In the 19th century, men who had their own farms to run joined the Westmorland and Cumberland Yeomanry. Although they formed a volunteer body, they did in fact receive pay for drill days in Kendal Market Square, providing at least 10 men were present. They were under the ultimate command of Lord Lowther. He insisted that they were the best dressed yeomanry in the country! Crosthwaite has always played its part in the defence of its country. In the First World War, although the men were needed on the land, every family who could, sent at least one son to the Front. Those who owned their own horses usually joined the Cavalry. They sustained heavy losses and several were taken as prisoners-of-war.
The Willan family lost three sons, the Middlebroughs two.
The Memorial in St. Mary's Church reads as follows;
EDWARD SHEPHERD, Private, 8th Border Regiment, France, 10th April 1918
ANTHONY WILLAN, Private, 11th Border Regiment, France, 14th April 1918
WILLIAM F PARK, Private, Coldstream Guards, France, 16th January 1918
HENRY MATTHEWS, Private, R.G.A., France, 30th December 1917
ROBERT MALLINSON, Lance Corporal, 11th Border Regiment, France, 25th September 1917
WILLIAM INMAN, Lance Corporal, 11th Border Regiment, France, 9th April 1917
CHARLES R ABRAHAM, Sergeant, R.A.M.C., France, 20th April 1917
JAMES J HUTCHINSON, Sergeant, Warwickshire Regiment, Mesopotamia, 25th January 1917
JOHN MIDDLEBROUGH, Gunner, Royal Garrison Artillery, France, 14th November 1916
WILLIAM FELL, Lance Corporal, Border Regiment, France, 9th February 1916
JOSEPH WILLAN, Private, 7th Border Regiment, France, 1st July 1916
JOHN WILLAN, Private, 8th Border Regiment, France, 5th July 1916
ISAAC COWARD, Private, King's Own Royal Regiment, France, 22nd July 1916
CHRISTOPHER MIDDLEBROUGH, Private, 10th Border Regiment, France, 7th August 1916
GEORGE STEWARDSON, Corporal, Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, France, 19th October 1915
HARRY LISHMAN, Private, 2nd Border Regiment, France, 25th September 1915
JOHN C THORNBURROW, Rifleman, Queen's Royal Westminster Regiment, France, 25th March 1915
Land Army girls worked on farms in the valley, especially at damson picking time.
The Second World War saw local men give service in the armed services, but, fortunately, nobody lost their lives, although several suffered after the war from injuries and illnesses received overseas. Albert Moffatt was taken as a POW by the Japanese and suffered from the experience for the rest of his life.
Everyone at home was urged to "Dig For Victory". People in reserved occupations worked out their service at home, not necessarily an easy option! Land girls came from various parts of the country to work on farms. They either lived on one particular farm or were based at a residence in Milnthorpe and travelled to farms on a daily basis, as and when they were needed. One girl living at Mirk Howe delivered milk to Starnthwaite, carrying it on a yoke. Several romances blossomed, followed by weddings! Jean Kinstrey married Jim Smith from the Oaks, Cartmel Fell; Sylvia Holmes married Geoffrey Harrison of Woodside Cottage; Rose Fielden married Ernie Shepherd from Broad Oak and Ivy Court married John Wilson from the Yews, complete with Land Army guard of honour, pitch forks forming the arch! Girls in the Timber Corps worked alongside local men at the sawmill, Bridge End. Stakes from the sawmill were sunk in the mosses to prevent enemy planes from landing there. There was also a military searchlight, which swept the skies during the hours of darkness in search of German planes.
Bob Jackson from Row was employed by the Agricultural War Committee to operate a small thresher and bottler (baler) and was supplied with a huge Massey Harris tractor to do the work.
Three planes crashed in the valley, one in a field near Low Plain farmhouse, Brigsteer, another near Savin Hill Toll Bar. However, the most spectacular crash happened in 1945. A Mustang, flying with another plane from RAF Cark, loaded with ammunition, was flying over Crosthwaite. An eye-witness account of the accident comes from Alan Dobson. He and Edward Wilkinson were on the mosses with Alan's father, looking after the cows.
Two aircraft approached Crosthwaite, at a very low altitude. One of the planes seemed to be having engine trouble. Later the two boys noticed smoke coming from the vicinity of the Vicarage. They realized that all was not well and so rushed to the scene. Devastation confronted them. The aircraft had demolished part of the Vicarage and was on fire on the lawn.
A large piece of fuselage was lying at the feet of a very shocked Mr Heyes, the Vicar. Captain Stephens, who was in charge of the Home Guard was present and asked for a knife to cut the harness holding the pilot in his seat. Alan knew how to release the fastener. Sadly this was to no avail as the pilot was already dead. All this while bandoliers of ammunition were exploding around them. It was only when the police arrived, that they realized the danger they were in. The Vicarage had to be rebuilt but with one less chimneystack! Local people collected blackberries and crabapples for the War Effort. Rosehips were used to make rosehip syrup, rich in vitamin C and supplied to children by the Ministry of Food.
There was an influx of children to the area, when evacuees came from Newcastle, Sunderland and Barrow, to be looked after by local families.
The Home Guard was made up of Local Defence Volunteers. They met in the clubroom, adjoining the Punch Bowl Inn. Captain Stephens was the landlord and was put in charge of the platoon. At first, they used their own 12 bore guns but later were issued with .303 Lee-Enfields and uniforms. Among other things, they learned how to throw grenades and do first-aid. The meetings finished at 9.30, to leave time for a visit to the pub! At the end of the war each man was presented with a certificate of thanks from the King.
Remembrance Day was held every year on November 11th, when the older school children used to parade to church, to lay a wreath of poppies at the base of the Memorial Cross. The Cross was covered with laurel leaves and the Union Jack.
Nowadays the service takes place on the Sunday nearest to November 11th, when, in common with other churches throughout the country, we continue to remember those who gave their lives in two world wars.
During the Second World War a sawmill operated at Bridge End. The building was made of timber and corrugated iron, was established by the Ministry of Supply to prepare local timber for shipbuilding and other war needs. It was a highly secret operation! The wood was cut from plantations on Whitbarrow and the surrounding area. Trees from Jackson's Lot and Salkeld Tenement were of especially good quality and were used to make electricity and telegraph poles. Stakes were even driven into the moss land, to prevent enemy planes from landing there.
Those involved in the operation were Mr Taylor, the manager and Charlie Woods, the foreman; Frank Looker and Joe Lowther formed the tree felling gang; Sandy Powell removed the felled trees to a suitable site for loading, using a tracked or caterpillar tractor; Ted Wilkinson transported the timber to the sawmill; John Wilson and Bryan Mason stacked, measured and marked it, assisted by land girls Mrs Sykes and May Holmes (from the Timber Corps) and by Charlie Woods' two daughters; John Richardson was in charge of the steam engine, which drove the machinery in the mill. In wet weather the engine pit used to flood, making the belts slip so much that the saw would not turn, until a worker had baled the water out! Arrowsmith's Transport took the timber to Vicker's shipbuilders, in Barrow-in-Furness and other secret sites. Nothing was wasted. Teddy Mallinson sold the sawdust for bedding in byres and hen houses and transported the planks, with a horse and cart, to various sites. The scrap wood, or slabs, went for fence and gate repairs.
The sawmill was closed down after the war, though timber has continued to be felled from the woods in the valley.
The Peace Celebrations in July 1919 included all the hamlets of the parish. It took place in St. Mary's Church. The church bells rang. The choir led the singing of hymns at the church service. The National Anthem was sung and the Memorial Cross was decorated with laurel leaves, the Union Jack and wreaths of flowers at its foot. The road was decked with flags and at the entrance to the field used for the celebrations, there was an archway of greenery and a steel helmet filled with flowers. The service was followed by a meal for the children and sports, entertainment and general merriment for young and old alike.
Gramophone music accompanied dancing on the Vicarage lawn. At the end of the day there was a display of fireworks and the more energetic of the company climbed the hill to see the beacons lit, which stretched from one end of the country to the other.