Friday, 31 October 2014

Special Constables

Saturday 31st October 1914: Since the outbreak of the war Special County Constables have been patrolling the roads by night. Their aim is to keep under observation all the main roads where the important telegraph and telephone lines are situated, and to prevent any undesirable people passing through the county. The roads within a radius of about 6 miles of the town are patrolled from Bedford, and the outlying districts are patrolled by local special constables under a local leader. All are volunteers. So far whole night duties have been taken by the Bedford Special Constables and the patrols elsewhere have been divided into two beats. The patrols are arranged so that they can be covered either on bicycle or on foot, and no one has to be on duty more than two nights a week. As the nights get longer more volunteers will be required. By doing so those unable to enlist will still be able to perform a valuable service for their country. 

Source: Ampthill and District News 31.10.1914

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Miss Behrend Remanded

View from High Street to Church Lane, Sharnbrook  c.1920 [Z50/100/83]

Friday 30th October 1914: Miss Pepita Eleanora Henrietta Ottilia Behrend appeared at Sharnbrook Police Court for the second time today charged under the Aliens Orders 1914. One of the magistrates, Mr Stileman Gibbard, asked whether he should retire from the Bench as he was both Miss Behrend’s landlord and a personal friend; the prosecuting solicitor stated that he was happy for Mr Gibbard to continue. Miss Behrend’s counsel asked for the case to be remanded again to give him time to prove her place of birth. He had received a letter that morning from her brother, stating that he was prepared to give evidence that she was born in England.

The prosecutor explained that the issue was not whether Miss Behrend was a reputable person, but whether or not she was required to register as an alien. He agreed that no great importance should be attached to the fact that no record of her birth could be found as registration did not become compulsory until 1875 and his own birth had not been registered. He had found a baptism recorded at St Andrew’s Church, London for a Josephine Pepita Eleonora Ottilia Behrend, but as this was dated 8th March 1865 and her date of birth was 25th January 1865 it was still possible she had been born in Germany. As her brother was prepared to come and give evidence he agreed to a further remand and Miss Behrend was released on bail until Monday 9th November.

Source: Beds Times 6 Nov 1914

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Lance-Corporal William Harfield

Lance Corporal William Harfield [Z1516/4]

Thursday 29th  October 1914; Mrs Evelyn Harfield of Hope Villa, Gardenia Avenue, Leagrave, has received news that her husband, Lance-Corporal William Harfield has died of wounds received during the Battle of Mons. William Harfield was born near Chichester in Sussex and joined the army as a boy soldier. He served for fourteen years with the 1st Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers, including six years in India. In 1910 he left the regular army and subsequently came to Luton, where he worked as a beltman at Vauxhall Motors. During his time in the Royal Fusiliers he had been a bandsman for his battalion. Since moving to Luton he had helped the band of the 5th Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment by playing the trombone, but he had been excused camp this year. 

On August 5th Lance-Corporal Harfield was called up as a Reservist. His old battalion was serving in Ireland and he was transferred to the 4th Battalion which left for the front almost immediately. Mrs Harfield was able to find out more information about her husband’s death from another Royal Fusiliers reservist from Luton, Mr George T.Denmark, who was also wounded and is now in a local hospital. Mr Denmark had been in the same hospital ward as William Harfield at Vailly and reported that his friend had suffered terrible injuries, including the loss of both his legs. As well as his widow William Harfield leaves two small children, William who is five and two year old Evelyn, and an aged father who had been living with the family for some time.

Source: Luton News 5 November 1914

Note: William Harfield’s father Robert died aged 76 in the spring of 1916. In 1911 the Irish census shows William, Evelyn and their young son William living in Dublin, with his occupation still listed as “soldier”. It appears they must have come to Luton soon after this, living for a time at Ramridge Road, Round Green before moving to Leagrave. George Denmark appears to have survived the war. He served in the Essex Regiment, the Lancashire Fusiliers and the Labour Corps as well as the Royal Fusiliers. His medal card lists the date at which he first served at the Front as 21 August 1914, making him one of the few among the British Expeditionary Force of 1914 to beat the odds and survive the war.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Bedfordshire and the Belgians

Silver Street, Stevington, 2009 [CR-PH Stevington]

Wednesday 28th October 1914: Letters have been sent from towns and villages across Bedfordshire to the Relief of Distress Committee in response to the committee's inquiry into the provision being made for Belgian refugees. These sample replies give an indication of the generosity with which the people of the county are responding to the desperate situation in which so many Belgians have found themselves:

“An offer to provide for a family of five or six is being sent to the authorities today. A cottage in Silver Street – old fashioned, of course, but clean and fairly roomy and the best we can do under the circumstances has been promised, and the villagers, almost without exception, are willing and anxious to contribute to the family’s support.”

“The cottage is not an ideal one: it is old fashioned but clean, and can be made quite comfortable. I has three bedrooms and on the ground floor are two fair sized living rooms with store room, larder etc. I am instructed by my Committee to offer the above cottage and maintenance of a Belgian peasant family of five or six members, preferably women and children, for a period of six months. The cottage can made ready for their reception in a very few days”.

“On Friday last we formed a committee of 6 Ladies and 6 Gentlemen for the purpose of asking for 6 or 7 of the refugees as we have a very good house to put them in kindly lent for that purpose by Dr Henry Somerville”

“A vacant cottage has been taken – a good double cottage with good sanitary arrangements. It has quite recently been done up and distempered and there is ample room to accommodate 2 married couples with 2 children each. Furniture has been given and sufficient funds subscribed voluntarily for the maintenance of this number.
… The nearest Roman Catholic Church is at Leighton Buzzard 3½ miles distant and Major Haines has promised to make arrangements for the refugees to be taken there to attend Divine Service at least once a week.”

Source: Relief of Distress Committee correspondence re Belgian Refugees [WW1/RD/5/2]

Monday, 27 October 2014

Never Marry a Foreigner!

Luton Town Hall [Z1306/75/10/23/16]

27th October 1914: At a meeting of the Luton War Relief Committee this evening the subject of aliens’ wives was raised. Two cases have arisen in the town where the arrest of alien men has left their families in distress. One wife has been left with three small children, all under school age. She herself is British, has no idea where her husband is, and has barely enough money to last the week. One member of the committee pointed out that these families could not be left to starve. Another believed that a fund had been started in London for this type of case and the women should be referred there. Dr Sworder felt “they ought to tap the big German millionaires in London”. The Town Clerk believed that “if a British woman was foolish enough to marry a foreigner she must put up with the consequences” and that “there were plenty of good Englishmen”, but he accepted that the children were British, could not live on principles and must have something to eat. He therefore felt the committee should help them. Another member agreed that a grant should be made, but disagreed that there were enough British men to go round. He expressed sympathy with the thousands of people who had become aliens through a technicality and pointed out that it was quite possible that the womens’ husbands were blameless. One of the women was paying a high rent and it was felt that it was not reasonable for her to receive relief from the committee and still live in an expensive house. In response to a suggestion that some of the rooms in the house could be used by Belgian refugees Dr Sworder pointed out that  it would be “rather rough to put Belgians with Germans”. One of the “German” husbands, it transpired, was in fact Hungarian. It was decided that the District Committee should attend to the families’ needs until the committee next met.

Source: Luton News 29 October 1914

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Warm Showers for Soldiers

Plan for dye works in Dunstable Road, Luton 1895 [X843/1/26]

Monday 26th October 1914: While Bedford is congratulating itself on the sanitary facilities provided for billeted soldiers Luton is considering ways to help its soldiers keep clean. It has been suggested that an idea recently put into action in St Albans should be tried in Luton. A St Albans dyer gave the loan of a shed and allowed the use of steam from his dye works to provide warm showers for soldiers. A jet of steam was fixed into a cistern to heat the water inside, then half a dozen “roses” were attached to create warm showers. If dyers in Luton would be prepared to do the same it would be a great help to the soldiers. A shower bath can be taken very quickly and a large number of men would be able to take advantage of this facility.

Source: Luton News 29th October 1914

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Protecting Public Health

Two-seater privy at Swiss Gardens, Old Warden [CR-PH Old Warden]

Sunday 25th October 1914The Medical Officer of Health for Bedford Borough is delighted with the success of the sanitary arrangements which have been put in place since the arrival of 17,000 Highlanders in the town in August. Many were billeted in unoccupied houses, sometimes with between fifty and one hundred men in a single property, creating what could easily have become a serious public health hazard. The town worked with the military authorities to provide suitable facilities. Fifty permanent latrine blocks with ten places each were built and connected with the town drainage system. The latrines are flushed twice daily by sewer men from the Borough Surveyor’s department, and a deodorant disinfectant is added after each flush. As a result they have all been kept clean and inoffensive. These arrangements have been extremely successful as not a single case of enteric fever has been reported, despite the almost 50% increase in the population of the town.

Source: Borough of Bedford: Report of the Medical Officer of Health for the Year 1914 [BorBB2/22/14]

Friday, 24 October 2014

Loyalty Day

 "We're Doing Our Duty" postcard c.1914-1918 [Z1306/75/16/42]

Saturday 24th October 1914: Today has been “Loyalty Day” in Luton. Red, white and blue badges have been sold throughout the town to raise funds for the local War Materials Fund. This provides much needed materials for groups of ladies who are working hard making clothing for men serving in the Bedfordshire Regiment and others on active service. The idea for the fundraising day came from Lady Wernher of Luton Hoo. Gifts of ribbon, ready-made badges and other materials were received and a large quantity of ribbon was bought. Working parties were assembled to make the badges which they did at top speed.

The area was divided up into ten districts, with each allocated to a “captain” helped by fourteen other volunteers, and the badges were priced between one penny and one shilling. Selling started at 8 a.m. this morning and within forty minutes a number of the volunteers had already sold out of badges. Some of the sellers were then put to making more badges, with help from Lady Wernher, Miss Pryce and six servants from Luton Hoo. Extra badges were also bought at trade prices and sold at a profit. Selling continued until about 5 p.m. when heavy rain put an end to the business of the day. The takings were so large and contained so many coppers that five people took six hours to count them. The final total raised amounts to an impressive £111.18s.5d. One hundred and fifty ladies and girls and one dog took part in the collection. The dog, which belongs to Mrs Hickson, collected sixteen shillings.

Source: Luton News 29 October 1914

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Miss Pepita Eleanora Henrietta Ottilia Behrend

Former police station and court at Sharnbrook, 2013

Friday 23rd October 1914: A long time resident of Sharnbrook appeared at the Petty Sessions today charged with failing to register as an enemy alien. After war was declared it was rumoured that Miss Pepita Eleanora Henrietta Ottilia Behrend was of German nationality. Police Inspector Bliss made enquiries and found she had left England for Berlin on 30th July to visit relatives. He heard on 23rd September that she had returned to Sharnbrook. He paid her a visit and told her she would need to register under the Aliens Order 1914 unless she could produce naturalisation papers. She showed him a passport signed by the American Ambassador in Berlin and told him that she had returned to England as a British refugee. She admitted to him that she had relatives in high positions in Germany, one of them a countess. He told her that the passport was not sufficient proof of her nationality. She said that her father had been German and her mother Hungarian, but that she herself had been born in Upper Seymour Street, London. Inspector Bliss told her that she would need to obtain her birth certificate as proof and she agreed to do this.

Inspector Bliss visited Miss Behrend again on October 21st. She had tried to obtain a birth certificate, but although a search had been carried out no birth had been registered between 1863 and 1867 which matched her details. There was supposedly a letter accompanying the results of the search stated that compulsory registration of births and deaths was not in force until 1875, but Miss Behrend had lost this. She suspected her parents had failed to register her birth. She had older brothers and sisters, all born in Germany before the family moved to England in 1864. She herself was the youngest and the only child to be born here, and her sister recalled being present at her baptism at a church in the parish of St George’s, Hanover Square. Her second brother had registered as an alien but her eldest brother was a naturalised Englishman. She herself had not bothered to take out naturalisation papers as she always understood she was born here and believed herself to be a British subject. She had not realised the gravity of her situation and had not taken any legal advice as she thought it was simply a matter of finding out where she was born.

The Chairman recommended that Miss Behrend should obtain legal advice and remanded her in custody for a week. She pleaded to be allowed to go home but initially was told this was outside the power of the Bench. After some discussion and after hearing that Miss Behrend had lived in Sharnbrook for over ten years and that local men of substance would vouch for her she was bound over to appear again the following week and released.

Source: Bedfordshire Times 30th October 1914

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

King George V Visits Bedford

Troops marching past the King at Bedford 22 October 1914 [Z1306/12/8/1]

Thursday 22nd October 1914: Bedford has today played host to His Majesty King George V. It became apparent last night that a review of the Highland troops was to be carried out by someone of importance. The soldiers were instructed to be at their parade points at 9.45 a.m. By this morning the news that the King was to visit had leaked out and spread round the town. Between nine and ten o’clock all the smartly turned out solders reached their assembly points; meanwhile large numbers of  enthusiastic civilians headed to  the  Midland Station and down the Bromham Road where the review was to be held in a large field between the Golf Course and the Bromham Road, opposite the first Biddenham Turn.

The first soldiers to arrive at the Golf Links were the Gordon Brigade, soon followed by the Scottish Horse. The Seaforth and Cameron Brigades started to arrive at about 10 a.m. They were followed by the Royal Garrison Artillery, the Royal Field Artillery, the Argyll Brigade, the Army Service Corps, the Royal Engineers and the Royal Army Medical Corps. Some arrived with bands playing and in some units the men were singing and whistling, but generally the tone was serious. By 11 a.m. all the troops were drawn up in an imposing array. The officers were on foot, except for the Scottish Horse, and no guns or wagons were on parade. The reserve regiment of the Bedfordshire Yeomanry also marched to the field off the Biddenham Road which is in use as their training ground, looking smart although many of the men do not yet have uniforms. Unfortunately although they formed up down the Biddenham Road when the King left they were not able to see His Majesty because of the large crowd.

The soldiers were joined by Bedford Grammar School boys who were given permission by General Allason to go into the field. Other boys came from the Modern School, and elementary children from Queen’s Park soon found the weak spots in the hedge between Bromham Road and the review ground. Many other members of the public also found good vantage points, the best position for a view being near No. 1 gate; this was within fifty yards of the spot from which the King watched the march past. A wounded officer, Lieutenant Stevens of the King’s Own Regiment, sat in a wicker chair just inside the gate.

The royal train arrived at 11.15am. The King stepped from the train, shook hands with Generals Sir Bruce Hamilton and Bannatine-Allason, acknowledged the salute of the other staff officers, and walked to his car to the cheers of the civilians and police. At 11.30 cheers were heard by the ground gathered at the review ground and a motor car was seen approaching. This turned out to be carrying only the Rev. S.B Phillpotts and some friends, but the royal car was not far behind. It was an open car, with King George and three officers seated inside. All four were wearing khaki uniforms, the King’s ornamented with a gold crown and insignia on the sleeves. He first inspected the troops, then walked across the main field towards the gate to the great delight of the wildly cheering crowd. The march past started at noon and lasted for an hour and a quarter. Section followed section in a snaking line, each headed by a band of pipers playing a march.

After a wet and miserable start the weather gradually cleared during the morning and it was mostly dry for the King’s visit. At about 12.45 p.m. a little rain fell and an officer brought a great coat for the King but the rain soon stopped and he was able to discard it. When all the troops had passed by the Mayor of Bedford, Mr H. Browning, was presented to the King, who said how pleased he was to hear that the town of Bedford had done so well for the soldiers. The Mayor complimented the behaviour of the troops and informed the King that the town was delighted to entertain them. The Chief Constable and various Brigade commanders were also introduced to His Majesty. The King then spotted the wounded officer in his seat, crossed over to him and shook hands with Lieutenant Stevens, who stood up and removed his hat. Seeing the officer’s bandaged head the King made him sit down again and replace his cap. They chatted together for some time. Rain then began to fall for a second time, this time more heavily. The King walked through the gate and back to his car to return to the station, from where he left the town to more loud cheering from his subjects.

Source: Bedfordshire Times 23rd October 1914

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Billeting Payments

Cowper Street, Luton 1914 [Z1306/75/10/15/2]

Wednesday 21st October 1914: Some Luton householders are unhappy that they have not been receiving the correct payments for billeting soldiers. The rate for providing a bed is 9d per night, but there has been uncertainty over whether or not the same amount should be payable if a soldier sleeps on the floor. The Luton News has received information that the amount payable should be 9d whenever a soldier is billeted in an occupied house, regardless or whether or not a bed is provided. If the house is empty and unfurnished, then only 3d per head per night is to be paid. The military authorities have confirmed that they will make the 9d per night payment, but have emphasised that the soldiers must be provided with a mattress, lighting, fire and facilities for cooking and eating food. Householders should also be aware that they are not obliged to accept soldiers unless an official yellow billeting form is presented.

Source: Luton News 22nd October 1914

Monday, 20 October 2014

Shefford Man Under Fire

Robert Burnage [photograph from Roll of Honour]

Tuesday 20th October 1914: The following letter home has been received by Mr and Mrs James Burnage of Ampthill Road, Shefford from their son Sergeant Robert Burnage, who is serving at the front with the Bedfordshire Regiment:
"I received the tobacco all right. I suppose you have read a lot about this war. Well,  we don't get much time to read papers, and we cannot get them very often, but when we do we are very glad to read them to learn the news, for you at home know more about it than we do. We do not know where we are going to, nor when we start off. I have not had any beer since we arrived here on the 15th August. You have read about the Battle of Mons. Well, I shall never forget it. It was rather hot for the first time of being under fire. It was different from anyone trying to learn a bicycle a little bit at a time, for this was all at once. The shells burst all around us. It was a terrible affair. We were rather lucky in not losing many men. I suppose you have heard about George Endersby being wounded."
Souce: Ampthill and District News 31st October 1914

Note: Robert Burnage was killed on 9 November 1914 aged 29, just three weeks after writing this letter on 18th October. He is commemorated on Le Touret memorial to the missing. George Endersby appears to have survived the war.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Wardown Hospital

Wardown gardens and house, Luton 1913 [X291/243/3]

Monday 19th October 1914: Any of the Territorials billeted in Luton who have fallen sick have been nursed in bell tents in the grounds of Wardown Mansion, but the weather has now turned too cold for this arrangement to continue. Last week it was announced that a house in Brook Street would be used as a hospital. Since then the Royal Army Medical Corps officers billeted at Wardown have decided that the Brook Street house is not suitable and that the hospital should be set up on the ground floor of the mansion. The residents of Luton agree that this would be a good use for the property but there is concern that the town will be forced to bear the cost of its upkeep unless the War Office steps in. The ladies of the Voluntary Aid Detachment are entering into the scheme with enthusiasm, paying great attention to the well-being and comfort of the men.

Source: Luton News 22 October 1914

Saturday, 18 October 2014

New Residents at Pear Tree Cottage

Pear Tree Cottage, Sharnbrook, 1912 (now 97 High Street) [Z1306/100/10/1]

Sunday 18th October 1914: Belgian refugees continue to be welcomed in Bedfordshire. A family named Everard arrived in Sharnbrook today where they have been lodged at Pear Tree Cottage with Miss Mary Christine Hutchison until an empty house can be found for them. Monsieur Everard was a tanner with a large business at Augarde, near Louvain. He owned a considerable amount of property which has all been burned, with the exception of a few cottages at Antwerp. Several of his friends have been killed and the women and children dreadfully mutilated. He is accompanied by his wife, his son, his sister, and their maid Hortense. Another son is now living in Dorset with his two children. Hortense has brothers fighting with the Belgian Army, but has not heard from them since the outbreak of war. Monsieur Everard junior is being given English lessons by Mr John Edward Prince Evans.

Source: St Peter’s Sharnbrook Parish Record Book, pp.56-57 [P112/28/6]

Friday, 17 October 2014

Imprisonment with Hard Labour

Image: Bedford Gaol

Saturday 17th October 1914: Private John Fraser, aged 19, was sentenced at Bedford this morning to fifteen months’ imprisonment with hard labour for the manslaughter of Private Arthur Charker. His case was heard at the Assizes yesterday. The case for the prosecution was as set out at the inquest and magistrates’ hearing earlier in the week. Mr Bernard Campion, defending the prisoner, said his defence was that Fraser foolishly and stupidly picked up the bayonet. He waved it around, saying he would not be responsible for anyone who came near him. As Charker rushed to take the bayonet from Fraser, he got stabbed. The Judge said that unless Mr Campion was going to ask the Jury to say that Charker actually threw himself on the bayonet, then Charker was lawfully engaged in trying to disarm Fraser. If Charker was stabbed in trying to disarm Fraser he would direct the Jury that Fraser was guilty of an unlawful act whether or not the stabbing was deliberate. In view of this Fraser withdrew his plea of not guilty on Mr Campion’s advice and pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

Source: Beds Times 23/10/14

Thursday, 16 October 2014

A Double Tragedy

Cheapside, Luton, c.1914 [Z1306/75/10/12/1]

Friday 16th October 1914, Luton: A family living in Wimborne Road has suffered a dreadful loss. They heard last Friday that their twenty-two year old son Private Horace Weedon, serving in France with the Grenadier Guards, had been killed in action. It took nearly a month for the news to come through as he was killed between the fourteenth and the sixteenth of September during the Battle of the Marne. Horace had been a pupil at Chapel Street and Waller Street schools. A well-built lad, over six feet tall, he worked first at Mr Treasure’s furniture store in Cheapside, then at the Diamond Foundry. After leaving the foundry he served in the Grenadier Guards for three years. When he left the Guards in November 1913 he joined the police force in Birmingham. As a reservist he was called up at the beginning of the war and sent immediately to the front. Soon after they heard of his death Mr and Mrs Weedon received a letter from the son saying “just a few lines to let you know I am all right. We are doing a bit of fighting and we are having a pretty hard time of it. Remember me to all at home. With love, Horace.”

Horace Weedon [from Luton News 19th November 1914]

As they grieved for their eldest son the family suffered a second tragedy: Horace’s younger brother Frank died on Monday from diphtheria, just three days after his parents heard of his brother's death. They also have to endure the anxiety of having two other teenage sons in the services: Jack is at the front with the 1st Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment, and George is in the navy serving on HMS Powerful. 

Source: Luton News 15th October 1914

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Conjuring up a Spy!

Lieutenant F.P.du Sautoy sporting a luxurious (and genuine!) moustache in 1902 [X550/6/73]

Wednesday 15th October 1914: Spy fever continues unabated in Luton and has caught another innocent victim in its net. On Tuesday night a young man, R.Archie Press, had promised to give a conjuring performance for a friend. To make the act more impressive he used make up, but for some reason felt he needed to apply this before leaving home. On the way to his friend’s house he called for a second friend. This friend was not at home so he waited in the street for some time before leaving without him. By this time the military police had become suspicious of his behaviour and noticed that his moustache was a false one. After observing him for a while that arrested him as he passed under the Midland Railway bridge. They would not allow Mr Press to persuade them to come with him to his friend’s house and insisted on taking him to the Town Hall, where he was searched and cross-examined for half an hour before he was finally allowed to go to his friend’s house with an officer in attendance. The officer’s suspicion was only allayed once Mr Press had performed a few of his tricks.

Source: Luton News 15/10/14

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

A Manslaughter Charge

The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders marching through Bedford 1914/5 [Z1306/12/6/20]

Wednesday 14th October 1914: The magisterial hearing in the case of Private John Fraser, charged with murdering Private Arthur Charker was held today. The Town Clerk, Mr Stimson, had considered the evidence and decided that the charge should be reduced to manslaughter. Private Fraser was granted legal aid.

Most of the evidence repeated that given at the inquest, but a few variations and new facts came to light. Private Frank Macdonald said that Fraser drew back the bayonet and put it into Charker’s stomach, whereas he had previously said that Fraser swung the bayonet. Mr Montague Austin, defending Fraser, put it to Macdonald that he and Charker were attacking Fraser, and that the bayonet stabbing was accidental. Macdonald denied this, saying he had been on his knees at the other side of the Fraser, with his hands gripping the bayonet blade. He believed Charker and Fraser to have been on friendly terms.

Private Hugh Mason said Fraser accused Charker of saying words about him (Mason). Charker lost his temper and he went to put him to bed. Fraser drew his bayonet, stood against the wall, and said he would not be responsible for any man who came near him. Fraser was holding the bayonet in his clenched fist and swung it round. Charker stood by the side of his bed about three yards away. Charker sprang at Fraser and Fraser swung the bayonet into him. The next thing he saw was Charker and Fraser on the floor, and Macdonald on his knees with the blade in his hand. He did agree that Macdonald, Charker and Fraser had been quarrelling before Charker was wounded. After Macdonald pushed Fraser aside with the towel Fraswer hit him twice with the trenching tool.

Private Alexander McKenzie said he saw Fraser and Charker quarrelling, and saw Fraser get a bayonet from under his bed, unsheath it, and say he would not be responsible for any man who came near him. Charker made a grab at the bayonet and was stabbed in the struggle. Private Ian Stewart gave similar evidence but added that Fraser had at first tried to get a rifle off the wall.

Captain Lindesay, RAMC, TF was sent for and found Charker in the Colour-Sergeant’s room. He had a puncture wound in the abdomen and was in a state of collapse. Captain Lindesay advised he should be taken to the County Hospital.

Private Charker’s own statement was taken on Sunday. It was done in a hurry and written notice to the prisoner was not given. The statement was entirely in Private Fraser’s favour:
“I am a private in the Cameron Highlanders, 4th Batt., stationed at Bedford. My billet is at Albert Terrace, Union Street, Bedford. I was last there on Friday night. I could not say who was there. I have a faint remembrance of a disturbance. I do not know what time it was. I could not say what caused the disturbance. I do not remember anything about it. The only thing I remember was getting a stab in the abdomen. I think it was dark at the time. I don’t know who did it. I just remember getting it, that is all. John Fraser was in the same billet. I had not had any quarrel with him. I don’t remember what began the row; that is all I know about it. I had been with him in the evening, drinking with him. I left him to hear the retreat. I have no idea what time it was when I went into the billet. I was quite friendly with him when I parted from him”.
The prisoner pleaded not guilty. He said he came in at 9.30 to 9.40, and McVinish was making a disturbance. Sergeant Poulson tried to get him to bed and saw Charker with a cut over his eye. Someone fetched a towel and Sergeant poulson bathed it. Charker told Mason to go to bed and he (Fraser) told Charker he had enough to do to look after himself. Macdonald hit him across the face with a wet towel, and he (Fraser) struck him over the arm with a trenching tool. He dropped the tool and they started to fight. He asked to be left alone and got the bayonet with the intention of frightening them. He did not mean to do anything with it. Charker gave him a crack on the eye, they got up and Charker fell over the bayonet.

Fraser was committed to trial at the Assizes on Friday.

Source: Beds Times 16/10/14

Monday, 13 October 2014

An Ill-Tempered Recruit

Image: Park Road (now Park StreetLuton, with the Bull Inn on the left hand side, 1909 [Z1306/75/10/50/2]

Tuesday 13th October 1014, Luton: A case was heard at the Borough Police Court yesterday in which a Luton man, Peter Johnson of Chobham Street, was charged with assaulting Sergeant Leonard Sowerby of the 5th South Staffordshire Battalion. Johnson had joined up a few weeks ago but on Sunday night he was stopped by Sergeant Sowerby outside the Bull Inn in Park Street where he was using filthy language and causing a disturbance. Sowerby told Johnson to go to his billet but Johnson's response was to strike him; his excuse was that “he came pushing me about, and I lost my temper”. When the Sergeant asked for Johnson’s name and address, Johnson hit him in the face. Detective Sub-Inspector Attwood said Johnson was well known to him as a loafer, always standing around outside public houses. Since Johnson enlisted he had rarely been sober and had already been arrested twice. The suspicion was that he had enlisted simply to get the money and now wanted to get out of it. Johnson denied this and claimed to be very sorry for his behaviour. One of the magistrates, Alderman Williams, told him It is very disgraceful after you have joined and professed you would be of service to the country to make an exhibition of yourself, and to be a nuisance to others in this way. You will have a fortnight’s hard labour”.

Source: Luton News 15/10/1914

Note: This case is presumably one of the incidents that led to the following letter to the editor of the Luton News:
Sir. – On three successive nights last week I saw drunken Territorials reeling and brawling about the streets of the town. Such a sight was extremely painful. Now should not these men be made to know that such conduct is disgraceful? They do harm to the whole division and are discredited as men and soldiers. Then as a community we have a right to ask them to show more courage when faced with the temptation to drink. And further, to ask them to remember that drunkenness upon the public streets is a crime ...”
 The British Army WWI Pension Record shows that Peter Johnson of 21 Chobham Street enlisted on 21 September 1914 and was discharged 12 October 1914 after 22 days service.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

The Bayonet Tragedy

The funeral of Private Arthur Charker [Z1306/12/7/1]

Monday 12th October 1914, Bedford: Private Arthur Charker, the Highlander bayoneted by a colleague on Friday, died of peritonitis from a punctured intestine this morning. Private John Fraser was arrested on Friday on a charge of malicious wounding, but at the Borough Magistrates' Court this morning the capital charge was brought. An inquest was held at the County Hospital this afternoon into his death at which witnesses described the events of Friday evening. Private Charker was billeted at a house in Albert Terrace where he was in a room with five others, including Private Fraser. Charker received his pay at 5pm. When the roll was called at 9.40pm he was in his room with the other five. There was an argument and Private MacVinish wanted to fight the others. Sergeant Kenneth Mackenzie who was the responsible officer that night was billeted in the same house. He said that three of the men were drunk and three sober, and that he did not think they had any drink in the room although he had seen bottles of beer in the house before even though they were not allowed. Eventually MacVinish quietened down and Mackenzie left. He returned at about 9.40pm when he heard a disturbance. Fraser was fighting with a man named Macdonald, and with help from another sergeant he separated the pair. Fraser then sat down on his bed against the wall. Sergeant Poulson told Mackenzie that Fraser had a bayonet. When asked Fraser refused to hand it over, and Mackenzie thought – but could not swear to it – that he said “And I’ll stick it into the first man that comes near me”. As he left the room to fetch some men to place Fraser under arrest he heard a scuffle, turned and saw Charker, Fraser and Macdonald fighting on the floor. Mackenzie went to fetch as many men as possible to separate them. When they were separated it became apparent that Charker had been stabbed and Mackenzie sent for the doctor. He thought Macdonald was sober but had been goading Fraser to fight.

The other sergeant, Poulson, said that Charker had been drinking heavily and the others were also under the influence. He helped Sergeant Mackenzie to calm the initial quarrel and was standing at the door when he noticed that Charker was bleeding from a cut over the eye He sent Macdonald for a towel and managed to stop the bleeding. While he was doing this Macdonald and Fraser started to fight again. They separated the pair. Fraser sat on his bed, stretched out his hand and took the bayonet in its scabbard from near the fireplace. As Fraser looked as if he meant to use it he told Sergeant Mackenzie and left the room to get an escort. He heard a “fearful scuffle” and rushed back to the room to find the three men fighting. He saw the bayonet in Fraser’s right hand and Macdonald also had hold of it. It seemed that Charker and Macdonald were trying to get the bayonet from him. Six or seven more men rushed in, there was confusion and someone said that Charker had been stabbed.

According to Private Macdonald he and three other men were sober, Fraser had had a drink or two and Charker was a little drunk. Fraser and Charker quarrelled, he did not know what about, and they came to blows. He was helping Sergeant Poulson with Charker’s eye when he realised Fraser was holding an entrenching tool above his head. Fraser struck him on the arm, they struggled and Macdonald managed to get the tool from him. When the sergeants left the room he saw Fraser had a drawn bayonet in his hand and heard him say he would put it into the first man who went near him. Charker tried to get the bayonet from him, but Fraser swung it into his stomach.

Fraser himself said that MacVinish was the first to cause a disturbance. While Sergeant Poulson was treating his eye with a towel Charker told one of the other men to go to bed. Fraser said to him “you have enough to do to look after yourself”. Macdonald then hit him (Fraser) in the face with the towel and he hit Macdonald with a trenching tool. After they fought he had gone to his bed. Macdonald challenged him again and he said that if they would leave him alone he would interfere with nobody. Charker then hit him in the eye and he got up holding the bayonet. Charker fell over him and the bayonet went into him. He was friendly with Charker and had no intention of stabbing him - they used to “knock about the streets together” back in Inverness. Fraser had tears in his eyes as he said he was sorry this had happened to his “chum”.

Charker had made a statement while he was dying in the hospital, but as it was taken under the impression that it was his dying declaration and there was no evidence that Charker was aware that his condition was fatal it could not be accepted. Acting on the Coroner’s recommendation the jury gave a verdict of manslaughter. Private Fraser will be tried for this offence, but will not face a murder charge.   

Source: Beds Times 16/10/1914

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Bedford is Having the Time of its Life

Image: G N Barnes (Wikipedia)

Sunday 11th October 1914 – Bedford: George Nicoll Barnes, MP for Glasgow Blackfriars and Hutchesontown  and former leader of the Labour party, has paid a visit to his son who is billeted at Bedford.[1] He records his impression of the town:
"Bedford is in normal times placid. It is in the world, but not of it. It lives in reminiscence, it thinks of things of long ago and far away, and rather prides itself on its detachment. But Bedford today is having the time of its life. It has been, so to speak, taken by the scruff of its neck and lifted out of itself. It has become a centre of military activity - of Scotch military activity. ... Here in Bedford are to be seen all the tartans of Scottish story; bagpipes assail the ear by day and bugles by night; the common tongue is that of Morayshire, and Ross, and Cromarty, with a sprinkling of Clydeside. I am told that there are many who talk nothing but Gaelic, and it is said that the transport of these Gaelic-speaking men from the north was probably the origin of the rumour of Russian troops having been seen on the way to France. The town is throbbing with the vigorous life of kilted warriors, eager for the front. ... I have found them, one and all, charmed with the town and delighted with their reception. I have spoken to the townsfolk, who are just as pleased with them and to have them. And indeed there is much cause for both being well satisfied. It is a new and pleasant experience for the "Terriers", and it is a source of considerable profit to the town. Picture palaces, restaurants, and places if entertainment generally are crowded every night, and the tradesmen are busy as bees."
Source: Ampthill and District News, 17.10.1914

[1] The son George Barnes visited is likely to have been 2nd Lt. Henry Barnes, who was killed fighting with the Gordon Highlanders in September 1915.

Friday, 10 October 2014

News from Germany

Dresden in the late 19th century: Wikipedia

Saturday 10th October 1914: Violet Monica Salmond has returned home to Bedford after spending nine weeks in a village near Dresden in Germany. She was staying with a member of the civil authority and has been very well treated at all times. Leaving was difficult not because of any hindrance on the part of the Germans, but because it is now necessary to have a passport to buy a ticket. With help from officials of the United States of America seventy English people were able to leave Dresden on Monday on a special train by which they travelled via Amsterdam to Flushing. The worst part of the trip was the crossing of the North Sea in foggy conditions, with a long route necessary to avoid mines.

Miss Salmond reports that the art galleries and other public places in Dresden are closed and no veal or lamb can be eaten, but otherwise life in the city continues as normal. The German soldiers are receiving hard training and are not allowed to touch alcoholic drinks – something of a contrast to the situation here in  Bedford! Although she was an object of curiosity to the villagers people behaved well to her and as they travelled home everyone was very kind. The opinion in Dresden is that the war is entirely the fault of the British. They believe the first atrocities of the war were committed by Belgian soldiers, with the Germans retaliating in self-defence. According to Miss Salmond the news in the German papers is exactly the same as the news here, except that the names are all reversed.

Source: Bedfordshire Times 16th October 1914

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Tragic Consequences

Image: A group of Scottish soldiers with locals outside the Gordon Arms Public House in Castle RoadBedford, 1914 [Z1130/12/3]

Friday 9th October 1914: A dreadful incident took place in Union Street, Bedford today. It appears that one of the Cameron Highlanders billeted in the town has been bayoneted by a fellow soldier. The man is dreadfully wounded and rumour has it that he is not likely to live. Very little is known about what happened, but it is thought that the soldiers had been drinking. The men are paid on Friday and there is often a great deal of shouting and drunkenness in the evening. This time it seems there may have been tragic consequences.

Source: Beds Times 16/10/1914

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

The Early Closing Order

Thursday 8th October 1914: The level of complaint about the restrictions on opening hours introduced in Luton has been such that a new order has been issued allowing licensed premises to open at any time from 6 a.m. and to sell alcoholic drinks until 9.30 p.m. After 9.30 p.m. they are allowed to remain open, but not to sell intoxicating liquor. Proving that you can never please everyone, the Luton News has published this letter to the editor:
Letter to the Editor of the Luton News Sir, - “The eating of the leek” policy adopted by the Luton Licesnsing Justices is extremely painful to all those who are desirous of a sober and decorous period, during the national crisis through which the nation is pasing, and the extra hour-and-half allowed for the consumption of minerals certainly savours of extreme ludicrousness. Where is there one patron of public-houses that would be content with swallowing cold ginger beer and lemonade these chilly October nights? It’s altogether highly farcical. I would like to ask the average working man if he cannot spend all the spare cash he has at his command for beer by 9 p.m. every night, especially in these hard and trying times. In fact, Sir, as times are, many, many shillings of our husbands spent in beer before 9 p.m. ought to go on the children’s feet or help to fill the empty cupboard, and if anyone takes the trouble upon different nights to notice when the soldiers turn out of the public houses, they will soon come to the conclusion, that in many instances, even for their welfare, the hour of 9 p.m. was amply late enough, and as regards the trade, there are many towns that have not nearly the military billeted upon them as Luton has, that have been closed at 9 p.m. weeks ago. – I remain, yours truly, A WORKING MAN’S WIFE.
 Source: Luton News 8/10/1914

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

A Grand Military Review

Letter of thanks for donation to War Materials Fund written by Lady Alice Wernher 
on 21 October 1914 [P85/28/2/19]

Wednesday 7th October 1914: It has been announced that a Grand Military Review of the Troops under the command of Major General the Hon. E.J.Montagu-Stuart Wortley is to be held in Luton Hoo Park at 2.30pm on Wednesday 14th October, by kind permission of Lady Wernher. The gates will be opened at 1pm.

Ticket prices are as follows:

Admission to park
-         Adults: 3d in advance, 6d on the day
-         Children under 14: 1d in advance, 3d on the day

Admission to park and reserved enclosure
-         Adults: 6d in advance, 1s on the day
-         Children under 14: 3d in advance, 6d on the day

Private vehicles – 2/6 in addition to entrance for occupants, who must hold enclosure tickets.

Children should, as far as possible, be in the care of their parents or adult friends.

Bicycles and motor-cycles will not be allowed in the park but a temporary garage will be provided near the entrance for which the charge will be:
-         Bicycle: 2d
-         Motor-cycle: 4d
-         Motor-cycle with side-car: 6d

Tickets are available from any police officer; Messrs. Webdale’s, Wellington Street; Mr R H Marks, George Street; Mr C Barker, Manchester Street; and other places where cards are displayed.

Funds raised are in aid of the Prince of Wales’ National Relief Fund, Luton Branch

Source: Luton News, 8/10/1914

Monday, 6 October 2014

Troops Arrive at Leighton Buzzard

Billeting at Leighton Buzzard postcard c.1914 [Z1306/73]

Tuesday 6th October 1914: Soldiers from Lord Kitchener’s Army have now arrived in Leighton Buzzard and the townspeople are making every effort to provide them with comfort and amusement. A concert is being given each evening at the Town Hall, which is also providing reading, writing and games facilities for the troops. A reading table has been stocked with magazines and newspapers, and paper and writing materials are available for the soldiers’ use.

The temporary hospital at the Corn Exchange is now treating twenty soldiers, all suffering from minor illnesses such as rheumatism, bronchitis, influenza and chills. They are being well looked after by the local branch of the British Red Cross Society who are all providing their services on a voluntary basis. Tonight the men have been promised an entertainment arranged for them by local artistes including Miss Dunford, Miss M. Halford, Miss K. Halford, Miss Hayhoe, Mrs M. Gurney, Mr M. Gurney and Mr W. E. Durrell. Those who are well enough have been passing the time playing games of draughts and dominoes, lent by local residents who have also provided gifts of nourishing food for the hospital.

Source: Luton News 1st and 8th October 1914

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Bath Time

Sketch of Waller Street public baths from Borough Engineer’s plan, December 1910 [X558/6/108/4]

Monday 5th October 1914: We reported last week on the difficulties soldiers were experiencing as a result of living in unhygienic conditions. This matter was discussed at a meeting of the Luton Board of Guardians today. It was said that most of the cases involved soldiers who had been sleeping in sheds and there was concern that there was little point in fumigating the men’s clothes while they were still living in the same conditions. The Mayor of Luton thought it would help if all the men had a bath and a clean shirt every week. He also pointed out that the soldiers were able to have free access to the swimming baths on certain days, but that this offer had not been taken up. Wardown Park was partly closed to civilians in the mornings so that soldiers could bathe in the lake but again this was little used, as was the offer of a private bath at the new Waller Street bath for 2d instead of the usual 4d.

When one of the Guardians, Mr Impey, said that the men affected were mostly from Stopsley and Dunstable district the Dunstable representatives protested, as did Mr B Hartop of Stopsley who said that there were none of “these things” in his premises until the men came. The suggestion was made that farmers were billeting men in fowl houses. In Mr Hartop's view this was a “a most idiotic thing to say”. 

On further investigation it appears that between August 31st and September 25th two and a half thousand solders had used the swimming bath free of charge.

Source: Luton News 8.10.1914

Saturday, 4 October 2014

News from the Villages

Members of Wrest Park Fire Brigade, Silsoe, c.1910 [Z50/142/785]

Sunday 4th October 1914

Today’s Harvest Festival is to be limited to just the Sunday Services. The Rector believes is “it is altogether unseemly to have social teas, football matches, meetings, decorations, and the like, when so many from our country – and even from our own village – are suffereing all the hardships of this cruel war so unhappily thrust upon us, and besides this, I don’t think any right minded sympathetic person would care to join in anything of that sort.”  Barton already has twenty five men serving in the army, with six of them at the front, and five more recruits have volunteered. This is more than half the number of eligible men in the village.

The Rector thanks those who responded to his invitation to send fruit, eggs and tobacco to the 66 sick and wounded at Wrest House. He considers it a privilege to help these men who have bravely fought to keep the Germans from turning England into a second Belgium. The war work party meet at the Rectory every Tuesday afternoon and have already sent six night shirts to the headquarters in London. They are now working on bed jackets, night shirts, day shirts and socks. Miss Julia Smith, from London, gave a lecture in the Village Hall on “What we are fighting for” and “what we are up against”. In her view the cause of the war was solely the Militarism of the leaders of the German Empire. Those unable to go to the front were urged to give some money towards the war effort weekly, and to “pray without ceasing”. Eight men from the village are now serving in the forces.

The Harvest Thanksgiving in Clophill is also to be kept as plain as possible, with donations of fruit and vegetables to be given to the poor who need them this year more than ever. Thirty Clophill men are already serving their country, four in the navy and the rest in the army. The Scouts are helping the police to guard the Ampthill Tunnel and to keep open the Midland Main Line. The boys have been punctual and willing and have earned the cordial praises of the police and railway men. The Rector and Sidney Daniels have been enrolled as special constables and help to guard the tunnel by night. “The work is not always pleasant as no shelters are provided and one can get uncommonly wet in four hours. It is rather monotonous too, without even the excitement of a German spy.”

Thirteen men from the village have left for the army, either as Reservists or Recruits.

Flitton and Greenfield
Lantern views on the countries at war and war slides are being shown in the Parish Room at 7pm on alternate Wednesdays. A collection is made at the door with the aim of purchasing a few army blankets. The first meeting raised eleven shillings. The next meetings will look at France (7th October) and Russia (21st October).

The wounded soldiers quartered at Wrest are welcomed for a Church Parade each Sunday. A concrete tank holding 3,500 gallons has been installed at the village school to collect rain water. This can be pumped into a cistern in the boys’ lobby for use by the school (where washing facilities have until now been primitive) and can also be used by the Wrest Park Fire Brigade. Eight Regulars and six Territorials are serving their King and Country, and have been joined by four new recruits.

Source: Monthly Magazine for the parishes of Barton-le-Cley, Clophill, Flitton & Greenfield, Gravenhurst, Silsoe, Westoning, October 1914 [P21/30/16]