Monday, 29 February 2016

Complaint Made Against German Teacher



Modern School, Bedford c.1910-1920 [Z1130/9/2/2/1]

Tuesday 29th February 1916: During an outburst of anti-German feeling in Bedford last May, moves were made to have Dr. M. L. de la Motte Tischbrock,  the naturalised German teacher at Bedford Modern School removed from his post, despite the protestations of the headmaster Mr. Kaye and the support of his pupils. To the annoyance of Mr. Kaye, information has now been deposited with the military authorities against the teacher. He writes with feeling to the informer:
“My dear Bradly[1]. To my intense surprise I have been officially informed that you have “laid an information” against Dr. Tischbrock to the military authorities here. I cannot conceive why, if you thought the information worth givein at all, you did not give it 18 months ago, nor why you have done it without a word to me. I have had a most difficult and delicate position in the matter, and this “evidence” ought to have been dealt with – whatever view one takes of it – at the beginning of the war, or at latest when the question of Dr. Tischbrock’s position, like that of other aliens, was first raised. Raising it now is to me inexplicable, but it certainly does not make the situation easier for me.”
Mr. Kaye has been asked by an officer of the 68th (Welsh) Division, now based in Bedford, to keep him informed if Dr. Tischbrock decides to go to America, or if he gets any other information about him which could affect the case.

Source: Letters of Cecil Kaye, BMS/CWK/82/5-6


[1] No further information is given and it has not been possible to identify the informant. Dr. Tischbrock was forced to leave the school, although it is not clear at what date. Writing in the 1970s a former pupil said: “Hounded from B.M.S. in spite of Mr Kaye’s protests, he obtained for a brief spell a post at Manchester Grammar School. But becoming stone deaf, badgered from pillar to post, he turned to market gardening in Surrey, and met with a fatal accident when attempting to take too much of his produce to market on a bicycle. I do not know the year of his death but I am told that his widow died only recently at a very great age” [BMS/CWK/98/3; Tischbrock’s wife Lily died in 1971].

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Women’s War Agricultural Committee



Farming scene in winter, c.1910 [Z50/95/78]

Monday 28th February 1916:  The first meeting of the Women’s War Agricultural Committee for Bedfordshire was held at the Shire Hall in Bedford on Saturday. The county has been divided into 14 districts. In each parish a lady is to be appointed as “Head of Village”; she will be responsible for keeping a register of women willing to work on the land. Farmers wishing to apply for women’s labour should do so through the Head of Village. It was made clear that women offering to help in this emergency situation should expect as fair a rate of pay as men, and it was suggested that four pence an hour for casual labour would be considered fair for a woman. It was suggested that it may be possible to get more offers of help from women if it is made clear that offers to work part time are acceptable.

The Leighton Buzzard Observer remains cynical about the prospects of success for these efforts to get more women working on the land. ‘Rusticus’ is doubtful whether girls who can earn 30s or more per week in a munition factory will be prepared to work for the relatively low wages. Last season the largest local employer of women was the Duke of Bedford. Women worked on his farms, on the estate and in the park, and their work was done well; most of them stayed until the bad weather began and enjoyed the work, for which they were paid between one shilling and sixpence and two shillings per day. ‘Rusticus’ has spoken to two women who took up farm work in August 1914 and have stuck to it because they are obliged to do so. At first they found it quite a novelty and there seemed some fun in it. Now they realise that you have to carry on the work day after day from early morning to late at night, and that any relaxation or neglect is likely to lead to things going wrong, and are tired and weary and wish there were men to do man’s work. The life of a farmer’s daughter or wife who must do this work or see a family business collapse “is not all honey”.

Sources: Luton News, 2nd March 1916; Leighton Buzzard Observer, 29th February 1916.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

A Tragic Month for Stondon



Stondon c.1920 [Z1130/114]

Sunday 27th February 1916: The Rector of Stondon writes that the village has suffered a series of tragedies during the past month:
“I am sorry to say that our village has been visited by the Angel of Death, no less than four out of our few inhabitants having been taken from us. First we heard the sad news that one of our brave soldiers at the front, Private Fred Peck [1], of the 2nd Beds Regiment, had succumbed to his wounds in hospital; then we heard that Private George Covington had been killed at the front. Violet Mary Jordan, only 15 years of age, died almost suddenly while staying at Luton, and last Monday one of the best-known and respected of our villagers, and who had lived here all her life of 68 years, Mrs. John Cooper was laid to rest in our pretty little Churchyard. Such sad events as these bring home to us the uncertainty of life, and bid us take care that we are prepared for that time which must inevitably come some day to each one of us. These three young lives, gone as it were in a moment, should be indeed a warning to us all."
Frederick William Peck, aged 20, was the son of William and Nellie Peck of Bird-in-Hand Cottages, Lower Stondon. He was wounded, along with another Stondon soldier, Private Leslie Cooper, when a shell exploded in their billet. Although Private Cooper’s wounds were initially thought to be more serious than Private Peck’s, the latter died on 5th February 1916 while Private Cooper is now said to be progressing favourably. He has been moved from the Princess Christian’s Hospital at Weymouth to the St. John’s Red Cross Hospital and writes “Pleased to say I am still going on fine, soon hope to see you all”.

Source: Stondon, Stotfold and Shefford Parish Magazine [P83/30/1]; Luton Times, 18th February 1916; CWGC

Friday, 26 February 2016

Conscientious Objectors at Luton Tribunal



Christadelphian Lecture Hall, St.Loyes St, Bedford, 1910 [Z1306/10/56/1]

Saturday 26th February 1916: Today the Luton Tribunal has heard the cases of a number of conscientious objectors who have asked to be excused from military service. Some of these men are employed at munition factories; as a result the Tribunal was very sceptical of their cases, considering that if a man’s conscience forbade him taking the life of another in battle, it was odd that he was content to make his living producing weapons for other men to use. A Christadelphian appealed to the principles of his religion which caused him to oppose war, but was told to stick to tangible facts as to why he should not become a soldier. He agreed that he was working for a firm which produced items for the Government, but argued that as a civil clerk employed by a civil firm he could leave if he was ordered to do anything which went against his conscience. It was pointed out that although the company did not make munitions, they did make vehicles which were part of the supply chain for shells to the trenches. He requested that if the Tribunal decided to refuse his application it should state its reasons for refusal in writing and made clear his intention to appeal to the Appeals Tribunal in the event his application was rejected.

One of the applicants stated that he absolutely objected to being made to kill his fellow men, and that he had a horror of killing animals or even insects. He would not even kill a spider he found in his room. He argued that if everyone held his opinion Germany would never have gone to war – he was told to consider that “if all English people held the same opinion there would have been no war, for Germany would have been over here”. Asked if he objected to killing vermin, he replied that he had never had any vermin on him; after further questioning he admitted he might kill rats or mice under exceptional circumstances. He also stated he would not like Germany to win as they were “the worst of the civilised nations of Europe”, but did not think it possible that they would. His application for exemption was refused.

Source: Luton Times, 2nd March 1916

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Hospital at Eaton Socon to Close



V.A.D. Recruitment Poster [Wikimedia]

Friday 25th February 1916: The County Director of the Red Cross for Bedfordshire has informed the Assistant Director of Medical Service at Bedford that the hospital at Eaton Socon which has been run as a convalescent home by the No. 8 Bedfordshire V.A.D. since November 1914 is to close at the end of next month, though it is hoped it will soon be possible to reopen it in alternative premises:
I regret to inform you that the Relief Hospital at Eaton Socon which has been financed privately will be closed on the 31st of March. The Commandant has however got the promise of two other buildings. She would however like you to inspect them on either March 1st or March 3rd. If you pass them she will have the necessary cleaning done. When the Hospital re-opens it will be necessary to obtain the 3/- grant would you please communicate direct with the Commandant, Mrs Brackenbury, Eaton Socon, St Neots, and settle which date is convenient to you.
 Source: WW1/NU4, letter dated 26 February 1916

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Military Service Tribunals



Military Service Act Poster, 1916 [Wikimedia]

Thursday 24th February 1916: Tribunals have begun sitting in the county to decide on applications for exemption from military service under the Military Service Act. This will come into effect on March 2nd and will introduce conscription; following that date any man between the ages of 18 and 41 who has not yet attested or applied for exemption will be deemed to have enlisted for the duration. Yesterday the tribunal for the Borough of Luton dealt with 45 appeals, sitting from 2.30 until after 8.00 p.m. with only a short break for tea. Most of the cases dealt with men whose labour was said to be essential to a business. In several of these the applications were in respect fo small straw hat factories where there was only a single man left, whose departure would result in closure of the factory. Rather than risk the sudden loss of a number of these small businesses disrupting this important industry, the tribunal granted temporary postponements to allow them time to wind up their affairs. One gentleman wrote to withdraw an appeal he had made on his son’s behalf, explaining he had managed to make alternative arrangements and his son had already enlisted. Another applicant asked for postponement until April saying “I do not want any favours. We have to beat the Germans, and I wish I could go as well as this young man”.

The first meeting of the Leighton Buzzard Tribunal took place on Tuesday evening to consider applications under both the Military Service Act and the voluntary Derby Scheme. A batch of nine applications came from Messrs. Bullivant and Co., wireworkers for their employees; they were all exempted as they are engaged in government work, even though most are young, single men. A farmer and a blacksmith were both exempted as they are in reserved occupations. The case of a clerk said to be indispensable to a decorator and the only son of a dependant widowed mother caused much discussion. The application asked for him to be placed in a later group [1], but this proved not to be possible and the application was refused. Another contentious case was that of Ernest James Saunders, the surveyor and sanitary inspector to the Leighton Buzzard Urban District Council. The advisory Committee decided he should serve and the surveyor himself wished to join the forces. However, the Council argued forcefully that his work made him indispensable and a postponement was granted.

Source: Luton News, 24th February 1916

[1] Under the Derby, or Group, Scheme, men were placed in groups according to age and marital status and the groups were called up in a fixed order. 

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Views on Conscientious Objectors



Conscientious Objector Memorial, Tavistock Square Gardens, London

Wednesday 23rd February 1916: As the Conscription Bill passes through parliament the issue of conscientious objectors has become the subject of lively discussion in the Luton area. Jesse Blaxley of Hibbert Street, Luton, has called for the Bill to be rescinded, putting his case for freedom of conscience eloquently:
“Without stating the arguments for or against, let us admit the fact that there are men who have sincerely arrived at opposite convictions, and by trying to take the other fellow’s view we may have kindlier feelings one toward the other. Amongst those of both sides may be found some of the best and most loyal citizens; their past record is sufficient proof of this. Personally, I do not think there ever was a war more justifiable than this awful struggle, and I can admire those thousands of young men who under a noble impulse have offered their lives for their King and country.
It does not follow that all men can make this sacrifice in the same way. Many years ago I came to the conviction that for me to kill my fellows under any circumstances would be wrong, and this was the result of entering the service of our Lord and Master Jesus Christ. His commands are supreme in the conduct of my life … and if it comes to a conflict with any other power, the final sovereignty rests with Him. I am quite sure there are others equally sincere who have felt it their duty in this war to bear arms. They interpret the teaching of their Master differently. We do not judge them; in fact, we have the express command, “Judge not”, nor do we admit their right to judge us.

We grieve that England has decided to persecute some of her noblest citizens, for that is what it has come to. What is to be the extent is hidden in the future. During this discussion, the murder of Edith Cavell … has been cited as a reason for the destruction of Germans. Let us remember. That noble woman, when facing death, said, “Patriotism is not sufficient. I must have no bitterness toward anyone.” Surely this is the highest possible attainment to man or woman, and turns her awful death into a glorious ending of a glorious life. Let England beware lest in the frenzy of this maddening time it is lured perhaps unconsciously to similar crimes. There never can come a time when all, or anything like all, the men of the country must bear arms. Therefore there must always be occupations in which we can show our loyalty.”
Others, however, are considerably less sympathetic to the voice of conscience. An anonymous correspondent writes:
“I [am] filled with amazement at the attitude of the conscientious objector. May I be permitted to ask what return the conscientious objectors are making for the great privilege of living in comparative safety, due to those who keep watch and ward on the storm-tossed seas and in the mud-filled trenches? … A peculiar sense of the duties of citizenship and the scruples of religious convictions, which too often make the second great Commandment embrace the cultured Hun and exclude the British brother, seem to be the sum total of the gratitude shown for being born an Englishman.”
Source: Luton News, 24th February 1916

Monday, 22 February 2016

Cows in the Road




Cattle on the road at Riseley, c.1910-25 [Z1306/96/6/3]

Tuesday 22nd February 1916: A Silsoe farmer has appeared at the County Court to defend himself against a claim for damages brought by Lieutenant Stanley Lambert, Army Service Corps, of Stockwood Crescent, Luton. At about 6pm last Wednesday Lt. Lambert was on military duty driving a motorcycle with a side car from Bedford to Luton, with his sergeant as passenger. Just before they reached the bridge between Silsoe and Barton he slowed, but it was very dark and he ran into a cow, seriously damaging his motorcycle. Ronald Harris of Silsoe has land on both sides of the road, and at the time of the accident two cows were crossing from the farm to the field opposite. However, the gate was shut and the animals were straggling across the road, and Lt. Lambert alleged that nobody was in charge of them. He went to the farm and complained to Mr. Harris who replied "I have had many complaints from motor drivers, but I have always beat them". He then produced a little boy who he said was supposed to have been in control of the cows.

Lt. Lambert said he had met cattle in the same spot before. On this occasion he saw what he thought was a cart loom out of the darkness, but this turned out to be two cows; unable to stop in time, he had struck one of them in the "softest" place. He also claimed that Harris had said "I have always succeeded in making the motorists pay". The judge reluctantly gave judgment for the farmer, as legal precedent held that there was no duty on the owner of cattle occupying premises adjoining a highway to prevent his cattle straying onto the road.


Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 22nd February 1916

Sunday, 21 February 2016

More News of Lieutenant Lansberry



SS Appam [Wikimedia]

Monday 21st February 1916: The parents of Lt. Thomas Lansberry of Bedford have heard more news of their son, who was taken prisoner last month by a German raiding party which captured the ship on which he was being invalided home from West Africa.  In a letter from Dr. S. Deane of the West African Medical Service they were told:
“I knew your son very well indeed, and he was under my charge on the Appam. As you doubles know, all the military and naval officers were transferred to the raider, and I myself was also placed for a time in that ship, but subsequently released. I therefore know the conditions under which those detained on board lived. Needless to say there was discomfort and inconvenience, but the attitude of the Germans was quite kindly. The food was not plentiful but sufficient for health, and exercise is allowed every day. The unpleasant time is of course when the ship is in action, the suspense of not knowing what is happening. He had been in quite good health on the Appam, but I was very sorry to hear he had not been too well on the raider when the lat of those allowed to return to the Appam left. I regret that I cannot tell you any more except that the doctor on the German boat was a nice man, and seemed very competent; also the ship was extremely well fitted with medical requirements of all kinds, and I think you can rely on it that should he require any treatment he will receive every possible attention. There are about six or eight of our men on board, all extremely nice men, so he is among good friends."
Source: Bedfordshire Times, 25th February 1916

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Shackleton Brothers of Leighton Buzzard



Friday Street, Leighton Buzzard c.1925 [WL800/2]

Sunday 20th February 1916: John and Sophia Shackleton of Friday Street in Leighton Buzzard now have five of their seven sons serving their country, with the two youngest prevented from doing so only by their age – in the case of 16 year old Harry, this is despite his best efforts to the contrary! The family is also known by the name of Wise and at least one of the sons is believed to be serving under that name. Their record of service is:

First Class Stoker John William Shackleton: The eldest son of the family, aged 30, he served in the Navy for five years and was working at the Wire Works when he was called up to return to the sea. He is now serving aboard H.M.S. Caesar.

Private Joseph Shackleton (or Wise) had served seven years with the 1st Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment and was a reservist when the War began. He was sent out to France in September 1914 and was at the battles of the Marne and the Aisne. In November 1914 he was wounded in the shoulder by a bullet, but made a good recovery and returned to the Front early last year. He was home for seven days’ leave in November.

Private Samuel Shackleton emigrated to Canada eight years ago when he was only 16 years old. When the War broke out he joined the Army raised in Canada for the defence of Britain. Although he joined for home service only, after a time his sense of patriotism inspired him to take the Imperial Service obligation. He is now training at Halifax, Nova Scotia, with the Canadian Highlanders. He is the only one of the brothers who is married.

Gunner Charles Shackleton has been serving in the Royal Garrison Artillery for three years. After some time stationed in Wales, he is now helping to defend one of the Empire’s most important strongholds.

Stoker George Shackleton followed his eldest brother into the Navy in April 1915. After serving on H.M.S. Ness he is now in port waiting to be posted to another vessel.

Harry Shackleton, the youngest of the brothers, enlisted in the 3/5th Bedfordshire Regiment when he was only 15. After serving for nearly a year at Windsor and Halton Park his age was discovered and he was sent home in January. To his disgust he is now employed sand-carting, but hopes to go to sea. Unfortunately his time in the army means he is prevented from doing so.

Source: Luton News, 24th February 1916

Friday, 19 February 2016

Life as an Army Chaplain



Clophill Village c.1904 [Z50/31/33]

Saturday 19th February 1916: Revd. C. L. Matthews, the Rector of Clophill has written to his parishioners with news of his experiences as an army chaplain in France: 
“After having been in France for three months, I feel I am now able to give you a few of my experiences with the troops. After a tremendously long and tedious journey, from Sunday evening to Wednesday evening, including a rather exciting trip across (as we knew that a couple of Hun submarines were waiting for us), we detrained at a small wayside station. It was pouring with rain, and the whole place was a sea of mud, in some places a foot deep. Having got the horses out and watered we started on our way, led by a guide. We had about six miles to go, and it was quite dark. Some of us were so tired that we actually fell asleep in our saddles, waking up with a start when the column halted. At last we pulled up at a tiny village where we rested for a few days. After seeing the horses and men comfortable we made our way to an empty house which was to be the officers’ billet. Everything was just as the people had left it, and it was curious to find oneself walking into another person’s house and living there. Nothing except a few valuables seemed to have been moved, and in my room even the silver brushes and hand glass had been left on the dressing table. It was the only house where there was a bath, but alas! The waterworks were all wrong so we could only look at it and long for the impossible.” 
“Life behind the trenches is most interesting. One night the Colonel and I went up to the front line trenches to see the men at work. It was a weird and rather nervy sensation riding up to a ruined factory where we left our horses. Our guide struck across country, and in time we reached the trenches. After following them for some way we climbed up and strolled across the open, and we felt very grateful the night was dark. We found our men hard at work, and it was a strange experience to be sitting on the parapet, talking to them, with the Germans only a couple of hundred yards away. Every now and then a star-flare would go up, and then we had to keep very still for fear of snipers who are always on the look out.”  
“In my next letter I hope to give some account of a Chaplain’s work at the Front. The men are simply splendid: and I think one of the finest things I ever heard was from a poor fellow a few minutes before he died. He said to me, “Please, sir, will you tell the Colonel I have tried to do my bit; and I am sorry it has been so little.” With such men, and with such spirit we can look forward with confidence to final victory. An army composed of men like that is unconquerable.”
Source: Barton-le-Clay Parish Magazine, March 1916 [P21/30/18]

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Death of a Stretcher Bearer

Friday 18th February 1916: Mr and Mrs George Bodsworth of 28 Old Road, Linslade have received the following letter from a comrade of their son Private Percy Bodsworth in the 1st/1st Buckinghamshire Battalion of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry:
It is with great regret and with my deepest sympathy that I have to inform you of the death of Percy. He was killed yesterday, February 10th, by a large shell, while performing his duties as a stretcher bearer, and I and all his chums consider that he died a hero's death in that he gave his own life in the attempt to render aid to his wounded comrades. It appears that a large shell fell on a dugout containing a machine gun crew, knocking it in, and wounding some and burying all. The stretcher bearers, of whom Percy was one, immediately ran down to the dug out to render aid to the wounded. Percy must have been leading, for when he got there another shell burst in the same trench, killing Percy at once and shattering the nerves of his mate who was following him. I don't think Percy could have felt any pain as he appeared to have been so close to the shell that it was practically impossible for anything but instantaneous death to have taken place. Percy was very well known amongst the company, and all are very sorry to lose him. Even though it must be a terrible hard blow to you and exceedingly difficult to realise, yet we who have worked and fought with him for the past ten months would assure you in all sincerity that we are proud of him, as we know you will be later on.[1]
Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 22nd February 1916


[1] Percy Thomas Bodsworth was just 20 years old when he was killed. He is buried in Hebuterne Military Cemetery. 

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

The Cheshire Brigade Celebrate Meeanee Day



Sir Charles Napier, Governor of Sindh 1843-1847 [Wikimedia]

Thursday 17th February 1916: Today is a red letter day for those soldiers of the Cheshire Brigade now based in Bedford. February 17th is celebrated every year by all members of the Brigade as “Meeanee Day” to commemorate the British victory at the Battle of Meeanee (or Miani) in 1843, when a force of only 2,500 under Sir Charles Napier defeated the much larger army of the Talpur Amirs and succeeded in annexing the Indian province of Sindh[1]. The Cheshires’ have won seven battle honours, but among these their success at Meeanee is considered to be their greatest achievement.

To mark Meeanee Day all members of the Brigade are wearing real acorns and oak leaves (the emblem on the Cheshires’ cap and collar badges), and have been given a holiday from all military duties. This morning 54 men from the 2/4th KSLI, 2/5th, 2/6th and 2/7th Cheshires took part in a cross-country run of about 3¼ miles to Goldington and back, with Private Hullah D.C.M.of the 2/5th Cheshires the winner in a time of 25 minutes. This afternoon Brigade sports are being held with events including a sack race, a potato race, a Victoria Cross race, tug-of-war and tilting the bucket. A refreshment buffet is to be provided by the Borough Recreations Committee.

Source: Bedfordshire Times, 18th February 1916


[1] Now in Pakistan.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Missing Bedford Children Found in Scotland



Bathgate (Upper) Station [Image by Ben Brooksbank, Wikimedia]

Wednesday 16th February 1916: Two Bedford children who have been missing since last Thursday have been found safe and well in Scotland. On Thursday eight year old Allan Wallace, got into some trouble at home. With the romantic idea of saving him from the consequences of his naughtiness his thirteen year old sister, Norah, decided to take him away. That night they went to London where they spent Friday, before taking an overnight train to Edinburgh. From Edinburgh they began to walk to Glasgow, a city Norah knew where she thought she would be able to get work. On Saturday night they stayed at the railway station at Ratho; the next day they continued their walk and reached Bathgate where they spent Sunday night in the waiting room. The porters suspected something was wrong and informed the Inspector of the Poor who got a kindly woman to look after them. Norah refused to give any information about their identity until yesterday, feeling that although she now regretted running away they must carry out their plan.

The news that they had been found came while their father Donald Wallace was in London following up a report that the children had been seen at St. Pancras Station on Friday morning. He immediately left for Scotland to collect the children. Norah’s parents describe her as a “remarkably good, bright, and clever girl”. During the time they were away the children lived on just one shilling. Norah took great care of her little brother, wrapping him in her jacket at night and keeping him from any harm.

Source: Bedfordshire Times, 18th February 1916

Monday, 15 February 2016

Zeppelin Squawkers




Entrance to Waterlow's Printing Works, Dunstable c.1920 [Z1306/36/6]

Tuesday 15th February 1916: Despite opposition from some of its members, the Watch Committee of Luton Town Council has recommended that the town should install electrical apparatus known as a “squawker” to warn of the approach of hostile aircraft, and the machine is already on order. Opponents of the “squawker” pointed out that the hooters had blown at Leighton Buzzard last week after a report was received that aircraft had been seen on the North-East Coast. The result was a great commotion with the hooters bringing everyone into the streets, despite the advice of the Home Office that people should stay indoors during a bombardment, this being far safer than being outside. Nevertheless, it was recognised that a number of large towns were finding these alarms effective, allowing them to extinguish lights before Zeppelins arrived overhead. The inhabitants of Luton would need to be educated to understand that if the “squawker” sounded they should stay indoors and put out the lights, and warnings given that the alarm would sound at fixed times to ensure people were familiar with it. It was agreed it would not be sounded if Zeppelins were actually overhead due to fears that the noise could precipitate an attack. The recommendation of the Watch Committed to install the “squawker” was accepted.

At Dunstable the Emergency Committee has made arrangements that when warning of the approach of hostile aircraft is received Messrs. Waterlows printing works will give three 30 second blasts on their hooter, to be repeated at minute intervals. Householders must they extinguish all lights visible from the outside. All windows, skylights, and fanlights much be obscured and any flashlights used must shine on the ground only. As in Luton, concerns were expressed that people would run outdoors instead of staying in comparative safety inside, but here, too, the Committee’s actions were approved. A suggestion that Messrs. Bagshawe's horn should also be sounded was welcomed by the Mayor.

Source: Luton News, 17th and 24th February 1916

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Private Jesse Maynard of Aspley Guise



The Square, Aspley Guise c.1906 [Z1306/3a/21/6]

Monday 14th February 1916: Mr. George Maynard of Aspley Guise has received a letter from Lieutenant-Colonel Brighten telling him the circumstances of his son William “Jesse” Maynard with the 5th Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment at Anzac in September 1915. Colonel Brighten writes:
“I have tried to get together some information about your son’s death. He was wounded in the trenches on the 12th September, at Anzac. Another man had just been hit, and I think your son went to help him, thereby getting into the line of fire. He was only hit in the arm – his right elbow being fractured, and it was not thought serious; and as he died the next day I fear he must have died of shock, or some other complication, immediately following the wound. He died at the 16th Casualty Clearing Station, and was buried at Anzac by the R.A.M.C. You will see from the above that your son really lost his life through helping a comrade, so that while mourning your loss you have the consolation of knowing that he met his death doing his duty.”
Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 22nd February 1916

Saturday, 13 February 2016

A Shell-Shocked Luton Soldier



Rifle Brigade Memorial, London [Wikimedia]

Sunday 13 February 1916: Mr. and Mrs. J. Palfrey of 19 Grove Road, Luton, have received the worrying news that their son Corporal Walter Palfrey is in hospital at Boulogne suffering from loss of speech as a result of shock caused by the heavy firing. Corporal Palfrey worked as a moulder at the Diamond Foundry until he joined the 4th Rifle Brigade some years ago. He went to France with his regiment in January 1915 and has taken part in many battles. He was wounded last May and on his recovery he was transferred to the 8th Battalion of the Rifle Brigade. It is hoped that he will soon make a complete recovery from this unfortunate condition.

Source: Luton News, 17th February 1916

Friday, 12 February 2016

Luton Mayor Intervenes to Help Belgian Family



John Henry Staddon, former Mayor of Luton [Z49/261]

Saturday 12th February 1916: The Mayor of Luton himself has been involved in an errand of mercy for a distressed Belgian refugee family. He appeared at a meeting of the Luton Education Committee to explain the circumstances which had caused one of the children to come to the notice of the School Attendance Sub-Committee. The mother of the family had been ill for some weeks and the child, an eleven year old girl, had been looking after both her mother and four other little children. The father was working at Messrs. Balmforth’s until about 9.30 p.m., and when he returned home each night he cooked the next day’s food for his wife and children while the eleven year old did the housework. The mother had now been admitted to the Infirmary and the Mayor had made arrangements for a nurse to look after the children until something could be done for them.

The Committee agreed that no action would be taken and the matter would be postponed. No pressure had yet been exercised in the case, although a letter had been sent to the father calling attention to the girl’s absence from school. The Mayor pointed out that the official notice had “frightened the life out of them”. Alderman Arnold pointed out that it could be assumed that the father was earning a fair amount and despite the labour shortage it should have been possible to get someone else to look after the children so the girl could go to school. The Mayor said that one lady in the neighbourhood was so distressed by the situation that she had said she would go and live in the house and take care of the children herself if necessary.

Source: Luton News, 10th February 1916

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Vicar of Shefford's Son Wounded



Shefford High Street c.1920 [Z1306/101/6/7]

Friday 11th February 1916: The Vicar of Shefford, Revd. Edward Dakin, has received news that his son Lt. Alfred Edward Dakin has been seriously wounded while serving in Mesopotamia. He has received a telegram from the War Office which reads “Viceroy of India reports 8th February, Lieut. A. E. Dakin, Liecester Regiment, suffering from contusion of right thigh and abdomen. Progress satisfactory. Will wire any further news.” This was followed by a letter from his son, writing on 27th January from a hospital ship taking him to the Indian port of Bombay, in which he describes how he was wounded:

“I got knocked over on the 13th. We were advancing, and came under a perfectly fiendish fire from the Turkish trenches. We could not see them, they were so awfully well dug in. We kept going on, and then they opened with their field gunswith shrapnel on us. We were still going ahead, and I was tearing along with my field glasses swinging in front of me, when some shrapnel burst very low, right n front of me and something gave my glasses an awful smack right against my right thigh, and smashed them completely. At the same time something like a forty ton hammer hit me in the pit of the stomach, and the next thing I knew it was three o’clock in the morning, I saw by my wrist watch. I could not move my legs at all, and I felt as if I had no inside left. It was bitter cold and there was still a lot of scattered firing going on. In fact, one Turkish sniper walked over me. However, I got picked up next morning and taken to camp, and next day sent down to Basra. I have had a simply wonderful escape.”

Source: Stondon, Shefford and Stotfold Parish Magazine [P83/30/1]

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Bedford Man Taken Prisoner in German Sea Raid

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SS Appam [Wikimedia]

Thursday 10th February 1916: The parents of Lieutenant Thomas Lansberry have received the good news that their son is alive after they believed him to be lost at sea when the liner on which he was sailing disappeared. The Appam left Dakar in West Africa on January 11th but failed to arrive in England as expected on the 19th. Lt. Lansberry had cabled on Christmas Day “Invalided. By Appam. Tom”, so it was assumed that he had gone down with the ship. On 1st February to their immense relief they received a second telegram, this time from the owners of the ship to the effect that the Appam had arrived at Norfolk, Virginia in the charge of a German raiding party, and that all the passengers were believed to be safe. The family’s relief was tempered by the lack of any communication from their son, and they were afraid he may be one of a number of officers who were transferred to the raiding vessel as prisoners. This has now been confirmed by a third cable: “Regret inform you Lieut. Lansberry transferred from Appam to raider, by which Appam captured”.

Lt. Lansberry is 26 years old and the eldest of five brothers who all won Harpur Trust Scholarships. After leaving the Grammar School he worked first in the City of London, then at Barclay’s Bank in Luton until September 1914 when he took up a commission in the 8th Bedfords. He was attached to the 1st Battalion of the Nigerian Regiment and sent to the Cameroons where came through two big battles unharmed in August 1915. When a new action began he was left behind in Duala to look after sick officers and men and before he himself succumbed to the gastritis which caused him to be invalided home.

Source: Bedfordshire Times, 4th and 11th February 1916

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Prisoner of War's Wife Gaoled

Wednesday 9th February 1916: Two Luton women were gaoled today for keeping a disorderly house at 7 Manor Path, Luton. Mrs. Ada Toyer, the occupier of the house, is a widow with two children. The other woman, Mrs. Emily Ward, is the wife of a soldier now a prisoner of war in Germany and also has two children. She formerly lived at 25 Manor Path but had moved in with Mrs. Toyer at number seven. Police had received complaints about the property and kept it under observation between January 27th and February 5th. On each night solders were seen entering th house, where they remained for a considerable time. Male and female voices were heard in an upstairs room at the back of the house. While no firm evidence could be given that could prove exactly what went on in the house, it seemed there could be little doubt.

The police gave evidence that on one occasion one of the women had said to two soldier callers, “You can’t come here tonight”, to which one of the soldiers replied, “All right, I’ll go and fetch the military police”. When the police went into the house they found three soldiers, a civilian, Mrs. Toyer’s twelve year old son, and the defendants. Mrs. Ward was lying drunk on the floor and one of the soldiers was sitting in a chair, also drunk. On previous occasions Police Inspector Janes had gone to the house and warned the defendants. One night he arrested a soldier there for being absent, and on another he arrested two soldiers. He had previously been to Mrs. Ward’s former address at 5 a.m. and arrested a soldier who was there; Mrs Ward began to cry and said she had done wrong. As the wife of a prisoner of war Mrs. Ward received £1 2s 9d in allowances, which should have been plenty to live on without resorting to other means of increasing her income. Both women were sentenced to two months’ hard labour.

Source: Luton News, 10th February 1916

Monday, 8 February 2016

The Luton Hat Trade



The largest straw hat in the world, Luton c.1905 [Z1306/75/17/45]

Tuesday 8th February 1916: As the winter progresses, notices advertising for good machinists and workers with experience trimming hats are appearing across the town. The need for hat trimmers suggests that the semi-millinery business is developing, producing hats that are sold ready to wear. The large number of advertisements for straw hat workers may be a result of many former employees of the industry leaving for the local munition works, and the hat manufacturers are faced with unprecedented conditions in the labour market. If lack of workers means they are able to make less hats, they will need to increase the profit margins on those they are able to produce, particularly as taxes are likely to be very heavy.

A few Luton manufacturers are being successful in securing trade that had previously been lost to Germany, and consignments of hats have been shipped to Norway and Canada. However, the insecurity of the Mediterranean route has considerably increased the cost of both straw and hemp plait that is bought from Japan. This is now being sent by the Cape route, which takes several weeks longer and risks the capture of vessels by raiders in the South Atlantic. Fortunately supply shortages matter less than they might have done due to the lack of skilled workers to make hats with the plait, leaving supply and demand for materials more or less equal.

The home trade seems quite healthy and people are being warned to order early. It appears Luton will be in the unusual position of being unable to meet demand – in recent years the town has become accustomed to producing more hats than it can sell. The shapes which have been selling in recent months are beginning to look out of date and new styles are likely to prove very popular.

Source: Luton News, 10th February 1916

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Narrow Escapes for Military Motorcyclists



Premier 500cc 4.5 Hp motorcycle from 1916 [Wikimedia]

Monday 7th February 1916: Two military motorcyclists had narrow escapes today when they were involved in accidents in which they came off rather better than their machines. Dispatch Rider Potter, who is billeted in Shortmead Street, Biggleswade, met with an accident near Henlow. The fork of his motorcycle broke in half, and he fell heavily with his machine on top of him. He has been examined by a doctor and no bones are broken, although one shoulder is badly bruised. In the second incident a motor belonging to Mr Howe, a farmer from Marston Moretaine, collided with a motorcycle ridden by one of the Royal Engineers dispatch riders outside the Biggleswade Town Hall. Although the motorcycle was rather damaged and a lamp on the car smashed the rider was not hurt.

Source: Biggleswade Chronicle, 11th February 1916

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Luton Soldier Finds His Dead Brother


Trooper Reggie Looker 

Sunday 6th February 1916: The parents of Trooper Charles William Reginald “Reggie” Looker of the 1st Beds Yeomanry received the sad news of his death in a letter from their youngest son Trooper Richard “Dick” Looker who was serving with the same Regiment. The brothers had joined up soon after the beginning of the war and had been sent to France together in April last year. Dick wrote that he saw a comrade run out of a gap and realised there was something wrong. He called out to ask what had happened but received no answer so went to investigate. He found his brother lying dead, shot through the head. Reggie Looker, who was 22 years old, was educated at Bishop Stortford College, then undertook a farming course at the Beds County Council Institute at Ridgmont. For two or three years before the war he had worked at different farms to gain practical experience.

Major Selby Lowndes of the Beds Yeomanry and Sergeant Jack Andrews of No.3 Troop have written letters of sympathy to Trooper Looker’s parents. Major Lowndes wrote: “His death, thank God, was instantaneous, as we have discovered, and there was no suffering of any kind. His brother was with him immediately he was shot, and, poor fellow, he feels it dreadfully. We were all so fond and proud of him, as we are of the one who is left. He was universally popular, and a splendid soldier. I know your anxiety, as I have a boy of 19 in the same brigade as myself, and one of 17 in the Black Watch.”  The Sergeant adds: “He was a great favourite with every one of us, and was looked upon as a certainty for promotion at an early date. His death is a great blow to all of us, and he will be sorely missed by the whole squadron … Doubtless Dick has written you full particulars, and how he was buried in the Cemetery at --- by his comrades and friends, surrounded by the roar of guns, etc., and I could not help but think, whilst placing a blanket round him, how peaceful and quiet he looked to the storm of shot, etc., raging outside. He died as he lived, a soldier in every sense of that word.”[1]

Source: Luton News, 10th February 1916


[1] The grave of Reggie Looker is at Vermelles British Cemetery. His brother Dick survived the War.

Friday, 5 February 2016

The War Rents Act Takes Effect


Saturday 5th February 1916: Difficulties have arisen over the interpretation of the War Rents Act which introduced rent controls for the first time on 23rd December, hoping to prevent tenants being subjected to high rent increases. War conditions have meant an end to house building and the demand for houses has outstripped supply. Outside of London the Act applies to all houses for which the weekly rent is under ten shillings.  Landlords may not raise the rent from the level in force on 3rd August 1914 unless they first give four weeks' notice explaining the grounds for the increase. Increases must be justified by changes such as structural alterations or an increase in rates, and full particulars must be provided; the amount by which the rent can be increased is limited to the amount which can be proved in this way.

There has been some confusion about the changes and a number of instances where increased rents have been imposed by landlords inappropriately. Any increased rents which have been enforced since 23rd November without waiting for the end of the notice period must either be returned to the tenant or the tenant may deduct the amount from future rent payments. Any coercion of tenants by landlords, for example by bringing forward increases in the rent book as arrears, is illegal.

In Leighton Buzzard a number of landlords had been campaigning for an all round increase in rents. Many landlords refused to join them, and in other cases tenants successfully resisted their landlords' attempts to impose increases, but others have already been paying higher amounts. A  committee has been now been formed to review the figures on any notices served on tenants in the town and ensure that they are in accordance with the act.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 8th February 1916

[1] The Increase of Rent and Mortgage (War Restrictions) Act 1915 also restricted the rights of landlords to evict tenants.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Bedford Boys in East Africa



D. Bowe Harris in uniform, March 1917 [HT9/26/5/13]

Friday 4th February 1916: The scoutmaster of the 1st Bedford Troop has received this letter from Private D. B. Harris, an old boy of Bedford Modern School, who is serving in East Africa with the Indian Expeditionary Force:
I need not describe the various and many pests such as flies, mosquitos, jiggers, and snakes etc., that we have to contend with out in this countery, as you have probably heard all about them before. Since our Company have been out here we have trekked about two thousand miles, ie., nearly all around the Victoria Nyanza and down the coast. We’ve not done much ‘scrapping’ out here, as the enemy are a pretty elusive lot. … People at home don’t realize the part the Colonials are playin in far away East Africa. They are, of course, naturally more occupied with the things in Europe. Admitted the ‘scrapping’ here is not half as vigorous as in Flanders and elsewhere – still one does not get a sporting chance at the enmy here, as the dense bush, bad water, and the fever which, of course, follows, are our worst enemies. In the bush one cannot see above 10 yards it is so thick … There are several Bedford Boys serving in this country whom I’ve met:- Captain Landon, Sergeant Duncan, Privates Bralesford, Lowinstein and Fyanda (all Grammar), Brooks (Modern), Coxwell, senior, Coxwell, junior, and Lieutenant Traill (all Elstow), and several others whose names I’ve forgotton. So Bedford is doing its bit in this country.
Source: Bedfordshire Times, 4th February 1916

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Death of Flitwick Naval Officer



Lieutenant Edward Shouler

Thursday 3rd February 1916: Flitwick has lost its first commissioned officer with the death of Lieutenant Edward James Battams Shouler RN. Lt. Shouler was one of ten men killed when HMS Viking struck a mine off Boulogne on Saturday while conveying troops to France. His widowed mother and sister, both named Isabel, still live at Maulden Road, Flitwick. Lt. Shouler was a former Bedford School boy who was popular with all who knew him and believed to have brilliant prospects.

Source: Bedfordshire Times, 4th February 1916

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Train on Fire at Tempsford



Steam goods train, 1914 [Z50/9/874]

Wednesday 2nd February 1916: As a southbound goods train on the Great Northern Railway passed Tempsford Station this morning it was seen to be on fire. The driver sounded the whistle several times to catch the attention of the guard and stopped the train as soon as possible. The guard saved the train by quickly dividing it into three parts and confining the fire to just two wagons. One of these was carrying bales of peat and the flames hot up to a great height. The Tempsford Fire Brigade, under the command of Captain Sims, were soon on the scene with their manual engine. A continuous stream of water from the fire engine and the nearby brook brought the fire under control. The contents of the wagons were taken out and thrown down the embankment, and one wagon was found to be very badly burnt. This was taken back to Tempsford goods yard and the rest of the train was able to continue its journey.

Source: Bedfordshire Times, 4th February 1916