Saturday, 11 June 2016

Dunstable Man Passed From Pillar to Post

High Street South, Dunstable 1915 [Z1130/36/116]

Sunday 11th June 1916: Due to a strange chain of events a young man from High Street South, Dunstable, has been charged at Luton with being an absentee from the Royal Highlanders. Russell Bliss had joined the Royal Highlanders in May and was sent to Perth. After being at Perth for three days he was transferred to the Royal Navy and sent to Portsmouth. When he arrived there he was kept in barracks for three days, without being sworn in or given a uniform. Fed up with this treatment he broke out of barracks. He was arrested by the naval police, but when they discovered he had not been sworn in he was discharged and given a railway pass to Bedford.

Bliss then went home to Dunstable, only to find that his calling-up notice had arrived requiring him to report himself, which he did on Thursday morning. He was sent again to Bedford; the authorities there sent him back to the recruiting office at Luton, from where he was handed over to the police. He was then remanded until yesterday, when the Chief Constable told the magistrates that he had received the following telegram from the Commanding Officer at Perth: “Bliss was accepted by the naval recruiter, and therefore, I have nothing to do with him”. The Magistrate’s Clerk pointed out that he should not be treated as a deserter, as “he has evidently been bandied about from pillar to post. Apparently he is anxious to do something for his country, and no one seems to have helped him”. It was agreed that he should go back to the recruiting office and report himself, and that would be an end to the matter.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 13th June 1916

1 comment:

  1. I found this to be a very interesting item, so I did a bit of research into Mr Bliss’ life.

    Russell Ambrose Bliss was born on 24/11/1890 in Dunstable.

    Mr Bliss is recorded as attending Chew’s Charity School for boys in Dunstable, along with his brother Edgar Russell Bliss in 1900.

    In the 1911 census, he was living at 46 High Street South, Dunstable together with his two brothers, two sisters and their widowed mother.

    His Military Service Record states he enlisted on 09/06/1916 (1/5th Bedfordshire Regt) and then transferred to 14 Battalion Royal Fusiliers.

    On 10/08/1916 he is shown as serving in the RFC (Royal Flying Corps) as an Engineer Fitter. He moved to the RAF (Royal Air Force, formed 01/04/1918) on 01/11/1918.

    Russell Bliss was deployed to Egypt on 29/08/1917, where he is recorded as being part of the ‘2 African Survey Party’. He was mentioned in dispatches and recorded on his papers is the following;

    “Brought to the attention of the Air Council by the Air Officer Commanding RAF Middle East, in connection with the valuable pioneer work performed by him on the occasion of the African Aerial Route”. It is interesting that ‘RAF’ is being used in official communications ahead of its official formation.

    He was discharged from military service on 03/09/1920 and was awarded the Victory Medal and the British War Medal.

    In 1927, Mr Bliss married Eva Elizabeth Poulton and by 1939 they were living in a Mr White’s household at 72 High Street, Luton RD (Registration District) – unsure if this is Dunstable or Luton – his occupation is given as ‘Planer & shaper – Heavy works’. Given the other occupations of household, it is possible he worked in the cement industry locally.

    Russell Ambrose Bliss died in May 1984, aged 93.

    So, it appears that Mr R A Bliss ‘served’, or ‘nearly served’, in all three of the Armed Services during the conflict!

    As for Edgar Russell Bliss, he joined the Army as a Private soldier and was promoted to Lieutenant in 1917. He was seriously wounded in France and after a period of convalescence at home, was transferred to duties in Ireland.

    I thoroughly enjoy these posts and thank you for taking the time and effort to keep the memories of those times alive.