Friday, 29 April 2016

The Finest Team in the World

Saturday 29th April 1916: Private W. J. Berry of Wootton, who is serving in France with the 11th Battalion of the Essex Regiment, has send a sporting take on the war to the Bedfordshire Times in an effort to encourage new recruits:
You may think we have no football matches out here, but we have the finest team in the world. If you don’t mind I will tell you our team. 
George Ground is our goalkeeper, and he stops some very hard shots. Then come our backs, Sam Sandbag, who never gives an inch of ground, and Bob Barbwire, a player you can always get entangled with.
Then we have our half-backs, a fine trio; Jack Starlight, a fine illuminating player who enlightens all the spectators; Jack Sniper, a very good shot, who is always popping at goal and seldom fails to score, and Pip Squeak, who puts in some useful work.
Then come the forwards. We have Harry Rifle, a very good player indeed, and Walter Bayonet, a very dangerous chap at close quarters; Joe Whizz-Bang, who comes in with a crash; jack Shrapnel, who is up and down the field in grand style; and Jack Grenade, who does some very clever work in the open.
Now if anyone wishes to see this game he has only to call at the nearest Recruiting Office; and I can assure you there are a few empty dug-outs left. He will see the grand final shortly, Krupps versus Munition Works. I know there used to be some good teams in Bedfordshire. Try and pick a team to compete with this one and send them along. We have special accommodation for class teams.
Source: Bedfordshire Times, 28th April 1916

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Military Goods on the Black Market



Market Place, Sandy c.1912, Lord Roberts pub on left [Z50/99/48]

Friday 28th April 1916: Frederick Sawford, a mechanic from Blunham, has appeared at the Biggleswade Petty Sessions on a charge of buying a pair of army issue boots from a soldier. Police Inspector Pedley told the court that on 11th April together with a Sergeant-Major he had been making enquiries into missing property and had called at the Lord Roberts public house. They questioned Mr. Sawford about the boots – which were new - and he stated he had given 8 shillings for them. He claimed the soldier had told him they were no good to him and he had had them for some time; the soldier had also said they were his own and were bought and paid for. Mr. Sawford admitted feeling uneasy about the transaction and now felt it was very foolish. Sergeant-Major Barker identified the boots as army issue, with a value of 21 shillings.

Before making a decision the Magistrates decided to hear a second case in which James Spring, publican of Sandy and licensee of the Lord Roberts, was charged with buying two shirts from a soldier. When Inspector Pedley visited the pub and enquired about the sale of property Mr. Spring had mentioned Frederick Sawford’s purchase of the pair of boots, but at first denied purchasing anything himself. A few minutes later he “remembered” buying two new shirts from a Norfolk Regiment soldier to make up an amount owed to him for beer. Sergeant-Major Barker said a good deal of property had been lost which they could not trace.

This was a first offence for both Frederick Sawford and James Spring; they were both of good character and the Magistrates had received several testimonials on behalf of Sawford. Nevertheless, it was a serious offence and they were determined that this selling of Government property must be stopped. Sawford was fined 10 shillings as it was possible that he was simply buying a pair of boots. Spring’s offence was considered more serious as he was a publican and it was more obvious that the soldier could not have had any legal right to the goods. He was fined £2.

Source: Biggleswade Chronicle, 28th April 1916

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Billeting Rates Criticised



Bedford Town Hall, 1910 [Z1306/10/58/6]

Thursday 27th April 1916: Over one hundred Bedford property owners attended a meeting at the Town Hall yesterday afternoon to protest against the way the military authorities are dealing with owners whose property is occupied by soldiers. There are now 230 large houses in the Borough of Bedford occupied by the military, with an average yearly rental of £41. The property owners were aggrieved at proposals under the Defence of the Realm Act to reduce the amount of rent to be paid for “empty” houses occupied by troops. A resolution was proposed and carried that the action of the military authorities in taking possession of houses for billeting soldiers without paying an adequate rent, “shows a disregard of the property rights of civilians”, and that where houses were taken for billeting on short notice the rent should be reasonable. Also on giving up possession the authorities should pay “a sufficient sum by way of dilapidations to put such houses in a state of good tenantable repair”. 

Claims were made that extensive damage that had been done to property: some private houses had been used as stores; fences, railings, and walls had disappeared; and extremely inadequate repair work had been carried out. Many thousands of pounds would need to be spent on these houses to put them in the same repair they were in before August 1914. In addition a great deal of beautiful pasture land had also been ruined, for which the amount of compensation offered was “preposterous”. Tthe resolution passed at the meeting was to be sent to Mr. F.G. Kellaway, M.P., together with requests that he should forward it to the Secretary of State, and that he should receive a deputation of three of their number. 

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 28th April 1916

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Linslade Soldier Killed in Diving Accident



St. Helen's Fort, Bembridge [Wikimedia]

Wednesday 26th April 1916: News has reached Linslade of the tragic death of Gunner William Charles Meager of 26, Waterloo Road. Gunner Meager had been serving with the Royal Garrison Artillery in the Isle of Wight, where he was acting as an officer’s servant at St. Helen’s Fort, Bembridge. After a busy morning on Easter Monday he went for a swim. A small diving pier had been built at the Fort, but due to the cold water it had hardly been used this year. Gunner Meager dived from the platform, which was then about eight feet above the water. A watching officer remarked on his splendid dive, but when the swimmer failed to surface he sent a comrade to the rescue. Gunner Meager was brought back to the Fort with a severe head injury. It was low tide and there was only about four feet of water under the diving platform. The soldier had struck his head on the rocky bottom, fracturing his skull and injuring his spine, causing paralysis to the lower half of his body. Gunner Meager was taken to Parkhurst Hospital at Newport and  was conscious until shortly before his death, which occurred between 9 and 10 p.m. that night. A native of Linslade, he had enlisted about three months ago; previously he was a steward on the P & O liner Salsette. Gunner Meager leaves a widow and four young children.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 2nd May 1916

Monday, 25 April 2016

Fire at Aspley Guise



George Herbert Fowler [Z50/141/65]

Tuesday 25th April 1916: The Aspley Fire Brigade was called out early yesterday morning under the command of Dr. G. Herbert Fowler[1]. The woodwork of the roof of Railway Crossing Lodge was on fire, but the work of the Fire Brigade was so effective that little damage was done. It is though that the fire was started by a spark from a passing railway engine.

In other news from Aspley Guise, St. Botolph’s Church said farewell on Sunday to its organist, Mr. Fred Gilby, who leaves today to join the Field Artillery. In his absence Miss Lily M . Wodhams, L.L.C.M., of Woburn Sands, has been appointed as temporary replacement organist.

Source: Bedfordshire Times, 28th April 1916

[1] Dr George Herbert Fowler was a member of Bedfordshire County Council and the founder of the Bedfordshire Record Office (now Bedfordshire Archives Service, the authors of this blog)

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Eisteddfod at Bedford



Arch Druid Corporal Daniel Hughes (left) and Bard Private Alfred Jenkins (right)

Monday 24th April 1916: Last year Bedford celebrated a Highland Games for the first time. This year it has enjoyed a Bank Holiday Eisteddfod thanks to its Welsh visitors. The event was organised by the Borough Recreation Committee, with twenty five competitions programmed to last for five and a half hours without an interval. Due to the large number of entries preliminary competitions were held, with just the top three in each event performing at the finals at the Skating Rink.

The Eisteddfod opened with events for drums and bugles, followed by trumpets and mouth organs. Only two competitors entered for the stringed instrument class, with the clear winner playing a dulcimer. Impromptu speech proved an amusing event, with contestants speaking extempore on subjects ranging from mothers-in-law to Zeppelins and mud. Other events included singing, both solo and choral, and recitations (including humorous verse). The choir competition was the blue riband musical event, with the R.A.M.C. choir ending victorious. Separate events were arranged for civilians, including one for choir boys. Two boys entered but only one had the nerve to perform; he was awarded a special prize of 5 shillings and commended for his pluck.

The Eisteddfod ended with the “chairing of the bard”, Private Alfred Jenkins of the R.A.M.C., who won the title for his poem on “A Soldier’s Life”. Corporal Rev. Daniel Hughes, W.C.C.S, as Deputy Arch Druid of the Isle of Britain, acted as Master of Ceremonies.[1]  He led the way on to the platform carrying a sword and wearing a toga and laurel chaplet, followed by three assistants in togas, two of them chaplains, and Sister Butterworth, Assistant Matron of Ampthill Road Hospital carrying the laurel chaplet for the bard. After a short speech by the Arch Druid Private Jenkins was escorted to his seat while the piano played “See the Conquering Hero Comes”. The Arch Druid explained that this was a ratification of the honour by the audience and asked three times in Welsh if there was peace; each time the Welsh members of the audience replied that there was. Sister Butterworth crowned the Bard with the laurel chaplet, the Arch Druid and the two chaplains gave short eulogies in Welsh, and the ceremony ended with the singing of “Land of my Fathers”.

Source: Bedfordshire Times, 28th April 1916


[1] Private Alfred Jenkins is a Presbyterian Minister of Pencoed and a graduate of the Welsh University. The Deputy Arch Druid of the Isle of Britian, Corporal Daniel Hughes, is a Baptist Minister of Pontypool.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Wilden Loses its First Soldier



Wilden Church c.1905 [Z1130/132/1]

Sunday 23rd April 1916: The loss of the first soldier from Wilden to be killed in action has been announced in the parish magazine: “The news that Private Albert Peet had been killed in action in France has been received with deep regret, and everyone feels the deepest sympathy with his parents in their bereavement. After being at the Front for a long time Private Peet was in England on short leave as recently as April 10th. He returned to the Front, and was killed on April 18th [1]. He was buried in the British Cemetery at Vermelles. He is the first man from Wilden in the present war who has laid down his life for his country [2].”

Source: Bolnhurst, Colmworth, Roxton with Great Barford, Ravensden and Wilden Parish Magazine, June 1916 [P28/30/23]

[1] The Commonwealth War Graves Commission and his medal card record his date of death as 19th April 1916. Albert Peet was born at Wilden in 1879 but by 1901 had moved to Carshalton in Surrey where he was working as a cowman. He enlisted with the 6th Battalion of The Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment. at Croydon and was sent out to France on 1st June 1915.

[2] The war memorial inside St. Nicholas Church, Wilden, lists the names of eleven men killed in the First World War. 

Friday, 22 April 2016

Luton Town Footballer Absent Without Leave



Luton Town Football Club, 1908-9 [Z1306/75/21/5]

Saturday 22nd April 1916: Luton Town footballer Ernie Simms has been arrested for being absent without leave from the 1st Newcastle Field Artillery. Police Sergeant Hunt stated at the Borough Police Court that he had been on duty at the football match at the Town ground on Monday afternoon and saw Simms playing. He had seen the player around the town a good deal, sometimes in plain clothes and sometimes in uniform. When asked for his pass Simms produced one for a London Regiment, but later admitted it was not genuine. On making enquiries the policeman found that Simms had been absent from the 1st Battery of the Royal Field Artillery since 6th November last year, though Simms claimed he had returned since then and had only been absent for a fortnight [1]. He was remanded to await an escort, and P.S. Hunt was awarded ten shillings.

Source: Luton News, 27th April 1916


[1] During 1915-1916 Ernest Simms was charged three times for being absent without leave when returning to Luton to play football. World War I Luton gives more detail. 

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Luton Conscientious Objectors Arrested



Conscientious Objector Memorial, Tavistock Square Gardens, London

Friday 21st April 1916: Five conscientious objectors from Luton have been arrested as absentees under the Military Service Act for failing to comply with notices to report for military service. All five had applied unsuccessfully to Local Tribunals for exemption, and their Appeals against refusal had also failed. Appearing before the magistrates they explained that they had failed to report as they had conscientious objections to serving as combatants, but the Magistrates’ Clerk pointed out that his was of no consequence to the court as the magistrates were bound to carry out the law. The five men were remanded to await military escorts. They were named as Sidney Charles Bell of 23 Ashburnham Road; Bernard Bonner of 20 Park Street West; Montague Ronald Dimmock of 92 New Town Street; Harry Edward Stanton of 90 Wellington Street; and Hubert R. Plummer of 15 Ashburnham Road.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 18th April 1916

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Bedfordshire Lace



Lacemaker who made handkerchiefs for Queen Alexandra, the Queen of the Belgians, and Queen Amélie of Portugal (by Arthur Augustus Carnes, 1866-1932)

Thursday 20th April 1916: Mr A. A. Carnes of Shaftesbury Avenue, Bedford has secured various royal honours for Bedfordshire’s famous lace industry. He has been granted permission to name handkerchief designs after HM Queen Amélie of Portugal, and also after the Queen of the Belgians, the Princess Royal, Princess Christian, Princess Louise, Princess Beatrice, Princess Maud, Princess Victoria, and Princess Marie Louise. Other handkerchief designs have also been named after Viscountess French and Madame Sarah Bernhardt. These lace designs are all of fine thread work known locally as “12 slip”. It is hoped that local lace workers will realise that this gives them the opportunity to specialise in this fine work instead of continuing to use coarse threads, and will rediscover and pass on their skills in working traditional patterns.

Mr. Carnes has received a number of letters of gratitude and encouragement from the royal ladies. Princess Christian wrote that “it was most important to encourage and help this long established industry” and said she would be glad to bring it to others’ attention. HRH Princess Louise not only gratefully accepted the handkerchief sent her and was pleased to have it named after her, but chose a second and gave permission to have her name associated with both. Madame Sarah Bernhardt’s acknowledgment read “Je voue remercie pour votre mouchoir charmant et j’accepte avec plaisir que vous le donniez mon nom”.


In 1913 HM Queen Alexandra accepted a photograph of twelve old Bedfordshire lace workers, all over 80 years old and still engaged on lace making. The Queen had the photograph hung in her own room and sent a gracious message wishing “these clever, industrious old ladies every possible happiness in their declining years”. It is believed that lacemaking was introduced to Bedfordshire by Queen Katherine of Aragon during her time at Ampthill. After a prosperous time under the Stuarts the industry declined but was revived in the reign of Queen Victoria, with local work winning many honours at Exhibitions. In recent years poor designs and inferior quality lace has caused much harm, but there are now persistent efforts to revive the old designs. This art was kept alive mainly by village lace schools, where children began to learn the skill at the age of five. Bedfordshire lace is worked in one piece, both in the point and the designs connected by legs, which makes it particularly durable.  Source: Bedfordshire Times, 21st April 1916

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Bedford Corporation Workers Complain of Low Wages



Bedford Corporation dustcart c.1932 [BP63/5/6/17]

Wednesday 19th April 1916: A meeting of workmen employed in the Bedford Borough Surveyor’s Department was been called by the National Union of Corporation Workers to consider taking action following the Council’s refusal to grant an increase of wages or war bonus. The Union General Secretary declared himself astonished at the low level of wages in the town – sweepers, for example, were receiving 4 pence per hour for a 55 hour week, and dustmen about 4½ pence per hour. Despite the increase in the cost of living since the beginning of the war no general wage increase had been given for three years, although at the end of 1914 the Council increased the wages for those earning under £1 by one shilling a week and war bonuses were being paid. In other towns men were receiving much higher wages for the same work. Arguments were made for the introduction of a minimum wage for all workers. Against this, one of the Councillors, Mr. Farrer, pointed out that while he did not want to speak disparagingly of the sweepers, in many cases they were men who could not get work elsewhere, including a number taken from the Workhouse; in the circumstances he did not see how the Council could pay a flat rate. He expressed surprise that there were many men earning less than £1, and said he would never vote for it.

Source: Bedfordshire Times, 21st April 1916

Monday, 18 April 2016

Woman Killed by Runaway Horse



Black Diamond PH, Cauldwell Street, Bedford [Z50-9-280]

Tuesday 18th April 1916: An inquest was held this morning at Bedford Police Station into the death of 59 year old Mrs. Emma Ellen Johnson on Saturday morning after she was knocked down by a runaway horse. Corporal Newcombe of the 2/3rd Welsh Field Artillery told the court that he was coming over the Britannia Bridge towards the town when he saw a pair of horses bolt out of the Midland Railway coalyard, attached to an empty goods trolley. The Band of the 2nd Bedfords had just passed by, playing recruits to the station and a small crowd had gathered at the side of Cauldwell Street, opposite the Black Diamond public house. The horses dashed across the road past the pub. He ran down the hill and saw Mrs. Johnson standing by the railings “in a state of collapse and moaning”. She was carried into a house by Private Turner, repeating “Oh, my back!” There was black mud on her apron.

Driver C. Cooper of the 2/1 Cheshire Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, said the horses became restive when the band came over the bridge. Corporal Price came to his aid and got hold of the other horse, but as soon as the band had passed the gate the horse he was holding jumped up into the air and made off. Corporal Price was hit in the chest by a pole and had to let go, leaving him with both horses. He held on as best he could, but had to let go in front of the rails to avoid running into them. The horses ran some way down the footpath, which was how they hit the woman. The horses stopped 150 yards down the street when one fell. He had done his very best.

Private W. J. Turner had been standing at the corner of the coal-wharf, and Mrs. Johnson was standing at the corner of Cauldwell Place when the band came along. The horses bolted across the street into a group of five or six women. Mrs. Johnson and three other women were knocked down. A military doctor was summoned and found her in a state of collapse. No bones were broken but there must have been internal injuries and he believed she died from shock as a consequence. There were bruises on her hip and thigh and he thought she had been run over. The Coroner praised Driver Cooper for his efforts and expressed great sympathy for Mrs. Johnson’s family. A verdict of accidental death was given.

Source: Bedfordshire Times, 21st April 1916

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Zeppelins and Spring Cleaning



Haynes Church, c.1920 [Z1130/56]

Monday 17th April 1916: The Vicar of Haynes, Rev. W. C. Browne, has been fined ten shillings for failing to subdue a light in his house on April 6th. He explained that they had not been able to put up a blind because they were spring cleaning. The Chairman provoked amusement by pointing out that Zeppelins did not take any account of spring cleaning.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 18th April 1916

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Floods at Leagrave



Leagrave Marsh, c.1910 [Z1306/75/12/9]

Sunday 16th April 1916: For the past three weeks the Midland Road area at Leagrave has been in a “deplorable” state, with houses flooded and dome wells overflowing into gardens (and even into houses) due to an unusual rise in the ground water level. At least two houses have had water seven inches deep under the front room floors, and it is likely this is true of many others. This is the third time this has happened in the last fifty years, but the first time since the area has been built on. Midland Road was previously part of a valley running through the hills between Luton and Dunstable to the River Lea. The heavy rainfall had left the lower part of this area waterlogged, and it became impossible to empty the dome wells as they quickly filled up again.

The Luton Borough Surveyor believes the blame lies with the construction of the cottages, which are at a considerably lower level than the road. A large adjacent plot of land had flooded, with the water rising above the air ventilators for the ground floors of the houses. This has caused all the lower rooms to flood, with standing water just underneath the floors; the tenants are having to live upstairs and the smell is “awful”. At the top of Dordans Road a large lake was covering about an acre, over two feet deep in places. Although the Council’s drain was able to cope until the second severe storm, it is clear that additional drainage will be needed.

Source: Luton News, 20th April 1916

Friday, 15 April 2016

Accidental Death of a Luton Soldier



Rifleman Augustus Tennyson Bruton

Saturday 15th April 1916: Rifleman Augustus Tennyson Bruton of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps has been buried today at East Hyde Churchyard. Rifleman Bruton’s coffin was carried on a gun carriage covered by the Union Jack. Men from the Royal Field Artillery Training Camp at Biscot and a firing party from the 2/4th Leicestershire Regiment. Full military honours had also been accorded as his coffin was taken from the hospital at Warrington where he died to the station, and wreaths were sent by the hospital staff. Twenty one year old Rifleman Bruton had formerly been a scholar and chorister at East Hyde Church. He had worked at the Luton Hoo garden for four years, and before enlisting he was employed as gardener by Mr. Brown of Highfield, Luton.

The young man died from injuries sustained due to a most unfortunate accident. He had joined the army in November 1915 and was sent to Andover for training. After nine weeks he was sent to France. He was resting after six days in the trenches when the accident happened. He was one of a party receiving bombing instruction on March 2nd when a bomb exploded while the instructor was holding it. Rifleman Bruton’s left foot was badly injured. After five days in hospital in France he was repatriated to the Lord Derby War Hospital at Winwick, Warrington. On April 9th, as he was busy with his duties at church as Parish Clerk of East Hyde, Mr. Bruton received an urgent telegram summoning him to his son’s bedside. With the help of the Vicar and Lady Wernher the parents were taken by motor car to Bedford, where they caught an early train to Warrington. They were able to be with their son for his last hours, before he died at 8 p.m. on Monday 10th. His body was returned to Luton on Thursday,

Source: Luton News, 20th April 1916

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Dietary Advice



Ploughman's lunch [Wikimedia]

Friday 14th April 1916:  The Luton News has passed on to its readers the following advice from Dr. Harry Campbell of the West End Hospital, London:

“A good hunch of crusty bread, thoroughly chewed, with butter and cheese or fat bacon, followed by a little raw fruit, such as an apple, constitutes an ideal meal. Not only does it provide the needful nutritive ingredients, but it gives the teeth and salivary glands ample work, and leaves the mouth in a hygienic state.”

Source: Luton News, 13th April 1916

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Join the Army? I'd Rather Crack Stones!



Men's Ward, Biggleswade Workhouse c.1910-20 [Z1306/16/14/11/3]

Thursday 13th April 1916: At today’s meeting of the Ampthill Board of Guardians it was suggested that if there were any men in the Ampthill Workhouse who were capable of earning their own living, they should be sent out to work to help the labour shortage. Unfortunately the Master reported that there was only one able-bodied man among the residents, and he had been ill, and was leaving next week. Instructions had been received from the Local Government Board for dealing with vagrants of military age. The workhouse officials were to inform the police and the recruiting officer if any such men applied for admission to the tramp wards. The Master mentioned that a tramp aged about 30 had recently had to be locked up for refusing his task. When asked why he was not in the Army, he had replied that he did not intend to be a soldier and would rather crack stones, but was “not very anxious for that”.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 18th April 1916

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Old Bedfordian in East Africa



Jan Smuts c.1914 [Wikimedia]

Wednesday 12th April 1916: An Old Bedfordian has written describing his part in the advance of General Smuts in East Africa and the Battle of Latema-Reata [1]:

“I am awfully sorry I have not been able to get a letter off for at least a month. I did write two at different times, but I was not able to get either off. One was written during a most ferocious battle. They both got soaked through in my haversack. I got detached from my regiment with my ‘army’, so I saw and was in General Smuts’ big advance – Saleito, Taveta, and the big action at Latema and Reata. That was the biggest scrap I have been in out here. We began at 9.30 a.m, and by 5 p.m. we had made good about a fifth of their position on the two hills, and then we did a big assault which carried us a little way further, but not as far as we hoped. At 7.30 we had another biff, but were pushed out again, except about 200 men who dug themselves in on the crest. At 9.30 we had another dig, and again got pushed out, except another 200 or 300, who dug in. Then on and off all night the line were attacking or being counter attacked until about 3.30 a.m. At dawn we advanced to have another dig, but found the enemy had evacuated, leaving their dead, one gun , and three machine guns. My ‘army’ was awfully lucky – one officer and two men wounded – but I had two of my guns put out of action (one with seven bullet hits). I had also a mule killed, and one porter killed and two wounded. I had not the luck to go on any further with the advance, stopping then, and rejoining my regiment.”

Since that time our officer had suffered a frustrating time, suffering from a bout of fever which had caused him to be transferred to hospital in Nairobi: “I hope to be up and about in a couple of days as my fever was apparently not malaria proper, but just the result of being run down after a couple of months of pretty strenuous work. I had a very comfortable run up in a hospital train. Our arrival at Nairobi was quite amusing. There were hordes of females with cups of tea, bread and butter and rusks, expecting wounded heroes; but fully 99 per cent of our trainload were prosaic malaria. All the same the tea was very comforting.”

Source: The Ousel, 24th May 1916 [Z447/23]


[1] The Battle of Latema-Reata took place on 11th and 12th March, 1916 and resulted in a German withdrawal at the cost of 270 British casualties.


Monday, 11 April 2016

Death of Captain William Griffiths



Bedford Grammar School, 1907 [Z1130/9/2/1/25]

Tuesday 11th April 1916: Captain William Percival Griffiths, the son of Mrs. A. Griffiths of 162 Bromham Road, Bedford, and the late Revd. J. Griffiths, has been killed in action with the 10th Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. An Old Bedfordian, “Griffin” (as he was known) was one of the most promising boys of recent years and had won a senior scholarship at Oxford which he postponed to join the army in September 1914. His commanding officer writes:

“During the fighting on the 30/3/16, he was twice slightly wounded, and most gallantly continued in his duty. He was killed while trying to get a wounded man into the trench. He did not suffer, being killed instantly, being shot through the head. The conditions of the fighting and the trenches were such that it was impossible to take him back. He was buried the same night, close to the place in the front line trench where he fell. The position is registered. I regret that I did not know him personally, as I have only just taken over command  of this Battalion, but I know from all his friends that he was a very fine soldier, and that he died doing his duty fearlessly. He was recommended for his work on March 2nd, and I hope to see his name mentioned in despatches.”

A fellow officer has also written to his parents: “Poor Griffin (as he was known to all of us) was easily the most popular officer with us. He possessed the most wonderful character – brave, cheerful, and intensely lovable. I have never met anyone possessing such an absolute contempt for danger, and we were all constantly warning him to be less reckless. He met his death just after making a particularly daring reconnaissance. He was killed instantaneously, and his orderly was badly wounded at the same time. Griffin had been twice mentioned for distinction for valuable and gallant work, and had he lived would have brought great honour to his regiment. I hope that the knowledge that he died so gallantly and in such a cause will temper your grief. It is simply awful for the few of us left behind to lose such a wonderful comrade and soldier. There are only five of us left that left England last September.”

Source: The Ousel, 24 May 1916 [Z447/23]

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Princess Victoria Opens YMCA Hut at Biscot



Guard of Honour line the route as Princess Victoria arrives 
[Z1306/75/16/19]

Monday 10th April 1916: Her Highness Princess Victoria Louise of Schleswig-Holstein has today visited Luton in order to perform the opening ceremony for the “Hubbard Hut” provided by the town for the use of the YMCA at Biscot Camp. The Princess reached the town at 1 p.m. and was taken by Lady Wernher to Luton Hoo. By two o’clock the route from the southern end of the town to the top of Biscot Hill was lined with people. On arriving at the camp Her Highness was greeted by a fanfare from the trumpeters of the London R.F.A.  She then passed between a guard of honour and was received by the Mayor and Mayoress. Her Highness wore a heavy black fur coat, with a small ermine wrap at the neck, and a simply cut black silk dress. She had a large green hat trimmed with green ribbon and worn at a slant. Lady Wernher wore a dress of rich mauve cloth with a silk corsage, a sealskin coat, and a distinctive large mauve hat.

The Princess was conducted to the platform within the hut and the National Anthem was sung, before a prayer of dedication was said by the Vicar and a hymn sung. The Mayor gave a speech in which he welcomed the Princess, and praised the efforts which had raised £1500 to provide huts for the YMCA at Folkestone, a scheme successfully launched by a generous gift of £500 from Councillor and Mrs. Hubbard. The success of the fund-raising meant there was enough money to provide another hut at Luton, and Mr. and Mrs. Hubbard’s contribution had been used for this purpose and the total cost of £700 had been raised within a week. A representative of the YMCA responded with his thanks and an explanation of how the hut would be used, providing a place for soldiers to deal with correspondence, to play billiards and other games, and to enjoy concerts and other entertainments. The speeches were followed by a song from Miss Mary Hilliard and Her Highness then declared the hut open, granting permission for it to be known as the Princess Victoria Hut. A vote of thanks was proposed by Lady Wernher and seconded by Colonel Griffiths. Councillor Hubbard was persuaded to make closing remarks before proceedings concluded with another song and a blessing.

Before the Princess left Luton she accepted an invitation from the Mayor to visit the factory of Messrs Vyse, Sons and Company in Bute Street. She was able inspect the modern premises and see all stages of the hat manufacturing process. Her Highness chatted with the girls and expressed herself delighted with everything she saw. She will soon receive the gift of a hat in a design of her own choosing. Her Highness returned to London on the 5.30 p.m. express, which made a special stop at Chiltern Green for her benefit.


Source: Luton News, 13th April 1916

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Biggleswade Man Defeats Scots in Fishing Match




Pike caught at Sutton Park, 1906 [X768/67]

Sunday 9th April 1916: Sapper F. Lenton of the Royal Engineers is in a Convalescent Home in France recovering from illness. He writes that he hopes soon to be back in the line but that meanwhile he has been enjoying “a bit of sport to pass away the dreary time. We have a stream running through the grounds and we arranged a fishing match, and by gum, fishing too it was. I and six others contested against a room of ‘Jocks’. We had about three yards of bottom each and a worm at the end of a line. Well, of tiddlers we were pulling them out two and three at a time haning to the worm, and after three hours in the hot sun we counted up our captives, which we had in jam tins of water. The result was as follows: - My team, 152 tiddlers; the Jocks, 151 tiddlers. A win for England by 1 tiddler!”

Before the war Sapper Lenton worked at a coachman at Ferguson’s livery stables, Biggleswade.

Source: Biggleswade Chronicle, 14th April 1916

Friday, 8 April 2016

Objections to Conscientious Objector as Schoolmaster



Image: Westoning School, 2009 [CR/PH © Beds Archives]

Saturday 8th April 1916: At a meeting yesterday of the Bedfordshire Education Committee a deputation was present to object to appointment of a conscientious objector, Mr. R. R. Fordham, as headmaster of Westoning School, and the following resolution passed by the Flitwick group of School Managers was read:

“The local Managers of the Flitwick Group of Schools desire to protest against the appointment of Mr. Fordham as headmaster of Westoning School on the ground that he is a conscientious objector. They are of opinion that in the interest of the nation children should be taught their duty to the State, which includes the right of defending it against oppression, and that while parents and brothers are fighting for the state it is not advisable that children should be under the influence of a conscientious objector. They desire to point out that two names were submitted to them by Mr. Baines suitable for the vacancy of headmastership. They refused to recommend Mr. Fordham by reason of his being a conscientious objector. As they were doubtful whether the only other candidate was entirely suitable, not having had charge of a school, they recommend his appointment on trial. They do not see what other course was open to them. The Managers fail to see the usefulness of their continuing to act as Managers if their recommendations are disregarded.”

There was discussion as to whether the objection to Mr. Fordham was because he was a member of the Society of Friends [Quakers]. It was pointed out that the Managers did not object on religious grounds, but on patriotic grounds. The committee decided to invite both the deputation and Mr. Fordham into the room. Mr. Spensley, one of the managers from Westoning, said their objection was simply that at times like these such a person should not be sent to teach in any village school. In his view it was essential that the children should be taught patriotism, and that they should not have a man who would teach the children not to fight.

Mr. Fordham said he was 31 years old, was a member of the Society of Friends and a conscientious objector. He would never dream of teaching children not to fight for their country. He would not mind serving with the Friends’ ambulance unit, but would not serve under the military. The Rector of Blunham, where Mr. Fordham was currently teaching, had written stating that he had always acted loyally and within the traditions of the Church School. It was stated that there was no other position open to Mr. Fordham.  The Chairman of the Committee pointed out that Mr. Fordham had the right to conscientiously object, and another member said that no man should be penalised for holding opinions which were recognised in law.

The matter was referred back to the Committee for further consideration.


Source: Bedfordshire Standard 14th April 1916

Thursday, 7 April 2016

A Tale of Two Brothers



Billingsgate Market 1876 [Wikimedia]

Friday 7th April 1916: The County Appeals Tribunal held yesterday at Luton had to deal with a confusing case in which the papers of two brothers from Leighton Buzzard had become mixed. One of the brothers is married and the other single, but the Tribunal had some difficulty establishing which of them was which. After efforts were made by the applicant and his solicitor to establish his identity, the Tribunal agreed that the man whose appeal against military service they were considering was 24 years old, single and partly responsible for the support of another, younger brother and a sister. At the Local Tribunal his brother had been given four months’ exemption, but his own application had been dismissed.

The applicant said that he and his brother had two shops, a fish and game shop which they managed between them, and a fruit shop in another part of the town which was managed by their sister and had been started so that she could help to support herself. Three of their employees had left and enlisted, and although they had tried to find replacements they had been unable to do so; it was stated that if the applicant was not exempted the business would have to close. He acted as salesmen and delivered country orders on a motorcycle, while his brother attended Billingsgate market three times a week – the Tribunal were told this was absolutely necessary as “if you want good stuff you must go and choose it yourself, or you have anything palmed off on you”. However, a member of the Tribunal pointed out that many retail dealers, with considerably larger businesses, ordered their goods by telegraph. It was also suggested that if the applicant’s younger brother was employed by the business he could take over the motor cycle deliveries. The appeal was refused on the grounds that one of the brothers must go, and the applicant appeared the most suitable.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 7th April 1916

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Bedford Soldier Killed by a Train



Bedford County Hospital 1910 [Z1130/10/36/2]

Thursday 6th April 1916: An inquest has been held at the Bedford County Hospital into the death of Trooper Percy James Griffiths of the Bedfordshire Yeomanry, a married man aged 21. Major Pares told the inquest that Trooper Griffiths had joined the Yeomanry last September but only a few days later was kicked by a horse and was reported sick. From then onwards he never actually came on duty, and was sick more or less until he was discharged from hospital on 29th March. The effects of the injury had only lasted a short time, but he suffered from other health problems. On March 29 he appeared all right and looked fairly well. He was reported fit for duty but did not come on duty the next morning as he ought to have done. The Major did not think Trooper Griffiths cared for military work, and he suffered from hysteria.

On the morning of Friday 31st March Corporal A. F. Carnell was sent to find Trooper Griffiths and found him in bed at his home at 42 Greenhill Street. Griffiths said he was too ill to attend and asked for a doctor to be sent. He was told he was reported fit for duty and advised to get up. The Sergeant Major had asked Griffiths why he did not attend at the miniature range the day before as instructed; he claimed that he had been and found no one there, but this was contradicted by the Sergeant Major. On the Friday Griffiths again failed to turn up for parade and Corporal Carnell was sent to fetch him. He saw the man’s mother-in-law, who said Griffiths had told her he had to report himself to the doctor. He had appeared quite rational.

Another witness, Frank Gosling, told the inquest that he had been cycling from Wootton Pillinge to Bedford on Monday evening at about 9 p.m. As he passed under Cow Bridge he heard someone call for help from the railway bank. He got off his bicycle and called for some soldiers, who went to a nearby cottage to see if it had a telephone. Mr. Gosling found Trooper Griffiths at the bottom of the bank, with both his legs cut off by a train. The soldiers had managed to telephone the hospital, and he contacted both the signal box and the station master. Griffiths was taken to the hospital, where he died at about one o’clock the next morning.

Griffiths’ mother-in-law, Ellen Chambers of Biggleswade, said she was nursing Griffiths’ wife. She had last seen him on Friday morning; he had complained of his head and looked “wild in his eyes”. He had also complained about his head on Thursday night. He worried about his wife and children, but was a very steady man who never took too much drink. Griffiths’ mother said that she had three other sons in the Army who were all doing well. Percy was trying to do his bit, but could not manage it. When he was two years old he had a severe illness, and it was then considered that he had brain trouble. He worked as a warehouseman and his manager had told her that her son suffered from loss of memory.

The jury returned a verdict that Trooper Griffiths had committed suicide, but that there was insufficient evidence to show his state of mind at the time.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 7th April 1916

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

The First Women’s “Police” Patrols



Margaret Damer Dawson and Mary Allen, founders of Women's Police Service 
[Imperial War Museum Q108495, under IWM Non-Commercial Licence]

Wednesday 5th April 1916: At the annual meeting of the Bedfordshire Branch of the National Union of Women Workers held at Bedford yesterday a speech was given by the national president of the Union, Mrs Creighton. She told the meeting that what she had heard from Bedford had originated the “grand work” of women patrols. The Bedford ladies had noticed a need before anyone else had thought of it, and had started a voluntary scheme which had indicated there was a need for something on a much larger scale. There were now 2000 women’s patrols at work all over the country, safeguarding girls and supporting special clubs for girls and soldiers, with the sanction of both civil and military authorities [1].

Mrs Creighton also pointed out the importance of caring for the thousands of girls now working in the munitions factories, and making sure that their health and character did not suffer. Mrs Trustram Eve had visited the Luton to enquire into the housing situation of munitions workers. , She had found that the girls working in the factories were well provided for. The works all held lists of suitable lodgings; the rooms used for the girls were “clean and respectable”; and the landladies were asked to “mother” the girls as far as possible. In her opinion a matter of greater concern was the long hours the girls were expected to work.

Source: Bedfordshire Times, 7th April 1916; Luton News, 6th April 1916


[1] These women’s patrols worked alongside the privately founded Women’s Police Service. In 1918 the women’s patrols were disbanded and the first women were appointed as police officers.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Ampthill Training Camp



Training camp at Ampthill Park [Z1306/1/34/3]

Tuesday 4th April 1916: There has been a case of measles at the Ampthill Training Camp, as a result of which passes for weekend leave were not given. On Thursday the soldiers at the camp enjoyed an excellent concert given by a party from Bedford. Performers included: Tom Swan, a clever comedian who was wounded in France; Signor Bellizzi, a veteran of 21 years in the British Navy and a talented singer; elocutionist Private Densley; and Mrs Hawkins Pearey as accompanist. There has been work as well as play, with the trainees taking part on several route marches, including one on Saturday through the villages of Maulden, Flitton and Flitwick. On the same day the draft ready for the Front was inspected by the Duke of Bedford in his role as Colonel.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 4th April 1916

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Empty Billets at Leighton Buzzard



Bridge Street, Leighton Buzzard c.1910 [Z1306/72]

Monday 3rd April 1916: After spending much of last year as host to the members of a northern regiment, Leighton Buzzard now sees very few soldiers on its streets. In most other towns, when one set of soldiers has left another has taken their place. Leighton, however, like its neighbour Dunstable seems to have been forgotten by the authorities. The town has many advantages as a centre for military training: its large park and recreation ground provide plenty of space for drilling; the nearby woodland and undulating countryside are excellent for practicing different types of warfare; there is excellent sanitation; and the local churches and societies took a great interest in the social and religious welfare of soldiers billeted in the town. Fresh troops were expected to arrive soon after the previous visitors left. Householders were told to exercise patience but months later they are still waiting, unsure whether their houses will be wanted again or whether they should set them in order again. The empty billets have meant a loss both for their owners and for traders in the town, which is now much quieter. It is hoped that the Urban District Council will take the matter in hand and at least discover whether more troops can be expected.

Source: Luton News, 6th April 1916

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Bunyan Meeting Minister in France



Bunyan Meeting, Bedford 1913 [Z1306/10/42/4]

Sunday 2nd April 1916: The Rector of Clophill is not the only minister of religion from Bedfordshire serving as a chaplain at the Front. Rev. W. J. Coates, the minister of Bunyan meeting is with the 6th King’s Shropshire Light Infantry is hoping to return home on leave this month. In a recent letter he describes an amusing encounter with a Scotsman:

“A Y.M.C.A. hut is near our occasional rest billets. Here, at odd moments, I lend a hand with coffee and twist, Woodbines and buttons. Once or twice, we have had a fine service. In the Hut, there exists a little library of books. In comes a braw Scots laddie with a burning question. All we detected was something resembling ‘buns’. ‘Oh, yes,’ said the attendant, ‘We’ve plenty of buns’. The counter was stacked with them. It was nearly an insult. ‘Burrns, Burrn, the works of Burrns’. Collapse of the attendant amid confused apologies, and the assurance that he had heard of the writer before. The Scot had not seen a copy of his national poet for six years. He wanted Burns, not buns, and wanted him badly! He could recite ‘Tam o’Shanter’, he said, by heart, and many another.”

Source: Bedfordshire Time, 7th April 1916