Thursday, 28 May 2015

Recruiting Sergeant Needs His Eyes Tested

Leighton Buzzard Town Hall, c.1895 [Z1306/72]

Friday 28th May 1915: The recruiting march of the 2/5th Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment visited Leighton Buzzard this week. The marchers arrived on Wednesday, were billeted in the town that night and left yesterday morning. Their attempts to recruit in Leighton had some light-hearted moments. One recruiting sergeant picked out a likely looking man and asked him to enlist. The man professed himself willing and they set off together to the Town Hall. Unfortunately the sergeant had failed to notice that his recruit had only one arm! Fortunately he saw the funny side and suggested the man take him to the doctor to have his eyesight tested. As he said, “if I can’t see how many limbs a man has got I’m no good for recruiting.”

The recruiters were bemused when Mr Joseph Elliott of Grove Road appeared at the Corn Exchange asking to enlist. He was most disappointed to be turned down, despite having reached the age of 74! Mr. Elliott is convinced that he could be useful in the war. He told the Luton News that “everybody who is fit and willing should be accepted, irrespective of age. Although I am over 70, I would go if they would take me, as I am absolutely fit, and I think I could learn to drive a motor in a very short time”. Unfortunately for Mr. Elliott, the maximum age at which anyone can be accepted even for non-combatant service is 63. The would-be recruit spent twenty years in South Africa, where he took part in the Boer War about which he says “we had £1 a day for that, and good food and two drinks”. He also spent three years driving express goods trains between London and Crewe.

Source: Luton News, 27th May 1915 and 3rd June 1915

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