Not many areas played as pivotal a role in training First World War soldiers as ours.
The Inns of Court Officers Training Corps – nicknamed The Devil’s Own by King George III – was based in the now-named Kitcheners Field.
The area – currently home to Berkhamsted Cricket Club – gained its name from the 1914 war secretary, and the unit trained there from that year until 1919. At that time it was a tough training ground for soldiers who constantly in and out of trenches that had been dug in the nearby area.
The network of trenches took up eight miles of Berkhamsted and Northchurch commons, but most of them have since been filled in.
The remaining 600 metres were recently restored during a seven-month project by the Chilterns Conservation Board and the Chiltern Society.
They sent 35 volunteers, who cleared away all the scrubland that had overwhelmed the trenches in recent years, and helped create information boards nearby.
It was impressive sight to behold when the Devil’s Own unit – now officially known as Inns of Court & City Regiment – returned for a parade on Saturday morning.
They marched from Berkhamsted Golf Club to the war memorial on Berkhamsted Common at the top of New Road. After a service of remembrance to the 2,200 Devil’s Own troops who died during the First World War, they returned to the golf club for a private reception.
More than 14,000 troops from the unit trained around Berkhamsted for First World War combat – and up to 5,000 were injured in the conflict. Three won the Victoria Cross.
Monday marks the centenary anniversary of Britain’s entry into the First World War, sparked by the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand by the Serb Gavrilo Princip during Ferdinand’s visit to Bosnian capital Sarajevo.
Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on July 28, 1914 – and the conflict rapidly escalated as national interests exerted themselves. The conflict lasted until November 11, 1918, and decimated communities.
Researchers are trying to trace the histories of 26 soldiers from Aldbury who never returned from the First World War. Their tales will be told during a commemorative service at the parish’s St John the Baptist Church on the weekend of September 27-28.
So far one name on the village’s war memorial – Edward H. Edwin – has left the researchers clueless.
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Among the centenary commemoration events taking place around the centenary is the Hertfordshire Royal British Legion parade through Hemel Hempstead’s Gadebridge Park.
Taking place on Sunday, the event will feature Legion branches from across the county, cadets and members of the air training corps, as well as a drumhead service with an altar created from drums.
Hemel Hempstead Legion branch vice-chairman Sue Rose said: “It’s our way of acknowledging all those who served in the First World War, and since. They said it was the war to end all wars, but sadly it wasn’t. We need to remember that they made the ultimate sacrifice for us.”
Arrive at the park at 2.30pm for a 3pm start.
On Monday, a service will be held at Tring’s St Peter & St Paul Church at 3.30pm.
Attendees will lay wreaths at the town’s war memorial at 4.30pm, before a plaque to all those who died will be unveiled at the Memorial Garden.
There will also be a candlelit vigil at 10pm. This will feature news clips from 100 years ago, music, poetry and time for reflection. The vigil will end at 11pm, the moment when, in 1914, ‘the lamps went out all over Europe’.
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