Wednesday, 30 September 2015

W.H. Allen’s Looks After Its Own


Bedfordshire Yeomanry Novelty Card, 1915 [Z1306/75/16/53]

Thursday 30th September 1915: Regular parcels are sent by the electrical department of Messrs. W. H. Allen’s factory in Bedford to former colleagues now serving at the Front. A letter of thanks was received today by Mr. A. Day of the dynamo shop from Trooper S. P. Keech of the Bedfordshire Yeomanry, the recipient of the most recent parcel. He writes:
“The things you sent are just A1, and they couldn’t have arrived at a better time. WE have started the big move which has been expected for such a long time, and we are doing splendidly all along the line. All the cavalry are taking part in it, and our division is at present in a wood behind the first line ready to push on at 30 minutes’ notice. The order may come at any moment for us to move; We have been on the road three days now, but most of our travelling has been done at night and resting in the day ti … We have just had the order to saddle up, so I must finish. I often think of you all in the old Dynamo Shop, and wish I was there but we must see it through now.”
Source: Bedfordshire Times 1st October 1915

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Road Rage at Toddington



Church Square, Toddington [Z1130/126/32]

Wednesday 29th September 1915: A Bedfordshire Yeomanry trooper from Toddington has been prosecuted for assaulting Ernest Duckling, the proprietor of the Great Northern Laundry at Dunstable. Mr. Duckling stated that he was a passenger in a motor van which passed a governess cart near Dropshort Farm on the road from Dunstable to Toddington. When they stopped further up the road Horace Fowler and his father drove up. The father complained that he had had to go on to the grass. The younger man said “Leave this to me” and struck Mr. Duckling several times in the face, giving him two black eyes and breaking a tooth. Fowler jumped into the governess cart and drove off, leaving his father behind. When asked who they were the father refused to tell him. Mr. Duckling followed the cart up the road and took hold of the horse’s head. Horace Fowler jumped down and assaulted him for a second time. He cried “murder” and a crowd gathered; he was then told that the man’s name was Fowler.

Horace Fowler said that Ernest Duckling had struck the first blow – Duckling denied this, saying that his arms had been full of parcels. George Pearson, chauffeur to Dr. Lathbury of Dunstable and the driver of the van, said he was driving that night as an act of friendship. They had passed the governess cart and stopped further on to deliver parcels. Fowler had struck Mr. Duckling in the face without a word being said. He reiterated that Mr. Duckling could not have struck Fowler as he was carrying parcels. Fowler suggested that Pearson was driving because Mr. Duckling had had too much to drink, but Pearson emphatically denied this.

Horace Fowler said he was on leave and had cycled from Olney to Toddington before driving to Dunstable and back with his parents. The motor car had passed them at a terrific pace. He shouted, his father pulled on the grass and the car just missed them. Near Mount Pleasant he got out to lead the pony; as he passed the motor car he asked Duckling if he wanted all the road. They had an altercation during which Duckling struck at him and grabbed the pony’s reins. He retaliated, although he admitted Duckling had got the worst of it. The pony escaped and he had to run after it. Duckling, who was under the influence of drink, followed him and again grabbed the pony. Ebenezer Fowler said that after he spoke to Duckling about driving too close, Duckling and his son “began to dance about the road”; his son merely retaliated when Duckling struck him. When Duckling shouted “murder” people thought it was because he was drunk.

The Bench were not convinced by the Fowlers’ evidence. Horace Fowler was fined £2 with the alternative of one month’s hard labour and was told that if he had not been in uniform he would have been sent to gaol.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard, 1st October 1915

Monday, 28 September 2015

Footballs for the Front



2nd Bn, Beds Regt vs. Depot Bn, Royal Engineers
Army Football Cup Final 1906,  [X550/1/105/1b]

Tuesday 28th September 1915: The Luton News has received a quick response to two requests it published last week asking for footballs to be sent to soldiers at the Front. On Friday morning a well-known local sportsman gave instructions for the purchase of two good balls, to be charged to his account. Another ball was received from Mrs. T. H. Dryden, which was sent to the “The Boys of the 2nd Siege Battery” of the Royal Garrison Artillery. While one of the footballs was being prepared for dispatch to Private W. S. Warren, a Lutonian at the Base Stationery Depot at Rouen, a lady telephoned to say that she had posted one to him in response to his appeal. The football was then sent to Driver W. Payne of the 121st Royal Garrison Artillery who had asked for one a fortnight ago.

Another appeal sent on behalf of “a few of the Local Lads” in the East Anglian Royal Engineers has been now received: “The local lads wish me to write to you to let you see that they often think of the dear old town, and also to let the people of Luton see that we are still cheerful and intend to keep up our spirits as far as we can. That is why I am writing to ask you if you could forward us a football to pass away the spare time after we have finished work. There are several chaps here who were in different teams in Luton.” The fourth football will soon be on its way to Gallipoli for these lads.

The Secretary of the Bedfordshire Football Association has suggested that local footballers could send subscriptions towards the cost of providing footballs for soldiers: “The many requests for footballs from local soldiers serving with the Colours, that have appeared in your paper, have led me to think that a united effort to supply the wants of these soldiers, by the footballers left behind, would be well in season. It is not every individual whose means will allow him to personally send out a ball, but I think there are many footballers who can and would be ready and willing to give a trifle towards such an object. If any gentlemen care to send along subscriptions I shall be quite ready to receive them, and to acknowledge them, with your permission, through the medium of your paper, and to arrange for the balls to be sent out.”

Source: Luton News, 30th September 1915

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Stolen Pears at Linslade



Former Court House, Wing Road, Linslade (2008)

Monday 27th September 1915: Two members of the Royal Field Artillery billeted in Linslade have appeared at the Linslade Petty Sessions charged with damaging with intent to steal pears worth five shillings. The pears were in the garden of Richard Rowe in Church Road and were all right on the evening of Saturday 11th September. On Sunday 12th Mr. Rowe found thirty pears on the ground and the boughs broken. P.C. Hillsden said that at 2.40 a.m. on the Sunday morning he had heard some rustling in the trees over a six-foot wall. After he blew his whistle Thomas Meachin came over the wall and said he had only been for a walk. Meachin later admitted that he had been after the pears and gave some he had taken to the policeman. The second soldier, William Brunt, came over an adjoining fence but had no pears in his possession. The soldiers’ officer said that the two men had been on duty at the orderly room that night and had been confined to barracks for seven days for neglect of duty. They were ordered by the court to pay five shillings each, but no conviction was recorded.

Source: Luton News, 30th September 1915

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Volunteer Training at Dunstable



Bedfordshire Voluntary Training Corps, 1915 [Z1306/12/4]

Sunday 26th September 1915: Dunstable does not yet have a Volunteer Training Corps of its own, but 30 members of the local detachment have been attending drills on the Grammar School cricket ground on Sunday mornings, and classes at the Church Street drill hall on week nights where they have been learning about guard-mounting, outpost work, and military theory. The men are learning how to use a rifle and are hoping shortly to obtain the use of a miniature rifle range. A smoking concert was held last Monday at which a further dozen recruits were obtained.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 28th September 1915

Friday, 25 September 2015

Escaped Prisoners Presented to the King



Sergeant Alfred Birley with his son Peter

Saturday 25th March 1915: Sergeant Alfred Birley of Victoria Road, Bedford arrived home most unexpectedly on Thursday evening after escaping from Germany. He had been held as a prisoner-of-war since 29th October 1914 when he was captured at Ypres while trying to retake a lost trench. He was able to make his escape with a comrade, Private Haworth of the Coldstream Guards, who was previously a policeman in Lancashire. Unfortunately the most exciting parts of the story must remain secret for the time being as they have been forbidden to disclose the details of their adventures by the War Office. If the article which appeared in Wednesday’s Daily Chronicle is correct the two men cut through the barbed wire around the camp and walked to Holland, living for three days on nothing but apples.

Sergeant Birley has been able to tell his story to no less a person than His Majesty King George V. On Friday he received the news that he and his comrade were to be presented to the King; the Sergeant and his wife travelled to London today for that purpose. He was delighted with the interest that the King took in his adventures, saying: “I was much surprised at the way in which his Majesty put us at our ease. It was just like chatting with a friend. He congratulated us on the success of our venture, and showed by his conversation that he took a keen personal interest in the welfare of the British prisoners in Germany … Every now and then the King slipped in a quiet question, or broke out with a jolly laugh at some of the funny things. He really seemed to appreciate the sport of the thing.” His decision to escape was spurred by the news that his brother, who is a dispatch rider in France, had been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, following which he thought “Well, if he could do that I’m going to do something”.

Sergeant Birley served in the Army for some years and spent time in South Africa. He was a reservist when the war broke out and immediately rejoined the 1st Gloucestershire Regiment. Although he is a native of Lancashire, the town of Bedford can almost claim him as one of its own. His wife is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. George Gibbs, of Victoria Road, and both he and his sisters have lived in Bedford. He has two sisters who have been teachers in the town, including the Miss Birley wo was formerly Head Mistress of the Priory Street Infants’ School. It is believed that Sergeant Birley will be speaking at a recruiting demonstration in Luton next Saturday.

Source: Luton News, 30th September 1915; Bedfordshire Times 1 October 1915

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Recipes of the Week



Bloaters on a Piece of Yellow Paper, Van Gogh (Wikimedia)

Friday 24th September 1915: Local housewives looking for inspiration in the kitchen may like to make use of the following recipes:

Tomato Rolls: Remove the skins and cores of six large tomatoes and mash with a fork. Add a few spoonfuls of minced ham, onion, and a little seasoning, the crumb of a stale roll dipped in milk, a few drops of tarragon vinegar, and the yolk of an egg, and mix well together. Then shape the mixture into rolls, dip into egg, roll in crumbs and cheese mixed, and fry in fat crisp and brown. Garnish with fried parsley.

Stewed Vegetable Marrow: Chop finely an onion of medium size, cook it very slowly in a little butter or fat in a saucepan until nicely browned, then add a roughly cut-up marrow. Cover and cook very gently for a good half-hour, or until the marrow is soft enough to be mashed with a wooden spoon. Stir in fine breadcrumbs until its consistence resembles that of mashed potato, and season to taste. Cold marrow may be reheated in this way, or marrow that breaks when over-boiled may be strained and finished off as directed.

Bloater Fillets: Skin two large bloaters, split them down the back, remove the fillets from the bones, place on a gridiron over or before the fire, and broil until nearly tender, dipping them first in oiled butter and then in grated Parmesan cheese. Have ready some neatly-cut slices of hot buttered toast, place a fillet on each, sprinkle with a few fried breadcrumbs, and put in a very hot oven for a few minutes.

Source: Bedfordshire Times, 24th September 1915

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Escaped German Prisoners




Lieutenant Otto Thelen

Thursday 23rd September 1915: The people of Bedfordshire have been asked to keep their eye out for two German officers who escaped from Donington Hall near Leicester last weekend. It is believed that they left Derby on a Midland train heading south. A £100 reward has been offered for information which may lead to their arrest.[1] The two men are described as follows:

Otto Thelen, German Flying Corps: age 25, height 5ft 5in, stiff build, weather-beaten features, somewhat sallow complexion, grey eyes, fair hair (blonde), prominent scar in left part of forehead caused by a burn, clean shaven, believed wearing knickers and stockings, or grayish trousers, speaks English with a foreign accent.

Hans Keilhack, Naval Ober Lieutenant: age 23 years, height 5ft 10in, stiff build, black hair, very large piercing blue eyes, prominent cheek bones, finger missing from one hand, clean shaven, believed wearing knickers and stockings speaks English with a foreign accent.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard, 24th September 1915


[1] The two men were arrested at Chatham on September 23rd. Lt. Otto Thelen proved a persistent escapee; in September 1917 he made a fourth bid for freedom [Source: Daily Mirror 27 Sept 1917]

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Disgraceful Scenes at Leagrave



High Street, Leagrave 1914 [Z1306/75/12/3]

Wednesday 22nd September 1915: Complaints have been made of “disgraceful scenes” at Leagrave as a result of the National Reservists stationed there enjoying themselves outdoors on a Sunday afternoon. More generous spirits have pointed out that it would be better if the complainers used their influence to provide better facilities for the men stationed at Leagrave, such as a reading room and opportunities for games. They are there to guard the premises and business of people engaged in war work and making war profits, and those firms should make better provision for the men’s comfort.

The seventy men based at Leagrave are a mix of old soldiers, militia, and old Volunteers. One-third are on duty at any time, leaving 40 or more off duty. As they have to answer a roll call every night they are unable to get far away from the village. They are billeted in houses where there is little space and the men have to find somewhere to pass their time. Many are driven to spend time in the pub because there are no alternatives. The Reservists are mostly “elderly men who have knocked about the world” and would quite reasonably resent any restrictions on their conduct.

Source: Luton News, 16th and 23rd September 1915

Monday, 21 September 2015

Bedford Man Wounded at Gallipoli



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

Tuesday 21st September 1915: Sergeant Arthur “Tich” Lancaster of the East Anglian Royal Engineers, a prominent member of the South End Club in Bedford[1], was wounded taking part in the new landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula. He has written to his friend Mr. E. Thompson from a hospital in Malta:

“I was ‘winged’ on the 1st September. We were putting up wire in front of the Indian trenches at the time. We had one chap laid out as soon as we started, but we got the job finished all right, and I was just getting back into the trench when a bullet broke my leg just above the ankle. We were all lucky to get back alive, as we were only about 200 yards from the Turks. I had a rough journey down to the base; it was about five miles through the trenches, but I got there all right. I was in a hospital ship for four days, and was then sent on here. I think my leg is going on all right now, but it has been bad. The doctors were afraid I should lose my foot, but they cut my leg about and put tubes in it, so I think the worst is over – at least I hope so. This is a very nice hospital, and we are looked after well; I can lie in bed and look out to sea. I have been on milk diet until today, now I am on chicken.”

Source: Bedfordshire Standard, 24th September 1915

[1] Bedfordshire and Luton Archives holds records for the Southend Working Men’s Club from 1919-1979 [reference Z1160]

[2] Arthur Alfred Lancaster had joined the East Anglian Royal Engineers in 1908. He army service record notes “wounded in action, compound fracture left leg” and he was repatriated on 31st October 1915. He recovered sufficiently to continue in the army and was re-engaged for four years in April 1916. However his discharge record in 1919 recorded that he suffered from 50% disablement due to leg and eye injuries.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

A Near-Miss in Bedford



Diemer and Reynolds printing works, Midland Road 
during flood of April 1908 [Z1306/10/41/7]

Monday 20th September 1915: A near-miss took place in Bedford this morning which could easily have led to tragedy. A large Army motor transport heading in the direction of the station turned right from Gwyn Street[1] into Midland Road into the path of a powerful motor car driving fast in the direction of the High Street. The driver averted a collision by swerving to the right, mounting the footpath near Messrs. Diemer and Reynolds’ printing works, drove round a street lamp, returned to the middle of the road and continued without stopping or reducing his speed. Fortunately there were no pedestrians on that part of the pavement, although there were many people nearby and a good number of vehicles on the road. The army driver braked so violently that several yards of tar-macadam on the road was damaged. That no accident took place and that nobody was injured or killed is a piece of extraordinary good fortune.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard, 24th September 1915


[1] Most of Gwyn Street, which originally ran from Bromham Road to Midland Road, has since been demolished.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Memorial Services Held at Dunstable



Priory Church, Dunstable 1914 [Z1130/36/51]

Sunday 19th September 1915: Memorial services were being held today for the fifteen Dunstable men who have laid down their lives for their country in this war. Choral Eucharist at the Priory Church this morning was attended by the Dunstable detachment of the Volunteer Corps along with many other soldiers. Before evensong a half-muffled peal was rung. Canon W.W.C. Baker read the list of the fallen which included the name of his own son, Charles Tanqueray Baker. Special prayers were said for all those fighting and for the relatives of the fallen. Chopin’s Funeral march was played by Mr. Harold Deacon, followed by the Last Post and the National Anthem. The names of Dunstable’s fifteen heroes are:
  • Charles Tanqueray Baker
  • Murray Stuart Benning
  • John Brown
  • James Clarke
  • Walter Duncombe
  • George Finch
  • Arthur Gates
  • Percy Ives
  • Alfred Rollings
  • Healey Seabrook
  • Herbert Sharp
  • Frederick E. Smith
  • Herbert Stratton
  • Geoffrey Tearle
  • Alfred Lonsdale Warren
Source: Luton News, 23rd September 1915

Friday, 18 September 2015

Luton Men Absent Without Leave



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

Saturday 18th September 1915: Two soldiers who went absent without leave have been remanded at the Luton Borough Sessions to await an escort back to their units. Private Sidney Taylor was found in bed at his house in Hitchin Road last night. He had been absent for two days from the Duke of Bedford’s training camp at Ampthill. Private Taylor told the police that he “met an old chum and got on the booze”. He admitted this to the court and said he would go back with a good heart.

Frederick Baker of the 6th Royal Fusiliers had been found at 15, King’s Road. He admitted being an absentee, having failed to return after six days’ leave a fortnight ago. He told the court he had been ill since – he had suffered a nervous breakdown and had something wrong with his side. The Clerk told him “You don’t look well at the present moment”. Baker said the doctor had said he was not in a fit state to go back, but as there was no medical evidence presented the Bench remanded him to await an escort.

Source: Luton News, 23 September 1915

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Fatal Accident to Dispatch Rider



Swan Hotel, Leighton Buzzard c.1885 [Z1130/72]

Friday 17th September 1915: An inquest at Houghton Regis heard today of the death of Acting Sergeant Thomas J. W. Hubbard of the Royal Engineers following an accident at Leedon on Wednesday night. Sergeant Hubbard had attended a party at the Swan Hotel, Leighton Buzzard at which the Signals Section had been the guests of their commanding officer Captain Howe and his wife. As he returned to Houghton Regis a tyre came off his motorcycle and he was thrown onto his head, receiving fatal injuries. Dr. Kenneth John Aveling of the Royal Army Medical Corps said he was called to the V.A.D. Hospital at about 10.30pm on Wednesday and found Sergeant Hubbard in bed suffering from pressure on the brain resulting from a haemorrhage caused by a skull fracture. It was a hopeless case and the patient died the next morning.

Quartermaster Sergeant Instructor James Finmore, R.E. described how dinner at the Swan had been followed by a concert at which Sergeant Hubbard had sung “Cheery-O”. The men had been taken to and from the party on motor lorries, with the exception of those who had their own machines and the Sergeants. As he returned to Houghton Regis about a mile from Leighton he saw Sergeant Lefevre off his machine; he stopped and found Sergeant Hubbard lying unconscious beside the road. The injured man was placed on the second lorry which was standing by and taken to Houghton. Sergeant Hubbard knew the road quite well and was perfectly sober. Sergeant John Lefevre said Sergeant Hubbard had passed him on the way from Leighton; some way further on he came across the man and his bicycle in the road. He spoke to Hubbard and shook him gently but got no response, so he made him as comfortable as possible. He believed Sergeant Hubbard’s light went out as he was approaching the corner and with the thick dust of the road and the tyre coming off it was impossible to control the machine.

Police Inspector W. G. Purser had examined the road at the accident spot. In the thick dust he could see the track of a motor cycle which had lost a tyre. The bends in the road were not dangerous and Sergeant Hubbard had passed both. A verdict of “Accidental Death” was returned. The dead man was 31 years old and had previously  ridden professionally for the B.S.A. Co. He leaves a widow and three children at West Ham.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 21 September 1915

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

More Casualties for Henlow



Henlow War Memorial, 1930s [Z1130/58/10]

Thursday 16th September 1915: Since our update in March another six Henlow men have lost their lives, making a total of ten over this past year of war:

  • Private Edward Vine RNVR, age 34, died at the Dardenelles fighting with the Deal Division of the Royal Marine Light Infanty. His death was reported here in July. He leaves a widow, Ethel Dorothy Vine, of Merton, London.
  • Private Wilfred Field of the 1st Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment was killed in action with the 1st Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment on 6th April 1915.
  • Private Wilfred Vine, age 19, was killed serving with the Bedfords on 20th April 1915. He was the son of Mrs W Vine of Henlow.
  • Lance-Corporal Horace John Taylor, age 18, was killed on 3rd May 1915 while serving with the 1st Battalion of the Hertfordshire Regiment. A native of Henlow, his parents Edward and Mary Ellen Taylor now live at Letchworth.
  • Private John Turner appears on the Henlow War Memorial, but nothing more is known of his war service or where he died.
  • Private Jesse Wilfred Vine RNVR of the Chatham Division of the R.N. Division Royal Marine Light Infantry, age 26, died in Turkey on the 13th July 1915. He was the son of Ellen Vine of “Thenioux”, Arlesey Road, Henlow, and the late Frank Vine. He leaves a widow, Valentine Vine of Thenioux, Cher, France.
The two Belgian refugees who have been dependant on the parish have now found work at the munitions factory at Letchworth. As they are now in a position to provide for their own families subscriptions for their support are no longer being collected. Any balance left in the fund will be given to help the Belgians begin new lives when they are able to return home.

An appeal has been made through the parish magazine for people to exercise thrift, as by spending less they will help to keep prices down. Also by saving they will be able to lend to the Country and support the war effort. War Stock Certificates and Vouchers can be bought at the local Post Office. The Certificates are available in £5 units, and the Vouchers are five shillings.

Source: Henlow Parish Magazine, September 1915 [X381/3]

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Letters Home from Gallipoli



Scenery near Suvla Bay

Wednesday 15th September 1915: Sergeant Maurice Taylor Wood of Biggleswade has written home to his parents from Gallipoli, where he is serving with the 1/5th Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment. He tells them:

“I am living an open air life entirely. It seemed strange at first lying down to sleep at night on the ground and gazing up into the starlit heavens. At the present time we are camped right on the sea shore. The sea is within 15 yards of my feet and reminds me very much of Lowestoft. We are allowed to bathe before 8.00 a.m. and after 5.00 p.m. Of course we are allowed to wash and also to wash our clothes at any time. It is still very warm out here, but we are becoming accustomed to it. The nights, however, are a little chilly.”

He is optimistic that the Gallipoli campaign will not last much longer and was grateful to have received some bread the previous day, “the first bit for over a fortnight”. They had also been served Maconochie’s Army Rations which “are splendid as they contain several different kinds of vegetables … I also hear a rumour that fresh meat is also on the board”. He had been speaking to “a few old Biggleswade boys” and was sorry to report that three had been wounded.

Two Shefford men have also been wounded and are now recovering on hospital ships. Private Charles E. Dukes of Shefford has written to his mother that he was hit by a piece of shrapnel in the leg, but expects to return to the firing-line in a week or two. He says that the Turks have the advantage of knowing the country very well and of many deadly snipers, but that when they see the British bayonets, “they run as though they were racing in the Olympic Games”. The other Shefford casualty, Private Hubert Harris, was struck on the back of the head with a piece of shrapnel. He was fired on repeatedly as he crawled from the firing-line. A bullet hit him near the heart, but struck a metal cigarette case which had been given to him as a gift by the lady of the house where he was last billeted. The bullet then struck some books and papers in his pocket and was again deflected, leaving him with only a slight graze.

Source: Biggleswade Chronicle 17th September 1915

Monday, 14 September 2015

Flag Day for Wounded Horses



Scottish horse riding through Cople, 1914 [Z68/1]

Tuesday 14th September 1915: A flag day is being held in Leighton Buzzard today in aid of the R.S.P.C.A. fund for wounded horses. The committee is asking the public to “Buy a flag and help a horse”. It is said that 85% of horses treated in R.S.P.C.A. hospitals will be cured. Those who contribute can therefore do so in the assurance that their money will be well spent both in preventing suffering and in helping our forces. This is the only fund of its type recognised by the Army Council and carries out work of national importance.  

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 14 September 1915

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Anti-German Rioting at Flitwick



The Avenue, Flitwick, c.1900-1920 [Z50/50/41]

Monday 13th September 1915: Anti-German rioting broke out in Flitwick last night when a group of soldiers from Bedford raided a house in The Avenue occupied by Mrs Knüttel (or Nuttall) and her son, who is said to be of German descent. Mrs Nuttall’s husband had lived in the area for eighteen years but was sent to the Three Counties Asylum last December suffering from general paralysis of the brain[1]. Since then his twenty-two year old son has taken on the responsibility of his father’s business.

Yesterday evening’s events may be a consequence of a paragraph printed in a weekly journal which questioned the loyalty of Mrs. Nuttall and her son. About twenty soldiers arrived in Flitwick from Bedford as the villagers were returning from Church and made their way to Avenue House as Mrs. Nuttall was alone in the house preparing supper. With ribald songs and curses the men challenged the occupants to come out then began to throw stones through the windows. Mrs Nuttall went upstairs and from a bedroom window begged “Please leave me alone. I have been eighteen years naturalised and there is nobody in the house but me”. Her pleas were ignored and heavy boulders were hurled through the windows. As she went downstairs a stone flew through the glass door, broke the hall lamp and narrowly missed her head.

As Mrs. Nuttall hid in the dark cellar the rioters forced open the door and demolished a cake left on the dining room table, while leaving the bread and butter untouched. A crowd gathered and the local policeman arrived. A gentleman who tried to restore order was challenged to fight. There were cries of “We don’t want the Germans here!” and “Where are the Germans? Fetch ‘em out!” punctuated by the sound of breaking glass. P.C. Gaylor eventually managed to get the men away from the house and found Mrs. Nuttall in a state of collapse. She was taken to a neighbour’s house and then with her son to spend the night with a relative. After the event thirty heavy boulders were collected from the rooms, almost every pane of glass was smashed, and furniture and flower pots were damaged.

Mrs. Nuttall was born in Germany but has lived in England since she was a girl and was naturalised when she came to Flitwick. She says she can only assume the attack was the result of the magazine article and has placed the matter in the hands of her solicitor. Her son was born in London, attended Bedford Modern School and has no connection with Germany. She felt it most un-English to be treated this way by strangers, but was thankful for the sympathy of her neighbours and the other residents of Flitwick.

Source: Luton News, 16 September 1915

Saturday, 12 September 2015

If a Shell Comes - It Comes!



Royal Garrison Artillery 9.2 inch Howitzer, 1917 [Wikimedia]

Sunday 12th September 1915: Luton Modern School Old Boy 2nd Lieutenant Claude. G. Hyde of the Royal Garrison Artillery has written describing his work at the Front and the routine courage of his men:

“I have a battery of Trench Mortars and consequently belong to the far-famed “suicide club” or “trench mortuary” brigade as we are called out here. I suppose we have been given these names on account of the pulverising we get from the Bosch whenever we fire, but from all I have seen it is the infantry who get the reprisals. We fire our designated number of rounds and then clear out. … At present I have my guns trained on a wood which affords cover for innumerable German machine guns and “Minenwerfer” and they are evidently getting rather uncomfortable. Our mortars fire two kinds of bombs – an 18lb bomb for long ranges and a 33lb bomb for short ranges. They do a lot of damage. When the heavy guns in the rear bombard the German lines we take up the tune and play on their barbed wire entanglements. It is jolly fine sport, spotting and putting out their machine guns and blowing up their saps. But the Germans are most conscientious workers. It does not matter what damage is done to their works, they always begin repairing them at night, keeping on until we drop a bomb amongst them as a sort of gentle hint to discontinue their labours and to retire to rest.”

“Every Tommy out here is essentially a “fatalist”. If a shell comes – it comes! And if your name and number are written on it, it will catch you wherever you are. This is their creed and it seems to be pretty sound, considering the marvellous escapes of some and the unlucky accidents to others, and it perhaps accounts for the extraordinary deeds that one sees done practically everyday, the most dangerous work being carried through in the most cool and nonchalant manner. People at home do not realise the adventurous existence of the British Tommy out here.”[1]

Source: Luton Modern School Magazine, December 1915


[1] 2nd Lt. Hyde was subsequently wounded at the Battle of Loos, but was able to return to active service before the end of the year. 

Friday, 11 September 2015

Life-Saving Display at Bedford



River and promenade, Bedford c.1910 [Z1306/9]

Saturday 11th September 1915:  An interesting life-saving display was given on the River Ouse in Bedford this afternoon, watched by crowds along the Embankment and the Mill Meadow bank. A demonstration of “Boddy” life-jackets and waistcoats was given by a representative of the firm, followed by a display of trick swimming and diving by Miss E. Finney. A soldier volunteered to test out a life-jacket and emerged safely from the water to loud cheers from the crowd. Whereas life-jackets were previously made using cork these new models are made of kapok, a vegetable fibre from the seed pods of the kapok tree, and reindeer hair. Kapok has five times the buoyancy of cork making it possible to reduce the bulk of live-saving appliances.

Models demonstrated included the No.1 jacket as supplied to the Lusitania, a necessity for ocean travel which will allow a person thrown into the water to float even if unconscious; the Naval waistcoat, less bulky than the No.1 but with the same properties; the khaki waistcoat can be worn almost invisibly under a coat, but will still support even the heaviest person. A swimming vest is also available which allows an adult non-swimmer to enter water safely and learn to swim. “Boddy” life-jackets are available from Boots the Chemists at 19, Silver Street, Bedford.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard, 17th September 1915

Thursday, 10 September 2015

The Luton Hat Trade



Milliner's Shop, Bedford 1906 [Z1306/10/8/2]

Friday 10th September 1915: The straw boater trade which is so important to Luton usually undergoes a slack spell between June to September, but the poor market of the past year has meant the usual optimism with which the manufacturers look forward to the next year’s trade is missing. The best that can be said is that those in the trade are facing the future with “grim determination”. Large orders for straw foundationed helmets of a design like that of the pith sun helmets supplied to troops in India have provided some relief. These are being supplied to troops fighting in the Near East, including the men of the 1/5th Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment at Gallipoli. Bleachers have been forced to raise their prices due to the rapid increase in the cost of dyes. The lack of trade means that the bleachers and dyers are also feeling the pinch, although those houses which combine a felt trade with their dyeing and bleaching departments are doing rather better.

Some “fussy busybodies” have recommended that women should be more thrifty and wear less dressy hats, suggesting that if – like men - they adopt a standard style there would be considerable savings in the number of hats needed. If this was to be widely adopted the hat industry would receive a ruinous blow, inflicted on top of the difficulties caused by war conditions. While the need for economy is understood, to economise on articles which are produced by the employment of so many women and which provides a livelihood for so many would defeat the object. With the loss of trade in men’s hats as so many have enlisted in the army the trade in women’s hats has become vital to the industry. Although the demand for straw hats is low, autumn is expected to see an increase in trade in felts, velours and velveteens. The bright sunshine enjoyed in September so far is creating a demand for white felts to complement the fashionable white costumes. Predictions for the leading styles for next spring include modified sailor hats with varied styles of brim.

The changing fashions make it necessary for employees to be more flexible. Those who have spent many years using the same machinery and are reluctant to try other work are finding it difficult to secure employment. It is likely that machine work will only be available seasonally. The lack of demand for straw plait on the continent, together with changing tastes at home have resulted in a great surplus of raw materials, which are now filling the store rooms at the Luton railway stations.

Source: Luton News, 9th and 16th September 1915

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

A Mandolin for the Brave Bedfords



Gibson F4 Mandolin, 1916 [Wikimedia]

Thursday 9th September 1915: An appeal was published in last week’s Bedfordshire Times from Sergeant A. V. Woods of C Company of the 2nd Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment asking “Have any of your readers a mandolin they could spare for the boys out here? It would be a real pleasure for them, as several of them can play. I know how often the appeal comes, yet I feel sure that someone will do their best for us, and secure, if possible, the desired instrument.” Three generous Bedford girls have responded to the appeal and sent a mandoline to Sergeant Woods. The label attached to the instrument reads “May this bring pleasure and real good luck to our brave Bedfords. From Dorothy, Ruby and Nora Hartup, 6, Argyll Street, Bedford”[1]. A grateful SergeaAnt Woods has replied, “I would like in some way to try and thank you, but really I feel no words of mine can in any way express to you all I would say. Of one thing you may be proud, and that is that you will be giving to lads at the front many happy hours. Your gift is kindness itself.”

Source: Bedfordshire Times, 3 September and 10 September 1915

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Luton Widow Loses a Third Son



Private Benjamin Tuffnell

Wednesday 8th September 1915: Elderly widow Mrs. Ann Tuffnell of York Street, Luton, has suffered the loss of a third son, two of them casualties of the war. Her husband Staff-Sergeant William Tuffnell was an old soldier who had served for some considerable time abroad, mainly in Gibraltar. He died nearly thirty years ago leaving her to raise a family of one daughter and seven sons alone. Her sixth son George was killed at the age of just 18 in a tragic accident at work on Christmas Eve 1902, when he was crushed by a steam crane at Messrs. Hayward Tyler’s iron foundry.

At the outbreak of war Mrs. Tuffnell’s fourth son, Harry, was a reservist working at Commercial Cars Ltd. He had served three years with the 1st Bedfords, winning two medals for his actions during the Boer War, and nine years with the reserves. Called up when the war began, he was wounded in the early fighting. After a month in hospital at Cork and some time recuperating at home he returned to the Front just before Christmas 1914. He was reported missing after the battle of Hill 60 and although his mother has received no official notification of his death there can be little doubt that he has been killed.[1]

Now Mrs. Tuffnell has suffered the terrible blow of losing her youngest son. Private Benjamin Tuffnell was a blocker employed by Carruthers Ltd. when he enlisted in the 1/5th Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment last September. He went to Gallipoli as orderly to Captain Rawlings, who was also wounded. The first Mrs. Tuffnell heard of her son’s death was a letter from another Luton man, Private Soper of Boyle Street, news which has since been confirmed by the War Office and in a letter from an officer. Lieutenant Nicholas wrote “We went into action on Sunday last and he was with me until he was hit, and Mr. Rawlings, whose servant he was, was also with me. We did all we could for him, and I think that he died under no pain. He was wonderfully cool and brave under fire and behaved just like a true British soldier that he was. More I cannot say – I am too deeply grieved.”

Three other Tuffnell brothers are still serving in the forces. The eldest, Private Frederick Tuffnell, is a Home Guard at Luton; Private Owen Tuffnell, a Militia man, is in the Home Guard at Sharnbrook; and 30 year old Private Alfred Tuffnell is in the trenches in France with the 7th Bedfords.[2]

Source: Luton News, 10th September 1915

[1] Private Henry Tuffnell was killed on 21st April 1915. His body was subsequently recovered and he is buried at Oostaverne Wood Cemetery.

[2] This terrible year for the Tuffnell family also saw the death of Alfred on 4th November 1915.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Bedford's First Girl Guide Camp



Girl Guide group, c.1915 [Z1176/5]

Tuesday 7th September 1915: Bedford’s Girl Guides have returned from their first camp, held in a field at Biddenham from Saturday 4th to Monday 6th September. Due to the war conditions it was decided it would be better for the girls to march out and back each day rather than to sleep out. It was a small camp with just 17 girls and three officers. They were fortunate to have good weather for all three days and thoroughly enjoyed the outdoor life. Their daily timetable was:
  • 7 a.m. - Parade
  • 7.30 a.m. – Arrive at camp; six cooks, the rest put up tents
  • 8.20 a.m. – Breakfast
  • 9.00 a.m. – Cooks wash up, rest tidy camp
  • 9.45 a.m. – Drill
  • 10.45 a.m. – fetch provisions from village
  • 10.55 a.m. – Lunch
  • 11.00 a.m. – Ambulance
  • 11.30 a.m. – Signallying
  • 1.00 p.m. – Dinner
  • 2.00 p.m. – Rest
  • 2.45 p.m. – Signalling
  • 3.15 p.m. – Inspection by Commissioner
  • 3.45 p.m. – Games
  • 4.30 p.m. – Tea
  • 5.15 p.m. – Clear up camp and rest
  • 6.00 p.m. – Porridge and milk
  • 6.30 p.m. – March home

On Sunday the programme was changed to include a Church parade and afternoon bathing. An incident on their march home shows the need for explanation of the usefulness of the Guides’ training. A well dressed women passed the Guides on the Bromham Road, stopped and said loudly, “Did you ever see such fools?” Not only where the girls offended by this remark, they were also astonished that anyone could be so ignorant of what their uniform stands for and of the work they do.

The numbers for this camp were small due to short notice. Now that a beginning has been made to Guide camps in Bedford it is hoped that a large scale camp will take place next summer with the 150 Bedford Guides joined by girls from the surrounding villages where Guide companies are being started.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard, 10th September 1915

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Soldier Cashes Fraudulent Cheque at Linslade



St. Barnabas Church and recreation ground, Linslade c.1906 [Z50/74/1]

Monday 6th September 1915: At Linslade Petty Sessions this morning Private Arthur Basil Bradney of the 16th Service Battlion of the Middlesex Regiment was committed for trial at the Buckinghamshire Assizes next month on a charge of false pretences in cashing a fraudulent cheque at the Hunt Hotel in June. The hotel proprietor, Mr John Holmes was approached by Bradney in the paddock adjoining Bossington House on 15th June. Bradney told Mr. Holmes he was staying at the house and was a great friend of the occupants, the Jacksons. Holmes agreed to cash a £5 cheque for him and did so later the same day at the hotel. The cheque was subsequently returned by the bank marked “No account”.

Mrs. Alice Mary Jackson of Bossington House said that she had met Bradney at Broadstairs about four years ago. On June 15th he came to her house in uniform saying he was on leave and had come to see her. He stayed for tea and dinner and left before 10 o’clock. At one point he had been left alone in the morning room, where her cheque book was either in a drawer or on the blotting pad. A few days later she received a communication from the bank and discovered that the cheque produced in court had been taken out, along with the counterfoil. Before leaving the house Bradney had left her his name and address on an envelope. Nurse E. M. Swaine, who was employed by Mrs. Jackson said that the next she had met Bradney in Leighton Buzzard and he had returned to Bossington House with her for lunch. He was again left alone in the morning room for a short time. When he left in the afternoon she had accompanied him as far as the Hunt Hotel. The National Provincial Bank, Piccadilly, stated the bank had no account in his name.

Sources: Leighton Buzzard Observer 7 September 1915; Luton News 9 September 1915

Saturday, 5 September 2015

No Strikes in France



St. John's Street, Biggleswade with church on left, c.1905 [Z1306/16/17/2]

Sunday 5th September 1915: The Reverend Edmund Gatty, a former curate at St. John’s Church, Biggleswade[1], has been out in France for three months driving his car for the Red Cross. He has described the work he has been doing and given some of his impressions of the country to the Bedfordshire Express:

“The mothers and wives and daughters with amazing ability, have assumed full charge of the men’s work in the background. You see them everywhere – working the farms and the factories, doing heavy manual labour, most of them stricken with grief and anxiety, sparing nothing, shirking nothing, to keep things goings. It is their pride to be able to send their men-folk money at the front, and gifts, for there is only nominal pay – for the men in the trenches a halfpenny a day and a totally inadequate separation allowance. There are no strikes in France, and no desire to strike. I never felt so ashamed as when Frenchmen asked me how they were possible in England. All are trying as hard as they can to do their very best possible for their beloved country.”

“Of our own work, 30 cars and 55 men carried 18,000 wounded and sick in three months. The highest number in twenty-four hours was 1,001. We carried them direct from the field ambulance stations, which are about half a mile behind the trenches, to the distributing stations about eight miles back, and thence to different hospitals. One lived in an uproar of traffic and guns, which practically never ceased, but one became entirely accustomed to it, as one did to ghastly sights and risks of infection from nearly every known disease. We were incorporated for the time in the French Army, drawing their rations and pay, and under their discipline.”

Source: Biggleswade Chronicle, 10 September 1915


[1] The Reverend Percival Edmund Gatty (1866-1937) was the vicar of Offley (Herts) from 1900-1925. He was also known as Edmund Percival.