During World War I, it was not unusual to see detachments of soldiers marching to Watford Junction down the High Street, or guns being towed through the town by horses.

After the war the Watford Observer would publish the names of men from the area who had died fighting. Many had distinguished themselves by their behaviour and their names were accompanied by details of their heroic deeds.

Christopher Cox, of Kings Langley, was sent to France in July 1915. During the Battle of the Somme a year later, he was hit in the thigh by a sniper’s bullet and spent the next six weeks in hospital. He returned to the front and was stationed at Aichet Le Grande, where he took part in three days of continuous fighting under heavy German fire. With complete disregard for his own safety, Cox went out into the open over fire-swept ground and single-handedly rescued four men. Having collected all the wounded of his own battalion, he assisted in bringing the wounded of the neighbouring battalion to safety. He was later given the Victoria Cross at Buckingham Palace.

Captain Francis Grosvenor, youngest son of Lord and Lady Ebury, was also awarded a medal for his service during the war. During heavy shelling, he carried a wounded man to safety as well as making a dangerous patrol reconnaissance, obtaining valuable information about the enemy. He was awarded the Military Cross.

Sec. Kt. J.R. Johnson of the Hertfordshire Regiment was also awarded for “conspicuous gallantry in action”, having entered an enemy dug-out and single-handedly captured one officer and 45 men.

Sergeant Brown of Watford wrote home to his sister of the heroism of his close friend, Alfred Spruels. He said: “I have lost my best pal. He died a noble death. He and two others kept about 20 Germans back, but they all three got killed. We buried him close to Ypres, and marked his grave with a cross, and put plenty of flowers on his grave. His name was Alfred Spruels, and he lived at Bushey. I hope you will have this put in the ‘Observer’, as his last words were, ‘For heaven’s sake, Bert, let my people know.’ He was always doing something noble, and was the best of our lot.”

Captain E.B. Smallwood of the Hertfordshire Regiment was also killed in action. His commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel F. Page, said of Smallwood: “He was certainly one of the bravest men I have met, and most thoroughly deserved the Military Cross which has been awarded to him.”

L. Cpl Harry M. Chambers, of Kings Langley, was killed when running a message between different parts of his battalion. Although shot through the lungs, he continued on his way, and was shot twice more. But he still managed to deliver the message before he died. He was a keen Scoutmaster, working with the Kings Langley and Langleybury Troops as well as founding the 1st Apsley Troup. One officer said of Chambers: “Everyone in the Battalion has the deepest sense of admiration of the pluck and strong sense of duty which impelled him to complete his task although mortally wounded, and his example will, I am sure, prove an inspiring example to the section.”

Many more soldiers were seriously wounded while fighting at the front.

Captain F. Russell-Roberts, of Rickmansworth, was wounded while making a night attack on the German trenches. He was shot in the lungs and legs but, despite his injuries, he secured the safe retreat of his company in absolutely silence, else they would have been killed. Though in great pain, he managed to crawl a mile and a half to the Ambulance Field Hospital.

Many families saw several sons off to war. The Trumper family, living at 38 York Road, Watford, saw father and all five sons serving abroad. The father, Pte. E.A. Trumper, saw service in Egypt and in France, but was discharged when he became seriously ill. L. Cpl E.A. Trumper served in the army for 10 years. L. Cpl G. Trumper won the Military Medal for gallantry in dashing across open ground under heavy gunfire and bringing up a supply of bombs to a place where they were greatly needed. L. Spl T. Trumper was in the Border Regiment when war broke out. He was later badly wounded, but recovered from his injuries. Gunner J. Trumper joined the Colours just before Christmas 1914. He was wounded by shrapnel in the face and received his discharge last autumn. L. Cpl S. Trumper joined the army before he was 17. Mr Trumper senior was the proud possessor of a letter from the King congratulating him and his family on their patriotism.