Sunday, 30 November 2014

The Ward Family

No. 4 Section 2nd Field Co. (Reserve Unit) East Anglian Royal Engineers, Luton, 1914 [Z50/142/573]

Monday 30th November 1914 (Luton): We have discovered a Luton family which we believe currently holds the record for the town in terms of army service. Mr Robert Ward of East Avenue, Park Street, Luton previously served in the 3rd Buffs (East Kent Regiment) and is now guarding a railway bridge as part of the National Reserve. He has five sons serving in the army as follows:

  • Private Frederick Ward, 1st Beds, who is now a prisoner of war in the hands of the Germans
  • Private Arthur Ward, Royal Irish Fusiliers
  • Private Alfred Ward, 3rd Beds
  • Private John Ward, 5th Beds
  • Private James Ward, 5th Beds
Mr Ward also has two nephews in the Bedfordshire Regiment and a third, Percy Ticock, in the East Anglian Engineers, making a total of nine serving family members.[1]


Source: Luton News 3rd December 1914

Saturday, 29 November 2014

An Officer’s Shopping List

Primus Stove Poster, 1921 [Wikipedia]

Sunday 29th November 1914 (Turvey): The wives and mothers of the many Bedfordshire men now serving in the forces are doing what they can to provide them with extra comforts, and many packages are being dispatched to those already at the Front. Mrs Gertrude Longuet-Higgins of Turvey has received a letter from her son Captain John Longuet-Higgins of the 13th London Regiment which includes a list of things he would like her to send [1]:

  • Almonds and raisins
  • Chocolate
  • Potted meat
  • Mint lozenges to suck
  • A clasp knife with a tin opener
  • An Army & Navy cake
  • A pair of braces
  • Writing paper and envelopes
  • Shaving soap
  • Washing soap
  • A toothbrush
  • A strop for an autostrop razor
  • Toothpaste
  • Aspirin gr 5
  • Quinine gr 2½
  • Casgara pills
  • Epsom salts (all medicines to be “tabloids”)
  • Clean clothes – a shirt, pants and vest every fortnight
  • Brown paper to wrap up the dirty clothes to send back
  • Collars
  • Socks
  • Khaki handkerchiefs
  • Ivory collar studs
  • A pocket primus stove
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Toothpicks
  • A bottle of champagne “to drink your healths on my birthday”
Source: Letter from John Longuet-Higgins to Gertrude Longuet-Higgins, 25th November 1914  [HG12/10/120]


[1] Major John Esmond Longuet-Higgins MC OBE (1887-1968).

Friday, 28 November 2014

Slipper Making

Whitlock and Co. General Drapers and Ladies Outfitters, 117 High Street, Bedford c.1906 [Z1306/10/33/74]

Saturday 28th November 1914 (Bedford): Today the window of Whitlock and Co. draper’s shop in Bedford High Street is carrying a special display of slippers, socks, invalid jackets and other items which are being made by the women of Bedford for wounded soldiers. Over 1,200 pairs of slippers have already been produced and examples can be seen in the shop window at various stages of construction. Demand for these is constantly increasing and new volunteers for the work are needed. The finished articles can be handed in at the Depot of the St.John Ambulance Association at 53, Harpur Street from where they will be sent to hospitals in England, France and Belgium. Gifts of jam, cakes, butter and eggs for wounded soldiers can also be taken here. 

The slippers are made of cloth, felt, flannel, and carpet, The uppers are made by the ladies, and the soles are cut out by shoemakers and members of the Fire Brigade and the Midland Railway Ambulance Brigade. Nearly 300 pairs of a special type which can be drawn over a bandaged limb have been sent to London in the last fortnight. The more brightly coloured slippers are sent for Indian troops, who are also receiving a supply of warm scarves. Mr Whitlock has given free use of his window for the display and a collection is being made at the shop door to raise funds to purchase more materials. 

Source: Ampthill and District News, 28th November 1914

Thursday, 27 November 2014

A New Industry for Bedfordshire

Stock list for Bedfordshire Village Toy Depot, 1917 [Z720/209A/6]

Friday 27th November 1914 (Bedford): Now that toys cannot be imported from Germany attempts are being made to encourage toy-making as a new cottage industry for the villages of Bedfordshire. A Central Toy Depot has been set up in the headquarters of the Women’s Emergency Corps (formerly known as the Women’s Registration Bureau) at 15a St Paul’s Square, Bedford under the direction of Mrs Trustram Eve. This includes an office, a showroom and a workshop where women come from around Bedfordshire to learn and practise toy-making so that they can teach others in their towns and villages. We are told that it is not a difficult craft, and only a few simple tools and a fretsaw are needed. So far ten towns and villages have become involved in the project: Ampthill, Clophill, Cranfield, Haynes, Kempston, Marston, Old Warden, Pavenham, Southill and Wootton. The craft is being taught mainly to women, especially to lace-makers as an alternative line of work, but it is thought it will also make a good means of employment for disabled soldiers.

For two weeks an expert from London has been teaching at Mrs Eve’s house and some impressive toys have been produced which are of better quality than those imported from abroad. They are made from 3-ply wood containing a high proportion of sycamore and it is hoped that this will soon be sourced locally. The toys made so far are mainly vehicles, furniture and animals. Favourites are “ye olde pig of Pavenham” and an ambulance wagon with fittings for stretchers and a canvas cover with a Red Cross. There are also cradles, a toy bungalow, little Russian figures and Highland pipers among many other clever designs.

Source: Ampthill News 28th November 1914

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Death of Two Highlanders

7th Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders leaving Bedford for a route march, 1914 [X414/162]

Thursday 26th November 2014: Today has seen the tragic deaths of two young Highlanders who had been billeted in Bedford. Private David Crearer of H Company, 5th Seaforths died in the Borough Isolation Hospital of inflammation brought on by scarlet fever. David came from Castletown, Caithness, from where he cycled to Thurso to work as a solicitor’s clerk. If he had lived he would have celebrated his eighteenth birthday this week. Two of his cousins, John and James Manson, are serving in the same company and a third cousin is with the Artillery.

Private John McLachlan of D Company, 7th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders had been unwell for 8 to 10 days, complaining of a cold and a pain over the right eye. On Thursday he was too ill for parade and was taken to St Leonard’s Hospital where he died this evening. John was from Lennoxtown, Stirlingshire. He was an all-round athlete, with a particular talent for swimming. The deaths of these two young men brings the number of Scottish territorials who have died since they came to Bedford to eight.

Source: Beds Times 4 December 1914

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Old Girls' Working Party at Luton Modern School

Vintage sewing machine [Wikimedia]

Wednesday 25th November 1914: A report has been received from the Old Girls’ Working Party which has been meeting at Luton Modern School. The Old Lutonions are busy making garments for both local children in need and for the troops, but it seems they are disappointed in the response and level of commitment of their members. 

“Up in the Needlework Room at the Modern School, on Tuesday and Friday evenings from 7.30 to 9.30, the girls of the Club are meeting together and working hard to make warm clothing for the children of the town who are in distress on account of the War. Happily there is not much distress at present, but when the need for help does arise, as undoubtedly it will, we want to be able to place a store of clothing at the disposal of the relieving authorities. Meanwhile we have decided to turn our attention for a time to such things as warm gloves, scarves, caps, etc., which may lessen just a little the discomforts and hardships which our soldiers and sailors are enduring. “

“At the time of writing, 24th November, we have made some fifty garments. These represent twelve weeks’ work, and about a dozen of them were made by friends who are non-members. Now this total is not a very creditable one for a club which contains at least forty girls, but it is not to be wondered at when one considers that the Meetings usually consist of five or six girls; only three times during the history of the Working Party has it reached the huge total of ten, and on one memorable evening we had fourteen! Now what is the explanation of this? Does it mean that, whilst all the boys of the Club who possibly can have placed themselves entirely at the disposal of their country, the majority of the girls cannot even spare one or two evenings a week? Surely not! We prefer to think that members do not know enough about the Working Party, and we issue an urgent appeal to all to come to the Meetings. Then, if you do not approve of what we are doing, say so – we shall be only too pleased to hear any fresh suggestions; and if you do approve, come and help. All we want to feel is that the work is receiving the whole-hearted approval and co-operation of all members.”

“The Secretary would like to take this opportunity of thanking most heartily those few to whose loyal support the Working Party owes its existence.”

Source: Luton Modern School Magazine December 1914 [SDLutonSFC2/7]

Monday, 24 November 2014

An Unfortunate Accident with a Revolver

Luton Electricity Works, 1909 [Z1306/75/17/10]

Tuesday 24th November 1914 (Luton): Earlier today an unfortunate accident took place at the Luton Electricity Works. Private Alfred Edward Rowland of the 23rd County of London Regiment was there on duty as a military guard when he became engaged in conversation with Henry Kell, an assistant engineer at the works. Mr Kell was explaining the workings of an automatic revolver to Private Rowland when the gun was accidentally fired. The bullet went through the soldier’s right thigh. A military surgeon provided prompt attention and the injured man was taken to Wardown Military Hospital in a police ambulance. Although his condition at first appeared serious the most recent news is that Private Rowland’s prognosis is good.

Source: Luton News 26th November 1914

Sunday, 23 November 2014

News from the Front

Royal Army Medical Corps badge [Wikimedia]

Monday 23rd November 1914 (Luton): News continues to filter home from the Front. Arthur William Ireland of Luton, a former employee of the Midland Railway Company and a Royal Army Medical Corps reservist now serving with the 10th Field Ambulance, writes:

“We have had some very exciting times out here. As I sit writing these few lines we had a piece of a German shell come into the room and struck the wall, and hit one of our Luton chaps on the chest; but it did not hurt him, as the force was stopped by the wall. You should just have seen the chaps scamper. It has been awful since we have been out here. We have seen some awful sights. We were in the two hospitals at Bucy le Long when they were shelled. We had three of our chaps injured there.

It was simply awful to see the shells flying around these two hospitals, and the wounded being brought in, some with their arms off, and some with their legs off. There were six artillerymen whiling away their spare time by playing cards, when a shell burst by them and killed the whole six of them … I think it was the worst experience I have had since I have been there. I should like to get home to see one football match before the season’s over, but I don’t expect I shall. I think this job will last longer than people anticipated.”

Source: Luton News 26th November 1914

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Belgian Badge Day

Prize horses at Bedford cattle market, c.1912 [Z50/142/635]

Sunday 22nd November 1914: The total raised for the Belgian Relief Fund by means of a Badge Day held at Bedford  yesterday has been announced as £423.5s.9d. This was a little behind the £570 raised in a single day at Cambridge but still represented a magnificent effort by the town. Teams of ladies sold badges throughout the town for a minimum of one penny or any higher amount the purchaser cared to donate. A collection was made by men in the cattle market and in the evening the members of C.E.M.S. collected over £10 in the High Street. A German shell from the battle of Mons and an iron cross from Louvain were on display an Mr Hockliffe’s shop and could be viewed for a small admission fee. Both the poor of the town and the soldiers responded generously to the appeal. The money given was mostly in pennies which were collected at intervals by a motor car and taken to 83 Harpur Street for counting.

Source: Beds Times 20th November 1914; Ampthill and District News 28th November 1914

Friday, 21 November 2014

Halt! Who Goes There?

Shire Hall, St Paul's Square, Bedford [Z1306/10/58/8]

Saturday 21st November 1914: A military Court of Enquiry was held at Shire Hall, Bedford, this morning to deal with reports of abusive behaviour to Special Constables. Mr G.H.Soper complained that he had been patrolling with two other constables between Bedford and Astwood on 7th November when they met Alfred William White of Turvey driving a pony cart with two women. Mr White refused to pull up when challenged. Mr W S Brocklehurst took hold of the pony’s bridle and Mr White became very abusive, complaining they had no right to take hold of his pony and stop him. Mr White, however, stated that he had been along the same road several times without being stopped by the constables. Thinking these were the same men, and having told them he was “White of Turvey” he did not understand why they did not allow him to pass. He denied being abusive and was supported by his wife and daughter. Evidence was given that this was not the first time that Mr White had caused trouble for the special constables.

Colonel Sturges, the presiding officer, had no doubt that Mr White had failed to stop when asked to do so. He suggested it was possible that Mr White did not realise his offence, but made it clear that under the Defence of the Realm Regulations special constables were ordered to stop all vehicles on the road; anyone resisting or obstructing them could be tried under Court Martial, and if tried in this way Mr White would certainly be found guilty. Mr White would simply have to put up with being interfered with in this way, and if he did not like being stopped he should not go out at night. The military authorities intended to see that the orders of special constables were upheld. Although Colonel Sturges let Mr White go on this occasion he hoped it would serve as a warning to Mr White and other like him.


Source: Ampthill and District News 28th November 1914

Thursday, 20 November 2014

It May Not Be Over By Christmas

Dunstable Street, Ampthill [Z1306/1/9/5]
(Dick Wheeler lived in Dunstable St both as a child and after his marriage)

Friday 20th November 1914:  Lance-Corporal Dick Wheeler of the 1st Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment has written again to his family in Ampthill describing conditions at the Front:

“It’s nothing but terrible. Wet, cold, and up to your neck in mud. Now we are getting a change, and that is snow. We have been in the trenches 22 days now. As we finished one big battle we were supposed to get a rest, but the Germans were pressing our lines so we had to march 14 miles and get into some more trenches, where our 2nd Battalion had been in for 22 days. They came out, and we went in. I saw a lot of my chums. We don’t know where we shall spend our Christmas. It may be over and it may not. … To look at us now you would hardly know us. We are afraid to walk 10 yards expecting a shell to burst into us every minute. When the rifle fire begins it’s terrible.”

Source:Ampthill and District News 12th December 1914

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

“Home from Home” at Ampthill

The Camp, Ampthill Park c.1914 [Z1306/1/34/2]

Thursday 19th November 1914, Ampthill: The first soldiers have now arrived at the Bedfordshire Training Depot set up by the Duke of Bedford at Ampthill. Herbert Bennett of Biggleswade, who signed up with the Bedfordshire Regiment last week and was among the first soldiers to arrive there, has given us some more detail about the camp.[1] He says that there were about eighty men in the first draft to arrive from Kempston Barracks. Of the six huts so far completed one is being used as the Sergeants Mess, the sergeants being mostly former police officers or ex-Army along with Regimental Sergeant Major Roper Bass. He reports that the facilities are much better than those at Kempston Barracks, with new spring single beds with mattresses and blankets in the huts, and with food that promises to be good. If it continues as it has begun it will be quite a “home from home”. The trainees are to go to the woods to learn trench digging and have been told that the Duke himself will be coming to take Company drill twice a week.

Source: Memoir of H (Bert) Bennett [AU41/3/4]

[1] Herbert (“Bert”) Bennett remained at Ampthill until he was sent overseas on 9th June 1915. His service papers show that he served in France until October 1916, was posted home until March 1918, then saw out the war back in France

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The Officers' Mess

HMS St Vincent (Wikipedia)

Wednesday 18th November 1914 (Kempston): The following letter of thanks has been received by Mr Thomas Barnard of Kempston Hoo: 
H.M.S. St.Vincent [1] 
First Battle Squadron
13th Nov 1914 
Dear Mr Barnard 
On behalf of the Gun Room Officers I wish to thank you for your great kindness and consideration in sending parcels of game. I need hardly tell you how very much we all appreciate this welcome addition to our messing which you can guess is neither so plentiful or varied as in Peace time. All the birds have arrived in splendid condition and seemed to feel perfectly well after their long and fatiguing journey.
We have struck a really bad patch of weather I am sorry to say, as cold as an ice-house and accompanied by heavy hail storms and sleet.
Things seem to be looking up a bit on the Continent – the enemy have got up against a regular brick wall in Flanders. It must be very unpleasant fighting there in rain and mud and I expect that like their forerunners our Army in Flanders “sweare terribly”!
With best thanks and all good wishes.
Sincerely yours  Leslie G [Grans?]
Source: BD1423


[1] H.M.S. St.Vincent was a St.Vincent class dreadnought battleship commissioned in 1910 and decommissioned in 1921. From April 1914 she was flagship of the second-in-command 1st Battle Squadron Home Fleet. 

Monday, 17 November 2014

A Red Cross Hospital for Luton

 A float by the Davis Gas Stove Co. Ltd., Diamond Foundry, taking part in the Luton Peace Day parade on 19th July 1919 [Z1306/75/19/19]

Tuesday 17th November 1914: A meeting took place in the Council Chamber  yesterday evening to consider the possibility of establishing a hospital for wounded soldiers in Luton. Dr Lloyd proposed the scheme, emphasising that in choosing a building considerations of cleanliness were most important. At the beginning of the war Mr H. N. Davis had offered the Davis Institute to the Red Cross Society and the men at the company’s works were ready to forego their club facilities if it was needed for a hospital.[1] Lady Wernher had generously offered to bear the expense of equipping the building.

Dr Lloyd estimated that the cost of the upkeep for a hospital with twenty beds, including a staff of two trained sisters and a ward maid, would be £25 per week. The town was fortunate to have two detachments of Red Cross nurses who had passed their examinations in first aid and home nursing, and who had been able to acquire experience at the Bute Hospital and at the Territorial Hospital at Wardown. As a result they would be well able to provide voluntary help for the hospital. To guarantee the hospital could run for a minimum period of six months would therefore cost £650, a figure which would reduce to £300 once grants from the Red Cross and the War Office were taken into account.

There was some argument for a larger institution, but it was felt that this would not enjoy such favourable conditions as the scheme proposed. Once £50 that Lady Wernher had previously donated to the local Red Cross Society was deducted from the cost, the town would have to find only £10 a week for upkeep. The meeting agreed that steps should be taken to establish the proposed hospital and that it would guarantee the funds needed to run it for six months.[2]

Source: Luton News 19th November 1914 and 17th December 1914


[1] H. N. Davis appears to be Harold Newsom Davis of the Davis Gas Stove Company Ltd, owner of the Diamond Foundry in Dallow Road, Luton.  

[2] In December 1914 the War Office decided no further hospital accommodation was required in Luton for the time being.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

The Territorials Leave Town

Caricature of Major-General Montague-Stuart-Wortley published in Vanity Fair in 1899 (Wikipedia)

Monday 16th November 1914: The Territorials of the North Midland Division who had been billeted in Luton have left the town. The order to move was issued late last night, speedy preparations were made, and the men started to leave early this morning leaving the town eerily quiet. Their commanding officer, Major-General Edward Montagu-Stuart-Wortley, has written a letter of thanks to the Mayor for the hospitality shown by the townspeople of Luton:
Luton, 16th November 1914  
Dear Mr Mayor, 
On the eve of leaving Luton, I wish to express to you, and through you to all the Borough Authorities, as well as to the inhabitants of Luton, my grateful thanks for all the assistance that has been given to the North Midland Division since their arrival in Luton. Nothing could have exceeded the kindness shown by everyone at Luton to the troops under my command. It has been a source of great satisfaction that the relationship between the military and civilian population has been all that could have been desired. The almost complete absence of crime and drunkenness both on the part of the military and civilian population has reflected the greatest credit on all concerned. 
On behalf of all ranks of the North Midland Division, I beg you once more to convey our thanks to all concerned, and to assure you of our best wishes for the prosperity of the town of Luton. 
Believe me, dear Mr Mayor,Yours very faithfully, E. Stuart Wortley, Major-General, North Midland Division [1]
Source: Luton News 19th November 1914


[1] Major-General The Hon. Edward James Montagu-Stuart-Wortley served in the British Army from 1877 to 1919. In 1914 he was put in command of the 46th (North Midland) Division. He was dismissed from his command in July 1916 after the failure of his Division in the first stages of the Battle of the Somme, gaining the dubious distinction of becoming the only General to be sacked during the Great War. 

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Another Family Tragedy

Jack Weedon (left) and George Weedon (right) [from Luton News 19.11.1914]

Sunday 15th November 1914: The Weedon family of Wimborne Road, who suffered the loss of two of their sons last month, have just received the news that their twenty year old son Jack has been killed in France. The official notification stated that he died at 8.30am on 27th October from a gunshot wound to the head. Jack joined the 1st Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment over three years ago and was among the first to be sent to the Front. Like his brother he had been a pupil at Chapel Street and Waller Street schools; between leaving school and enlisting in the army he had worked for Messrs Rogers and Ashby in Dunstable Road. A third brother, George, is also serving his country as a sailor on H.M.S.Powerful.

Source: Luton News 19th November 1914

Friday, 14 November 2014

“Not a Credit to the Territorial Force”

Two charabanc parties outside the Panama in Waller Street, c.1920 [Z1306/75/10/60/5]

Saturday 14th November: Private Albert Warrilow of the 5th Battalion of the North Staffordshire Regiment was tried today at the Luton Borough Court on a charge of theft. He was alleged to have stolen a kitbag containing two razors, a knife, a fork and a spoon and a holdall from Staff-Sergeant Bishop of the Army Service Corps. Until last Saturday Sergeant Bishop had been billeted at the Panama in Waller Street. His kitbag hung in a room through which anyone could pass. Sergeant Thomas Boardman had been at the Panama with Private Warrilow on the previous night, when Warrilow had shown the stolen items to Sergeant Boardman, claiming they had been given to him by a young lady from a school. Warrilow also sold a razor to Lance-Corporal Albert Hill for one shilling. Major Newbold, the Assistant Provost Marshal, saw Warrilow at his billet in Frederic Street; finding some of the stolen articles among his kit he handed Warrilow over to the police.

Private Warrilow pleaded not guilty. He stated that he had been at the Panama with Sergeant Boardman and others but had left alone. Outside the Panama he chatted to a young lady and they agreed to go for a walk. She told him her name was Maisie Griffiths, that she was a school teacher at Round Green, and that she “wanted to get in with a soldier bloke”. She then gave him the items. He made no attempt to keep them secret and did not realise until Monday night that they had been stolen. He asked the sergeant what to do and was advised to take them back. It was too late to do so on Monday, on Tuesday he was sick, and on Wednesday he was on guard at People’s Park. When Major Newbold came he told him how he got the items. He did not see his commanding officer about them as he thought it would be all right if he took the things back. However, Warrilow admitted he sold he razor after he knew it was stolen, and that he had since discovered there was no school at Round Green. After the Bench decided to convict Private Warrilow, Major Newbold disclosed that he had already been up for a military offence since he came to Luton, that his conduct was generally unsatisfactory, and that he was “certainly not a credit to the Territorial Force”. Warrilow was sentenced to a month’s hard labour.

Source: Luton News 19th November 1914

Thursday, 13 November 2014

The Red Cross at Work

Crofton Rooms, St Cuthbert’s Street, Bedford

Friday 13th November 1914: A report has been received on the work of the Red Cross in Bedfordshire since the outbreak of the war. Five of the Voluntary Aid Detachments operating under the Red Cross in the county have been called up and are working as follows:
  • No.2 VAD has started six dressing stations in Bedford and the surrounding area
  • No.4 VAD is working at the military hospital in Kempston. The hospital has 50 beds and 134 men have so far been admitted, with an average stay of three weeks.
  • Twenty members of No.6 VAD have been working with the Highland Division in Bedford since 22nd August, and since 31st August has also been working at the Field Hospital. This has 36 beds and over 100 soldiers are treated each week.
  • No.18 VAD equipped a temporary hospital for troops in Leighton Buzzard on 15th August.
  • Another Detachment has been working at the Masonic Hall, Biggleswade, where 27 in-patients and 531 surgery cases have been treated.
The Red Cross depot at Crofton House, Bedford, has received 1,726 garments since the start of the war. Day shirts and socks were sent to the British Territorials, and pillow cases, nightshirts, nightingales and sleeping suits have been sent to local Territorial hospitals. Any surplus has been sent to the Red Cross stores department in London.

Major Carpenter, honorary secretary of the Bedfordshire Branch has passed on a request from the Committee in London for items to replenish hospitals in France and elsewhere. Especially needed are: slippers, vests, woollen caps, woollen pants, warm mufflers, dressing gowns, thick woollen blankets, absobent cotton wool, gauze and bandages. These can be handed in at the Crofton Rooms in Bedford from where they will be sent to the Red Cross Depot in Pall Mall.

Source: Ampthill and District News 14 November 1914

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Having a Fine Time

Luton Modern School c.1910 [Z1306/75/2/3]

Thursday 12th November 1914 (Luton): A letter has been received by Luton Modern School from one of its old boys, Private A. Haworth, who is now serving with the 12th Battalion of the King’s Liverpool Regiment.[1] He appears to be thoroughly enjoying his training, despite some discomforts.

We’re having a fine time now, with Company training this week: all sorts of sham fights, skirmishing, etc. – and it is jolly good fun. Of course it is not exactly like being at home in your cot, you know, with sixteen of us in a tent! But it is really jolly amusing – not to say enlightening – to wake up at night about sixteen times with the rain dripping all over your blankets and somebody’s feet round your neck. All these little things break the monotony of “stew” dinner – a treat you don’t know. Still, for all that I am growing remarkably on it, and feel as fit as a horse.

Source: Luton Modern School Magazine, December 1914 [SDLutonSFC2/7]

[1] This would appear to be Arthur Haworth who was born in Sowerby Bridge, Yorkshire, but was living in Luton by 1901. Second Lieutenant Haworth was killed on 19th July 1916 at the age of 20. 

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Your Country Needs You!

World War I Recruitment Poster [Wikipedia]

Saturday 11th November 1914: Letters like the one printed below have been received across the county asking householders to register any members of their household who are prepared to enlist. Many men across Bedfordshire have already joined up since the war began in August and it is clear the County is determined to do its bit to defeat Germany and its allies.
Parliamentary Recruiting Committee12 Downing StreetLondon SW
November 1914 
Dear Sir or Madam
We desire to draw your attention to the enclosed form, in which you are asked to state the names of those of your household who are willing to enlist for the War. By filling in and posting the Householder’s Return without delay, you will render material assistance to the War Office. The names returned will be entered in a Register, and the nearest Recruiting Officer will arrange to attest those registered as their services are required. 
There has been a generous response to the appeal for men for the new Armies, but the number of recruits, though large, does not nearly meet the Nation’s need. In order to maintain and reinforce our troops abroad and to complete the new Armies which we hope within a few months to throw into the field, we need all the best the Nation can give us of its youth and strength. 
If we are to repair as far as may be humanly possible the innumerable wrongs inflicted on our Allies, if we are to avoid for ourselves the ills which they have suffered, if we are to maintain for our children all that we hold dear- honour, freedom, our very life as a Nation – we must fight with the courage and endurance which won for us the struggles of the past. 
Every man, therefore, who is eligible will ask his own conscience whether, in this emergency, it is not his duty to hold himself ready to enlist in the forces of the Crown. 
The difficulties and dangers which confront us have never been so great; we await the issue with confidence, relying on the spirit and self-sacrifice of our fellow-countrymen to prevail.
We are, Your obedient Servants, 
H.H.Asquith, A Bonar Law, Arthur Henderson (Presidents)
Source: FAC159/2/2

Monday, 10 November 2014

A Lace Maker in Need

Lacemaker, c.1905-1910 [X396/304]

Tuesday 10th November 1914:  The Relief of Distress Committee has received the following letter from Mrs Caroline Wright of Carlton:[1]
Saturday November 7th 1914Carlton, Beds
Dear Madam
I am writing to tell you that I wrote to local representative committee and they never answered my leter. I sent twice. The parish doctor gave me meat and milk and as I am not likely to get well they give me 3s a week, and the little girl age 10 26 November so there is two of us to live. The rent is 1s 3d and coal 8d, oil 2¼d, candles 1d, soap 1d, wood 3d, 2s and 5¼ in all what we cannot eat. I have sold a few bits of lace but they want it almost for nothing about ½d an hour. We don’t have half enough to eat. We have not got a bit of shoes to wear. I am wearing men’s low shoes as mine were worn out. I think I am in need. They don’t help them as need, they help those that are got plenty. We lay cold at nights people now at Carlton but don’t care. There was a lot of cake and bread and butter given away after a tea drinking and we go to bed hungry. We are clean and respectable and they think you don’t want anything. They only help the dirty and lazy as a rule. They never try to help those that cannot help themselves. I have been wasting away. I have not got strength to do much. I have been left [widowed] close on twelve months and had to do the best I could as I was too young for the parish. My age is 53 and the parish don’t give it till you are 60. I should be very glad if you could send to us if only something to keep us warm.
From Caroline Wright, widow, Carlton, Beds
It is because of the war the lace buyer cannot buy it as they cannot sell it and so we have to sell it where we can. I can’t do nothing only make lace.[2]
Source: General correspondence file of Relief of Distress Committee [WW1/RD5/3/1]


[1] Spelling has been corrected for ease of reading.

[2] In response to this letter the committee paid Caroline Wright five shillings from the Relief Fund on 15th November. However on 18th November they received a letter from Charles Pettit of Harrold House, Harrold pointing out that the little girl who lived with her was not her own and that the Relieving Officer had not been able to find the girl’s parents. He admits the lace trade is not as good as it was but it was still continuing and he not consider the case should come under the war relief fund. As the County Council’s representative for the district it was his responsibility to report all cases that came under the fund, and he wonders who made the application. The committee’s record card for Caroline Wright is annotated “a great talker and grumbler and no worker if she can help it”. Although a further letter was received from Mrs Wright by the committee in December no more payments appear to have been made to her. 

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Case Dismissed!

High Street, Sharnbrook, 1908 [Z1306/100/3/12]


Monday 9th November 1914: Miss Pepita Behrend of Sharnbrook appeared in court for the third time today. Her defending counsel stated that if it could be proved that she was born in this country then she was a naturalised subject. Her brother Michael Theodore Behrend, who had been a naturalised subject for 40 years, gave evidence on her behalf. He stated that he was born in 1852 and remembered 1864 when the whole of his family came to England. Pepita was born in 1865 at the residence of their grandmother in Seymour Street and subsequently lived at Clapham Common. His father returned to Germany only once, for a holiday in the 1870s, and lived in England until his death in 1890. He remembered his sister being baptised and believed the baptism certificate produced was hers. The Bench were satisfied with the evidence and the case was dismissed.

Source: Bedfordshire Times 13th November 1914

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Postal Instructions

Luton Postwoman c.1916 [Z1306/75/20/22]

Sunday 8th November 1914: If you want to be sure that your letters and parcels will arrive safely with the soldiers you intend them for please follow the advice below:

  1. Write the address in ink, not in pencil.
  2. Write the name plainly, include Christian names or initials, and if possible the regimental number. If you address a letter only to “Mr Smith, Blankshire Regiment” it is likely to go to entirely the wrong person.
  3. Put the last known address and add a note “kindly forward”.
  4. If you know the soldier is in the fighting line, put “Expeditionary Force” after the name of the regiment. If unsure address it to “The Depot”.
  5. Put the sender’s address on the back of the envelope or parcel.
  6. Package cigarettes or tobacco in a disused mustard or other tin, preferably square.
 Do not worry if you do not get a quick reply. A letter may have to follow a soldier to several stations, and he may not have a nearby YMCA tent with postal facilities.

Source: Luton News 5th November 1914

Friday, 7 November 2014

A Baker's Boy

H. Mortimer's Bakery at 104 Spring Road, Kempston, c.1900 [Z50/67/133]

Saturday 7th November 1914 (Kempston): A letter has been received by Henry Mortimer and his wife Ethel from their son Harry who is training on the East Coast with the 3rd Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment. Before the war Harry worked at his father's bakery in Spring Road, Kempston.
From 3rd Batt. Beds Regt. No 1 Coy
Address reply to: Beach Road, Felixtowe
November 3rd 1914

Dear Father and Mother,

The weather is lovely now, and we are again on ordinary drill. Another lot of our men were picked out for Belgium today; I was talking to Agg Perkins last night, and he tells me I am a fool to stop in this company with a lot of Reserve men, so I intend seeing the company officer as soon as I get a chance, and explain things to him. It appears my name has been confused with another chaps of the same name, so I may be able to get in the ninth with all my old chums after all. I hope so anyway. I was reading in a Bedfordshire newspaper last night, at the Picture Playhouse with my chum, that the ninth is to [be] trained at Ampthill Park. Yesterday I had a fine hot bath and a change at a barber’s shop in Felixstowe, it cost ninepence but I should have been sorry to have missed it at double the price. How is the motor-car going, I expect it will be a bit of bother at first the same as the gas-engine was, until you get used to its tricks. Well I will close now, hoping to be able to say that I am in the ninth next time I write. Good-bye. Tell Eric no fag cards yet. [1] 

Your aff. Son Harry
 Source: FAC139


[1] Eric was Harry's five year old brother

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Bedfordshire National Reserve

Shire Hall, Bedford [Z1306/10/58/8]

Friday 6th November 1914: Older men who are veterans of the armed forces have been wondering how they can put their military experience to use in the current conflict. An answer to this question has been provided by the following notice which has appeared in the local press:
Bedfordshire National Reserve        

Men who have served in the Army, Navy, or Volunteer Forces should apply to be registered in the above Force, stating age and previous service. 
They will be registered in two classes:
            Class 2 … … Ages 42 to 50
            Class 3 … … Ages 50 to 55

Men under 42 can only be registered at this time if medically unfit for General Service. The Bedfordshire National Reserve has already provided over 170 Men for H.M.Forces, since mobilisation, in addition to the Railway Guarding Company of 120 men. 
It is hoped to raise two more companies of Guards. 
            Apply in writing: -
                              MAJOR JARVIS, SHIRE HALL, BEDFORD
 Source: Luton News 5th November 1914

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Departure of the Seaforth Highlanders



Image: Departure of the 4th Seaforths, 5th November 1914 [X414/162]

Thursday 5th November 1914 (Bedford): On Sunday the 4th Seaforth Highlanders were informed that they were to leave Bedford for France. Since then the men have been in a whirl of preparation with kit inspections, refitting of transport and the issue of new rifles, bayonets and ammunition. On Tuesday they were addressed by the Brigadier who urged them to live up to the great honour that had been granted to them and also to abstain from alcohol. By last night their packs were ready, filled with the regulation kit list of twenty five items.

At ten o’clock this morning the battalion assembled to the south of the Grammar School. After an address from General Ballatine-Allason and the chaplain the battalion was divided into two halves. At 11.45a.m. the fatigue party left at the head of the transport column. The first half of the battalion said their farewells and as they marched out of the school the Grammar School boys who formed a guard of honour sent up a rousing three cheers on the command of their Headmaster. As the Seaforths’ own pipers were in the ranks the column was led by pipers from another battalion playing “Lochiel’s awa’ tae France”. The soldiers marched down Barnaby Road, to cheers from a group of Highlanders, past St Peters and down the High Street, where girls filled the upper windows, doorways and pavements. Friends linked arms with the soldiers and gave them chocolate, cigarettes and tobacco. From there they marched to the temporary station in Ampthill Road. The public were kept out of the station, but permission was given to family members who had travelled to Bedford to say their farewells. The train left at ten past one to rousing cheers from both the crowd and the soldiers.

The second half of the battalion left the Grammar School at 12.55p.m. and followed the same route as their comrades, this time to even more enthusiastic cheers. In the High Street the pipers who were returning after playing for the first party met the marchers, turned around and accompanied them to the station. Once all the men were on the train the crowds were admitted to the platforms; half an hour later the train left Bedford to yet more cheering, leaving all the onlookers thrilled by the spectacle.

Source: Beds Times 4 December 1914; The Highland Division at Bedford: An Illustrated Souvenir [X414/162]

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Farewell from the Leicesters

Image: Leicestershire Regiment, 4th Battalion, C Company in George St, Luton, 1914 [Z1306/75/21/31]

Wednesday 4th November 1914: The Leicestershire Regiment Territorials who have been billeted in Luton are expecting to leave any day. One of their members has written expressing his thanks to the town and his appreciation of the welcome they have been shown. When they first arrived there were “numerous little kindnesses in the shape of pies, pudding and pastry of all kinds”, for those billeted in schools and empty houses as well as for those with landladies. He even appreciates the benefits of the early closing rule because “after a ‘tall night’ a fellow doesn’t feel very rosy trudging along the road with his pack on his back, a ‘large thirst’ in his throat, and a head feeling the size of two”. He believes that everyone will notice the difference in their bearing after the training they have received. He expresses regret that so much friction arose over the matter of payments, agreeing with the townsfolk that it was unfair that some were paid higher rates than other for providing the same accommodation and hopes that people will not hold it against them.

He thinks the Territorials will leave a legacy behind them in military-minded small boys "judging by the squads that invade the billet area that we occupy. They sing our songs and imitate our drills, and mimic the eccentricities of some of our N.C.O.s”. He hopes that the farmers of the area will forgive them for the gaps in their hedges, and that they will lay the blame where it belongs, with Kaiser Bill. He recalled one incident where some of the soldiers discovered a pub with an orchard, where the landlord lost as much in apples as he gained in beer sales. Finally the author compliments the town on their excellent baths, but regrets the lack of public conveniences. His parting words were "Thank you all, Lutonians, landladies, landlords, sons and daughters, who have chummed us up, and perhaps when you have surveyed the damage and have entered on to the old state of things again, you will retain a kindly remembrance of the ‘boys in khaki’ who turned out when their country called."

Source: Luton News 5 November 1914

Monday, 3 November 2014

News from the Front

Image: Dick Wheeler, back left, with his parents, brothers and sister [X291/77/311]

Tuesday 3rd November 1914: Mr and Mrs Wheeler of Ampthill have received a letter home from their son Dick, who is serving as a private with the 1st Bedfordshire Regiment. He complains that it is “jolly rough and cold out here at nights” but they have had plenty of socks and shirts sent out to them. He had received from a “kind English lady” a new guernsey sweater and a woollen cap comforter which covers his face and neck. The people of Enniskillen in Ireland had held a collection to provide cigarettes and tobacco for the battalion, raising £30 so they have plenty to smoke. He had also received a letter and some cigarettes from a young Irish lady who had seen him smoke a pipe and wondered if he had enough tobacco.[1] Len Aspin of Ampthill had sent him three ounces of tobacco and two packets of Players.[2] 

Private Wheeler says that the armies are now all mixed up, with the British fighting alongside the French and the Indians. They have to walk long distances at night to find supplies as the roads are too full of shell holes to get anything over them and there are many dead bodies lying around, both Germans and others. They took a lot of Germans prisoner the other night and he believes they want the war to be over even more than the British do. He finishes by saying “don’t trouble to send me anything out, because we get plenty of everything at present, except drinks – and we don’t want any out on this job”.[3]

Source: Ampthill and District News, 14 November 1914; British Army World War I Service Record; Edinburgh Gazette 15 March 1920


[1] The 1st Bedfordshires had been serving in Ireland in 1914 and at the outbreak of the war were based in Mullingar, Ireland. 

[2] Leonard Aspin was the landlord of the Old George in Woburn Street, Ampthill in 1911, and by 1916 was the landlord of the Crown and Sceptre.


[3] Richard Henry Wheeler had enlisted in 1908 aged 18. He served overseas for the duration of the war, from 14th August 1914 to 5th February 1919, earning the Distinguished Conduct Medal. The citation published in the Edinburgh Gazette of 15 March 1920 reads: “9284 Sjt. R .Wheeler, 1st Bn., Bedf. R. (Ampthill). He has served with the Battalion through the War. He has taken every opportunity in volunteering for and carrying out tasks under fire. On one occasion in Italy he personally constructed a raft, crossed the River Piave at night under heavy enemy machine-gun fire and successfully laid a cable for use in subsequent operations.” His service record also records that he was mentioned in dispatches.