Sunday, 31 January 2016

Fire at Military Stores

Castle Street, Luton c.1905 [Z1306/75/10/8/1]

Monday 31st January 1916: A fire broke out in the early hours this morning at 99 Castle Street, Luton. The premises were in use as stores for the 2/4th Leicesters who are billeted in the town. At 2.50am some of the goods in the yard were seen ablaze. Thanks to the prompt action of three policemen who threw the burning items out into the street and put the fire out with buckets of water, there was very little damage and no need to call the fire brigade.

Source: Luton News, 3rd February 1916

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Nursery Rhymes for 1916 Children


Sunday 30th January 1916:
By an anonymous contributor from Moreton House School, Dunstable.

Ride a cock horse
To Victoria Cross,
Be a brave soldier
Whatever it cost.
Gallant in khaki,
A gun in your fist,
You shall have honour,
As soon as you ‘list.

Tom, Tom, the Englishman,
Took a gun and away he ran,
The music rolled, the drums did beat,
As Tom went marching down the street.

Belgium the Buffet,
Sat on a tuffet,
Just in her usual way.
There came the great Kaiser,
Who sought to bestride her,
And drive little Belgium away.

Source: The Moretonia, December 1915 [Z930/1/2]

Friday, 29 January 2016

A Terrible Journey from Serbia to England

Serbian Army during retreat to Albania, October 1915 [Wikimedia]

Saturday 29th January 1916: Miss Edith Dickinson, of Heath Road, Leighton Buzzard has returned from Serbia where she was attached as a chauffeur orderly to a hospital organised by a Mrs Stobart. With her sister, Miss Hilda May Dickinson, she had been engaged in Red Cross work in Belgium during the German invasion. After her Serbian experiences she described what she went through in Belgium as a “mere detail”. The fall of Belgrade [1] was followed by several days of terrible hardships during which their hospital was inundated with maimed and wounded Serbians. Soldiers and civilians had fought side by side in the streets of the capital, with the nature of the wounds showing that there had been much hand-to-hand fighting.

When the retreat began the wounded in the hospital were left in the charge of Serbian doctors and Austrian orderlies. She was among a party of around fifty British doctors, nurses and orderlies which left as an air raid by German planes was taking place. They caught a train for Salonika, but found that the rails had been torn up by the Bulgarians and were forced to abandon the train and proceed by motor car. After some time they had to leave the car and continue on foot. Waggons drawn by oxen containing stores also had to be abandoned leaving the party only with the clothes they wore and what they were able to carry. At first the leaders of the party planned to travel over the Albanian mountains to the Adriatic Sea but this proved impossible due to the hostility of the Albanians to the Serbians. Their final route was an uneven, muddy track, along which they joined many thousands of refugees and the remains of the Serbian army. They passed numerous dead horses and cattle which had collapsed and been abandoned by refugees earlier in the retreat. The sight of dead bodies of human beings, half covered by snow, was all too frequent.

The journey over the mountains lasted for ten days, while blizzards and rain storms beat down on the party. At night tents were pitched into the snow and the exhausted refugees flung themselves down to sleep. The track was too dangerous to travel by night, in places being little more than a narrow ledge on the mountain side. On more than one occasion vehicles went over the edge, throwing out those inside and either killing or injuring them. One of the nurses, a Scottish lady, was killed in this way. They had only a very limited food supply, with rations doled out in ever smaller quantities. The Bulgarian and Austrian prisoners accompanying the party were fed as far as possible but many died of starvation. The hospital party was better off than most of the refugees; although they had only black bread and maize bread, they fortunately had some hospital stores, including Bovril and condensed milk. High in the mountains the cold was intense, and broken bridges meant they often had to wade through streams. Their clothes froze as stiff as boards on the wearers. The track was often knee deep in mud and slush in places, and hard and slippery with frost in others. Some of the nurses were wearing light summer dresses and had shoes totally unfit for the journey. Miss Dickinson was fortunate in that she had breeches and top boots.

Once the party reached the Adriatic side of the mountains it became warmer and their sufferings were less. They sailed across the lake of Scutari and after a further two days walk they reached San Giovanni di Medua from where they crossed to Brindisi in a small Italian boat. At San Giovanni they were told the Austrian army was on the move and that unless they took this ship they might not be able to get away; in the light of this they decided to risk the journey, although 300 people were packed onto a small vessel in heavy seas. When they reached Brindisi they were a sorry spectacle and had difficulty convincing the authorities to allow them to land. Miss Dickinson says “we looked simply wretched. Most of us were ragged, muddy and dirty, not having been in a bath for weeks. On top of this we were distressingly thin, and our feet were showing through our boots”. From Brindisi the party were able to take the train first to Paris and then to Le Havre and England.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 25th January 1916

[1] Belgrade fell to Austria-Hungary on 9th October 1915

Thursday, 28 January 2016

German Gun Given to Bedford

German field gun on display in Market Square, Bedford [Z1306/12/13/3]

Friday 28th January 1916: Bedford Town Council have accepted on behalf of the town the offer of a German gun which was captured by the Bedfordshire Regiment. After some discussion it was decided to place the gun temporarily on the Embankment. Mr Nightingale suggested the gun should be labelled “Krupp, by Corruption, out of Ignorance” and placed in a prominent position, if only to remind them what fools they had been in the past.

Source: Biggleswade Chronicle, 28th January 1916

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Views on Women Farm Labourers

Women hoeing at Arlesey House, 1917 [Z49/495]

Thursday 27th January 1916: With the news that many farm labourers who were supposed to be “starred” as essential labourers have enlisted during the Derby recruitment campaign farmers must prepare for their eventual departure. The Leighton Buzzard Observer is concerned that the recent enthusiasm for the idea of employing women to work on the land is ignoring some of the practical difficulties. While a farmer’s wife or daughter may be used to helping with the milking or looking after poultry, calves and pigs, this is very different from the work of a hired hand who is expected to take on any task. Much farm work in winter would be too hard for ninety-nine women out of a hundred. Whereas it may be possible to find specific tasks for them on large farms, for small farms where labourers need to be able to turn their hand to anything the employment of women is impracticable.

In his column ‘Rusticus’ writes: “I suggested that farmers must make up their minds to obtain and use more female workers. I was not at all surprised to find one and all against it – women were no use, or the work was not at all suitable for them. Those in authority, however, seem determined that women shall be given a trial. I have no doubt that some local employers will be compelled to resort to this form of labour – if they can get them to come, during the present year of grace.” Rather more optimistically he notes that, “There was in Leighton market last Tuesday the first female drover. Many were interested by the manly and competent way in which she brought her charge into market – just to help a neighbour who could not get a boy or man, and was unable to do the work himself.”

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 27th January 1916

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Orange Sellers At War

Park Square market c.1904 [Z1306/75/10/51/6]

Wednesday 26th January 1916: A dispute between orange sellers at Luton market resulted in a court appearance today at which Alfred Jenkins of Hitchin Road pleaded guilty to throwing a missile to the danger of the public. Two strangers, a father and son named Marks, were selling oranges in Park Square on Monday as were two local men at another stall, separated from the first only by a coffee stall. The local men appeared to resent the strangers’ presence and Jenkins picked up some oranges and threw them, two or three at a time, over the coffee booth into the people around their rivals’ stall. The police inspector reported that the Marks’s were selling good quality oranges at three a penny and the local men for two a penny. There was a lot of unpleasantness and he had to keep a man on Park Square specifically to deal with it.

Jenkins said he only scrambled a few oranges and when the inspector came to him he stopped and went away. The Clerk of the Court suggested that oranges could not be very dangerous, but the inspector replied that a man who had been hit by the fruit had a considerably swollen eye. Police Constable Hunt said that Jenkisn came to him and said “I am going to give the people a scramble for some oranges”. He advised him not to do it, but saw him throw six oranges. One struck the old man Marks “plump in the eye”, leaving him crying with the pain . Jenkins was fined five shillings with a further five shillings costs and was warned by the Mayor that if he continued to misbehave himself and be a nuisance to the market he would be refused permission to be there.

Source: Luton Times, 28th January 1916

Monday, 25 January 2016

Retired Major and His Son Guilty of Assault

Chaucer Road, Bedford c.1908-1920 [Z1306/10/12/1]

Tuesday 25th January 1916: An argument over stolen fowls has led to court appearances for five Bedford residents. Major William Anderson, a retired army officer of Linden Road, and his sons William Montgomery Anderson, aged 18, and James Douglas Anderson, aged 17, were summoned for an alleged assault on George William Bosworth of Priory Street. John Lee Rayner, aged 15, of Goldington Avenue was also summoned for aiding and abetting the younger William Anderson, and Bosworth himself was cross-summoned for assault.

Bosworth is a carting contractor who rents a field in Chaucer Road where he keeps fowls. He told the court that on Sunday January 16th he went to the field at about 3.45pm; while on his way he was spoken to by a Boy Scout, and as a result went straight to his fowl run where he saw the two younger Andersons and Rayner. He told them he had lost a lot of fowls lately. The young men refused to give him their names and William Anderson struck him with a stick. He took Anderson by the neck, got the stick from him and used it to keep the boys off him. They left and he followed them; after finding out their names he cycled back to his field. Major Anderson and his sons came to the field and the old gentleman struck him across the face and head with a stick without saying a word. A struggle ensued as Bosworth attempted to ward off further blows, during which Major Anderson poked him in the face with the stick and one of the young men hit him with another, leaving blood running down his neck and forehead.

Bernard Eggington, a 14 year old Boy Scout, said that he saw Bosworth swinging a stick to prevent the young men hitting him. When he saw the second attack he fetched some soldiers from a nearby hut. Two soldiers from the 2/1 Herefords and two from the 2/1 Monmouths gave evidence that they had seen the four defendants striking Bosworth, who was stunned and nearly fainted. William M. Anderson stated that Bosworth had accused himself, his brother and Rayner of trespassing and being after his fowls. When Anderson said this was absurd he was hit in the eye and there was a struggle during which Bosworth’s dog bit him. He admitted that in the second fight he struck Bosworth as hard as he could. Major Anderson also admitted striking Bosworth, saying “I think I had great provocation”. The Bench considered that Major Anderson and his elder son William were guilty of a serious assault and fined them £4 and £2 respectively, with £1 costs each. The summonses against James Anderson, Rayner and Bosworth were dismissed.

Source: Bedfordshire Times, 28th January 1916

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Luton Unions Vote Against Conscription

Two charabanc parties in Waller Street, Luton c.1920 [Z1306/75/10/60/5]

Monday 24th January 1916: A meeting of Luton trades unionists was held at the Winter Assembly Hall in Waller Street last night to discuss the possibility of conscription and other issues related to the war. The meeting was called by the Luton Trades and Labour Council to decide how they should vote at the Trades Union Congress to be held at Bristol. A vote was taken at which it was decided by the narrowest of margins that the delegate should vote against conscription. The resolution passed was:
“That this conference of the Labour Party declares itself in opposition to any form of compulsory service for war purposes, believing that its incidence would bear unevenly upon the people; and further calls upon the Labour Praty in the House of Commons to resist to the last any and every attempt to fasten upon the nation a system of conscription which in practice has been a deadly foe to the organised workers of Europe for generations.”
The proposer of the resolution, Mr. Murray Janes, argued for the association of the voluntary system with national liberty, and also maintained that conscription was not necessary. His seconder declared that it would be used by the upper classes to forcibly restrict workers and that the incompetence of those in command meant those conscripted would simply be cannon fodder. Speaking against the resolution and in favour of conscription Mr. J. Mabley pointed out that Lord Kitchener believed it was absolutely necessary, and that it would be unfair to married men who had enlisted with a guarantee that single men would be sent first. Even if conscription proved the thin end of the wedge it was better than being ruled by Germany. His statement that “if the country was fit to live in it was worth fighting for” drew applause from the audience. Further arguments were put forward that supporting the Bill would help to bring “this detestable war” to an end, and that the Munitions Act had already led to what was effectively conscription of workers who were forced to stay in their place of employment unless they received papers releasing them. Despite these arguments against it the resolution was passed by 92 votes to 91. A further resolution calling for “the immediate repeal of the Munitions Act as being a gross interference with the rights of the workers” was passed unanimously.

Source: Luton Times, 28th January 1916

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Luton Town Footballer Missing Believed Killed

John ("Jack") Jarvie

Sunday 23rd January 1916: Supporters of Luton Town Football Club will be sad to hear that former Hatters full back Jack Jarvie of the 2nd Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders has been posted as missing. Lieutenant A. Sinclair Thomson writes that Jarvie was one of fourteen men blown up by a mine explosion on January 2nd, but as his body was not found he could only be reported missing. Jarvie joined Luton from Tottenham in 1912 following the tragic death of Sammy Wightman from injuries received during a match against Brighton and Hove Albion; he helped the team gain promotion back to the First Division of the Southern League in 1913-14. At the end of that season he went home to Scotland where he enlisted soon after the beginning of the war.

Source: Luton Times, 14th January 1916

Friday, 22 January 2016

Soldiers at Woburn

Bedford Arms yard c.1900 [Z50/135/61a]

Saturday 22nd January 1916: The small town of Woburn is being enlivened by the arrival every evening of 150 soldiers from Ampthill Camp for supper, bed and breakfast. For the first time in many years the barracks in the yard of the Bedford Arms are in use, and have been converted into sleeping apartments on both the ground and first floors. Each man is supplied with a comfortable bed, pillows and blankets, and the rooms enjoy gas light and hot water heating. Breakfast and supper is being served at the Town Hall.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 25th January 1916

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Luton Medical Officer’s Report

Bute Hospital, Luton c.1913 [Z1306/75/5/3]

Friday 21st January 1916:  The Acting Medical Officer has reported to Luton Town Council that cases of infectious disease fell last year despite the presence of 15,000 troops in the town in the early part of the year. The birth rate has fallen overall, which may be a result of the scaremongering in regard to “war babies”. Predictions of hundreds of illegitimate births due to the number of troops have proved over-pessimistic; in fact there has been an increase of only seven in the number of illegitimate babies. Despite attempts made to counteract it, there has been a rise in the number of infant deaths. Infantile mortality in the town has increased from 95 per 1000 births in 1914 to 125 in 1915. The main causes are considered to be the pre-occupation of mothers with billeting arrangements and munitions work, their stress and worry in the face of war conditions, and in some cases, over-indulgence in alcohol. This rise in infant deaths reflects a national trend with similar increases being reported across the country. The infant mortality rate is still considerably better than in the past; in 1912 it had been 135 per 1000 births, and in 1880 it was 190 per 1000.

Source: Luton Times, 21st January 1916

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Funerals of Two Crimea Veterans

Funeral Cortege of Joseph Harding [Bedfordshire Times]

Thursday 20th January 1916: The number of Bedfordshire’s surviving veterans of the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny has now dwindled to a tiny remnant, following the funerals this week of two of their number. Joseph Harding of Lansdowne Cottages, Bedford Road, Kempston, died on Thursday 13th at the age of 79 and was buried with full military honours on Tuesday. He was carried to his last resting place by men of the Bedfordshire Regiment who had been wounded in France, with the Band of the 2nd Bedfords at the head of the procession. He was known as a “cheerful, entertaining, and genial old man”. About twenty years he was badly injured falling from a tree and had been unable to work since. Mr. Harding enlisted in the 38th South Staffordshires at the age of 17 and was sent to the front almost immediately, serving through the Indian Mutiny and and Crimean war, and being present at the taking of Lucknow. He served in the same regiment as another Bedfordshire veteran, George Smith of Sun Street, Biggleswade, who also fought in the Crimean campaign and the Indian Mutiny. Both men, with other veterans from the county, had the privilege of attending the Coronation of King George V.

When it was recently mentioned to Mr. Harding that the boys at the front were having a rough time he replied: “They’ll never have worse times than we did in the Crimea. They have never had their hair cut away from the ground before they could get up in the morning, but we have”. He recalled spending time in hospital, saying “Florence Nightingale was an angel. I remember recovering consciousness, and the first thing I knew was that Florence Nightingale was putting a teaspoonful of brandy to my lips”. He was discharged from the army due to heart disease and was granted a pension of five pence a day. Of his fourteen children only six now survive. Two of his four sons served in South Africa, another has been in the trenches, and the fourth has been attested under Lord Derby’s scheme; two of his grandsons have also fought in the trenches.

Another veteran, Mr. Samuel Cooper of 84, Iddesleigh Road, Bedford, died the day after Mr. Harding at the age of 82. Mr Cooper was born at Cotton End in 1833 and enlisted in the 3rd Buffs in his 19th year. When war broke out with Russia he volunteered for service and was transferred to the 42nd Royal Highlanders (The Black Watch). He went East in 1843 and remained for some time at Scutari before becoming one of the first to arrive in the Crimea, where he took part in the battles of Alma and Balaklava. In the trenches before Sebastopol he was wounded by a piece of shell and saved from death only by the purse he was wearing. While engaged in quarrying at Camp Kamara a large stone fell on his big toe, causing an injury from which he suffered off and on for the rest of his life. He returned from the Crimea in 1856 and was sent out to India the following year where he took part in the suppression of the Mutiny and was present at the capture of Cawnpore and Lucknow. After nearly 11 years in the Army he was discharged in 1862. After 12 months in the Bedfordshire Police he served for over twenty years in the Metropolitan Police. After his retirement from the police he opened the West End General Stores in Iddesleigh. His funeral took place yesterday, also with full military honours.

Sources: Bedfordshire Times, 21st January 1916; Biggleswade Chronicle, 28th January 1916.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Boys at Leighton Buzzard Munitions Works Strike

Gas works at Grovebury Rd, Leighton Buzzard c.1930 [Z50/72/172]

Wednesday 19th January 1916: A scuffle which took place on 31st December landed a group of Leighton Buzzard boys in court yesterday. William George Lake, Archibald Palmer, Fred Gotzheirm and Harry Tearle, all aged between 15 and 17, pleaded not guilty to obstructing 15 year old Charles Weeks of Canal Bridge, Linslade. All the boys were employees at the wire works of Messrs. Bullivant and Company in Grovebury Road, a “controlled establishment” under the Minister of Munitions. It appears that the boys, with Weeks as one of the ringleaders, had demanded a 50 percent rise in their wages; when this demand was refused they had all gone on strike except Weeks and one other. As Weeks returned to work after his dinner break he was obstructed and molested by the defendants, causing him to arrive fifteen minutes late. He had first met thirty boys at the gate to the Recreation Ground near the Church, who asked if he intended to return at the old rate of pay; he said that he did. They had let him pass, as had three other boys he met nearer the works. When he met Lake and Palmer, Lake pushed him into the hedge and struck him.

The Company had previously experience similar cases of intimidation and as a result had notified the police who kept watch on the boys. Police Sergeant Dennis stated that he had seen five boys make a rush for Weeks after one called out “Here comes Weeks”, with Lake hitting him and knocking him into the hedge. Weeks had then called out and Police Constable Cheshire ran after the other boys. To prevent any further incidents Lake and Palmer were arrested and detained overnight. The boys all pleaded not guilty. Lake claimed he had not struck Weeks; Palmer and Tearle denied touching him; and Gotzheim said they had only stopped to ask Weeks if he intended going to work.

While the Company did not wish to press charges the military authorities had instructed the action to be taken to ensure there was no repetition of this behaviour. The boys had since returned to work and the firm was of the view that the publicity given to the case would be sufficient deterrent. The boys were told that interfering with the work of producing munitions was a very serious thing and that the maximum penalty for this offence was £100 fine or six months imprisonment. As it was a first offence they were fined only ten shillings, but were warned that if they came before the magistrates again they would be very seriously dealt with.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 25th January 1916

Monday, 18 January 2016

Explosion at Britannia Iron Works

Entrance gate to Britannia Iron Works c.1865 [Z1306/10/36/1]

Tuesday 18th January 1916: A misjudgement on the part of a former soldier led to a tragic accident at the Britannia Iron Works this afternoon. John Wildman of 79, Marlborough Road, was recently discharged from the army after service at the Front as a sapper in the East Anglian Royal Engineers, and returned to his former employment at the Britannia Iron Works. He had brought a number of souvenirs hom with him from the trenches including a German shell which he took the the Works. It is not clear whether he simply intended to show it to his colleagues, or to attempt to dismantle it; whatever the original intention, the shell was fixed into a vice and operated on with a hack saw. Wildman had been under the impression that the fuse had been removed and the shell was harmless. Unfortunately he was mistaken and the shell exploded, killing Wildman himself instantly and fatally injuring three others, Donald Francis of Priory Street, a married man aged 26 with a three year old daughter, and two 16 year olds, Arthur Farmington of Eastville Road and George Trueman of Iddesleigh Road. The men were taking to the County Hospital opposite the Works but died almost immediately. A fifth man, Herbert Papworth, was injured in the thigh but is expected to recover. It appears that Wildman was attempting to saw through the shell horizontally to get top and bottom sections; only a small portion of the nose survived the explosion.

Source: Bedfordshire Times, 21st January 1916

Sunday, 17 January 2016

The First Derby Boys Leave Bedford

Twenty year old Derby Boys ready to leave 
[Bedfordshire Times]

Monday 17th January 1916: The first of the boys who enlisted under the Derby Scheme have left Kempston Barracks for their Bedfordshire units on Saturday. The first to leave were recruits of the 2nd class (aged 19) whose march to the station was headed by the Band of the 2nd Bedfordshire Regiment. They entrained at about 12.30pm, and set of on the first stage of the journey that will lead them to the field of battle. They were followed today by the 20 year olds who also marched behind the Band and seemed quite at home in their new khaki uniforms. At the station they were handed their kit bags, given refreshments, and entrained under the command of Lieutenant E. Small. As the train drew out the band played “Auld Lang Syne”. Two further parties left today and more are expected to follow over the next couple of days.

Source: Bedfordshire Times, 21st January 1916

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Munitions Girls at Work and Play

George Kent munitions workers, November 1915 [Luton Times]

Sunday 16th January 1916: Anyone accustomed to the politics of shared kitchens and tea-rooms at their place of work will not be surprised by the instructions posted this week in the girls’ mess rooms at George Kent Ltd:

(1) Girls arriving early at the tea-tables should not empty the tea-pots; cups should be half filled, and then the tea-pots replenished.
(2) Girls are requested to put their chairs back to the table on rising from meals.
(3) Crockery must not be taken from the Mess Rooms without permission. Infringements of this rule will be regarded very seriously.
(4) Broken crockery must be reported, and handed to the Mess Room Staff.
(5) Paper and orange peel should not be thrown about the floor – rubbish baskets are provided.
(6) It is not allowed to feed animals in the Mess Room.
(7) Complaints as to seating accommodation, service or cooking, will at once be dealt with. Mrs. Nicholas is always in either Mess Room at mealtime.

The life of a munitions girl is not all work and no play. A very successful social was held last night at the Winter Assembly Hall, Waller Street, for George Kent employees. Five hundred attended the event and enjoyed a varied programme of entertainment. At the Waller Street end of the hall tables were set out for a whist drive, with space for 84 players; prizes of an umbrella, a jewel case and a scent pump were given to the three winning ladies and an inkstand, an antimony cigarette box and a tobacco pouch went to their male counterparts. Other games were played into which the participants threw themselves with great enthusiasm. After the whist drive and during other intervals a concert was given, Mr. Spratley’s band provided music for dancing, and food was supplied by Slater’s.

Source: George Kent archive; Luton Times, 14th January 1916

Friday, 15 January 2016

Soldiers at Stotfold

Mill Lane, Stotfold 1913 (corner of Baptist Chapel on right)

Saturday 15th January 1916: The special constables of Stotfold were busy last week arranging for the billeting of two hundred or more soldiers in the village who were expected to arrive tomorrow. However, late on Friday evening a telegraph arrived with the news that the accommodation for men and horses would not be required after all. This caused some regret as expenses had already been incurred in making preparation for the soldiers’ arrival.

One soldier who did arrive in the village is Private William Huckle, who is home on leave from France. He joined the 8th Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment in March and was sent overseas in August where he has since been in the thick of the action. A physically strong man, he has been distinguished by his endurance and ability to resist the sickness that has afflicted many of his comrades, and has now won a promotion. He has many interesting and thrilling stories to tell, particularly of the Battle of Loos, and is due to give an address to the congregation of the Old Baptist Chapel this evening.

Source: Biggleswade Chronicle, 21st January 1916

Thursday, 14 January 2016

A "Bedford Hut" for Soldiers

Friday 14th January 1916: The Bedford and District Federation of the Church of England  Men’s Society has raised £300 to provide the troops at the Front with a “Bedford Hut”. This will soon be built somewhere in France and will provide seating accommodation for 300 men. At one end there will be a chapel and adjoining the Hut there will be two quiet rooms for the use of the Chaplain and the men; the remaining space will be for ordinary social use. The Hut will be under the control of the Chaplains and will be for the use of troops of any denomination. It is hoped that a link can be kept between the Hut and Bedford by sending out newspapers, books and other gifts for the men using it.

Source: Bedfordshire Times, 14th January 1916

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Fatal Motor Accident at Turvey

Turvey Bridge, c.1905-1910 [X396/266]

Thursday 13th January 1916: An inquest has heard that Private Isaac Nelms, a 19 year old soldier from Stockport serving with the 2/6th Cheshires died following and accident with a motor-bus at Turvey on Sunday night. The driver of the bus, Frank Thomas James Edwards, told the inquest that he was passing over Turvey bridge at about 9.45pm when he saw a soldier on a cycle approaching from the opposite direction. The cyclist was going fairly straight until he was within a yard or so of the bus when he seemed to lose control of his machine and swerve. He missed the front of the bus, but he then heard a noise at the side and at the same time hit the bridge in trying to avoid him. The driver and conductor went back and found Private Nelms lying on the road about a yard from the wall on his proper side of the road. He could not see any marks to suggest he had run over the soldier. The man was got onto the bus and taken to hospital. Mr. Edwards stated that there was plenty of room for Private Nelms to pass and that his bus was lit by two paraffin lights at the front.

Police Constable Bradshaw of Turvey was informed of the accident and saw Private Nelms in the motorbus. He spoke to the soldier who said he was going to Bedford. His clothing was dirty as though he had rolled over, but there was no mark to show if the bus had run over him. The wheel marks of the bus were well onto the left side of the road and the bicycle was not damaged. Dr. Spence, a house surgeon at the County Hospital carried out a post mortem and found serious internal injuries which could only have been caused by great pressure. The Coroner said that although there was no evidence to account for these injuries, it seemed almost certain that the hind wheel of the bus must have run over him. It appeared a pure accident for which nobody was to blame. The jury returned a verdict of accidental death.

Source: Bedfordshire Times, 14th January 1916

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Boys Birched at Dunstable

Crowd in West Street, Dunstable, early 20th century [Z1306/36/12/2]

Wednesday 12th January 1916: Four boys have been birched by order the Dunstable Borough magistrates after being found guilty of theft. Frederick and Percy Herbert, aged 12 and 9, and John Alfred and Harold Beard, aged 12, 13 and 8, were charged with stealing four electric torches, two cases and two batteries from the cycle shop of Mr. S. Priest in West Street sometime between the 2nd and the 5th of January. When he missed the torches Mr. Priest told the police. The boys were spotted with torches by Police Sergeant Tingey who questioned them. The boys admitted the theft; one said that Fred Herbert had given him a penny to take into the shop so he could buy something if Mr. Priest or his wife came in. Alfred Beard was discharged and John Beard was excused a birching as he is in a weak state of health – as he was given a bad character his father was fined five shillings. The other three boys were sentenced to the birch along with another who had been convicted of stealing a bicycle.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer 18th January 1916

Monday, 11 January 2016

New Vehicle Lighting Regulations

Marquis of Northampton's Car after accident at Dunstable, 1908 [Z1306/36/18/2]

Tuesday 11th January 1916: New regulations relating to lights on vehicles came into force in Bedfordshire yesterday. Under these rules the use of headlights on motor cars is prohibited. All vehicles must carry a lamp displaying a white light at the front. Unless the vehicle is a bicycle this must be displayed at the extreme right hand side of the vehicle; if a second lamp is carried this must be at the extreme left hand side. At the rear a red lamp must be displayed, again at the extreme right hand side of the vehicle. If electric lamps are used the bulb must not exceed 12 watts and the longer side or diameter of the front glass must not exceed six inches; other restrictions are in place for acetylene and oil lamps.

The difficulties likely to arise from the new regulations have already been demonstrated by Ronald Guy Larking, an officer of the Royal Engineers who appeared today at the Borough Court charged with assaulting a special constable in an argument over motor car headlamps. After being convicted and fined £1 he told the magistrates that the previous night four members of the mobile corps of signallers to which he belonged had been sent out from Baldock. There were seven accidents that night, two involving dispatch riders and the others civilians. He himself had travelled to Cambridge and estimated that even though he had a fairly bright light he had run on to the grass verge nearly fifty times. He suggested an exception should be made for officers and dispatch riders on duty; they could not possibly carry out their work safely, and it seemed ridiculous that men should be injured by falling off their bicycles in the dark. The police superintendent pointed out that Mr. Larking had not properly read his instructions. An order had been made some weeks ago that military motor cars on duty could use headlights, on condition that while doing so they must carry a green light on each side.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 28th December 1915 and 18th January 1916

Sunday, 10 January 2016

A Bogus Officer at Shefford

White Hart, Shefford 1907 [Z1306/101/9/10]

Monday 10th January 1916: A man masquerading as an officer has been sentenced at Biggleswade Police Court to three months hard labour for wearing the military uniform of a Lieutenant of the Royal Engineers without authorisation. Captain C. Prickett, RE. told the court that Thomas Lee, aged 21, had attended a boxing contest at Shefford wearing the uniform with a DCM ribbon, but his behaviour was “not what that of an officer ought to be”. After the boxing he went to the White Hart Hotel where he was arrested for drunkenness. He claimed that he was with the 18th Australian Infantry Brigade until he was wounded; he had been discharged from hospital in Birimingham on 9th November 1914, had been commissioned from the ranks in December 1914 and then promoted to Lieutenant on 2nd May 1915. Enquiries were made but his story could not be verified. In court his defence admitted that Lee was a soldier who had been to the front and been wounded. He had deserted from the Royal Field Artillery, but was willing to rejoin his regiment at any time.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 11th January 1916

Saturday, 9 January 2016

News from another Prisoner of War

Prisoners of War in Germany [Beds Times]
(Lance-Corporal Austin, 1st Bedfords, marked with a cross)

Sunday 9th January 1916: We heard recently that officers of the Bedfordshire Regiment who are incarcerated in a German Prisoner of War camp had a much better Christmas this year.  Things have also been much better for other ranks who were taken prisoner in 1914. Private Albert Freeman of Beeston, who was taken prisoner while serving with the 1st Bedfords, writes from Wittenberg Prison Camp:
“I must tell you I have had a much better Christmas this year. Mrs Cope and Mrs Darnell of Beeston, sent me a nice parcel containing a pudding and cake and other dainties, so with your parcel and mother’s I had plenty of food. I also saved nearly all father’s nuts so you may guess I have had a good blow out. Aunt Clara sent me a parcel containing a scarf which she made, with other goodies, and other friends have sent me parcels who are perfect strangers to me. I also received the underclothing from Biggleswade, so you will see I have plenty of clothing. I am going to ask you not to make me too expensive parcels, I know I am a big cost to you, but one day I hope to repay all this. You have asked me many times what I require, you may send me a little pepper and mustard”.
Source: Biggleswade Chronicle, 4th February 1916

Friday, 8 January 2016

"Send Us Some More Men!"

Derby Recruitment Scheme Poster [Wikimedia]

Saturday 8th January 1916: Private H. Bunker of Leighton Buzzard has written home from France where he is serving with the 2nd Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment:
We had a very nice Christmas, although the weather was so wet. As we were lucky enough to be out of the trenches we did not mind the wet, and had a very nice time on our own as you may imagine. Yesterday we had the great pleasure of seeing some of the boys of the 1st Battalion. They go in the trenches again tonight, but are as happy as they can be. Now just a word to the slackers. If they could possible see one half of what we have seen of the Germans and their doings, they would not need asking twice. Although Lord Derby has got so many of the young men [1], I know that there are hundreds who are quite eligible and fit, and yet hang back. Why? Because they do not realise that this is a war to the very knife. If they could have been at Loos, and seen the boys shedding their heart's blood they would have seen and realised how badly men were needed. If we had had more men we should now be beyond Lille, or at least have held that town. The slacker need not flatter himself that all will soon be over, for it won't finish yet. A man will do well to join some such regiment as my own, the Bedfords, which has earned a fine name at Ypres, Neuve Chapelle, Hill 60, Festubert and Loos, and many another fight. Just send us some more men. We have got plenty of guns and ammunition, and we will see this fight through to a fine finish with the old flag still flying.
Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 18th January 1916

[1] Lord Derby's recruitment scheme had required each eligible man to publicly declare whether he was willing to serve in the armed forces

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Final Preparations at Wardown Hospital

Wardown House 1914 [Z1306/75/8/2]

Friday 7th January 1916: In November we heard that Wardown House was being prepared as a hospital for wounded soldiers. There are currently just 21 patients being treated there but the military authorities are anxious for the hospital to be fully available and have been told it should be ready to receive a consignment of wounded patients within a few days. Just a few minor repairs and renovations are now needed, which will be carried out by the Luton Borough Engineer. Luton Town Council is contributing half the £10 cost of rearranging the heating apparatus and the provision of hot water. The Voluntary Aid Detachment have applied for the use of rooms currently occupied by the caretaker but their application has been refused. The matter has now been referred back to the Parks Committee asking them to reconsider; the hospital committee is anxious that the entire house should be given over to the hospital as in order to work efficiently it will be necessary for nurses to sleep on the premises.

Mary Green and Nora Durler, the commandants of the hospital, have asked for donations of money, domestic items, household linen, fruit, flowers and vegetables. They have also appealed for the following medical appliances:
  •  A wheeled trolley with a stretcher for transporting the sick and wounded
  • One or more self-propelling wheelchairs
  • An irrigator with a stand
  • A set of three enamel wash bowls on a stand for the operating room
  • One dressing waggon for the wards.
Source: Luton Times, 7th January 1916

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Bedford Recruitment Figures


Derby Scheme Poster 1915 [Wikimedia]

Thursday 6th January 1916: Following the canvassing for recruits which took place late last year under Lord Derby’s recruitment scheme we are now able to report on the effect of the scheme in Bedford and North Bedfordshire. In the National Register the names of 3040 men of military age in Bedford were not starred as being engaged in essential occupations. Between November 1st and December 12th 533 single and 893 married men enlisted and attested; a further 78 single and 39 married men had already enlisted between August and October. The total number of new recruits was therefore 1543.

The remaining 1497 who had not either enlisted or attested were made up of 213 single and 556 married men who refused to enlist, 237 single and 269 married men who were medically unfit, 27 single and 56 married men who were engaged in munition work but not starred, and 47 single and 91 married men willing to enlist on conditions. If compulsion is to be applied to single men, then there are only about 213 (under 300 at the outside) who can be conscripted, and it is likely that only about 40% of these would be found to be fit. There is likely to be little opposition if these men are made to toe the line.

In North Bedfordshire 4,973 men were canvassed. Of these 775 single and 886 married men either enlisted or promised to enlist. Current figures suggest that after allowing for those who were unfit or unable to enlist for other reasons 927 single and 1378 married men refused to enlist. These figures should be treated with caution as it is thought that many more may have enlisted during the final days of the scheme. It seems likely, however, that conscription of single men would be more effective in the area around Bedford than in the town itself.

Source: Bedfordshire Times, 7th January 1916

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

A Biggleswade Footballer Writes Home

Biggleswade Football Club, 1909-10 [X758/2/1/23]

Wednesday 5th January 1916: Private Frank Garner, a former vice-captain of the Biggleswade Football Club now serving with the 9th Seaforths, has written to a friend in the town. He counts himself fortunate to have been out of the firing line over Christmas and hopes that this year will see the end of the war.
“The last day we were [in our billet] we got another taste of the Huns gas. We were in bed when one of our early rising cooks came rushing in the hut and shouted “Gas”. You ought to have seen the scramble for gas helmets, etc. Scrambling for sweets at school treats isn’t in it. Not long after this we had to get extra ammunition and prepare to go into the firing line, but we were not called on, as the Huns attack was checked. On the same night we started back for our rest and had a night at --- and arrived here on Tuesday. We still get our supply of rain, although we do not feel the effect of it so much, we have got used to it, and we only do about one hour’s drill each day. Luck is with us to be resting at Christmas time although the food is only the same as usual. We have a decent barn for a billet and plenty of straw to lie on, and also clothes for covering. We expect to be here for a month to get fit for the coming year, which possibly will be for the finish of the war. I hope so, although I take things calmly and feel content to be alive and in the best of health.”
Source: Biggleswade Chronicle, 7th January 1916