Saturday, 31 January 2015

I Caught A Bullet

Gertie Grimmer, seated second from right [X291/499]

Sunday 31st January 1915: J Duncan of the 2nd Royal Scots, one of the patients being cared for by Nurse Gertie Grimmer, has not lost his sense of humour despite his injuries. He has inscribed the following poem in her “Confessions” album:

I caught a bullet that I know well
I gave a leap and then a yell
I wished the Germans all in ---
And then came back to England.

They have taken a lot of bones out of me
Since here I have been billeted
And if they take any more bone out
I am afraid I shall be filleted.

Source: Confessions Album of Gertie Grimmer [X291/498]

Friday, 30 January 2015

Complaint Against Billeting Officers

Havelock Road, Luton c.1910 [Z50/75/244]

Saturday 30th January 1915: Mr Albert Ansell of Laurel Villa, Havelock Road, Luton has written a letter of complaint to the Luton News concerning the failures of the billeting officers of the 4th Lincolnshire Regiment: 
Sir, - I wish, with your permission, through the medium of your paper, to call attention to a grievance which I think, in common with some other residents in Havelock Road, I have with the billeting gentlemen of the 4th Lincolns who are at present stopping in the town.
On Friday last 2 N.C.O.’s, together with a police constable called at my house and billeted two Territorials, who according to instructions were to arrive at my house about 5 o’clock on Saturday. Naturally, sir, arrangements were made for the reception of the soldiers. Trouble was taken, certain expense was incurred, but up to the present the gentlemen have not arrived, neither has any intimation been received from the billeting authorities that the billets would not be required. 
Now, sir, I ask, is this fair treatment? We were prepared, as we have done before, to make our visitors welcome and comfortable, and I think (and I am not alone, as some of my neighbours, who have been treated in the same manner, feel just as strongly) we might have been treated with what we have learned to call common courtesy, such as is due from one man to another. But there, sir, I do not know whether a blunder has been made, or whether the position has arisen through an oversight. Looking at the bald facts, however, it seems to me that we have been made fools of.
I am, sir, yours, etc., Albert E Ansell
Source: Luton News 28th January 1915

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Bedford Grammar School OTC Training Exercise

1926 Valuation Map showing area around Kimbolton Road [DV2]

Friday 29th January 1914: The Officer’s Training Corps at Bedford Grammar School has carried out a field exercise in the Clapham Park / Putnoe Farm area – as no blank ammunition has been issued to the Corps this year the usual fight could not be held. No.1 Company manoeuvred to the west of Kimbolton Road and No.2 Company to the east. The Corps Commanding Officer reports:

“No. 1 Company set out from School as an Advance Guard, and proceeded to Jackman’s Farm. Here an attempt ws made to turn the Advance Guard into a Flank Guard. But, chiefly owing to the difficulty of keeping touch across fields which we are not allowed to use, it was not wholly a success. The Company reformed and had lunch. Afterward, an attack was made on Jackman’s Farm from Clapham House. This was quite well done, but Section Commanders and Cadets must use better judgment in choosing the ground on which to go down. It was fairly common to see sections lying in the open, where they could be easily seen by the enemy, whereas, if they had advanced a few more yards, they would have found a fold in the ground which would have given them complete cover from view. The final charge was a great success.”

“No. 2 Company first made an attack on Putnoe Farm from the south side. There was far too much shouting and confusion, and the sections often lay down in the open when they would have reached ‘dead ground’ by advancing a few yards further. Section Commanders in support must keep awake to see the signals to reinforce. It ought not to be necessary to send back a bugler to ask the Section Commander whether he had seen the signal: I do not think many of the Company would have reached Putnoe Farm."

“The Company afterwards reformed, and a fresh attack was made from Putnoe Farm towards Cleat Hill. This was quite successful.”

“For instructional purposes the training on this day was more valuable than a fight, as the Cadets learnt how things should be done, and were able to correct mistakes.”

Source: The Ousel 22 February 1915 [Z447/22]

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Instructions in the Event of Invasion

Recruitment Poster 1915 (Wikimedia)

Thursday 28th January 1915: Instructions for the guidance of the civilian population of Bedfordshire in the event of a German invasion have been issued by the Lord Lieutenant and Chief Constable of the County. They have been approved by the Government and are to be followed as soon as the military authorities declare a state of emergency. The official advice is that:

  1. All motors, bicycles, horses, mules, donkeys, carts, carriages and other vehicles, harness, petrol, launches and lighters should be moved to a preconcerted place or as far as practicable from the area of military operations. If they cannot be immediately moved, they must be destroyed or rendered useless. 
  1. No attempt, except under orders from the military authorities or the police acting under military orders, should be made to burn, cut or destroy any of the following: bridges, railway rolling stock, electric light or power stations, telegraph or telephone wires, wireless stations, waterworks, sluices or locks, piers or jetties, and ferries. Prompt assistance should, however, be given to the military authorities to carry out any of the foregoing operations which they think desirable.
  1. All tools, pick-axes, saws, barbed wire, and other equipment required by the military authorities should be placed absolutely at their disposal; and all persons physically fit should be prepared to do any work required of them.
  1. It is of the utmost importance that the movements of troops and artillery should not be hampered by the presence of numbers of civilians on the roads. Any persons leaving the district should avoid the roads required by the military forces. These will be as far as possible indicated to them by the police. If advancing troops are met upon the roads, civilians must immediately pass into fields and lanes and leave the roads clear.
  1. The civil population should remain quietly at home. They are on no account to be in possession of fire arms. This does not apply to members of recognised Volunteer Corps who will be entitled to the rights of combatants if acting under officers and wearing the fixed distinctive badge.
  1. Unless special instructions are give by the military or police, supplies should not be destroyed. The military authorities may, at their discretion, destroy or require the Police to destroy, wholesale stores of provisions, granaries, and flour mills. Retail and private supplies may be left untouched. Any person refusing to destroy or render useless his property when ordered by the military authorities will lose all claim to compensation if it is destroyed or rendered useless by the military or police.
  1. The following roads will probably be used by the troops: Bedford – St. Neots – Cambridge; Bedford – Shefford – Hitchin; Bedford – Ampthill – Luton; Bedford – Willington – Sandy; Bedford – Newport [Pagnell] – Stony Stratford; Wellingborough – Irchester – Higham Ferrars – St. Neots; Northampton – Houghton – Yardley Hastings – Bedford. If livestock is ordered to be removed it should be driven in a westerly direction by roads not used by the troops.
Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer and Linslade Gazette, 26th January 1915

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Mrs Chaldecott’s Sea Voyage Continues

Telegram from Evelyn Beatrice Chaldecott [Z186/13]

Wednesday 27th January 1915: Mrs Evelyn Beatrice Chaldecott has sent more news of her sea voyage to India to her mother in Bedford. They had a rough crossing of the Bay of Biscay during which she and her four year old son Gilbert were both sick as the ship “pitched and rolled and then gave horrid corkscrew motions”; mercifully the French governess was fine and looked after both of them and also the little girl in the next cabin whose nurse and grandmother were both ill and whose mother had a small baby to care for. Poor little Gilbert had a pain and whimpered “I wish there was no sea and no boats”. The weather had since improved and they were able to spend time on deck. Except for the early dinner and the shortage of space in the saloon she does not mind being second class on such a luxurious boat. The food is quite good and the cabins are better than first class on the City Line. There is a large fan in their cabin free of charge, which normally cost a guinea extra.

On Sunday 10th they stopped at Malta from 8am until 3pm and were all able to go ashore. They drove out to some gardens and saw orange and lemon groves. As she did not want to take Gilbert among the crowds they stayed inside a “horrid little carriage without springs” and found Malta disappointing – “bare and brown and dusty”. As passengers have left the ship there are plenty of empty cabins so Mademoiselle Coller was given a two-berth cabin of her own and she and Gilbert had their cabin to themselves. They received Marconi News each day but no casualty lists. She hopes they “are not very awful”.

As the journey progressed Mrs Chaldecott made an “awful discovery”. At first she had thought that the governess was asking for a little brandy each day to ward off seasickness but the woman’s behaviour increasingly aroused her suspicions. After Mademoiselle got her own cabin things “went on more smoothly” until the Wednesday before they landed when her temper and rudeness were intolerable. She discovered from the chief steward that the governess had bought three bottles of brandy, various other drinks, and the stewardess took a bottle of beer to her cabin each night. For final confirmation she took the ship’s doctor to the woman’s cabin. “She knew she was caught and was simply furious, sobbed and cried and said I was very unkind and told all sorts of lies … He said of course she had been drinking heavily and was evidently an old hand and he fancied she took drugs too”. When they arrived at Bombay on 22nd January she was obliged to send Mademoiselle Coller home by the next boat, the Arabia which left the following day.

Source: Letters from Evelyn Beatrice Chaldecott to Mrs Cochrane-Forster, Z186/10-14

Monday, 26 January 2015

Facts and Figures

Leighton Buzzard War Memorial 1930 [Z50/72/153]

Tuesday 26th January 1915: The south-western area of the county is certainly doing its bit in terms of contributing men to the serve in the army and navy. Numbers change all the time, but the most up-to-date figures for enlisted men from each town and village in the area surrounding Leighton Buzzard are as follows:
  • Leighton Buzzard - 312
  • Linslade -110
  • Toddington- 106
  • Heath and Reach - 89
  • Woburn - 85
  • Aspley Guise - 65
  • Eaton Bray - 38
  • Ridgmont - 39
  • Eversholt - 29
  • Woburn Sands - 25
  • Totternhoe - 20
  • Husborne Crawley - 19
  • Eggington - 14
  • Aspley Heath - 14
  • Hockliffe - 14
  • Lidlington -14
  • Milton Bryan -11
  • Potsgrove - 10
  • Tilsworth - 8
  • Billington - 7
  • Stanbridge - 5
This gives a total of 1034 men serving their country for this small area of the county alone.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer and Linslade Gazette 26th January 1915

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Maulden’s Belgian Refugees

Maulden Schools, 1916 [Z1306/77/17]

Monday 25th January 1915: Five Belgian refugees are living in a comfortable cottage in Maulden which has been lent and furnished with good antique furniture by Mr W. P. Gordon. They are being maintained by the people of Great Barford and Maulden, and by gifts given by other friends. The two boys have settled happily at Maulden School and are fast learning English.

Monsieur Charles Van Huffel, his wife and two boys, aged 10 and 7, come from Ghent and their friend Madame Rombaux from Bruges. Monsieur Van Huffel is the general agent at Bruges for all the French newspapers. He was in the city with his wife and Monsieur and Madame Rombaux, when they heard that the Germans were approaching Ghent. They decided to walk the 27 miles there, collect the boys and bring them to Bruges, but on the journey the Germans arrived at Bruges making it impossible for the men to rejoin their wives. They left Bruges on a crowded train for Ostend, from where they travelled first to Dunkirk, then to Calais, and from there to the refugee centre at Earls Court.

After staying at Earls Court for 17 days the men went to Dulwich and Monsieur Van Huffel managed to obtain the passports needed to return to Ghent via Holland to search for his family and Madame Rombaux. He discovered the two women had gone to Bruges where they were bravely trying to carry on his business as newsagent. On the day he found them there three young priests were shot for looking at an enemy aeroplane through binoculars, and a young man for being on the streets after curfew. They went back to Ghent on foot, collected the children from friends who were caring from them and left for England where they found Monsieur Rombaux, a soldier, had left for Belgium to attempt to rejoin the Army. After ten days at Dulwich Baths the refugees left for their new home in Maulden, which they greatly appreciate.

A sixth refugee, Monsieur Joseph Schwartz, also came to Maulden but has gone in search of his family as he has not been able to get any news of them. Monsieur Schwarz had a general stores, coal and flour business in the village of Tintigny, where he lived with his wife, their seven children, including twins just eight months old, his own parents and his wife’s parents. He belonged to the Reserve Artillery and was called up on 1st August. A few days later his home, along with almost the entire village, was burnt by the Germans. He was wounded at Aerschot and treated in an Antwerp hospital for a week before he was forced to leave when the Germans entered the city. Friends managed to get him to England three days before the Germans entered Ostend and he was treated at a Military Hospital in Folkestone. After time in Sussex, Dulwich and Maulden Monsieur Schwarz left last week to try to find his family, having been unable to get information from any of the Consuls in Holland, France, Belgium or England.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 29th January 1915

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Letters to Linslade

Sunday 24th January 1915:  Private Vivian Dixon of the Seaforth Highlanders has written home to his parents at Linslade. He says: 
You’ll be surprised to hear that our rest has been cut short and we are in it again. When you’ll receive this I can’t say as I don’t suppose letters will be collected for some time, but today we are resting after two days’ march covering about 25 miles, and we are in roughly the same place as we were before only further on. The village is in ruins. The Church is bullet riddled and almost all the houses also. Again I have bad news to relate – Archie now in hospital with something wrong with his knee. Thus we are two now, but fortunately we have struck luck for once. We are in a mineral house in a room on the second floor in which are three bedsteads with spring mattresses. We have blocked up the windows and are more or less comfortable. It’s a great luxury to have a bed, you can guess.
We left at about 3.30 on the 14th and marched until ten that night, and it was just my luck to receive your parcel about half an hour before. We ate some – the cakes and sweets – and I strung the rest at the back of my pack. After marching for about an hour this fell off and I struggled on for about another mile and we passed through a town. I was almost dead and feeling queer, scarcely able to drag one foot after another, so seeing another kiltie by the side of the road I gave the packing to him as I couldn’t carry it longer. You can guess what I must have felt like giving away the sweetmeat I’d wanted so much but I was feeling too awful for words. At the rest halt I reported myself sick to our officer who carried my rifle for me and got permission for my pack and equipment to go on a gun carriage, so I followed on but kept up and arrived all right, slept all night without waking. In the morning I felt better and did the rest of the march in full marching order. By jove, to say ‘the fair fields of France.’ That’s a bit thick! I should like you to see this village – its awful. Mud in its prime condition, I can assure you.
Lance Corporal Brazier  of the 2nd Division of the Oxon and Bucks Light Infantry has written home to 30 Wing Road, Linslade, to say he has now been in France for five months and is still happy and  in the best of health.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer and Linslade Gazette, 26 January 1915

Friday, 23 January 2015

Steppingley Isolation Hospital

Steppingley Isolation Hospital c.1909

Saturday 23rd January 1915: The Hospital Committee of Ampthill Rural District Council has reported on the question of admitting fever cases from Ampthill training camp to the Isolation Hospital. It has recommended that the Clerk of the Council should write to Colonel Murray stating that the Council would be prepared to accept scarlet fever cases from the camp at a charge of £2 2s per week per patient. This would be subject to there being room at the Hospital, and with Dr Garner having sole control over the number of cases to be admitted. Colonel Murray has assured the Committee that the military authorities would be willing to pay liberally for this service. There are currently eight patients in the Isolation Hospital suffering from scarlet fever and while there are no cases at the camp at present it is realised that this is a possibility and the Council wishes to assist the War Office in any way it can. However, the offer would not be open to any other troops quartered in the Council’s District. In view of this the Medical Officer asked what would happen in the case of a man from Marston Moretaine who enlisted and was billeted at Haynes. Would he then be eligible for the Hospital? The Chairman of the Council agreed that he would, but said that the Council would not be obliged to accept any other soldiers whose homes were outside the District.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer and Linslade Gazette, 26th January 1915



Note: In February 1915 a soldier was admitted from the training camp suffering from typhoid or cerebro-spinal fever and the Hospital Committee agreed to recommend admission of diphtheria and typhoid fever cases on the same basis as that agreed for scarlet fever. Source: Minutes of Steppingley Isolation Hospital Committee, 18th February 1915 [RDAM2/3]

Thursday, 22 January 2015

A Little Misunderstanding in Leighton Buzzard

Leighton Buzzard Constabulary 1897 [QEV20/4]

Friday 22nd January 1915: Corporal William Rooney of the 12th West Yorkshire Regiment has appeared in Court charged with assaulting Police Sergeant Dennis while in the execution of his duty at Leighton Buzzard on 10th January. PS Dennis was in Church Street near the Stag’s Head Inn when he heard a disturbance near North Square. When he got to North Street he saw Corporal Rooney and two privates; they were using filthy language. He asked them to stop but they took no notice. When asked a second time PS Dennis took hold of one of them and told him to get home to his billet. Corporal Rooney told him to let them alone as they were under his charge and caught hold of the policeman’s arm. PS Dennis told the corporal not to interfere with him while he was in the execution of his duty and again took hold of one of the men, warning that he would fetch the guard if he did not go home. Corporal Rooney then struck PS Dennis a violent blow to the mouth, which cut his lip and made his nose bleed. The policeman caught hold of Rooney as he fell and pulled him to the ground, where they struggled. Rooney broke away and ran down the road. When PS Dennis tried to follow, the other two soldiers obstructed him. The three men then ran down Chapel Path. PC Keens came up and they rushed at the prisoner but he slipped past. PS Dennis shouted for the guard, who came out and stopped him. When questioned by Lieutenant Morris, an officer in Corporal Rooney’s company, PS Dennis agreed that to push a man might get his back up, but denied kicking one of the men in the scuffle or kicking the prisoner while he was on the ground.

Corporal Rooney stated in Court that he was walking quietly down Church Street with two others but they happened to be in front of some other soldiers who were making a noise. The police sergeant came up to him and told him to clear off and he replied that he had done nothing. PS Dennis then struck at him; he put up his elbow which accidentally caught the policeman in the face. They fell to the ground together where PS Dennis kicked at him twice and tried to throw one of the privates on his back. The three of them ran away. Later they were walking down Church Street when they met PS Dennis again, who rushed at him but was not able to get him.  He said he ran away from Dennis to avoid being caught by the guard for being out late. Private George Smith, who was with Corporal Rooney, corroborated his evidence, although he did admit saying in the guard room that the Rooney had assaulted the policeman. Private Joseph Linnett gave further corroborative evidence, adding that PS Dennis pushed them first and kicked both Private Smith and himself in the back after they said they were going home. 

Sergeant Harold Brooks said he had known Corporal Rooney since September 9th and found him one of the most good natured men in the Regiment. Corporal Alfred Wilson, who was on guard on the night of the alleged assault said he had followed PS Dennis up Church Street and saw the Corporal on his knees in the road. PS Dennis tried to kick Rooney and did not call on him for assistance. Lieutenant Morris gave Corporal Rooney an excellent character and said it seemed perfectly clear from the evidence that the bother arose out of “an excess of zeal and a little misunderstanding”. While not making any accusation against the policeman he did point out that it was natural if a man was pushed for him to push back. He also stated that PS Dennis had no right to touch Corporal Rooney as he was doing nothing wrong and the matter was outside the scope of his duties. The military authorities regretted the incident, but asked that the Corporal be released without anything against him. After considering the matter the magistrates dismissed the case, which appeared to them to be trivial. They expressed the hope that the previous good feeling between the military and the police would continue and that there would not be similar cases in future. 

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer and Linslade Gazette, 26th January 1915; Luton News 28th January 1915

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Two Luton Men Meet in France

The Estaminet by Haydn Reynolds Mackey (Wikimedia)

Thursday 21st January 1915: The Luton News has received a letter from two Luton Reservists who met while serving in France. Rifleman F. Anderson [1] is with the 1st Battalion of the Rifle Brigade and Sapper J. Robinson with the Royal Engineers. They write:
Though we have often had a rough time, both of us are still game. We hear that you have had floods in England but, according to the papers, our rainfall has been about four times as great as that in England. Still, despite a very muddy and wet time, we are endeavouring, not without success, to keep up the reputation for cheerfulness which the British soldier has earned. Robinson was enjoying a very well earned rest for a few hours, and had gone into an estaminet, or eating-house, to get a snack when Anderson’s head appeared in the doorway. Though Robinson had not seen him for years he immediately recognised an old pal and shouted out, “This isn’t Luton, not nearly so quiet and respectable” and they were soon chatting over old times, of how well Luton have played this year, of their hard lines in the Cup fight, and of how next year, or later on this year, when the English Army has entered Berlin, the boys of Luton, those who could not come out here, will bring the Cup to Luton. We hope, however, that by that time some of us who have not shirked our duty will be back to help them – having scored many times against the Germans. Hoping that all at Luton are as well as possible in this very trying weather. We are proud to be natives of a town which has been so very loyal and has sent so many of her citizens to answer the call of their country.
Luton News 21st January 1915

[1] Rifleman Anderson survived the war. His medal card shows that he served in the Rifle Brigade, the Labour Corps and the Royal Army Service Corps. Unfortunately it does not give a first name which would make it possible to identify him. 

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Deserters from the 3rd Bedfords

Charlie Chaplin at Landguard Camp 1915 [Z50/141/47]

Wednesday 20th January 1915: Two privates have appeared at Luton Borough Court today accused of deserting from the 3rd Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment at Landguard on 24th December.[1]

The police had received a warrant for the arrest of Horace Hammell giving an address in Castle Street, Luton. Yesterday morning Sub-Inspector Attwood hid himself in a house in Warwick Road and saw Private Hammell pass the window. When he opened the door the prisoner immediately attempted to escape but was arrested. Hammell said he had received eight shillings from his family on the previous Tuesday and went to London to spend it. He claimed he deserted because a colour-sergeant offered him five shillings to do so, telling him there was only a little food.

A warrant for the arrest of the second man, Horace Hubbocks, was received this morning. Detective Bacon made enquiries and went to an address in New Town Street but the prisoner had gone. He was later found at a house in Warwick Road. Private Hubbocks admitted deserting and said he did so because they had not got anything to eat. Hubbocks had also been to London on Tuesday and returned on Wednesday morning having spent everything he had except 1s 5d. He also claimed the colour-sergeant offered him five shillings to desert. He said the same remark had been made to about half-a-dozen men and that the whole company had been present when the offer was made. When asked if he could give any reason why the colour-sergeant should say such a thing Hubbocks replied “I can only suggest that he is a bully”.[2]

The Chairman agreed that the Clerk of the Court should write to the men’s commanding officer and report the circumstances. Meanwhile the prisoners were remanded to await an escort.

Source: Luton News 21st January 1914

[1] Landguard Camp at Felixstowe.

[2] Horace Edgar Hubbocks was killed at Passchendaele on the 20th September 1917 and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial. He was then serving with the 2nd Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment. From the battalion’s war diary it appears he was part of a raiding party which was pinned down by heavy machine gun and rifle fire and forced to spend the day in shell-holes. [X550/3/WD/1709]

Monday, 19 January 2015

Difficulty Over an Expense Claim

Tuesday 19th January 1915: Despite the important work they are carrying out there has been some difficulty over expense claims made on behalf of the Special Constabulary. Major Stevens, the Chief Constable, has returned an account for £156 12s 9d to Mr H. G. Allen saying he doubts it can be paid as “it is expenditure incurred without the previous sanction of the Committee. Also so far as regards some of the items, I have considerable doubt whether the Police Authority could expend the money.” Mr H. G. Allen has today fired off an indignant reply:
I cannot just now possibly produce vouchers for everything as the statement of accounts are drawn from approximately 300 special constables residing all over the shire. I do not suppose for one moment that a large majority of the special constables can produce any vouchers for the smaller amounts which I should have thought could have been taken as being correct. In regard to my own amounts, naturally I can produce a signed statement but not necessarily vouchers shewing how these accounts are made up.
The small items which you criticise, such as 3/- and 2/-, may appear absurd, but they are for men only drawing about 16/- to 20/- per week, and therefore every penny is of consequence to them. The claims sent in are only out-of-pocket expenses and do not by any means represent the cost which has been incurred by individuals. As a matter of fact it has cost a good deal more than the total sum sent in. Seeing that the Government are allowing expenses for the Emergency work I should have thought that these expenses could have been allowed for as well.
I would add however that if it can be shewn that there are any other counties in the Country where a force of Special Constables have been raised for patrolling and guarding hundreds of miles of road and wires throughout the shire (the nature of which work has made the out-of-pocket expenses such an important item) and they have not asked for expenses, then I think there would be no justification for the Standing Joint Committee to grant us a sum. It is of no use comparing this account with any expenses that may have been incurred by Special Constables for Town duty as these naturally have no expenses at all. I herein return you the account.[1]
Source: Emergency Committee Papers [WW1/EC4/2]


[1] Unfortunately there is no further correspondence to indicate whether or not the expense claim was eventually paid. 

Sunday, 18 January 2015

School Attendance Rules to be Relaxed

Prebendal Farm, Bedford [PU246/90]

Monday 18th January 1915: Last October the Education Sub-Committee of Bedfordshire County Council ignored representations from those involved in agriculture requesting that they permit the employment of boys aged 12 and over to held make up for the farm labour shortages caused by the war. Instructions were issued to School Attendance Officers that they must report such cases of non-attendance to the Director of Education. It appears the Sub-Committee has now changed its mind. Mr. J. C. H. Robinson of Bedford wrote to Mr. Howard  Whitbread in December recommending that the attendance rules for boys whose parents wished them to go to work at an earlier age should be relaxed. The matter was considered by the Elementary Sub-Committee on January 11th and instructions have been given that the school attendance bye-laws should no longer be enforced in those cases where boys over 12 years of age are employed in agricultural work. It is understood that the Board of Education does not wish to interfere with the powers of Local Education Authorities and is leaving these decisions in local hands. 

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer and Linslade Gazette, 19th and 26th January 1915

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Absent Friends

Seaforth Highlanders in Bedford Park, 1914

Sunday 17th January 1915: Although some of Bedford’s Scottish visitors have now gone to the Front they have not forgotten their former hosts, nor been forgotten by them, with letters and gifts passing in both directions. Mrs B. M. Blanchard of 47, Foster Hill Road, Bedford has received letters from two of the Seaforth Highlanders who until recently were billeted with her. Private J. M. McLeman writes:

“I thank you very much for sending the Christmas pudding and parcel. I am writing this in a building that has been shelled by the Germans, and the roar of the guns, day and night, is awful. We are spending our Christmas far away from home, but are happy in looking forward to a more peaceful one next year, if we are spared. We are making good progress as far as we know. I was glad of your long letter, with all the news of Bedford; you have no idea how pleased we are to get a word from home. We got Princess Mary’s Christmas gift, and one from the King and Queen, with a nice inscription on it. We are well looked after and are supplied with everything needful. Really, the transport of the British Army is a wonderful thing. You should have seen us a week ago, all wearing beards, but now e are all nice and trim and the mud cleaned off our clothes. You will be pleased to hear we are all well, and as lively as ever. We had a concert in a barn on New Year’s Eve, and MacKenzie sang three songs. Please remember me to Mr. Blanchard and family, and I hope you will have the best of health and happiness in the New Year.”

Private C. Mackenzie says: “We enjoyed your welcome gifts very much. We are having very bad weather here. Our guns are fairly going at them now, and just shaking the ground under us. All the boys are in good health; excuse bad writing, as writing desks are scarce here – not like good old Bedford, where one could have all comforts, but we came here to rough it, and rough it we must. I received a parcel from your sister, Miss May, for which I do not know how to express my thanks”.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard, 15th January 1915

Friday, 16 January 2015

Sandy Selects Its Refugees

Belgian Refugee Family at Sandy [Z50/142/706]

Saturday 16th January 1915:  Three Sandy men have returned from London with twenty five Belgian refugees and Mr F. W. Western has described their day. The three went first to Aldwych where they were given papers authorising them to choose their refugees at Earls Court. There they found the Great Exhibition venue transformed. Over 2,000 Belgians waited in the great Central Hall, a “seething mass of gallant but unhappy mankind”. The nearby crèche contained hundreds of little beds and wicker cradles. Sandy had made four houses available and the aim was to select nineteen individuals to fill them. Six children attracted their interest but they turned out to be part of a family of ten which would not be separated – a mother with eight children, one married and with a small child of her own. After some debate as to whether they could be accommodated they agreed to accept the entire family who were sent to be labelled for their journey to Sandy.

A crowd of refugees then encircled the visitors from Sandy. A swollen-eyed mother with two sweet little girls was recommended to them as the wife of a Belgian soldier. He was now recovering in hospital at Market Drayton from wounds received at Liege and would be able to return to his family once his wife found a home. They agreed to take her and to wire for her husband, a decision she greeted with tears of joy. The woman and children were quickly ready and labelled, for they had only the clothes they stood up in.

Next the Sandy men witnessed a commotion which proved to be a group of 200 young Belgians marching off to join the army. They were told that this happens on a daily basis, as young men arrive at Earls Court, register themselves and immediately sign up at the adjacent Recruiting Bureau. Any “Bedfordshire growlers” who refuse to give money to help the Belgians, complaining that they are sponging on English generosity when they should be fighting should be ashamed!

It took a longer to select a third family, but the men finally settled on a telegraphist from Brussels with an “Unfit for Army” certificate who speaks Flemish, French and a little English, his wife, mother-in-law and three little children. The family are destitute and their home destroyed. After a peek at the babies and seeing many others they would have liked to help they chose for their final family a man with his wife, a son and teenage daughters. The man is unfit for military service as he has lost the use of one eye and had worked for a merchant in Brussels for nineteen years.[1]

Although the deputation returned with six more refugees than they had been instructed to bring they are confident in the generosity of the people of  Sandy. Mr Western describes the way their day ended:

“There were no prouder men in the great City of London that night, than my colleagues and myself. If our neighbours could have seen us, Mr Young with two little girls, one at each hand, our friend ‘Mac’ with another pair of fair-haired toddlers, and I with two more, chattering away and wondering at the sights of wonderful London. At King’s Cross we all had a meal, and it was good to see those happy children feed. A kindly inspector reserved three compartments for us, and in due time we arrived at Sandy; but it was raining hard. This, however, did not prevent a crowd coming to welcome their ‘guests’. Wires had been despatched, and we can’t keep such secrets in Sandy. Motors soon carried the newcomers to their homes, where steaming soups, wholesome food, and home comforts had been prepared by sympathetic ladies. And oh, the gratitude of those poor folk – only those who witnessed the scene can understand how grateful they were.”

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 22nd January 1915


[1] This would appear to be the family shown in the illustration above. 

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Funeral of a Luton Hero

Friday 15th January 1915: Private Harry Gray, the son of  Mr Walter Gray of 2 Beech Road, Luton, was buried at Luton today. He died in Edinburgh Military Hospital on Sunday from a bullet wound to the head received while serving with the 2nd Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment on 18th October, having born the sufferings of the past three months with heroic fortitude.[1] The house surgeon at Deaconess Hospital, Edinburgh described Private Gray as “just splendid”. He had undergone three operations while at the hospital, for all of which he declined the use of anaesthetics. He appeared to be recovering and was sent to a convalescent home, but grave symptoms developed and he was sent back to hospital. His mother and sister were present when he died.

The 23rd Battalion of the County of London Regiment provided full military honours for Private Gray’s funeral, with a firing party, trumpeters, and bearers. Two hundred members of the battalion marched in the procession. They were accompanied by the band of the 5th Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment. Unfortunately it was not possible to find a gun-carriage to convey the coffin. The procession, with the band playing the Dead March, left Beech Road just before three o’clock. A large crowd gathered and lined the route through the centre of town. At the military headquarters the guard turned out with fixed bayonets. As the coffin was lowered into the earth three volleys were fired over the grave and the firing party stood with fixed bayonets while the Last Post was sounded.

Private Gray had served with the Royal Garrison Artillery for 12 years, spending almost the entire period on foreign service. About 12 months ago his period of service expired and he was attached to the 1st Beds Special Reserve. He was called up on August 8th and in mid-September fought in the retreat towards Paris. On October 17th his rifle was smashed in his hands by a German shell but he was unhurt. The next day he received his fatal wound.

Source: Luton News 14th and 21st January 1915


[1] 18th October was the day on which the 2nd Bedfords suffered their first casualties of the war while advancing on the village of Geluwe. The newspaper first gives the date Private Gray was wounded as 17th October but later makes it apparent it was on the 18th. 

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

A North Bedfordshire Knitting Frenzy

Submarine B11 [Wikimedia]

Thursday 14th January 1915: Mrs Wythes has sent a parcel of knitted articles from Ravensden to the Bedfordshire Regiment. This included:

·         1 helmet and 1 scarf from Mrs Harley
·         3 pairs of socks from Mrs Wythes
·         2 pairs of mittens from Mrs Jabez Mayes
·         4 body belts, 7 pairs of mittens, 1 pair of cuffs from the children of the day school
·         7 body belts, 2 scarves, 4 helmets, 5 pairs of mittens, 2 pairs of gloves from the Girls’ Friendly Society

The Girls’ Friendly Society of Colmworth has sent its first parcel of knitted comforts and garments to the Red Cross Society and is about to despatch a parcel of knitted scarves and other items for the crew of Submarine B 11.[1] Another parcel from the parish has been sent to the Red Cross Society.

Source: Bolnhurst, Colmworth, Roxton with Great Barford, Ravensden and Wilden Parish Magazine, January 1915 [P28/30/22]

[1] On 13th December 1914 HMS B11 sank the Ottoman battleship Mesudiye in the Dardanelles, an action for which its commander Lieutenant Norman Douglas Holbrook won the Victoria Cross. First Lieutenant Sydney Winn received the Distinguished Service Order and every other member of the crew was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Work of the Comforts Committee


Wednesday 13th January 1915: The Bedfordshire Comforts Fund has received a letter from Major W. H. Denne [1], the commanding officer of the 2nd Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment, thanking them for the Christmas gift sent by the Comforts Committee to every soldier in the Regiment. He wrote:

“A large consignment of presents arrived from the Women of Bedfordshire Comforts Fund a few days ago, consisting of a towel, a handkerchief, one piece of soap, and two candles.[2] This has been distributed to the men of the battalion, and I cannot tell you how delighted they were with it. They call it the best present they have ever had, and from what I hear I think it must be true. If I might make a suggestion, I should like to say that socks are one of the most needed things these days. A few days in the trenches wears them out. Then again, gloves, not mittens, are always required. Would you mind expressing my very best thanks to the ‘Women of Bedfordshire’ for their great kindness and forethought in providing the men of the battalion with so many comforts. You will only be able to realise how much they appreciate them when they come home and can speak for themselves.”

Thanks to the generosity of those who have subscribed to the Comforts Fund the Committee has also been able to proved the Bedfordshire Regiments with 1893 pairs of socks, 1321 pairs of mittens, 914 scarves, 535 body belts, 453 shirts, 50 housewives [3], 88 sleeping helmets, 24 pairs of kneecaps, 12 cardigans, 8 chest protectors, 4 thermos flasks, 31000 cigarettes, 6 gross of matches, toothbrushes, writing paper, peppermints, acid drops, tinder lighters, letter wallets, braces, boracic ointment and cold cream.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 15th January 1915


[1] Major William Henry Denne led the 2nd Battalion from November 1914 to January 1915. He was severely wounded at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle on 12th March 1915, where he won the Distinguished Service Order. He was sent to Queen Alexandra’s Hospital in Highgate where he remained for almost two years in constant pain. He finally died of his wounds on 21st February 1917 almost two years after he received them. He is buried at Brimpsfield in Gloucestershire. [Source: Bedfordshire Regiment: Officers Who Died Serving in the 2nd Battalion]

[2] The packages also included a pot of Vaseline and a cake of chocolate.

[3] A small sewing case.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Troops at Leighton Buzzard

Hockliffe Street Wesleyan Church, Leighton Buzzard [Z1306/72]

Tuesday 12th January 1915: A batch of new recruits for the 63rd Brigade have arrived at Leighton Buzzard from Lincoln.[1] To free up billets in the town for the new arrivals 362 men who are already well advanced in their training have been moved out to the villages of Stanbridge, Tilsworth and Eggington.

The Wesleyan Schoolroom in Hockliffe Street is being used by the troops for various purposes. On Sunday evenings a regular social hour is held there which is attended by a large number of soldiers. The bandsmen of the West Yorkshire Regiment practise in the Schoolroom and since last Friday it has also become the paymaster’s office. Thanks to a spell of wet weather it is even being used by the Somerset Regiment for drilling and signalling. On Sunday the services at the Wesleyan Church were conducted by the Wesleyan Chaplain to the 21st Division, Rev. G. H. Crossland, who is stationed at Aylesbury.

Across the road in the Hockliffe Street Baptist School Hall concerts were given for the soldiers on Wednesday and Thursday evenings. Wednesday’s entertainment had a popular theme while Thursday’s concert by the Church choir was more classical. The highlights were a solo with instrumental effects titled “The Bassoon” performed by Mr H. O. Kitchener, and renditions of “Your King and Country want you”, “You are my baby” and “On the Mississipi” by Miss Dulcie Griffin.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer and Linslade Gazette, 12th January 1915

[1] The 63rd Brigade was part of the 21st Division and was made up of the following battalions:
8th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment
8th Battalion Somerset Light Infantry
12th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment
4th Battalion Middlesex Regiment
10th Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment.
The Brigade arrived in France in September and first saw action at the Battle of Loos at the end of that month.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Bedford Man Survives Wreck of HMS Formidable

HMS Formidable (Wikimedia)

Monday 11th January 1915: A Bedford man was the last man to leave HMS Formidable before she sank off Portland Bill after being hit by two torpedoes in the early hours of New Year’s Day.[1] Alfred Joseph John Hart, the son of a railway porter at Bedford, joined the Navy four years ago aged 17 and was serving on Formidable as an officers’ steward. He has described how he survived the wreck:

“I was in my bunk when I was awakened by the dull boom of an explosion on the starboard side of the boat. I rushed on deck at once, and heard the order given for the boats to be got out. This was no easy task, for the vessel had listed considerably, and a heavy sea was running.”

“The boats were got away, and the occupants told to keep away from the ship for a time. The order was then given, ‘Every man for himself,’ and the crew were told to get pieces of wood or anything they could cling to when the vessel sank. All the boats had left the ship when the crew of one cried ‘Room for one more!’ Two of us tossed for it, and the other chap won, but he said ‘You have got parents; I haven’t. Go on, jump for it.’ I had to swim for it.”

“As the boats drew away we could see the crew striking matches to light their cigarettes and pipes. A piano had been pulled up on deck, and ragtime was being played to keep up the spirits of the men. There were about 60 of us in the boat I was in. The sea was very rough, and the cold was awful. The waves washed over us repeatedly and nearly swamped the boat, and we were constantly baling it out with boots or anything that would hold water. The coxswain was a good sort and did his best to cheer us up, and the men sang at times.”

“After a while we found ten of the crew were dead. Seven more died when in sight of land, and these were buried at Lyme Regis. I was unconscious when we landed, but  they told me afterwards that we touched shore between 12 and 1. We had been in the boat all day, nearly 20 hours.”

Source: Luton News, 14th January 1915

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Potton and the War

Bus in Market Square, Potton with men for Kitchener’s Army [Z1306/91/28/2]

Sunday 10th January 1915: The village of Potton has been taking stock as the war continues and has been warned to work on the assumption that it will last for at least another year. Three wounded men, John Manning[1] and William Manning of the West Kents and Bert Stonebridge of the Life Guards have been home convalescing during the last month. A number of Potton men are still serving at the Front; James Waldock, Joseph Payne and others are just going off to join them. Percy Richardson was taken prisoner at Ypres and has written from Munster in Westphalia, Prussia:

“I have been wounded and am in a German Hospital. I was hit in the thigh on October 30th and am getting better. You will see by the address that I am a prisoner of war. I should like all in Potton to see how we are treated by our own ambulance men, it will show you what they are. I hope the choir are getting on well and all at home”.

The village working party requires a good deal of financial help in order to carry on its work and intends to produce items a little less costly than flannel shirts. They have received grateful letters from men at the Front who have received shirts, socks and so on. Many say how much they appreciate that they are not forgotten by those at home. A letter of thanks has also been received from a Sister at the 1st Eastern Hospital, Cambridge:

“Allow me to thank you very much for the most useful garments which I have received for my patients. The poor wounded soldiers are delighted with the warm socks and jackets, and I have used the round pillow to prop up the leg of a dear Belgian boy, who has a severe shrapnel wound. We are most grateful for your help.”

Source: Potton Parish Magazine, January 1915  [P64/30/4]


[1] Lance-Corporal J. Manning of the 8th Battalion Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment, son of  Mrs E. Winters of The Orchard, Mill Road, Potton, was killed on 27th May 1917 aged 28 and is buried at the Railway Dugouts Burial Ground (Transport Farm) at Ieper in Belgium.