Sunday, 29 November 2015

Kensworth Unfit for Troops

Cottages at Kensworth c.1906 [Z1306/68/7]

Monday 29th November 1915: It has come to the attention of Luton Rural District Council that the military authorities at Markyate are contemplating splitting up the military camp there and billeting two hundred men at Kensworth. Concern was expressed that the parish of Kensworth was unfit for billeting troops, and that if the military authorities died send troops there the Council should ensure only the better cottages would be chosen for the men. The Sanitary Inspector has spoken to the commanding officer and agreement was reached that any re-arrangement of the billets should be made with the co-operation of Council officials.

Source: Luton Times, 3rd December 1915

Saturday, 28 November 2015

A Royal Command For Bedford

St Paul's Square, Bedford, 1909 [Z1306/10/58/14]

Sunday 28th November 1915: Earlier this month the Bedfordshire toy industry was honoured to have received a command from Buckingham Palace to send a selection of toys from which Queen Mary, Queen Alexandra and Princess Victoria would make a choice. A number of models were sent and from these a Red Cross hospital, a coster cart with a tray of vegetables, a dancing Highlander, a little painted cradle, an alphabet, and “The old woman who lived in a shoe” were selected. Queen Mary ordered a very complimentary letter to be written expressing her pleasure with the toys she had seen; she was most impressed by the skill acquired in such a short time by the village women who are new to this craft. Many of the models now being produced have been on display at the Englishwoman’s Exhibition at Central Hall, Westminster. These are now to be displayed at Bedford at the Depot, 15a St Paul’s Square from Monday 13th December to Friday 17th December to give people in the local area the opportunity to view them. It is hoped that people will be able to buy Christmas presents for children without going further afield.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard, 26th November 1915

Friday, 27 November 2015

Accident at Elstow Brickworks

Steam crane excavating clay at brickworks, 1920s [X306/78]

Saturday 27th November 1915: A tragic and shocking accident took place yesterday evening at Messrs B. and J. Forder’s Brickworks at Elstow Hardwick. Eighteen year old Thomas Clarke went on duty for the night shift at 6pm. He was helping to start the machinery and checking that it was running properly when his coat caught in the shafting. He was flung against the wall, caught in the chain wheel and suffered terrible injuries. Dr. Roberts and the police were called and he was pronounced dead at 6.30. His injuries were such that there can be no doubt his death must have been instantaneous.

William Watts of Houghton Conquest was on duty in the shaft house with Clarke. He states that they had put the belt on the fast pulley which drove the main shafting and that Clarke was aware the belt was moving. The fast and loose pulleys were outside the door of the building. The foreman says that Clarke and Watts should have gone round the outside to check the belts were working but instead they went into a tunnel to check the belts above. This tunnel was only intended to be used to oil the equipment during the day when the machinery was not running but the men had no orders not to use it. Watts stated at the inquest that both the foreman and manager had seen him going in the tunnel and had never warned him against it. A verdict of accidental death was passed and the jury gave instructions that the doorway of the tunnel should be bricked up and the shafting guarded.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard, 3rd December 1915

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Lucky Escape for Private Parrish

Hospital Ship Anglia [Wikimedia]

Friday 26th November 1915: Brave Gravenhurst soldier Private Cyril Parrish of Gravenhurst exclaimed cheerfully “Come on, boys; take my rifle, I am going for a little holiday” when he was hit by a bullet while guarding a trench. Seriously wounded when the shot entered the side of his neck just below the ear he was unconscious for four days. However Private Parrish’s bad fortune turned to good when his evacuation to England was delayed as there was no room for him on the hospital ship Anglia; as the Anglia crossed the Channel on 17th November carrying 390 wounded officers and soldiers it struck a mine and sunk within fifteen minutes with the loss of 134 men. Private Parrish is now waiting for an operation at Taplow Red Cross Hospital. His mother has visited and found him very ill but most cheerful. The young man was in Canada at the outbreak of the war and joined the 2nd Canadian Battalion.

Source: Luton Times, 3rd December 1915

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Official Knitting Pattern for Mittens

Thursday 25th November 1915: Mr. William Machin, the Honorable Secretary of the Bedford Borough Recreations Committee has received from the Office of the Director-General of Voluntary Organisations the following official specification for mittens for the troops. Anyone wishing to respond to the appeal for mittens made last week by the Mayoress of Bedford should follow the instructions below:

Required: Four No.12 needles.[1] Two ounces of Alloa wheeling [2] or other suitable wool in a drab shade.

Directions: Cast 16 stitches on to each of three needles making 48 in all. Knit 2 plain, 2 purl, until a ribbed cuff three inches deep is attained. Then knit all plain for another inch in length.

Commence the thumb on the first needle. For this knit 2; make 1 by knitting into the loop of wool between the stitches; knit 2; make 1; continue knitting to the end of this first row. Knit two plain rows. On the first needle begin the fourth row; knit 2; make 1; knit four; make 1. Finish with plain knitting. Knit two plain rows. On the first needle begin the seventh row; knit 2; make 1; knit 6; make 1. Finish with plain knitting. Knit two plain rows. On the first needle begin the tenth row. Knit 2; make 1; knit 8; make 1. Finish with plain knitting. Knit two plain rows. On the first needle begin the thirteenth row. Knit 2; make 1; knit 10; make 1. Finish with plain knitting. Knit two plain rows. On the first needle begin the sixteenth row. Knit 2; make 1; knit 12; make 1. Finish with plain knitting. Knit two plain rows. On the first needle begin the nineteenth row. Knit 2; make 1; knit 14; make 1. Finish with plain knitting. Knit two plain rows. On the first needle begin the twenty-second row. Knit 2; make 1; knit 16; make 1. Finish with plain knitting. Knit two plain rows. On the first needle begin the twenty-fifth row. Knit 2; make 1; knit 18; make 1. Finish with plain knitting. Knit two plain rows.

Take off the 18 stitches between the increasing stitches on a piece of wool and tie securely to prevent slipping. Knit around plainly, excluding these 18 stitches, until ½ inch in length is gained, then knit 2 plain, 2 purl, for another inch. Cast off very loosely. Take up the 18 stitches on three needles, 6 on each. Make 2 stitches at the inside of the thumb, giving eight stitches on the first needle. Knit plainly round for ½ inch, then 2 plain, 2 purl, for 1 inch. Cast off very loosely. The mitten when finished should measure 8 inches long and 7 inches wide across the top.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard, 26th November 1915

[1] Metric size 2.75mm, US size 2.

[2] Wheeling is “a term applied to a distinctive material which, by reason of its early association with the town of that name, is often referred to as ‘Alloa Yarn’. The word ‘Alloa’ is, as a matter of fact, often used as a synonym for the thick woollen thread or ‘wheeling’ yarn which, for hand knitting purposes is generally sold in 3 ply and in a skein of 2 ozs., eight of which form a head of 1lb. Wheelings, as a class, when of good quality, fill a very useful place as producing warm woolly fabrics specially suitable for heavy socks, stockings and garments for outdoor wear, such as get softer and more comfortable the oftener they are washed.” [Woolcraft, J and  J Baldwin, 1914, from Just Call Me Ruby where First World War style scarf pattern in honour of Private John Herbert Ogden (1895-1917) can also be found.]

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

The Pinney Brothers of Luton

Arthur, Percy and Wilfred Pinney

Wednesday 24th November 1915: All three brothers of the Pinney family of Luton have now been wounded in the present conflict and one has spent over a year as a prisoner of war. Private Arthur Pinney of Windsor Street joined the 1st Bedfords eight years ago. As a reservist he returned to his regiment on the outbreak of war and went through some of the heaviest fighting during the first few weeks before being wounded in the chest and taken prisoner. Before the war he was working for the British Gelatine Company.

His brothers Percy and Wilfred were both sent out to the Dardanelles with the 1st/5th Bedfords. Percy was wounded at Suvla Bay in the first days of fighting; he has now recovered and been sent back to Gallipoli for another go at the Turks. Wilfred was wounded at the same time as his brother; he is still recovering in hospital at Tooting. Private Bert Payne, the husband of the Pinney brothers’ sister Emily has suffered the same fate as his brother-in-law Arthur. Another reservist of the 1st Bedfords employed at the Gelatine Works, he was also taken prisoner during the early days of the war.

Source: Luton Times, 26th November 1915

Monday, 23 November 2015

A Moonlit Bicycle Ride

Heath and Reach, 1905 [Z1130/57/4]

Tuesday 23rd November 1915: School teacher Miss Mabel Bosence of Heath and Reach has been fined ten shillings for riding a bicycle without a light at Heath on November 14th. As Miss Bosence was unwell Mr George Hubbard, who was with her at the time of the offence, appeared in her place and pleaded guilty on her behalf. Special Constable Arthur Rolls of Rushmere was on duty on Bird’s Hill when he was approached by some cyclists. Miss Bosence’s bicycle showed no light and when he felt the top of her lamp it was quite cold. Mr. Hubbard gave his name to the Constable and said he would take all responsibility. He told the court he had asked the Constable to feel inside the lamp and when he did so he found it was warm. The wick needed trimming and the light had gone out. As it was a moonlit night and the couple were riding together they had not noticed when this happened[1].

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 30th November 1915

[1] George Hubbard and Mabel Bosence married in the Leighton Buzzard area in 1917. Census records show that George was born in Norfolk but by 1901 he was living in Heath and Reach where his father was a gamekeeper. In 1911 he was working in Penzance (Cornwall) as a newspaper reporter. This is presumably where he met Mabel who was a native of that town.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Prisoners of War from Biggleswade Area

British prisoners at Doeberitz, J.Cuffley seated right

Monday 22nd November 1915: The Biggleswade Chronicle continues to send regular food parcels to nineteen local men known to be prisoners of war in Germany. The contents and cost of this week’s packages are: bread (4d), butter (10d), cocoa (6d), loaf sugar (7½d), tinned herrings (5½d), cheese (6d), biscuits (9d), soup squares (6d), giving a total cost for each parcel of 4s 6d. The newspaper has also announced its intention to send a special Christmas parcel to all the boys on their list as prisoners of war and has managed to obtain some Christmas plum puddings from Messrs. Crosse and Blackwell which are specially made in tins for sending to prisoners of war. Woodwork instructor Mr. Arthur Moore has promised that his pupils will make boxes, which in addition to the puddings will be filled with other items to brighten the lot of the recipients. One of the parcels will also be sent to Private Jesse Brown of Langford, together with a pair of boots. Private Brown was repatriated in August as one of the disabled prisoners exchanged from German prisoners from England. He is crippled for life and readers will no doubt be anxious to know he has not been forgotten.

In news of individual prisoners, Private J. Cuffley of Shefford is incarcerated in the camp at Doeberitz. This is supposed to be the “swank” camp, with conditions better than others, but the men held there are still making appeals for food and some of the prisoners can be seen in a photograph wearing wooden shoes. Mrs. Rosa Cooper of Stondon has written a letter of thanks for the help given by the prisoner of war fund to her husband, Rifleman Arthur Cooper of the King’s Royal Rifles. Rifleman Cooper is a veteran of service in Bermuda, Crete and Malta and was a reservist when war was declared. He was sent to France within a week of being mobilised and was capture by the Germans on 3rd November 1914. His brother, Private Albert Cooper of the 1st/5th Bedfords, was involved in the fighting with the Turks. He was shot in the right eye and left hand and is now recovering in Alexandria Hospital.

Source: Biggleswade Chronicle, 19th November 1915

Saturday, 21 November 2015

The Godfrey Family

Sunday 21st November 1915: A Caddington family now living in Luton has contributed no less than five sons and one son-in-law to the Army – a considerable change from bricklaying, the trade in which their father Alfred Godfrey and most of the brothers were engaged before the war. A sixth brother also tried to enlist but was rejected. The brothers are:
  • Sapper Alfred Godfrey, aged 32. Alfred served in the army for some years before the war. He was a member of the Leighton Buzzard Police Force before he was recalled to his regiment as a reservist in August 1914. About five months ago he was invalided home suffering from rheumatism, but is now back in barracks waiting to return to the Front.
  • Sapper Percy Godfrey, aged 31. Before the war Percy worked for builder Mr J. Frost. He is married with four children who live with his wife in Butlin Road, Luton. He was an old Volunteer and joined the East Anglian Royal Engineers in January. He was sent to the Dardanelles from where he was hospitalised with poisoned hands and arms. He is now getting on well.
  • Jack Godfrey, aged 29. Jack tried to join the East Anglian Royal Engineers, but was rejected on physical grounds.[1]
  • Sapper Oscar Godfrey, aged 28. Oscar is in the Royal Engineers, having joined up in September 1914.
  • Private Harry Godfrey, aged 24. Harry joined the Royal Army Medical Corps last August and is now serving in the Dardenelles. His wife and children live in Chapel Street, Luton.
  • Lance-Corporal Archie Godfrey, aged 23. Archie served before the war in the 3rd Bedfords and was called up as a reservist. He was transferred to the 1st Bedfords and sent to the Front. He was reported missing after the Battle of Ypres and nothing his since been heard of him. According to the War Office report he is missing “believed to be killed”.[2]
Sapper Percy Morris, son-in-law of the Godfreys, is also serving with the East Anglian Royal Engineers. His wife and family live in Hastings Street and he too follows the family trade of bricklaying. Sadly Mr and Mrs. Godfrey have also lost two nephews to the war: Private Horace Mardle of Caddington of the 1/5th Bedfords, who died at Gallipoli on 16th August; and Joseph Pashley of Nottingham who was killed in France in March serving with the Coldstream Guards.

Source: Luton Times, 19th November 1915

[1] It seems John [“Jack”] Godfrey was later successful in joining the East Anglian Royal Engineers. He died on 24th July 1916 and is buried at Caddington.

[2] Archie was killed on 9th November 1914. His death is recorded on the Le Touret Memorial.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Linslade Debates the Value of Early Education

Saint Barnabas church and former National School Jun 2008

Former National School, Linslade (now St. Barnabas Church Hall)
[CR/PH, 2008]

Saturday 20th November 1915: A resolution passed by the Elementary Education Sub-Committee excluding under fives from public elementary schools with effect from 31st January 1916 has been the subject of discussion at a meeting of the Linslade School Managers. From this date no separate class for under fives will be funded by the Education Committee, and they may only be accepted at a school if it can be shown that their presence would cause no extra expense for teaching staff and would not interfere with the efficiency with which older infants can be taught. In this way it is hoped to release teachers for older children and alleviate the shortage caused by the loss of men who have enlisted.

Although one member of the committee thought the provision was rather drastic and four would be a more reasonable cut off age, the Chairman thought education did not count for much before the age of five. Miss Greenway, the headmistress of Linslade Infants’ School stated that the school currently has 34 children aged under five on its roll; in her opinion early education counted in improving discipline. Other members argued that where children came from good homes it was better for them to stay at home until they were five, and another knew instances where a boy who was sent to school at the age of ten knew just as much as those sent at the age of four.

Rigid economies have now been put in place by the Education Authority. In addition to the reduced allowance for stationery already introduced, no allowance is to be made in future for prizes, no school furniture is to be purchased except in very special circumstances, and schools have been instructed to economise in both fuel and light.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 23rd November 1915

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Luton Firms Support the Troops

Xmas Boxes from Vauxhall Motors for men in France
[Luton Times]

Friday 19th November 1915: Skefco employees have been subscribing to a fund which grants allowances to the dependents of fellow workers who are on active service; all donations are matched by an equal amount from the company. As there was a healthy balance in the fund it was decided to send packages of comforts for the troops of the 1st/5th Bedfords at Gallipoli. A letter of thanks has been received at the Skefko Ball Bearing Works in Luton from Lieutenant-Colonel E. W. Brighten, the commanding officer of the 1st/5ths. He says:
“I think you for your letter of the 21st September, and have delayed answering until the parcels of smoking requisites and chocolates and other sweets came along. I hasten to write to thank you for your very kind thoughts, and on behalf of my men to express my very best thanks. It is very kind of you to go further and to enquire what my men are essentially in need of. I think we may take it that in the clothing and necessaries line we shall be looked after all right by the ordnance and Supplies Services, which are top-hole, and in spite of the difficulties of transport, etc., both by land and sea, the right thing seems to arrive just as it is wanted. … It is cigarettes, sweets and other little luxuries that the men most want and like, and that is why your parcels were so acceptable because they contained these things.”
The Skefco men also intend to send a Christmas gift to each company employee now serving with the Colours and the men of Vauxhall Motors are also doing their best to ensure that their men now serving their country are well supplied with extra comforts. Not to be outdone, the girls employed at Skefco have collected 1,000 cigarettes and a quantity of tobacco from their male co-workers for the men of the 1st/5ths. Lt-Colonel Brighten asks Miss R. M. Roberts to “convey my very best thanks on behalf of my officers, N.C.O.s and men to all the girls of the Skefko Works who have subscribed … We have been reading in the papers which have just reached us of the great effort that has been made in Luton to get recruits for us, and we hope the girls at Luton will do all they can, as well as sending us cigarettes, to make the men come along out here to smoke them.”

Source: Luton Times, 19th November 1915

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

A War Trophy for Bedford

German field gun at Bedford, 1915 [Bedfordshire Standard]

Thursday 18th November 1915: An interesting war trophy has arrived at Bedford in the form of a German field gun captured in recent fighting in France in which the Bedfordshire Regiment was heavily involved. As a recognition of the regiment’s gallantry the gun has been lent to the regimental depot in Bedford. It arrived at the Midland Railway Station on Tuesday. Yesterday morning a company of the 2nd Bedfords marched to the Station and took possession of the gun. Ropes were attached to the gun carriage and it was pulled by a dozen soldiers from the yard. A procession was formed headed by the Regimental Band, which marched along Midland Road, High Street, St. Mary’s, and Cauldwell Street, and so to the Barracks at Kempston. The gun is numbered 2617. The words “Pro Gloria et Patria” are engraved on the muzzle; on the breech end bearing is a crown and monogram “W.R.” with an engraving of an eagle and the words “Ultima ratio Regis”. Although the gun carriage is damaged the gun itself is in perfect condition. This morning the gun was placed for inspection on the Market Hill in the High Street where it is attracting much attention and this morning the Band will perform a selection of music to entertain the crowd. 

Source: Bedfordshire Standard, 19th November 1915

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Engineer Hit by a Pickaxe at Clophill

Clophill Village, c.1904 [Z50/31/33]

Wednesday 17th November 1915: One of the difficulties facing the military authorities is the need to provide a satisfactory water supply for the various military camps established in the county. Clophill enjoys excellent water from the lower greensand and Ampthill Urban District Council has agreed that this may be conveyed to the camp at Haynes Park. The job of laying pipes was given to the Monmouthshires. Unfortunately Private Parsons, one of the Monmouthshire engineers, suffered a nasty accident while carrying out the task when one of his comrades, Private Parry, accidentally stabbed him in the knee with a pickaxe. Immediate treatment was provided by a military surgeon and the young man is now progressing well.

Source: Luton Times, 19th November 1915

Monday, 16 November 2015

Execution of William Reeve

Bedford Gaol [CR/PH]

Tuesday 16th November 1915: William Benjamin Reeve of Leighton Buzzard, who was found guilty last month of murdering his wife, was executed at Bedford Gaol at 8 o’clock this morning. The time between sentencing and execution was slightly longer than is usual as a fruitless appeal was made on the grounds that the Judge had misdirected the jury. During this time Reeve was an exemplary prisoner, facing the prospect of his terrible end manfully. He suffered greatly from the wound made when he cut his own throat with a razor, which caused him both pain and physical weakness, but made no complaint. He was visited daily by the Prison Chaplain, allowed to write letters, to converse with the warders, and to receive visitors. These included his parents, two married sisters, his brother George (the bandmaster of the Salvation Army in Leighton Buzzard) and three of his children - William, Florrie, and his eldest son, Corporal Charles Reeve of the Bedfordshire Regiment.[1] Corporal Reeve was suffering from a wound received at Gallipoli and was allowed out of Hospital for the visit, a sorrowful occasion which ended in tears.

Reeve told his sister that he was ready to die and was looking forward to it, and said to his brother that he had been through so much trouble during the last ten years that he would be glad when it was all over. He claimed to remember nothing of the crime but expressed great contrition, especially for the sorrow he had brought upon his parents and children. One of the warders was a local preacher who spoke to him of spiritual matters, following which he was able to say “I understand much now, and I am prepared to meet my Maker. Do not have any fear; I am prepared to go.” He recognised the evil effects of strong drink and wished to warn others against it: “If there is one thing I would like to do before I go it is to go back to Leighton and tell the people in North End to leave the drink alone”. His last letter to his parents, to whom he had given custody of his two youngest children, reads:
My dear Mother and Father,These are the last lines of your broken-hearted son. Don’t worry about me, for I am quite prepared to die, and I am certain I shall be happier where I am going, - far happier than I have been for years. I have put my trust in God. Dear father and mother, I am truly sorry for the trouble and disgrave I have brought you to. You know I was driven to do what I did, but that is done with now and I am prepared to meet my Maker. I hope and trust my children will be a help and a blessing to you. Give my love to all my sisters and brothers, one and all, also Mrs. Peasegood and Miss Peasegood, Charlie butcher and John Dimmock. I have made it all right for my children. Tell my sister to cheer up. I should like to have seen her. Be kind to little Stanley.[2]   Good-bye and God bless you all,      Your loving son, Will
The Chaplain led the way from the condemned cell to the scaffold reading the opening services of the Burial Service, as is the custom. Reeve followed, walking without assistance between two warders. Ellis was the executioner, and death was instantaneous.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 23rd November 1915

[1] Charles survived the war, but his younger brother William Benjamin Reeve (who had been given money to go to the cinema on the day of his mother's murder) died in 1918 aged 18. 

[2] Reeve's youngest son Stanley was just four years old when his mother was murdered and his father executed. 

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Red Cross Work at Wardown Hospital

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

Monday 15th November 1915: It is encouraging to hear of the sterling work being carried out by the volunteer nurses of the Luton Voluntary Aid Detachments at Wardown House Hospital. Early in the war the mansion was placed at the disposal of the military authorities. Gifts of furnishings and equipment were sent from all over Luton and in October 1914 it was opened as a clearing hospital. As such it was used to nurse any cases of sickness among the troops training in the Luton area, and was also used as a training school for men of the Royal Army Medical Corps. At its busiest as many as 90 patients at a time were in residence, in the wards, in the annexe, or even accommodated in tents outside the house. Nurses provided by the V.A.D. have provided vital services from the time the hospital opened.

New arrangements are now being made for Wardown. Last week the hospital was transferred from the military authorities to the control of the V.A.D. Committee. At the present time there are only a few patients, but preparations are being made to receive about 70 wounded men who will be transferred from Aylesbury Hospital. These will be nursed entirely by the women of Red Cross V.A.D.s 12 and 14, under the command of Mrs. J. W. Green and Mrs. R. Durler. The Voluntary Aid Detachments were founded in 1905 at a meeting presided over by Queen Alexandra, and function under the auspices of the British Red Cross. By 31st March 1915 there were 2,207 V.A.D.s in Britain, with 66,059 members.  The Red Cross ladies of Luton include two quartermasters, 44 nurses and seven cooks. These volunteers are all now leading a life very different to the one they enjoyed before the war. Three of the nurses are on “active service” in France, and the remainder have been notified that they will now be called upon for both day and night nursing duties. They will be under the direction of a matron-in-charge and assisted by two professional nurses from London.

Wardown will make a perfect setting for wounded soldiers to begin their road to recovery. The dining-room, library, billiard and drawing rooms with their panelled ceilings have been turned into wards; upstairs rooms have been allocated for use as an officers’ ward, nurses’ quarters and the quartermaster’s stores. Considerable improvements were made to the property while the North Midland Division were based in Luton and it now meets high standards of cleanliness, ventilation and sanitation

Source: Luton Times, 12th November 1915

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Army Cooks

Highland Engineers preparing dinner [X414/162]

Sunday 14th November 1915: By a soldier of the Black Watch previously billeted in Bedford:
One day some plucky survivor will write a book on ‘Army cooks’, and a wonderful book it should be. No man is ever appointed cook in the Army on account of any knowledge or previous experience of cooking. Often the dirtiest-looking man in the company is appointed, because the authorities feel that at any rate he can’t spoil a good tunic at his work. Sometimes a man is put on because he is a ‘hard case’, merely because he doesn’t fall in very well with company work, but never because he can cook. Our first cook was a painter by trade, and when he considered the stew had been mixed to a good colour, it was served up, regardless of taste. The M.G.S. cook’s genius lies in being a sort of Mr. Malaprop. Only a few days ago he told someone hotly that he wouldn’t ‘lower his dignity to do it’. Another tiem he assured someone that he couldn’t ‘dissolve that mystery’, and we all agreed that he was unconsciously comparing his problem with some of the soup compounds he is supplied with. But in times of great mental strain like those referred to, he is always consoled by being told, ‘Cheer up, Sandy: if you were shot tomorrow for being a cook you would die innocent’.
Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 16th November 1915

Friday, 13 November 2015

Arlesey Man Returns After 5 Year Absence

High Street, Arlesey c.1915 [Z1130/2/22]

Saturday 13th November 1915: Private William Pike of the West Riding Regiment returned home to High Street, Arlesey last week for the first time in five years. He enlisted eight years ago and was posted in Dublin when the war broke out. He was immediately sent to Le Havre and first saw action at Mons on 23rd August 1914. After the retreat form Mons he took part in the battles of the Marne, the Aisne, La Bassé and the first battle of Ypres, where he saw some of the fiercest fighting. He was at the attack on Hill 60 and witnessed the assault by some 600 British guns; after the hill was blown up he picked up the base of a 17 inch shell, which weighed 90lbs. At the second battle of Ypres he says “shells were dropping all around us and all the buildings were destroyed and we never expected to get away alive. It was here we saw some of the terrible effects of the gas, which came along in great clouds and which put many of the men in terrible agony”. In his fifteen months at the Front Private Pike has not received a scratch.[1] He is now on his way back to France after enjoying eight days leave in Arlesey. Fortunately he is now based in a quieter area and in a much more comfortable position than a year ago.

Source: Biggleswade Chronicle, 13th November 1915

[1] William Pike's army service record shows that he survived the war unscathed.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Grovebury Red Cross Hospital

Inspection of Voluntary Aid Detachment 1915 [Z1306/12/10/1]

Friday 12th November 1915: The Red Cross Hospital which opened at Grovebury Road, Leighton Buzzard on 23rd August has temporarily closed following the departure of the Royal Field Artillery for Ripon. In the two and a half months it was in operation it treated fifty four patients. These include both cases of sickness and those hurt in riding accidents at the Artillery School in Page’s Park. For much of this time the hospital operated with only a small number of nurses from the 18th Bedfordshire Voluntary Aid Detachment.  Fortunately by kind permission of Mrs. Leopold de Rothschild they were assisted by members of the 12th Buckinghamshire Voluntary Aid Detachment, the Linslade and Wing Branch of the St. John Ambulance Association. The Leighton Buzzard Red Cross detachment has now been asked to accommodate fifty wounded soldiers. They are hoping to be able to accept at least part of this number if they can get local help.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 2nd and 16th November 1915

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Electric Flashlights

1899 Eveready flashlight [Wikimedia]

Thursday 11th November 1915: The novelty of electric hand flashlights is proving too much of an attraction for some of the young men and boys of Luton. The Chief Constable already has forty confiscated torches in his office. While he has no objection to their legitimate use by elderly people who need to see their way on to the footpath when crossing the road, it is essential that they are kept down. Flashing them upwards was a different matter entirely. This has already meant a court appearance for Frederick Frank Atkins, who demonstrated his torch to some friends by flashing it about despite being near to a street lamp. On this occasion the Town Clerk decided not to press for a fine.

Sources: Luton Times 12th November 1915; Bedfordshire Standard 19th November 

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Theft of Letters by Post Office Employee

 Cheapside, Luton with Post Office on left, c.1905

Wednesday 10th November 1915: Post Office cleaner Charles Johnson of Tennyson Road has appeared at the Luton Borough Sessions where he was accused of stealing a letter containing three ten shilling notes and three stamps. Following complaints Mr. Hill of the Post Office Investigation Department had been sent to Luton to keep watch. On 4th November he made up a postal packet containing the notes and stamps, addressed it to Mrs Edwards at Lilley and posted it at 12.35pm in the letter box near the counter at the General Post Office. Frederick William Smith, a sorting clerk and telegraphist, was also observing Johnson. At 12.55 he saw him go to the stamping table holding a duster and examine the letters lying there. He picked them over, felt them, then took something from the table and put it in his pocket. Johnson then turned to the sorting table and put something under his apron. As a cleaner he had no right to touch any letters. As instructed Mr Smith went to the letter box and searched for the letter addressed to Mrs Edwards but could not find it.

A detective from the Metropolitan Police was also on watch. He saw Johnson wrap a number of letters in a piece of newspaper. He called him to the Postmaster’s Room where Mr. Hill cautioned him. He denied knowing anything about the missing letter and agreed to turn out his pockets. The detective found a ten shilling note in his trouser pocket and twelve unopened letters in his apron. When Johnson’s home was searched £23 in gold, £4 in silver and twelve ten shilling notes were found in a locked box under the bed. The hearing ended with Johnson committed for trial at the Beds Assizes. As these will not be held for two months he was allowed bail.

Source: Luton Times 12th November 1915

Monday, 9 November 2015

Success of Telescopic Sight Appeal

Hazells Hall about 1920 [Z1306/99]

Hassells Hall, Sandy c.1920 [Z1306/99]

Tuesday 9th November 1915: In August our war correspondent mentioned that Mr. Francis Pym of Hassells Hall, Sandy had appealed for funds to provide the marksmen of the Bedfordshire Regiment with telescopic rifle sights. Mr. Pym has announced in a letter to the Bedfordshire Standard that the appeal has reached a successful conclusion:
 “Dear Sir, - I am writing to say that the above Fund is now closed, as I have, through the kindness and liberality of ladies and gentlemen of all classes in the county, been able to collect £180, which proved 18 Telescopic Sighted (extra) Rifles for the six Battalions of our County Regiment. These have been most gratefully and thankfully received by the Battalions, as the letters which I am asking you to publish will show. While acknowledging with many thanks the subscriptions which I have received, I would also offer my apologies to any whom my appeal may have annoyed, but my excuse must be my extreme keenness to help, in however small a way, to bring this terrible war to a conclusion.”
A letter of thanks from Lieutenant-Colonel R. T. Toke, commanding officer of the 6th Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment leaves no doubt of the usefulness of these new weapons:
“Dear Mr. Pym, - It is most kind of you and the county men and women of Bedfordshire to send us the Telescopic Sights. No gift could have been more useful or more appreciated, and I hope you will convey to those who so generously subscribed how grateful the officers, N.C.O.’s, and men of the Battalion are, for the gift. I have a splendid lot of officers and men under my command, and I feel confident that they will always do well and uphold the honour of their county.”
Source: Bedfordshire Standard 5th November 1915

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Lighting Order in Leighton Buzzard

Market Square, Leighton Buzzard c.1900 [Z1306/72]

Monday 8th November 1915: The recent Home Office order prohibiting external lighting in Bedfordshire between sunset and sunrise has come into effect in Leighton Buzzard and is being rigorously enforced. While the great majority of tradesmen have cheerfully complied with the instruction that no window may show more than a “dull subdued light” there have been difficulties with reflected light, where light bouncing off a mirror or polished metal has sent escaping beams into the street. Blind makers are extremely busy and struggling to meet the large number of orders they have received. While most people are very willing to cooperate with the order, many are still forgetting to close the shutters or draw the blinds before the gas is lit. So far a gentle reminder has been thought sufficient. Leighton Buzzard market is being closed at 6pm and evening services at All Saints Church have been moved to the afternoon as it is impossible to effectively screen the church windows.

While Leighton has been plunged into darkness Linslade, being in a different county, is not subject to the same regulations. The anomaly has been partly dealt with by Linslade Urban District Council abolishing street lighting, however traders are still burning gas lights and motorists are still using their headlights. Linslade Council are believed to have applied for an Order which will bring their town in line with its neighbour. In the meantime Leighton’s inhabitants must hope that they will not be the victims of bad German marksmanship if a bomb aimed at Linslade misses and hits the darkened streets of Leighton Buzzard.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer 2nd and 9th November 1915

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Harvest Festival, Recruitment, Fundraising and Whooping Cough

2nd Lt. Evelyn Collisson of Gravenhurst [X550-1-81]

Sunday 7th November 1915: News from the Villages

Despite the lack of the usual celebrations the Church was crowded for the Harvest Festival services; this was despite the loss of seventy men to the Forces, including eleven who joined on October 3rd. Ten of the bell ringers have gone, along with nearly all the Band members.

The Gravenhurst Roll of Honour now includes fifteen names as follows: [1]
  • Lionel Grant Milller – killed in action
  • Walter Redman – missing
  • Cyril Parrish – at the Front
  • Percy Parrish – at the Front
  • George Redman – at the Front
  • Frederick Fisher – at the Front
  • Sergeant George Cooper – at the Front
  • John Fisher – joined the Army
  • Lance Corporal Albert Fisher – joined the Army
  • Herbert Fisher – joined the Army
  • Bob Fisher – joined the Army
  • Willie Collins – joined the Army
  • William Dennis – joined the Army
  • David Dilley – joined the Army
  • 2nd Lieutenant Evelyn Collisson – joined the Army
Flitton and Greenfield
The war slides shown at the Parish Room have so far raised £1 1s 3d. In addition £6 2s 0d has been raised for the Red Cross Society by the sale of fruit of vegetables, from a concert got up by Miss Leach, and through subscription by the employees of Messrs Copping and Sibley.

The Infant School has been closed for four weeks from October 27th due to an outbreak of whooping cough.

Source: Monthly Magazine for the parishes of Barton-le-Cley, Clophill, Flitton and Greenfield, Gravenhurst, Silsoe, Westoning, November 1915 [P21/30/17]

[1] Of these men only Lionel Miller, Walter Redman and Evelyn Ernest Arnold Collisson (son of the Rector Revd. Thomas Collisson) appear on the Gravenhurst war memorial.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Bereavement for Another Luton Family

Informal group at a military camp, c.1914. Men wearing RAMC badges.

Saturday 6th November 1915: Another young Luton man has fallen at Gallipoli. Twenty year old Joseph Edward Betts of Ashton Road joined the Royal Army Medical Corps two years before the war began. As a private in the Eastern Mounted Brigade Field Ambulance he trained at the Grove Road depot where the Brigade has its headquarters. He sailed for the Dardanelles on August 8th but never made it ashore. His commanding officer, Major Archibald, has written to Private Betts’ mother describing his last moments:
“He was killed by a bullet in the head. It hit him as he was getting on the deck of the ship to the landing lighters. His comrades did not hear him make a sound, and did not know he had been hit until they were ordered to fall in, when they found they could not rouse him. We brought his body to this place today, and a chaplain has just taken it ashore for burial … I cannot say how grieved I feel at the loss of such a promising young life. He was greatly beloved by all of us, and we all mourn the loss of a faithful and trusty comrade”.
The Betts family also have a younger son, Claude, who enlisted in the 1/5th Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment. As Claude is only 17 years old[1] his mother has requested that he should be kept in England until he is older; he has been sent to the 3/5th Battalion which is currently stationed at Newmarket.

Source: Luton Times 5th November 1915

[1] The newspaper report give his age as 15 but other records show that William Claude Betts was born in 1898. He survived the war. 

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Aspley Guise Landlord Prosecuted

The former Duke's Head, Aspley Guise, 2008  [CR/PH]

Friday 5th November 1915: George William Kilpin, the landlord of the Duke’s Head beerhouse at Aspley Guise has pleaded not guilty to opening the premises during prohibited hours on October 16th and to obstructing a police constable in the execution of his duty. P.C. Stonebridge stated that at 11.30pm he was on West Hill, Aspley Guise and heard voices in Kilpin’s front room. Looking through a parting in the blind he saw Harold Bowler talking to Kilpin, with a pint mug of beer on the table in front of him. The policeman went to the door and Kilpin denied having Harold Bowler on the premises and refused to allow him to look round, shutting the door in his face. He pushed his way into the room and saw beer in the mug on the table; he then went to the back door and saw Bowler running across the yard and out of the back gate. He went after him and found him hiding near the corner of the gate.

Kilpin’s solicitor pointed out that there was no offence committed in choosing to have a friend on the premises after closing time and there was no dispute that this is why Bowler was there, having been to the common with Kilpin to see a sickly calf. There was no attempt at concealment – the lights were burning in the house and the conversation was loud. There was no evidence that drink had been sold to Bowler and Mr. Kilpin had no recollection of obstructing the constable, only that there had been some “conversation” as to whether Bowler was in the house. At this time it was literally true that Bowler was not in the house as he had left and was in the yard. He admitted to a lack of tact, but it was pointed out that an argument over whether the policeman was entitled to enter the private parts of the house was not the same as obstruction.

Kilpin stated that he had been the tenant of the Duke’s Head for ten years and also occupied land in the village. He had asked Bowler to go with him to give a drink to a sick calf, being short of labour since his brother had left him due to the war. When they got home he had asked Bowler to help with some threshing the next day. Before leaving Bowler went into the house to “speak to the missus” and left just as the knock came at the door. The policeman had told Bowler “I have got you for being on licensed premises during prohibited hours”, to which Bowler responded that he was not on licensed premises. Bowler had promised to attend Court but for some unknow reason had gone to Woburn Park instead. The magistrate announced that they were inclined to convict Kilpin, but adjourned the case to allow Bowler to be summoned to give evidence.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer 9th November 1915