Tuesday, 19 July 2016

From Luton to the Somme

Sergeant Sam Impey

Wednesday 19th July 1916: The “big push” that is taking place in the area of the Somme has inevitably brought a rise in casualties for Bedfordshire. One Luton man who has paid the ultimate price is Private Albert “Bert” Walker who was killed serving with the Bedfordshire Regiment. Before enlisting he was employed by Messrs. Hayward Tyler and was a former choir boy and altar server at St. Saviour’s Church. Private Walker joined up in 1914 and has spent 18 months at the Front without any home leave. He leaves a young wife who has received the following letter from her husband’s sergeant: “I am very sorry to be the bearer of bad news to you. Poor Bert was killed last night whilst busy dressing a wounded man under a heavy bombardment. We had copped it hot for over two days, and I had just told him an hour before that he deserved recommendation for his bravery and devotion to duty. He was here, there, and everywhere, dressing the wounded, and he fully deserved at least a D.C.M.”

Private H. G. Preece of the 2nd Beds Regiment, who is recovering from wounds at Broadstairs, was fortunate to escape death. Before the war he was well known among local footballers as the secretary of Ivydale F.C. He writes: “We were in the trenches waiting for the signal to take some German trenches 700 yards away. The Huns bombarded us, but we made the attack and won the trench. It’s wonderful how our lads go into action: they sing and whistle. The Huns must have lost large numbers of men as our artillery has been heavily bombarding them daily. I must tell you my helmet saved my life, as a piece of shell pierced through and struck the back of my head. I have also wounds in my left fore-arm and left foot. I cannot describe the ground, as it was in such a terrible state, but there were hundreds of dead Germans lying about.”  Another Luton man, Sergeant Sam Impey of Stanley Street, was wounded in the head by shrapnel on the first day of the battle and is now in a base hospital on the French coast. Although his wound is not too serious, he says he “would rather have done without it”. Sergeant Impey joined the 7th Beds Regiment in September 1914 before his eighteenth birthday and is still only nineteen.

Source: Luton News, 13th and 20th July 1916

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