entry in April 1919 states, ‘Decorated War Shrine’. It is not known who the shrine is for. It could have been for the three men in her life who we know were killed in the war; her two cousins, Cyril and Douglas Ashman, and William Musk, who may have been her childhood sweetheart.
The entries from 1908 and 1919 sit next to each other on the pages of the diary, and this powerful visual really helps us to understand just how quickly the lives of people in Cicely’s generation were changed by the war, and indeed, how their dreams and aspirations were shattered.
Friends together, photo, 1905
This photo is of Group One class at Eton Wick School in 1905. Cicely Nottage is in the photo, although we are not sure which girl she is. It is possible that one of the young boys is William A Musk. It is likely he was attending Eton Wick School at this time.
WNDRB : 2010.25.2
Documenting events, diary, 1908/1919
Extract from Cicely’s diary for 11th April 1908/1919. The text in black ink was written in 1908, while the pencil extract was written in 2019.
Object number: WNDRB : 1020.79.20
Private William Albert Musk
William was born in Windsor in 1886 and during his early childhood, lived with his maternal grandparents in Eton Wick. William moved to Feltham in 1911 with his parents, but he maintained connections with the Eton Wick area, including with Cicely Nottage and her family.
Prior to the war, William worked in the chief office of the London, City and Midland Bank. He enlisted with the Queen Victoria Rifles in June 1915 and left for France in July 1916 to join the Battle of the Somme.
Tragically, William died on 9 October 1916 at the Battle of Le Transloy, only a few weeks after writing to Cicely asking her if she would send him a photograph of herself. The news of William Musk’s death reached his parents on what would have been his 20th birthday.
Keeping in touch, postcard, 1916
This postcard was sent to Cicely Nottage from William A Musk. Written on the back is ‘From the Front, with best wishes from Will A Musk, Sept.3rd 1916’. In the accompanying letter he sent alongside it, William told Cicely that he thought it was very pretty and that she might like it. It was made by one of the local people in the French village where Private Musk was stationed.
WNDRB : 1020.79.1.1
Writing home, letter, 1916
This letter was written by William A Musk to Cicely Nottage on 2 Sept 1916 from France and was sent to her alongside the postcard dated the next day. He talks about his experience of being shelled and asks Cicely if she will send him a portrait of herself that he can keep with him. He wrote ‘I have a little case full of photographs from home and I trust you will forgive me for asking for your portrait. I should very much like to have one to keep with them. Well Cicely, I must end now’.
WNDRB : 1020.79.1.2
Red Cross Invalid Cup, date unknown
This Cup belonged to Cicely Nottage and dates to the First World War period. Cicely worked for the Red Cross in the Eton and Windsor area, and it is likely she would have used it to attend to disabled ex-servicemen, both during and after the war. Cicely became involved in efforts to raise funds for a war memorial in Eton Wick and later went on to work as a bank clerk. She continued to live in the Eton area until her death in 1968.
WNDRB : 1020.79.4
Commemorating the Fallen
For every serviceman or nurse killed in the First World War, there were loved ones, like Cicely, left at home trying to cope with their loss. The circumstances of war, meant that the normal grieving practices were disrupted. Most servicemen were buried overseas or had no known grave at all. In the absence of a graveside that could be readily visited, many loved ones became heavily involved in memorialisation plans. A memorial gave loved ones what they so desperately needed; a designated space to grieve and remember those they had lost, and also public recognition for the sacrifice they had made.
In the Royal Borough alone, there are over 200 war memorials, many of which were made possible by fund raising schemes initiated by local residents in the years following the war. They commemorate the thousands of individuals who left the Royal Borough for the front line and never returned. These include Private William Musk, and Cicely’s two cousins, Cyril and Douglas Ashman.
Some families also created a shrine to their loved ones within the household. These were often centred around their memorial medallion (also known as the ‘Dead Man’s Penny’). These were issued to the next of kin of all individuals who died whilst serving in the British and Empire forces.
Two brothers remembered, medals, 1919
Below are the commemorative medallions that were presented to the parents of Cyril and Douglas Ashman. The Ashman family were dairy farmers in Eton Wick and the two brothers attended Windsor County Boys’ School. Douglas was killed at Gallipoli in August 1915 and Cyril tragically lost his life two years later at Passchendaele. The design on the front of the medallions is of Britannia standing with a lion and, they are inscribed with ‘He died for freedom and honour’.
WNDRB : 1018.79.2
Remembrance shield, wood, date unknown
George Liddiard’s family had his medallion mounted in a wooden regimental shield. His name was however misspelt on the penny as ‘Liddard’.
George Liddiard is commemorated on three memorials across the Borough, including the memorial at St John the Baptist Church in Windsor. He was born in 1880 in Clewer and lived with his wife Ellen at 96 Peascod Street, Windsor. He enlisted in July 1916 and joined the 1st Battalion, East Surrey Regiment. He was dispatched to France in October 1916, and was sadly killed only two months later.
A letter home from the Army Chaplain to his family stated:
‘I am sorry to say that poor Liddiard passed away on Dec 5th. I buried him yesterday (Dec 6th) at the Souvenir Cemetery. St. Omer. He was so bright and cheerful, in spite of his grievous wounds. He made a very plucky fight of it, and we had great hopes of his recovery, but his wounds were too serious. We are all genuinely sorry for those whom he has left behind. He died as a brave soldier should—plucky to the end’.
WNDRB : 2010.2.91.1-2
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