Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Dunstable Tribunal


Belladonna (or deadly nightshade) [Wikimedia]

Wednesday 31st May 1916: Tribunals continue to sit around the county to decide on applications for exemption from military service. At Dunstable today the father of a married chemist appeared to support his son’s claim for exemption. The applicant collects and prepares medicinal herbs, of which he has expert knowledge. Many of these have become very scarce since supplies from Germany were cut off with the outbreak of the war and he has spent much time searching for these with great success. Several of the drugs are almost impossible to obtain in the market, and he has been able to supply large quantities to the War Office. Last year the father and son had been able to supply two tons of belladonna root, which had increased tenfold in value since 1914 due to its scarcity and medicinal value. The applicant had four brothers serving and had himself only been passed for home service, due to having had malaria while living abroad. The Tribunal granted him conditional exemption.

A number of other men who had been passed fit only for home service were also given conditional exemption. These included a rural postman who cycles 28 miles a day and has an invalid wife and no relatives; a 40 year old ploughman and horsekeeper; and a journeyman baker in delicate health who was said to be indispensable to his father.  Another young baker was less fortunate and was refused, despite being the only support of his widowed mother; the Chairman of the Tribunal agreed it seemed hard that he must go and was given permission to appeal. The case of two men employed at the whiting works was adjourned as it appeared they were only there thanks to a blunder. Applications had been sent to the Munitions Office for badges for four employees, but a mistake had been made and the wrong names submitted; two men who were over age had received exemption certificates, and the two applicants had not.

Source: Luton News, 1st June 1916

Monday, 30 May 2016

Leighton Buzzard Brothel Keeper Gaoled



Friday Street, c.1925 [WL800/2]

Tuesday 30th May 1916: Mrs. Rose Phillips of 25 Friday Street, Leighton Buzzard, has appeared at the Leighton Buzzard Police Court charged with permitting the premises to be used as a brothel. The defendant, a “tall, smart looking woman” aged 23, whose husband is a soldier at the Front, was allowed to be seated during the hearing. All women were asked to leave the court. Police Sergeant Dennis stated that he had known Mrs Philips for some months and had kept observation on the house from 25th March. At various times he had seen men and women enter the house between 11 and 12 p.m., both in couples and singly. Another girl lived with Mrs Phillips, although her parents lived in the town. He gave the names of a soldier and other men he had seen visiting the house, but admitted he never actually saw anything wrong between the parties who went there. Two other policemen had seen men entering the house and observed Mrs Phillips associating with men in the street. One had seen her behaving familiarly with two men at the corner of Friday Street and had heard her say to them “Let us come to business”.

Mary Adcock, the wife of the licensee of the Royal Oak next door to the defendant’s house, said Mrs Phillips had been in the public house with men, left by the back way and went with them to her own house. On the day after Good Friday she had two girls and two men with her. They went into 25 Friday Street at 3.30 p.m. but she did not see them come out. On Easter Monday another man bought some sandwiches at the pub then went to Mrs Phillips’ house; again she did not see him leave. She had occasionally been into her neighbour’s house but had never seen any “impropriety”. Thomas Underwood of 6 Friday Street lived opposite Mrs Phillips. He had also seen men visit the house; some came out drunk and he once saw a man leave at 4.45 a.m. He had given Mrs Phillips his opinion of her character and told her she should be ashamed of herself. He did however admit that despite claiming to have a “pretty good character” himself he had been convicted about thirty times for poaching and drinking! His wife Emily Underwood stated that two other women were living with Mrs Phillips, and she had often seen men coming out at about one in the morning. There seemed to be some suspicion that Thomas Underwood had himself wished to “visit” Mrs Phillips but had been refused.

A police sergeant from Winslow (Bucks) told the court he had known Mrs Phillips for 4½ years. Her husband had been a respectable farm labourer before he was called up. At the end of 1914 he had warned her to behave herself. She had told him she was doing nothing wrong and “there was no harm in talking to soldiers”. In December 1915 her house had been placed out of bounds for the men of the 2/5th Norfolks stationed at Winslow. She moved to another address, but soldiers used to stay with her for weekends and the landlord gave her notice to quit. She had then moved to Leighton Buzzard. Mrs Phillips’ solicitor submitted that all the evidence was circumstantial and there was no case to answer; nobody had proved that anything wrong had happened at 25 Friday Street. The magistrates disagreed. Mrs Phillips was convicted and sentenced to one month’s imprisonment with hard labour. An appeal was made for a fine as an alternative as Mrs Phillips had four children aged under five, but the magistrates refused. When told her fate Mrs Phillips laughed and said she did not mind, but then broke down and sobbed bitterly.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 6th June 1916

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Leighton Special Constable Fined



The Roebuck, Leighton Buzzard, 2008 (© Bedfordshire Archives)

Monday 29th May 1916: A Leighton Buzzard special constable, Fred W. Buckmaster, has been fined £1 after being summoned on a charge of neglecting to carry out his duties as instructed. Mr. H. E. Grimmett, a special sergeant, was in charge on the evening of May 18th when Mr Buckmaster came on duty. He had patrolled the town for an hour and a half and reported at the Roebuck Corner at 9.30 p.m. He was then told to go to the police station to relieve another special constable on duty there. When the second special constable did not report Mr Grimett went to the station and found that Mr Buckmaster had never arrived. He was next seen at 11 p.m. when he drove up in his motor car. Mr Buckmaster did not offer any explanation or apology.

The Chairman of the Bench has received a letter from Captain Bassett, who is in charge of the special constables. Unfortunately it does not give Mr Buckmaster a very good reputation, indicating that he has persistently neglected his duties. Mr Buckmaster’s explanation is that on May 18th a gentleman came to him saying he had an appointment with a doctor at Dunstable, and he thought it was his duty to take him. On the two occasions when complaints had previously been made about him he was ill; he had written at the time to Captain Bassett and understood that the matter was considered to be closed. There seemed, however, to be some doubt as to whether Captain Bassett was entirely satisfied that Mr Buckmaster had indeed been ill.

The special constables are performing an excellent job across the county, and this is the first occasion on which a charge of this nature has been brought. However, it is essential that discipline is maintained. The Bench decided that an example must be made in this case and Mr Buckmaster may consider himself fortunate that as it was a first offence he received a fine of only £1, rather than the maximum amount of £3.

Source: Luton News, 1st June 1916

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Bedford Soldier Seriously Wounded



Corporal H. G. Clarke

Sunday 28th May 1916: Corporal H. G. Clarke, the son of Mrs. C. E. Clarke of 5 Cavendish Street, Bedford, has been seriously wounded serving with the 1/1st East Anglian Field Company of the Royal Engineers, on attachment to the 1/1st Lowland Field Company RE. As he was mounting guard a heavy shrapnel shell exploded, lacerating his right leg and thigh. He has been repatriated to England and is in Lincoln Hospital where he remains in a serious condition. He was due to return home on leave just three days after he was wounded. Before the war he had been employed at the Queen’s Engineering Works as a draughtsman for seven years.

Source: Bedfordshire Times, 2nd June 1916

Friday, 27 May 2016

Men's Mess Room Rules



George Kent Biscot Road factory at night, c.1920s [Z1306/75/17/22]

Saturday 27th May 1916: At the George Kent engineering works in Luton the following rules are to be observed in the men’s mess room:
  1. All meals served in the Mess Room must be paid for at the time. Credit cannot be allowed.
  2. Free meals are not provided for men, only boys working in VO. Depts. Rated at 3d or less, will be provided with milk and biscuit in the morning, and tea in the afternoon, free of charge. 
  3. Any dishes or articles shown on the tariff, can, under normal circumstances, be provided at the prices stated.
  4. Complaints as to accommodation, service or cooking, will be dealt with promptly. These should be addressed to Mrs. Nicholls.
  5. Crockery must not be taken from the Mess Rooms.
  6. Broken crockery must be reported and handed to the Mess Room Staff.
  7. A table is set aside for boys – disorderly conduct at this table will be reported.
  8. For their own and other’s sakes, those who use the Mess Room are requested to refrain from spitting.
  9. Rowdyism and bad language must not be indulged in.
  10. Gambling of any sort or kind is strictly prohibited. An infringement of this rule will mean instant dismissal for those concerned.
Source: George Kent Ltd. Archive

Thursday, 26 May 2016



Biggleswade Church c.1910 [Z1306/16/22/1]

Friday 26th May 1916: The novelty of daylight saving time has been rather more popular in Biggleswade than in Leighton Buzzard. The change of time went ahead smoothly apart from technical difficulties with one or two public clocks. The Church Clock, which has been behaving badly ever since it was silenced by the Zeppelin threat, stopped dead just before 7 a.m., and in the evening when the bells rang for the six o’clock evening service the clock insisted it was only five past four. The people of Biggleswade appear to have accepted the idea of daylight saving with remarkable unanimity. Even the weather showed enthusiasm for the idea, with Sunday the hottest day since last July 4th. The cool, fresh evening proved the usefulness of the extra hour of daylight, and people took advantage of it by staying outdoors and enjoying the fresh air. Almost everyone seemed to fall in easily with the new time, though inevitably there were a few amusing mistakes. In one household both husband and wife put the clock on without realising the other had done so, and in one village the church clock was advanced the hour on Saturday evening, causing a rush of customers to the pub anxious for a quick drink before closing time!

Source: Biggleswade Chronicle, 26th May 1916

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Heavy Losses for Village of Turvey



Turvey Church c.1905 [Z1130/128/5/4]

Thursday 25th May 1916: The village of Turvey has received news of its fourth loss in just two weeks with the death of Private Frederick George King of the 2nd Bedfords. Private King was killed in action on May 14th by a rifle grenade falling into a “sap” (a short trench stretching forward into no-man’s land) where he was on duty. He was 26 years old and before joining the army worked as gardener for Mr. H. C. Oldrey at The Gables and was organ blower at the Parish Church. He joined up soon after the beginning of the war and had been in France for eight months. Two of the other Turvey casualties were killed in the same action while attempting to defend the trenches the 8th Bedfords near Ypres against a partially successful German attack: 19 year old Horace Lovell of Turvey Lodge Cottage died on 19th April, and 18 year old Horace Sargent was killed on the 20th.

Source: Bedfordshire Times, 26th May 1916

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Empire Day Celebrations



Empire Day Celebration, Podington 1908 [Z1306/89/6]

Wednesday 24th May 1916: Empire Day has been celebrated today in schools across the county. At Dunstable Road School in Luton the celebrations were presided over by the Mayor and Mayoress, and attended by a number of honoured guests including one 16 year old boy who, despite his age, has returned wounded from the Front. The children sang hymns and choruses, and the Mayor gave a speech explaining the meaning of Empire and its stand for right and justice. At Christ Church Infants school each child wore a daisy, the emblem of the Empire, and most wore red, white, and blue ribbons and carried flags. They sang patriotic songs including “Rule Britannia”, and the top class entertained the others with a game of soldiers and nurses. The soldiers had rifles and marched in order to battle, while the Red Cross nurses, wearing aprons, caps, and crosses, bandaged up the wounded. In the afternoon the children made daisy chains.

Source: Luton News, 25th May 1916

Monday, 23 May 2016

What Shall We Do With The Sundials?



Heath and Reach Clock Tower, c.1900 [Z1130/57/3]

Tuesday 23rd May 1916: The introduction of Daylight Saving Time for the first time last Sunday has not been met with universal approval. The Leighton Buzzard Observer has published a letter from Mr. C. J. Minter of Aspley Guise, who vehemently opposes the change in the following (considerably abbreviated) terms:

“The sundial is an object of interest in many an old-fashioned garden, combining as it were philosophy with beauty, both of which are ‘a joy for ever.’ With the advent of the Daylight Saving Order, however, the question has been asked, ‘What shall we do with the sundials?’  We would say, just wait. For people will come back to reason and common sense and to the old sundial once again after the ‘Daylight Saving Scheme’ is dead and forgotten. Were this measure to continue in force, it would be a matter for very deep regret, because it must inevitably work great hardship in a vast number of cases.

People have not taken this measure seriously. It has seemed too utterly ridiculous to merit their attention, and has been regarded more as a half ludicrous joke. You have to say, as it were, to an hour at one time, ‘Quick-change, and be gone!’ and at another, ‘Halt – backwards!’ - and make the hour repeat itself. Was there ever a more clumsy, a more childish, a more fatuous device conceived? Surely, it is the most quixotic measure ever brought before our legislators. And all to what purpose? To do something which might have been done (and is being done by many, for numbers of firms have arranged with their employees, to go to work at a reasonably earlier time in the summer than in the winter months, without altering the clocks) in a sound and sensible manner, and not by a method which shows such a scant semblance to reason as to cause one to doubt if there be even a vestige of such a commodity about it.

People will not even know when they were born, nor which is one day and which another, with the vanishing and reappearing of hours at the waving of the clock magician’s wand, instead of relying, as we have done hitherto, on the accuracy of the stars. … There is a possibility of even those who are now so strongly in favour of this Daylight Saving Scheme, presently growing so weary of it as to devise a scheme whereby our legislators shall move the hands of the clock in the opposite direction and return again to correct time. Meanwhile, the sundials should on no account be interfered with, for they will again come to their own, and be a delight still to chastened and wiser men.”

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 23rd May 1916

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Alfred Yeo Addresses Small Businessmen at Luton



Alfred Yeo [Wikimedia]

Monday 22nd May 1916: At a meeting held at the Luton Plait Hall Mr. Alfred William Yeo, M.P. for Poplar, has told Luton’s small traders that they should be proud of the part they played in winning concessions from parliament for small businesses owners in respect of the requirements for military service.[1] The attendance was considerably smaller than it had been for last week’s meeting; as one gentleman put it, “They wanted something then: they’ve got it now and they don’t care.”  Luton M.P. Cecil Harmsworth was unable to attend but send a telegram reading: “In Dublin for some days. Best wishes for success of meeting.”

The Chairman, Councillor A. A. Oakley, said the most vital point was that a man could not leave his business in the hands of his wife if he had a family, as regardless of her ability she would not be able to manage both home and shop successfully. If forced to serve in the Forces he would probably be faced with ruin on his return. It seemed likely to be a long war and a strong economy would be needed quite as much as military strength. The Luton Tribunal should take heed and carry out the law with the least possible hardship to the small trader and business man.

Mr. Yeo spoke for an hour, to frequent applause from his audience. As a business man himself his concern was to do his best in regard to things of the utmost importance to the commerce and industry of the country; he was not there to defend the shirker. Luton had led the support for his amendment to the Military Service Bill; but unfortunately competition from a second proposed amendment from another Member of Parliament meant that neither had been included. His concern was for “the man who by his own grit, gumption, and unaided effort builds up a snug little business worth more to him than money”; such men should be taken by the army only as a last resort. He paid tribute to the Luton Borough Tribunal which was already acting on the instruction to spare small business men even though the Bill was not yet law

Source: Luton News, 25th May 1916

[1] The final version of the Military Service Act did not include formal concessions, but instructions were issued to Tribunals that the circumstances of small business men could be considered exceptional.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Daylight Saving Time Introduced



Westoning Clock Tower, 2009 [© Beds Archives]

Sunday 21st May 1916: The main topic of conversation in Bedford this weekend has been the introduction of the Daylight Saving Act. Clocks were put forward one hour last night, so that despite the evidence of the sun that it was 9 o’clock in the morning, timepieces informed their owners that it was in fact 10 o’clock. The benefit will be felt this evening when it will remain light until ten. Inevitably, the change led to some mistakes. One cowman put his clock back one hour, and found when he went to milk the cows that he was two hours late. He described the Act as a “muddling affair”. One woman in the country was heard to ask whether she should put her clock on one hour every night, and a regular worshipper at one of the Biggleswade Chapels arrived  an hour late for this morning’s service, making his entrance ten minutes before it finished.

Soldiers are now allowed out until 10 p.m., but they are still expected on parade at 5.30 in the morning. An Aspley Guise correspondent reports: “You may be interested to know that our important village has fallen into line with the Summer-time hours quite easily, and almost without incident. The temperance people are already congratulating themselves upon the fact that it will mean much less time spent in tht public houses by men whose custom it was to spend the hours of twilight in the bar and taproom, and consequently a considerable saving will be effected. The hour’s extra daylight will enable to the workers to get more out-door recreation”.

Source: Bedfordshire Times, 26th May 1916

Friday, 20 May 2016

Sports Day for Royal Engineers



Royal Engineers' Camp, Haynes Park 1915 [Z1306/56]

Saturday 20th May 1916: The Royal Engineers at the Haynes Park Camp have enjoyed splendid spring sunshine for their sports day. Prizes included a silver tankard given as a special prize for the N.C.O’s mounted jumping competition, and another for the winner of the greatest number of prizes. Most of the other prizes were of money, although there were also three silver cups. The large crowd of spectators included many of the wounded from Wrest Park Hospital. Varied entertainment was provided through an excellent riding display by the Depot “High Rip” gang under the tuition of Lieutenant J. C. Bray and by clowns who made their entry on an ancient hansom cab inside which was seated a “rather masculine” maiden. The military musicians conducted by Sergeant R. C. Rule gave a well performed programme. Events included a relay race, races for children, a mule race without saddles, and  a Victoria Cross race (in which many gallant rescues were accomplished), tent pegging, and “tilting the bucket”. The trumpeters’ and boys’ refreshment race required competitors to run 20 yards, eat a bun, run 50 yards, drink a bottle of ginger beer, and return to the winning post.

Source: Bedfordshire Times, 26th May 1916

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Luton Girl Saves Mother and Baby



Joyce Cunningham

Friday 19th June 1916: A Luton girl has saved the lives of a mother and child while on a visit to Worthing (Sussex). Fourteen year old Joyce Cunningham, a pupil of Luton Modern School, was on the beach with her mother at the far end of the Marine Parade when a small boy drew her attention to a woman and baby in the water. She went to the rescue, but when she did so the drowning woman pulled her legs from under her, and the three spend some time in the water.  An elderly gentleman in weak health also went to help, but without the girl’s effort – all the more noteworthy because she is only able to swim a few strokes – there would undoubtedly have been a tragedy. Young Joyce soon recovered from the shock, but her mother needed medical assistance. Miss Cunningham’s father, Christopher Cunningham, went to Worthing to join his wife and daughter, and received many congratulations on her bravery. A recommendation is to be sent to the Royal Humane Society and it is expected that she will be suitably rewarded.

The full story was told in the police courts at Worthing, where Hilda May Denyer was charged with attempting to drown her nine month old daughter, Winifred, and with attempting to commit suicide by throwing herself into the sea. The young woman appeared in court wearing a long blue knitted coat without a hat, and appeared in a collapsed condition. Joyce Cunningham told the court that the baby was fastened to the woman’s chest by a scarf, and there was a string bag full of large chalk stones near the woman in the water – she was unsure whether this was attached to the woman or not. The woman had asked “Why don’t you let me go?” but she refused and called for help. A gentleman and Miss Cunningham’s mother arrived, and her mother held the baby while she untied the scarf. The gentleman had then got the woman out of the water. A letter addressed to Hilda Denyer’s mother was read to the Court:
“Dear Mother. I hope by the time you get these few lines baby and I will be at rest in our watery grave. No one knows what I have suffered these last few weeks. Kindly see that Teddy is taken care of until his Dad comes home, if he ever does. Please ask Ted to forgive me. He is one of the best, and to live without him is impossible. I have had twelve weary months waiting for his return, and I can’t hold out any longer. Tell dear little Ted I have gone away. It is for the best. Hope you will all forgive.”
Miss Cunningham was thanked by the Bench for her plucky rescue. Mrs Denyer was committed to trial at the Assizes in July; after promising she would never do anything of the sort again she was granted bail on condition she went to live with her mother, and the baby was returned to her.[1]

Source: Luton News, 25th May 1916

[1] At the Assizes Hilda was bound over in the sum of £10 and told that as her husband was doing his duty for his country “she must do hers by looking after herself and her children”. Joyce Cunningham was presented with a Royal Humane Society certificate for her courage. It appears Ted survived the war and the couple went on to have four more children. Hilda Denyer died in 1985 at the age of 94. 

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Tragic Death of a Soldier at Bedford



Mill Street, Bedford, decorated for Silver Jubilee 1935 [Z1306/10/42/5]

Thursday 18th May 1916: A tragic discovery was made this morning by Mrs. Howe, of 11 Mill Street, Bedford. Last night 38 year old Private Frederick Collins of the 2/6th (Caernarvonshire and Anglesey) Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers arrived at Bedford from Bury, Lancashire and was billeted with Mrs. Howe. Before he went to bed he asked to be called early, as two comrades were to call at the house to show him the way to the quarters of the Battalion to which he was to be attached. When Mrs. Howe knocked on Private Collins’ door at about 6 a.m. there was no reply. When the other soldiers also failed to rouse him, they sent for their corporal, who opened the door and found Private Collins with his throat cut. He was taken to a military hospital by ambulance, where he was pronounced dead.

Source: Bedfordshire Times, 19th May 1916

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Chequers Inn, Eaton Bray

Wednesday 17th May 1916:  An application for the transfer of the license of the Chequers Inn, Eaton Bray from Leonard Charles Durrant to Walter Long was discussed at Leighton Buzzard yesterday. Mr. Long said he was 32 years old, and had no previous experience in managing a public house. When asked if there was any reason why he should not go to the Front he replied that he expected he would be called on, but had not attested. The Chairman of the Bench was surprised that he wanted to take on the responsibility of a licensed public house when he would have to go, but he explained that his wife would look after it in his absence. He also added that he had four children. Despite this he was certain that she would manage it all right, although she also had no experience.

The Chairman said he was a brave man to sink his savings into a business of which he knew nothing, but Mr. Long was clear that he wished to proceed. He was told “It will be no good coming to the Tribunal saying you have invested your money in a public house and asking for exemption from service on that account” and that he was “running a big risk to take this house and then leave your wife in charge”. Mr. Long did say he had a “slight idea” that he would not pass the Army medical examination. The Bench agreed to grant temporary authority for a month; Mr. Long was to report back in a month’s time on his position regarding military service.[1]

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 23rd May 1916

[1] Licensing records show that Mr. Long remained the licensee of the Chequers until 1920.

Monday, 16 May 2016

7th Bedfords Want Socks



Sock pattern [Z160/60]

Tuesday 16th May 1916: 2nd Lieutenant G. H. A Hughes, the son of Reverend F. C. Hughes who served as minister of Wellington Street Baptist Church, Luton, until 1914, is home on leave from France, where he is serving with the 7th Bedfords. He has contacted the Luton News with this message:
“I am home on leave and return to ‘somewhere out there’ tomorrow … What I want to see you about is getting our fellows a supply of socks and “other comforts.” Of course you will know what “other comforts” are – cigarettes and that kind of thing. You see, when a chap goes into the trenches for some days he does not take off his boots, and that sort of thing, with fatigue duties thrown in, soon polishes off a pair of socks. Practically a fellow wants a fresh pair of socks every week, and I thought perhaps, if the Luton News would remind Bedfordshire that there is a 7th Beds Regiment, and recall to the kind residents of Luton that quite a number of Lutonians are enlisted in that regiment, the fellows might get what they so badly stand in need of. I am afraid the 7th Beds are, after all, very little known; or, at any rate, not remembered as they should be.”
Source: Luton News, 18th May 1916

Sunday, 15 May 2016

A Poorly Packed Parcel



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

Monday 15th May 1916: A soldier from Biggleswade who took part in the retreat from Serbia is now at Salonica, from where he has written home to a friend in sarcastic terms:
“Many thanks for the parcel received yesterday. How is it you can always manage to send us just the things that we don’t want? Then you tied it up yourself, did you? How lovely you did it. It was splendid, and it reached me nicely squashed. Either by accident or by design the tomato sauce was packed with the corks out, and as a result I am eating it with my cake. The Vaseline and chocolate on the way evidently formed a strong attachment for each other, but this has detracted but little (perhaps) from their respective values. The socks you sent will undoubtedly look extremely smart when I have squeezed the butter out of them, which you so thoughtfully packed in the toes. The St. Ivel cheese made me feel quite home sick, at least I came over very funny when I undid the wrapper. I gave it up to my mate, and it made him feel home sick, too. We put it outside, and the Sergeant major sent for the Sanitary Squad and asked them what they thought they were for. After a while they found it, and took it away and buried it or drowned it, or something of that sort. They look rather pale and worn today. Many thanks for the pudding you forgot to send. One pudding at home is worth two in my kitbag.”
 Source: Bedfordshire Times, 12th May 1916

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Meeting of Small Traders at Luton



Sunday 14th May 1916: Around a thousand shopkeepers and owners of one-man businesses from the Luton area met this afternoon at the Plait Hall, in support of a proposal that the sole heads of businesses should be exempt from military service. The work of the tribunals, despite the best efforts of those involved, had led to some grave injustices. While nobody could claim that a one man business was likely to be of national importance, small businesses in the aggregate were. Big businesses depended a great deal on small businesses, and vice versa.

To give a man a month to dispose of a business which had taken years to build up, and into which all his capital and savings had been sunk, was not fair. There needed to be a definite and unmistakable clause in the Military Service Act under which owners of one-man businesses should not be forced to shut down. There were only a few cases in which it was possible to leave wives to run a business, and closure was often the only option if the owner was conscripted.

Cecil Harmsworth, the Luton M.P. had proved very sympathetic to this cause, and lobbying by representatives of small business had succeeded in converting 171 members of Parliament to their way of thinking. A deputation of around 50 men has been appointed to visit the House of Commons tomorrow where they will communicate the views of the small traders to Mr. Harmsworth; they are also expected to attend a conference with Mr. Alfred Yeo, the member of parliament for Poplar who has proposed an amendment to the Military Service Bill in their favour.

Source: Luton News, 18th May 1916

Friday, 13 May 2016

Servants Volunteer for Farm Work




Prebendal Farm, Bedford c.1910 [PU246/90]

Saturday 13th May 1916: The Chairman of the Bedfordshire War Agricultural Committee has received the following letter from Ellinor C. L. Close of 25, Montpelier Square, Knightsbridge, offering the services of three of her servants for farm work during the summer:
Dear Mr. Prothero 
Three of my women servants have volunteered to work on any farm on a well-managed estate from early in May until after the harvest. This seems to me a valuable precedent, as they are strong young country women, one is accustomed to milking cows, the others will learn to milk, if required, and all are willing to do any part of outdoor work. Not being as yet really skilled farm workers they will not at present deserve such high wages as experienced village women earn. 
Should my servants find employment I propose to live in a hut, caravan, or inn, upon or near the farm, so as to be at hand if required. 
Many of my friends in the same position as I am are waiting to see if I succeed, as if so, they hope to send out some of their people as well. We shall of course pay their regular wages throughout, as now. 
I write with the knowledge of the Women’s National Land Service Corps, who are very anxious for the success of this little scheme.
 Source: Luton News, 18th May 1916

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Toddington Mother Accused of Starving Baby



High Street, Toddington c. 1900 [Z1300/126/47b]

Friday 12th May 1916:  Adelaide Sutton, aged 32, of Toddington, has been sent for trial at the Bedford Assizes on a charge of unlawfully killing her three month old son Frank on 28th April.

Emma Bennett, a widow, told the preliminary hearing that her late husband was Mrs. Sutton’s brother. She had visited Mrs. Suttton on 11th January and found her in an upstairs room standing with the baby in her arms. Neither the mother nor the child had been attended to and Mrs. Sutton had asked Mrs. Bennett to perform “a certain duty” but she refused, saying it need a doctor or nurse. She had previously noticed her sister-in-law’s condition and had asked if she expected to have another child. She replied that she did. Mrs. Bennett had said “But it won’t be your husband’s child, will it?”  Mrs Sutton had replied, “No, it won’t be Bill’s, for he has been away about 14 months”.  Mrs Sutton had six other children aged between 14 and 3.

Elsie Maud Holmes, the District Nurse had attended Mrs. Sutton on January 11th and found that the baby was well nourished and of average size. She visited for ten days and the child thrived. On April 21st she was asked to visit by Dr. Walsh and see that the child was being fed. She saw the mother feed it with a mixture of milk and water. Dr. J. Waugh of Toddington had helped Dr. Walsh to make a post-mortem examination on April 29th. The baby’s body was emaciated, there was a complete absence of fat all over the body, and the stomach was empty. Otherwise the baby appeared perfectly healthy. He considered the cause was more likely to be lack of food rather than inability to assimiliate it. At its death the baby weighed only 5lb 12oz, about half the expected weight. Dr. Walsh had also visited on January 11th and found that the child had been born but neither mother nor child had received any attention. The child was quite healthy. When he called on April 19th the baby was smaller than when it was born, and told the mother it was dying from lack of food. He asked the District Nurse to see that it was fed according to his instructions, but on 28th April the child had died.

Mrs. Sutton said that she had asked the doctor what she should give the baby, and told him she had been giving it the breast, sop and milk. He had said the sop was not the proper food to feed it on and she had then given it milk and water as he instructed. The doctor said that by that time the baby was too far gone. A neighbour told how she had looked after Mrs. Sutton’s children while she was in Luton, and that the baby had taken milk that the mother had provided. Mrs. Sutton had sent a telegram to say she could not get back that night so she had kept the baby overnight. It slept well and was very good. She had noticed more recently that the baby seemed to be wasting away. A former inspector for the NSPCC described how the family had been practically destitute when Mr. Sutton joined the Army in September 1914, and had received help from various societies. He had on occasions had to warn her about leaving the children, and had received a complaint in February. He had visited and child was thriving, as it was when he saw it again on March 7th. On April 19th the child seemed to be ill, and the mother thought it had a bad cold. He agreed and suggested she call a doctor. He had seen the mother feeding the child.

Following an inquest held on May 1st a warrant was issued for Mrs. Sutton’s arrest. She pleaded not guilty and said “I fed baby up to the day the doctor came; I fed him on sop and milk and also the breast. I gave him every attention I possibly could, as I did my other children. I brought the other six up on sop. This baby seemed very hungry. It did not matter what I gave him, he was no more satisfied at the end of the feed than he was when he started. I had kept a fire all night on purpose to prepare food for him. As to warmth, that seemed no comfort to him whatever. I gave the baby as much at one feed as would satisfy a child nine or twelve months old. There was no rest with him night or day. His crying night and day was wearing me out”.[1]

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 16th May 1916

[1] The case was dismissed at the Bedford Assizes in June.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Great Barford Man Wins DCM



Great Barford c.1920

Thursday 11th May 1916: Private Albert Symonds [or Simons] of the 8th Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment has been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. Although born in London, in recent years Private Symonds has made his home at Great Barford. Major General C. Ross, commander of the 6th Division, writes:

“Your Commanding Officers and Brigade Commander have informed me that you distinguished yourself on 19th April, 1916, near Ypres, by cool conduct and fine example under a heavy bombardment, and though the only man left unwounded, continuing to work your Lewis gun and inflicting heavy loss on the enemy when they attacked. I have read this with much pleasure.”[1]

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


[1] The battalion war diary tells us that on the night of 19th/20th April after two hours of heavy bombardment the Germans attacked and gained a footing in some of the trenches held by the battalion. The Bedfords suffered heavy casualties.

Our war correspondent has described the night’s events in more detail … [LINK]

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Stretcher Bearer Makes the Ultimate Sacrifice



Unveiling of Linslade War Memorial 1920 [Z1306/74/2/1]

Wednesday 10th May 1916: Private Ernest Brazier, the son of Mrs Brazier of 30 Wing Road, Linslade, has been killed in Flanders. His mother has received a letter from the commanding officer of his Company, part of the Canadian Contingent, describing the bravery which led her son to give up his live trying to save a comrade. Private Brazier, who was a company stretcher bearer had gone down a communication trench which was being swept by artillery fire in an effort to help a wounded man. His sergeant had warned him that it was impossible, but he had replied that duty said he must try. A recommendation had been sent to the colonel, and it was hoped that Private Brazier would receive a posthumous honour.

Ernest Brazier was previously employed at Faith Press, Linslade, but left for Canada three years ago. He joined the Canadian Contingent last summer and had enjoyed four days’ leave in England in September. He would soon have celebrated his 22nd birthday. Two of Private Brazier’s brothers are also serving in the Forces; one is in France, and the other is with the Navy. In another letter of sympathy, a comrade told Mrs. Brazier that her son hardly knew what fear was, and was always bright and cheerful, and very popular with his mates.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 10th May 1916

Monday, 9 May 2016

News from Stevington



The old school, Stevington 2008 (© Bedfordshire Archives)

Tuesday 9th May 1916: Harry Read, the schoolmaster of Stevington, has written a circular letter to his former pupils with news of many of their former schoolmates. A number are now serving in Egypt, where Fred Dawson has managed a ride on a camel and Walter Cox is enjoying himself immensely, living in a very large house which has been taken over for the officers’ mess. Several of the men serving in France had been expected home on leave for some time, but none have arrived. Bert Seamarks has been “getting a good share of trench work”, and Ted Cox is “in the pink”, despite serving as a bomber in trenches only ten yards in places from the Germans. Hermon Hulett has been in trenches which had been taken from the French by the Germans: “they were in a terrible state – badly battered and full of mud and water in the bad weather”. Mr. Read also reports that, “The awful Irish Rebellion is at an end, I’m glad to say, and a number of the leaders shot. Several thousand prisoners have been brought to England. Germany is at the bottom of it, of course.”

Source: P71/28/21/11 

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Abusive Soldier at Leagrave



Royal Oak, Leagrave c.1907 [Z1306/75/12/26]

Monday 8th May 1916: Private J. Berridge of 76 Beech Road, a member of the Royal Defence Corps has been summoned for refusing to leave the Royal Oak public house at Leagrave when asked to do so by the landlady. Arthur Lawrence said that he kept house for his aunt, May Ann Bent, at the Royal Oak. Berridge had entered at about 8 pm and used bad language. He was asked to leave and refused any further drink. Berridge refused to go and continued to swear. A special constable who was in the Royal Oak at the time said the soldier had become very abusive and offensive and had ignored requests to leave from the landlady, her nephew and himself. He did not appear to be drunk. Private Berridge said he did not remember anything about it. He was fined £1 and allowed a week to pay.

Source: Luton News, 11th May 1916

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Shefford and Stotfold Egg Collection



Royal Victoria Patriotic Building, Wandsworth, used as 3rd London General Hospital 
(Photograph: Henry Lawford under Creative Commons Licence via Wikimedia)

Sunday 7th May 1916: The village of Shefford has redoubled its efforts to collect eggs for the wounded since the Vicar published this letter from the Secretary of the National Egg Committee in the parish magazine last month:

“Rev. Sir, - The call for eggs from the Hospitals for the wounded men grows in its volume and anxiety. We have appealed to you in the past with success, and that result encourages us once again to ask you to assist us in our latest special scheme. Every week we are called upon to find more than a million new-laid eggs for this cause. Those who are in a weak state of health and require the eggs themselves are asked to contribute to our funds the value of the eggs consumed by them during Easter week.”

A successful collection was held at the church today at which no less than 771 eggs were contributed, beating the previous highest total of 660 by a considerable margin and bringing to total provided by the village to 2,604. The next collection will be held on Sunday 4th June from which the eggs will be sent to the 3rd London General Hospital at Wandsworth. This is a large Military Hospital with 1,500 beds, where the patients include both a large number of Australians and some Bedfordshires. Among them is the Vicar of Shefford’s son, Lieutenant A. E. Dakin, who was wounded in January [LINK to February 11th].

The children of Stotfold have also provided over 600 eggs. A correspondent in the village says “the egg collectors at Headquarters have “the cheek of Lambley Jack” as they say at Nottingham, when they wish to use a simile for any specially impudent person. They showed their “cheek” by sending two more boxes to be filled, without being asked to do so. Well, the boxes had come and it seemed a pity to send them back empty, so the Vicar in turn followed the example “Lambley Jack” (whever he was) and asked the boys of the Council School, and the girls of our Church Schools, whether they could not find us some more eggs – and more, as a result have gone. Send more eggs, friends, for they provide “shells” for our soldiers.”


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

Friday, 6 May 2016

St. Georges Flag Day



Corn Exchange, Bedford 1908 [Z1306/10/58/15]

Saturday 6th May 1916: As St. George’s Day fell on Easter Sunday this year Bedford has decided instead to observe it today with a collection for patriotic causes. As the town has contributed generously on so many previous flag days to national campaigns, this time the Mayor and Mayoress and their Committee decided to raise funds for local charities which have some association with war work. The chosen beneficiaries are the County Hospital, the Bedfordshire Comforts Fund, the District Nurses’ Fund, and Mrs. Paine’s Slipper Fund. The hospital needs support due to the cost of treating wounded soldiers, and the Nursing Fund is in need of an extra nurse to cope with the pressure of work. Collecting began as early as 6 a.m., and will last until 6 p.m. Enthusiasm has not been dimmed by the cool weather and occasional cold shower, with the red cross on its white background seen everywhere. Mrs. Attenborough has lent her car for collecting the money, which is being received at the Town Hall. A large banner made by the students of the Kindergarten College has been on display in front of the Corn Exchange, and at 4 p.m. this is to be auctioned by Mr. W. M. Peacock. The collection is expected to raise well over £250.

Source: Bedfordshire Times, 12th May 1916

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Absent Without Leave at Biggleswade



Three Counties Asylum, Arlesey 1906 [Z1130/2/40a]

Friday 5th May 1916: George William Cocking, described as an attendant and aged 23 or 24, has appeared at a special sitting of the Biggleswade Magistrates charged with being an absentee under the Military Service Act. He admitted he had attested under the name of George William Topham at Eastbourne. He had since registered at the Three Counties’ Asylum in Arlesey and been ordered to report on 7th March, but he was away at the time. He had subsequently reported himself at both Hitchin and Biggleswade. He admitted that he “supposed” he was absent from the Army Reserve. He had not made any application to the Tribunal for exemption, but said he had been discharged from the Eastbourne Asylum as consumptive [suffering from tuberculosis]. He also admitted that he had changed his address at Eastbourne without notifying the authorities. His admission that he was an attested man who had used a false name earned George Cocking a fine of forty shillings, to be deducted from his future pay. He was then handed over to the military authorities.

Source: Biggleswade Chronicle, 5th May 1916

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

National Union of Women Workers



George Kent Ltd Munitions Workers, 1916 [Z1306/75/17/21]

Thursday 4th May 1916: The Bedfordshire branch of the National Union of Women Workers has now been formally established. The rules drafted by the Executive Committee were agreed at a meeting held yesterday evening at Mrs. H.T. Eve’s home, “Rushmoor”, Shakespeare Road. The branch is to meet at least four times a year, although it was decided that for a trial period meetings would take place on the first Monday of every month. Membership of the branch now stands at 55; when a total of 80 is reached the branch will become entitled to a representative on the Executive of the Central Council.

Mrs. Eve gave a report on the recent conference of the National Council of Women Workers. This dealt with the new employments which women have undertaken because of the war.  These included: women on the land; women in railway employment, and as omnibus and tram conductors and taxi-cab drivers; women clerks and those in secretarial work; munitions work; and women as mechanical workers. One of the greatest difficulties so far has been the prejudice of farmers against employing women in agriculture. Girls and women who wished to take up men’s work should be warned that they should hold out for good conditions and a living wage; to do otherwise would be to exploit their own sex.

Source: Bedfordshire Times, 5th May 1916