Thursday, 29 December 2016

A Day at the YMCA

YMCA Hut at Houghton Regis, 1917 [Z1130/63/26]

Friday 29th December 1916: An interesting letter has been received in Leighton Buzzard from a man well known in the town in which he describes his daily routing working for the Y.M.C.A. behind the firing line:

“First of all, I must tell you I am extremely fortunate in having a good billet; in other words, a bedroom containing a small, but comfortable bed and little else! This is situated some four minutes walk from the “hut”. There I rouse from my slumbers prompt at 8 a.m.; breakfast at 8.30 sharp. The meal is not an elaborate one – five days out of the seven just a savoury omelette (well cooked), a cup of excellent coffee and a roll; the latter made out of the semi white-brown flour a-la-regulation. Twice a week my good landlady digs up “poisson frais” usually a herring or a mackerel. Nine o’clock sees me on the way to work. Arrived on the scene of my labours the first job is to dust and sweep out the billiard room and reading room – two decent sized apartments some 22 feet square each. This takes a good hour, and, on the stroke of ten, we open for business. The billiard room is going all day without a solitary break, at the fixed price of 4d for each half hour.

I sally forth – up town – to purchase the rations necessary for the day. Ten forty-five sees me on the return journey with a savoy or cauliflower under one arm, a bag of potatoes under the other, the head of a fowl or some pork chops hanging out of one pocket, and a selection of groceries or other small sundries bulging the other pocket. I take my place at the canteen counter in lieu of the “chef”. Cups of tea, buttered rolls and buns, dolly cakes, tobacco, cigarettes, shaving and toilet soaps, bachelor’s buttons, chocolates, boot blacking, cough lozenges and sundry other things, too numerous to mention, are the staple articles we deal in; business is ever busy and the takings at the end of the day represent a good round sum.

At 1 p.m. the counter is closed for two hours. This allows us to take our mid-day meal in comparative peace, also to “wash up” and take a short stroll if the weather is favourable. Three o’clock sees us on duty again, with a steady run to closing time (8 p.m.). Tea is on the table at 4.30, and we generally entertain one or more visitors. At 5.40 one of us marches to the ticket office of a most excellent cinema, open each evening from 6 to 7.30 p.m. Here is generally a big rush, especially on Mondays and Thursdays, when fresh pictures are on the screen. On the close of the pictures there is the final big rush on the canteen, and the money rolls in, thick and fast, as bullets from a machine gun. At 8 p.m. prompt we call “Time”. I take myself to the billiard room, give the table a good brush down, cover up, dowse the lights, don my great coat and make tracks for the place I now call home. By 9 p.m. I am between sheets, a wee bit tired, but always merry and bright and ready for “tomorrow”. Such then is the daily routine of a Y.M.C.A. worker. Plenty of work; plain grub – and not too much of that – an easy conscience, no luxuries, mighty few comforts, plenty of gun-fire in the near distance, with an occasional aeroplane fight overhead for surplus excitement, and always in hopes, either of receiving a letter from “Blighty” or meeting some old time pal.”

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 29th December 1916

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Tram Crash at Luton

Crashed tram at Luton, 27 December 1916 [Z1306/75/18/34]

Wednesday 27th December 1916: A serious tram crash took place in Luton at 11.30am this morning. The accident occurred at the junction of Midland Road and Old Bedford Road, where a steep downward slope ends in a sharp bend. Eye-witnesses say there can be no doubt that the tram car was travelling too fast, but the cause of its undue speed is not known. As the tram approached the bottom of the hill it was clear that an accident was unavoidable. The car failed to take the curve, overran the rails, went up the kerb, hit an electricity standard and crashed through a wooden fence into an earth bank next to the Midland Railway bridge. The tram car was wrecked with the front smashed in, seats torn out of their bracings, and windows splintered like matchwood with debris scattered to the sides and behind the car.

Seven or eight passengers were on board, including Luton’s Acting Chief Constable Walter Hagley. He suffered a dislocated shoulder and minor injuries to his face, but despite being obviously in pain he took charge of the crowd and directed the rescue of the driver and the other passengers. The driver, Alfred Lloyd, was trapped and some of the wreckage had to be removed with a crowbar to release him. Although he was unconscious his rescuers found that his hand was still holding the brake. He is being treated at the Bute Hospital for concussion and internal injuries, along with two of the passengers: Mrs. J.J. Wooding has severe scalp and face wounds, and four year old Charles Gregory of 19 Brache Street suffered leg and arm injuries. When the tram car was moved a large amount of money was found underneath; this belonged to Mrs. Wooding, who was on her way to the bank. The other passengers and the conductor, Arthur Eaton, suffered from cuts and shock and have all been discharged.

Mr. A. E. Wray, the Tramways Manager, says that he has no idea how the accident could have happened. The car had four brakes, two mechanical and two electrical, and had been recently overhauled. The driver has been working for the Company for twelve months and is known to be reliable and careful. Not only was he still gripping the brake, but the emergency electrical brake was switched right over. Until Mr. Lloyd is well enough to answer questions nothing more is likely to be learned about the cause of the crash. The chairman of the Tramways Committee of the Town Council has promised that there will be a thorough investigation. It is fortunate that the tram did not swerved more to the left as if it had struck the bridge wall the damage would have been much worse. It is hoped that the driver and his passengers will all make a full recovery.  

Source: Luton News, 28th December 1916

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Bedroom Burn Out in Bedford

BorBP 4006/1-2, Close-up of Bedford Borough plan of 41 & 45 York Street, 1901 (Bedfordshire Archives & Records Service)

Sunday 24th December: Sometime after eight o'clock on Sunday evening, a fire broke out at 45 York Street, the residence of Mrs Jacques, her widowed mother and two soldiers of the West Riding Regiment. A large volume of smoke engulfed downstairs and upon investigation, a bedroom was found ablaze. The fire eventually broke through the roof of the property. Fortunately, neighbours and soldiers reacted quickly and provided assistance until the fire brigade arrived. Thanks to this joint effort, the fire was contained to one bedroom, which was completely gutted. A gold watch and a cashbox were amongst items that were destroyed.

Source: AD1082/4a, scrapbook of newspaper cuttings put together by Bedford Volunteer Fire Brigade, 1911-1935 (Bedfordshire Archives & Records Service)

Friday, 23 December 2016

Inquiry Following Bomb Explosion Death

Biscot Camp, 1916 [Z1306/75/16/15]

Saturday 23rd December 1916: An inquiry into the death of Gunner Ernest Victor Jackson has been opened at Luton Court House. Gunner Jackson succumbed to the injuries he received in Wednesday’s accidental explosion. The jury have heard that three soldiers at Biscot were preparing a signal bomb which exploded unexpectedly, causing injuries to all three. Gunner Jackson was the most seriously hurt and died yesterday. His body was identified by his sister Mrs W. S. Clarke of Bishops Stortford. Gunner Jackson was 21 years old and was serving with the Royal Field Artillery; he had previously been to the front and been wounded. The inquiry has been adjourned until January to allow communication to take place with the War Office and His Majesty’s Inspector of Explosives. Gunner Jackson’s funeral will be held with full military honours on Wednesday afternoon at the Church Cemetery.

Source: Luton News 28th December 1916

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Grammar School Founder's Day Service

Bedford Grammar School 1914 (Z1130/9/2/1/19 Bedford Archives)

Sunday 17th December 1916 There was a wartime theme to the Grammar School Founder’s Day Service. It was held in the very full Grammar School Chapel where the view of all the young boys in uniform served as a stirring reminder of the great task that is the war effort. The procession was made up of the Mayor and Corporation, the Masters, the Headmaster as well as the choir and clergy. The sermon was given by the Rev. J. M. Glubb, M.A., an Old Boy of the school. The sermon was a message of strength based on St. Paul’s adjuration; “Watch ye, stand last in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.” Military analogies were used effectively to drive home the message to the students. However, the Headmaster’s reading of the lengthy list of Old Boys killed in the war effort since July 1916 was the most striking aspect of the service.

Source: Bedfordshire Times 22/12/1916

Schoolmistress Injured by Falling Chimney Cap

St. Andrew's School, Church Street [Z1432/2]

Friday 22nd December 1916: Mrs. Rose, headmistress of St. Andrew’s School in Church Street, Leighton Buzzard was seriously injured on Wednesday night when a large chimney cap fell through the roof of the School House as she lay in bed. The cap fell from a large chimney stack between the school buildings and the School House. These chimney stacks are finished with an overhanging coping of stone blocks, each weighing four hundredweight. While there were no obvious signs that anything was wrong with this coping, it seems that the cement had crumbled due to recent frosts, and a sudden thaw and rain storm caused the masonry to fall onto the tiles of the School House below. Mr. and Mrs. Rose were sleeping in the room immediately below when the chimney cap fell through the roof, hitting the bed and “crumpling it up as though it were matchwood”. Mr. Rose says he at first thought that a Zeppelin bomb had fallen on the building.

Mr. Rose escaped with cuts to the face and legs, but Mrs. Rose was so seriously hurt that she was unable to speak. While she was being moved to another room her daughter, Miss Rose, went for a doctor. He found Mrs. Rose was suffering from pain and shock, having been struck a glancing blow by the block of masonry as it fell on the bed. At first internal injuries were feared but she has since spent a comfortable night and it is hoped she will soon be out of danger. The bed rail on the side Mrs. Rose was sleeping was bent almost to a right angle, and probably saved her from worse injury. The block fell end first through the bedroom ceiling, and after hitting the bed landed in the fireplace, smashing the gas stove and fender to pieces. A second block from the top of the chimney lodged in the ceiling joists, and two more fell into the front garden and the schoolyard.

All her pupils will hope that Mrs. Rose is well enough to return to school after the Christmas break. She has been headmistress at St. Andrew’s for thirty two years, and the school has thrived under her leadership. A recent inspection report concluded that the school “is in excellent order and continues to do well in all ways. Instruction in Needlework and in other branches of Home-craft is especially worthy of praise.”

Sources: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 26th December 1916; Bedfordshire school inspection reports 1910-1937 [E/IN1/1]

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Bomb Explosion Near Luton

Architectural drawing of Bute Hospital frontage, c.1902 [Z1306/75/5/1]

Wednesday 20th December 1916: A serious accident has taken place during military training near Luton when a trench mortar bomb exploded prematurely. Three soldiers are now being treated at the Bute Hospital. One has a smashed elbow and a forearm wound; another has lost a first finger. The third, Gunner Jackson, is in a critical condition with a fractured jaw and serious head injuries.

Source: Luton News 21st December 1916

Friday, 16 December 2016

Christmas Parcels for Methodist Soldiers

Hockliffe Street Wesleyan Chapel, c.1920 [Z1306/72/2/8]

Saturday 16th December 1916: Over one hundred former members of the Sunday School at Hockliffe Street Wesleyan Methodist Church are now serving in the armed forces, and each of them will be receiving a Christmas parcel from the church. Parcels have been prepared containing chocolate, butterscotch, soap and other useful items, at a cost of between seven and eight shillings each, including postage. Every package will also contain a Christmas letter and a useful wallet from the Sunday School children. Parcels for soldiers serving in France, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Salonika have already been dispatched, and those for English destinations will be sent during the next few days. The number of men from the church who have joined up has increased significantly since last Christmas, when only around seventy parcels were needed.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 12th December 1916

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Royal Army Medical Corps Deserter Tried

Horse drawn ambulances of the R.A.M.C. moving along High Street, Bedford 1914 (z1306/12/5/20 Bedfordshire Archives)

Friday 15th December 1916 It is reported that an actor named Hugh McNagel was brought up in Bedford on the charge of being a deserter of the Royal Army Medical Corps. McNagel had been with the R.A.M.C. on the battlefield in France. He has been identified by a Lance-Corporal as having deserted his regiment in June. McNagel has pled guilty, stating that there were documents proving he had deserted in order to join a combatant Irish Regiment, and requested these be given to the escort. This was agreed to and McNagel was given over to a military escort.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 15/12/1916

Monday, 12 December 2016

A Change of Government

David Lloyd George, 1915 [Wikimedia]

Tuesday 12th December 1916: The last week has been one of political crisis following the resignation of the Prime Minister, Mr. H. H. Asquith. His coalition government has now been replaced by a second coalition led by his fellow Liberal politician, the ‘Welsh Wizard’ David Lloyd George. Luton’s Member of Parliament, Mr. Cecil Harmsworth, has written to the Chairman of the South Bedfordshire Liberal Association and has requested that his views be made public:
  “A Coalition Government under the leadership of Mr. Asquith has been succeeded by a second Coalition under the direction of the most brilliant of our younger Liberal statesmen. As I write, Mr. Lloyd George has gathered round him a body of experienced statesmen, together with some gentlemen of great business reputation whose names have not hitherto been prominently before the public.
  To the new Government I shall extend the same faithful and hearty support that I accorded to the recent Government. This I feel to be the duty of every patriotic citizen. We have arrived at a juncture in our history when it is the plain duty of every one of us to do all in his or her power to strengthen the hands of the King’s Government and to prosecute the war with all possible vigour to a triumphant conclusion.
  … Of Mr. Asquith I may be permitted to say, in writing as a Liberal to a Liberal, that he carries with him in his retirement from the Premiership not only the grateful esteem but the affection of all who have for many years looked to him for leadership. I think that these sentiments are shared in large measure by members of the Conservative and Labour parties also.”
 Source: Luton News, 14th December 1916

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Escaped German Prisoners

German prisoners-of-war marching through Woburn Sands, c.1917 [Z887/2]

Tuesday 5th December 1916: Leighton Buzzard has been on alert since hearing that two German prisoners had escaped from a prisoner-of-war camp at Woburn yesterday. Carl Schwartz and Paul Hubner, two inmates of the camp at Crawley Road, had been at work in Woburn Park felling and cutting timber. When the prisoners were marched back from the park to the camp just before dusk, the two men were found to be missing. The guard and all the Woburn special constables were called up and spent the night on duty. The men were spotted at Eversholt and near Tingrith, then a message was received at mid-day to say the missing prisoners were in custody at Luton. Without food or a change or clothes it was not anticipated that they would get far. Special constables were sent from Leighton this morning to relieve the exhausted Woburn men, but their services were not needed.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 5th December 1916

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Ship's Boy Drowned

H.M.S.Wisteria, Arabis-class sloop [Wikimedia]

Thursday 7th December 1916: A sixteen year old Luton boy has given his life for his country. Arthur George Swain, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Swain of 30, Arthur Street, joined the Navy as a ship’s boy twelve months ago. It is now believed that he, along with another eight boys, were among the crew lost when H.M.S. Genista was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine in the Atlantic on 23rd October 1916. An Arabis-class sloop, she had been launched only eight months ago.

The Vice-Admiral has sent to Mrs. Swain a copy of the memorial service held at Haulbowline Parish Church, Queenstown, on November 5th for the officer and men who were drowned when Genista went down. This loss compounds the family’s grief as they heard recently that another son, Private Thomas James Swain, had been killed in France fighting with the Grenadier Guards. A third son, William, is serving with the Bedfordshire Regiment in Egypt. Before the war young Arthur worked as a baker with Mr. Shuter of Tennyson Road. If he had lived he would have celebrated his seventeenth birthday on Sunday.

Source: Luton News, 7th December 1916

Christmas Doll Show a Success

House on Rothsay Road, Bedford 1905 (z1306/10/51/2 Bedfordshire Archives)

Thursday 7th December 1916 The exhibition of the dolls given for the Invalid Children’s Aid Association was held in Rothsay Road in the drawing room of Mrs. Le Jeune. This annual event has been running for 17 or 18 years and this year was no exception despite doubts about it continuing during wartime. It was thought that many of the children that would benefit from this event had fathers in the Army or Navy who would be cheered by the knowledge that their sick children were being thought of. Over 230 dolls were given; a greater number than last year and regarded as a remarkable number for wartime. Collections of dressed dolls were given by the children of St. Andrew’s School as well as St. Peter’s School. These dolls will be temporarily displayed and then given to sick girls for Christmas, with the funds from the admission to the show being used to purchase toys for the invalid boys.

Source: Bedfordshire Times 8/12/1916

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

News from Woburn

Woburn High Street [Z1130/135]

Wednesday 29th November 1916: Staff numbers at Woburn Abbey are now so low that there are no longer sufficient to help with stretcher work when contingents of wounded arrive for the Woburn Abbey Hospital and Woburn Hospital. A number of local volunteers have been practicing stretcher drill in order to help. 

Mixed news has been received of a number of Woburn soldiers. Private H. Burgess of the 106th Field Ambulance has been in France for about five months and is now working at a hospital after taking a “lively turn” in the trenches. Lance-Corporal E. Pratt, a former employee at the Woburn timber yard whose parents live at Husborne Crawley, has returned to the Front after being wounded for the second time. He was able to give details to Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Phillips of the death in action of their son, Sergeant Arthur William Phillips. Bad news has also been received by the parents of Private William Coleman of the Bedford Regiment, who has died of wounds. He trained at the Ampthill camp and had not been at the front long. 

Albert Scott, a former apprentice at Messrs. Fisher and Son’s printing works, has been more fortunate. He has written home describing two narrow escapes:
“We had taken up our positions, and a fellow asked me to change places with him as he wanted to be next to his two mates. That was at twelve at night – the next morning at six they were blown to pieces. I was just round the corner! Forty hours later I was in a section of trench with four others – three on my left were blown to atoms, the one on my right had half his face cut to pieces; I was only stunned, and had two or three little splinters of shell in the back of the head!”
Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 7th and 28th November 1916

Sunday, 27 November 2016

A Servant Girl's Suicide

Lake and bathing pavilion, Wardown Park c.1910 [Z1306/75/8/3]

Monday 27th November 1916: An inquest has been held at Luton Court House into the death of Sarah Jane (“Annie”) Smith, aged 18, from Wood Ditton near Newmarket in Suffolk, who was found at Wardown Lake on Friday morning. Park keeper Alfred Lawrence told the court that his attention was drawn to a girl's body at about 10.45am; it was face downwards in four feet of water, not far from the footpath. He had recovered the body and sent for the police. There were no marks on the deceased and the symptoms all pointed to death by drowning.

Miss Smith had been working as a domestic servant for Mrs. Gale of Avondale Road, Luton, for seven weeks, when she died. Mrs. Gale had found her “industrious and satisfactory in every way” but said the girl sometimes seemed depressed and worried about outside matters, and never spoke except to say “Yes” or “No”. On Friday morning she had sent her out for some tomatoes and saw her go towards the shop at about 8am; this was the last time she saw Miss Smith. When the girl did not return for breakfast, her husband reported the matter to the police.

Private Walter Strogger of the Royal Field Artillery, who was based at Biscot Camp,  gave evidence that he had kept company with Miss Smith for three months, and the previous weekend she had stayed with his parents near Ipswich. He was with her on the night before her death when she seemed the same as usual, and did not seem worried that he was expecting orders to leave for the front. He had arranged to see her on the next Sunday.  

A number of letters and a postcard were found in the girl’s room. They included the following note to Private Strogger, which was never posted: “Dear Walter, many thanks for Thursday night’s walk. I enjoyed myself, but was rather downhearted. Crying finished it when I was alone. Good-bye till Sunday. From downhearted A. Smith.”  Her mother, Mrs. Jane Elizabeth Smith, identified her daughter’s body. She said her daughter wanted to get married, but that she had advised her to wait a bit. An older daughter who lived at home had been sending her sister letters saying she wished she would get married so that she could come and live with her. The jury returned of verdict of “Suicide whilst temporarily insane”.

Source: Luton News, 30th November 1916

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Naughty Tommy

Sunday 26 November 1916: [an anonymous entry in The Ousel, the magazine of Bedford School]

Naughty Tommy: A Tale for the Little Ones
Once upon a time there was a little boy at Bedford School whose name was Tommy. I am sorry to say that Tommy was a very naughty little boy. One of the naughty things he used to do was to write his lessons like a fly that had been nearly drowned in the ink. So his master made him buy a copybook, and made him draw pothooks, although he was a Senior Mon.

When Tommy grew up into a big man he went away to fight, and when he had been fighting a long time he came back home again. One day, after he came back, he wrote a story for the Colonel about what the other soldiers were doing. A colonel is like a master. he punishes soldiers when they are naughty, just as your master punishes you. And it was written so badly that the Colonel could not read it, because it was like a fly that had been nearly drowned in the ink. So the Colonel was very cross, and the Colonel said to Tommy, “You must buy a copybook, and write me out six copies.”

And Tommy did SO wish he had not been such a naughty boy at school.

Source: The Ousel, 2 December 1916 [ref: Z447/23]

Friday, 25 November 2016

Beds Farmer's Red Cross Sale

Auctioneer at the Red Cross Sale.
Also pictured; top left, the V.C. Cockerel, bottom left, Mr. Walter Harter - the chairman of the committee, bottom right, Lady Ampthill and friend.

Saturday 25th November 1916 The second annual Bedford Farmer’s Red Cross Sale was held in the Harper Trust Elementary School Grounds. As with last year the event was rousing success, with proceeds far exceeding the £1,050 raised in 1915. With donations and sales the total came to £1,366 with more donations expected.

Lady Ampthill was invited to open the sale for the second year in a row. She stated that it was a great honour, and in her speech addressed that Bedfordshire has always been among the most impressive of counties contributing to the British Farmer’s Fund. She stressed that the people of Bedfordshire were doing their share for the glory of their sons. Those left behind must do all they can to help their men at the front.

Along with livestock and other various items, a few special items were sold. The honour of presenting Lady Ampthill with a bouquet of red and white carnations sold for £15 15s. Her ladyship then stood in a trough and proceeded to sell off the bouquet bloom by bloom, ultimately raising £84. Other items included a bottle of ale brewed at Buxton in 1902 by King Edward VII, sign posts taken from German trenches and the V.C. Cockerel. This completely tame bird has been taken to forty sales and has been sold and returned over 2,000 times, adding approximately £2,400 to war funds. The repeated sales of the Cockerel at this event raised £29 13s for the British Farmer's Red Cross Fund.

Source: Bedfordshire Times 01/09/1916

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Tragic Bomb Explosion

Friday 24th November: Details of an inquest into the tragic deaths of Rifleman G. F. Harrison and Rifleman W. A. Good are published. Both men died during a demonstration on bombs to a class of 15 men. Harrison was the tutor and had lectured before on the subject. For the demonstration he had 5 or 6 bombs on the table and 2 rifle grenades. After speaking about the Mills bomb, Harrison put questions to the class and then picked up a rifle grenade and took it to pieces, explaining its different parts. He then put it together again. On stripping it again, he gave a practical demonstration of the grenade’s direction of travel. Witnesses were unsure what happened next and what exactly caused the grenade to detonate, but testified that Harrison believed the bombs were not charged. Most men managed to flee when the grenade went off. However, Good died instantly and Harrison ten minutes after a doctor arrived on the scene.

The Coroner ruled that this was a tragic accident and that the injured soldiers still recovering were not going to be able to add much to existing testimony. It was recommended that future lectures be given with dummy bombs. At the inquest, Major Lupton expressed on behalf of Colonel Hepworth and the officers of the Battalion their deepest regret at the unfortunate accident and extended their sympathy to the bereaved relatives. 

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 24/11/1916

Mills bombs used during WW1 (Wikipedia, taken by Jean-Louis Dubois)

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Vauxhall Girls Silvering Coins

Vauxhall Works c.1920 [Z1306/75/17/34]

Thursday 23rd November 1916: A young man has been sentenced at the Luton Borough Sessions to one month’s imprisonment for giving a silvered farthing to a newsboy in exchange for a newspaper and five pence change. A girl employed at the Vauxhall works gave evidence that she and other girls there had silvered coins at the works for people to wear on their watch chains. She had not known that it was wrong to do so. The Magistrates’ Clerk told the court that to silver coins was a criminal offence, and anyone using one was liable to twelve months imprisonment. The foreman of the department concerned has now left the works.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 28th November 1916

Monday, 21 November 2016

Butchers Must Share Slaughtermen

Yirrell’s butcher’s shop, Old Road, Linslade c.1900 [Z50/74/15]

Tuesday 21st November 1916: The military authorities are concerned that too many butchers have succeeded in obtaining exemption from military service for their men and have suggested that Leighton Buzzard’s butchers should share slaughtermen. The Leighton Buzzard tribunal feels that the number for whom exemption has been requested could easily kill two or three times the number of cattle and sheep consumed in the area. At its most recent sitting the tribunal gave temporary exemption to just two slaughtermen employed by firms in Hockliffe Street, and warned local businesses that they must come to mutual arrangements to share employees. On hearing this news one of the employers said it would be a “rum business” and would never work.

Most butchers are already shorthanded and can reasonably claim that they have already supplied a full quota of men for the Army. Much of their work beside slaughtering can only be done by men of sound physique, most of whom are of military age. However, it would certainly be preferable for them to work out their own arrangements rather than have too many requests for exemption refused and be forced to close or depend on meat supplies bought already dead.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 14th and 21st November 1916

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Wounded Entertained at Bedford

Thursday 16th November: Through the generosity of the William Harpur Lodge, between 60 and 70 wounded soldiers were entertained at St Mary’s Schoolroom, Bedford. The special guests arrived shortly after 2pm in cars lent by Messrs Crawley and Sons and in motor ambulances for the wounded stationed at Howbury. There were 30 men and 3 nurses from Howbury, 10 from Ampthill Road Hospital and 26 from the Barracks. The tea and entertainment were carried out by members of the Lodge Committee whilst wives of members of the Order assisted at the tea. The afternoon consisted of a singing competition and the prize a wrist watch. Cigarettes and chocolates were served out to the men. At 4.30pm, everyone sat down to a high tea, the menu including ham, tongue, roast chicken and roast beef. The flowers were contributed by the villagers of Haynes. During the evening, the men were treated to first-class musical entertainment by various artists. The event finished at 7pm and the men were sent on their way with soup and wished a speedy recovery.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 17/11/1916

Z1306/12/6/32, Postcard of troops marching down St Mary's Street, with Crawley and Sons on right, 1915 (Bedfordshire Archives)

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Christmas Pudding Fund

Postcard “The Dining Room on Christmas Day”
2nd Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment in Bermuda 1911 [X550/19/34/10]

Wednesday 15th November 1916: A meeting of the Territorial Comforts Fund at Bedford yesterday heard that the Luton News and Saturday Telegraph have been raising funds to supply Christmas puddings for the troops. They expect to be able to provide at least £250, and are intending to provide puddings not just for the Bedfordshire Yeomanry and the Territorial units, but for the all the Bedfordshire Battalions on active service. The Lord Lieutenant said he was gratified that Luton was doing so well.

Source: Luton News, 16th November 1916

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Baby Abandoned at Linslade

Salvation Army member with baby, c.1910 [Z1306/72/1/8]

Monday 13th November 1916: The gardener at Mile Bush, Linslade was surprised to discover a baby boy, aged around three to four weeks, abandoned in the shrubbery adjoining the drive to the house. The baby, which was in good health and well fed, was lying in a cream coloured plait Japanese dress basket. He was dressed in a flannel binder, a woollen vest, a long white flannelette petticoat, two gowns (one cotton and one flannelette), woollen boots and cap, and a nearly new cream woollen shawl. He was also wrapped in a lady’s cream serge jacket, and had a feeding bottle with rubber and glass tube at his side.

Police Inspector Walker of Linslade is making enquiries, and is believed to be looking for a man and a woman. The man is aged about 60, five feet four or five inches tall, with grey hair and whiskers, a clipped beard and of sturdy build, wearing a dark overcoat and trousers and a bowler hat; he leans forward as he walks. The woman is aged about 25, is about five feet seven or eight tall, with dark hair and a pale complexion, wearing a dark brown costume and a black hat, and carrying a small brown hand bag. They arrived at Leighton Buzzard by train this afternoon, and both appeared very respectable. . The baby has been taken to the Leighton Buzzard Workhouse and is doing well.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 21st November 1916; Luton News, 23rd November 1916

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Ravensden JP Fined for Shooting Regimental Pet

Friday 10th November: Colonel Joseph Sunderland of Ravensden Grange, Justice of the Peace, has been convicted for shooting a regimental mascot during troop exercises at Howbury. The troops were manoeuvring in Colonel Sunderland’s field, accompanied by a small terrier who acted as the battalion’s mascot. Colonel Sunderland accused Private Horne, who belonged to the Field Transport of the Herefords, of letting the dog chase his rabbits in a nearby field. Private Horne explained that the dog was a pet of the battalion and had not been near his rabbits. Witnesses, including the regiment’s cook, testified that Colonel Sunderland was in a rage and took things into his own hands. When Private Horne refused to put the dog (which he was holding) down on the ground, Colonel Sunderland stamped on Horne's foot and shoved him with a loaded gun, causing a surprised Horne to drop the dog. As soon as the dog was on the ground, Colonel Sunderland shot it and walked away. Whilst the defence made the case that Colonel Sunderland had every right to ‘seize’ the dog, the witnesses pointed out that they would have been prepared to chain the dog up if they had been asked to do so and shooting the dog had been completely unnecessary. The bench at Bedford Divisional Sessions agreed and fined Colonel Sunderland 40 shillings and 12 pence.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 10/11/1916

Colonel Sunderland's erratic behaviour is all the more surprising considering his role as a Justice of the Peace. Bedfordshire Archives has his oath of allegiance to serve as Justice of the Peace in our Quarter Session records [below].

QSR 1872/3/1/8, Oath of allegiance - T J Sunderland, 1872 (Bedfordshire Archives) 

Monday, 7 November 2016

Lord Lucas Reported Missing

Lord Lucas [from Roll of Honour]

Tuesday 7th November 1916: Captain Auberon Herbert, Lord Lucas, an Old Boy of Bedford School and the owner of Wrest House (now in use as a military hospital LINK), has been reported missing. The magazine of his former school makes the following report:
“He was serving with the Royal Flying Corps in France, and made a flight over the German lines on November 4th. He did not return from this flight, and so far nothing has been heard of him or his machine. Lord Lucas was wounded during the South African War, in which he was acting as a correspondent of The Times. As a result of his wounds his leg had to be amputated below the knee. During the first few months of the present war he was a member of the Cabinet, holding the office of President of the Board of Agriculture. On the formation of the Coalition in May of last year he was one of the Ministers who retired. He immediately gave up political work and joined the Royal Flying Corps, although over the standard age (for this branch of the service) of 30.” “He soon gained his pilot’s certificate, and was sent to Egypt, where he did a good deal of flying. After a time he came back to England, and was for some months engaged in instructing recruits for the Flying Corps. A few months ago, while he was coaching an air pilot, his machine dived and the pilot was killed, but Lord Lucas escaped. Recently he went out to France for the life of greater activity which he preferred.”
Source: The Ousel, 18th November 1916 [Z447/23]

Friday, 4 November 2016

Train Timetables

Leighton Buzzard Railway Station c.1910 [Z50/72/174]

Saturday 4th November 1916: The Deputy Mayor of Dunstable has written to the Urban Councils of Leighton Buzzard and Linslade asking them to join him in persuading the North Western and Great Northern Railway Companies to provide a better train service for munitions girls. Many travel from Leighton Buzzard to work at the munition factory at Chaul End, but face a difficult morning journey home after working a night shift. They arrive at Dunstable from Chaul End at 7.30, but have to wait until 8.50 for a train to take them on to Leighton. If the Great Northern Company could provide an earlier train, they would reach Dunstable in time to catch the 7.05 from Leighton Buzzard. It has also been suggested that the North Western Railway Company could help soldiers from Dunstable and Luton who are at Halton Camp by holding back the 12.25 to Luton at Leighton Buzzard for a few minutes. Men on weekend leave reach Leighton at 12.33, just in time to see the 12.25 leaving the station. Instead of getting home in time for dinner, they then have to wait for the 1.55 train, followed by another hour’s wait at Dunstable before finally arriving at Luton at about 4 o’clock. For the sake of five minutes, the men lose a whole afternoon of their short leave.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 7th November 1916

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Missions to Seamen

Z1130/9/9/10, Postcard of the entrance to Bedford Park, 1913 (Bedfordshire Archives Service)
Thursday 2nd November: An interesting meeting under the auspices of the Mission to Seamen Society took place in the YMCA hut at Bedford Park. The principal speaker was the Rev E Ealand, Chaplain at Antwerp. During the war he engaged on mission work amongst the mine sweepers. He reported that over the course of the war, the Admiralty had taken over two thirds of the Mercantile Marine and the country was dependent on the other one third for its food supply. The work of the mine sweepers is very dangerous, preparing safe passage for vessels at sea. Rev Ealand made an appeal for special gloves to be made for pulling wire cables and was rewarded with a number of volunteers at the close of the speech.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 03/11/1916

The Mission to Seaman Society was a Christian organisation that provided practical and welfare support to sea farers around the world. It was founded in 1856 and later became known as the Mission to Seafarers.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Luton Modern School Master Killed

Luton Modern School, c.1914 [Z1306/76/2/3]

Sunday 29th October 1916: All connected with Luton Modern School have been sorry to hear that former schoolmaster Ernest Isaac Barrow has lost his life on the Somme. Mr. Barrow joined the school in September 1911 as a teacher of maths and science. He was among the first to join up in August 1914, as a private in the 2nd East Lancashire Regiment, and had since achieved the rank of Lieutenant. During his absence the school has held his post open for him, and has supplemented his Army pay with an additional £80 per annum. He has kept in regular contact with the school. His last letter, written in July, was full of optimism:

“Just at present we are having a slack time, but under present conditions that is not likely to last much longer. We have plenty of men and ammunition to make use of, and I think, this time, we have broken the back of Fritz’s resistance. There is sure to be very hard fighting before he is finally beaten, but we shall soon have him out of his last strongly fortified line, and Heaven help him when we do get him into the open … I was slightly wounded the other day – at least, I suppose I shall be reported in the casualty list as such, and it is because some of you will notice that, that I mention the matter, just to let you know that it is nothing to worry about. A piece of shell casing hit me on the chest. It was considerate enough to hit me flat side on, which was lucky for me. As it was, it knocked me head over heels, raised an enormous bump, and broke a rib. I refused to go into hospital and am still ‘carrying on’. Apart from this little dent in the framework I am very fit.”

Sources: Luton Modern School Magazine Dec 1916 [SDLutonSFC2/12]; Rhubarb & Custard: Luton Modern School and Luton Grammar School for Boys (James Dyer)

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Leighton War Hospital Depot News

Lycée Chaptal, used as temporary hospital 1914-1918
[Image: Wikipedia under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license]

Friday 27th October 1916: The Leighton Buzzard and District War Hospital Depot now has 130 workers producing items for English and Allied Hospitals. This letter of thanks from Hopital Chaptal, Paris, is typical of many received by the depot:
 “Very many thanks in the name of my numerous sons for your ever welcome present. Today I distributed the slippers, shirts and vests, and you would have been amused and happy to send them; it was quite like a Fair; and to hear their remarks of English generosity. I assure you, those who are working so generously for the French ‘Tommies’ would understand how much good they are doing for them. Poor fellows, they are so brave in suffering, and it takes very little to bring a smile even to those who are blind. If you would continue, when you have time, to send some more slippers, and please, some smaller sizes among them as my boys have little feet. Shirts, vests and socks are always welcome; also some tooth-brushes, and if you have some more counterpanes ready, as the other wards are a wee bit jealous; so amusing to hear them.”
Over the past two months 2,239 items have been supplied to hospitals, including a 92 pairs of mittens in response to a “rush” order from Mesopotamia. No doubt those who contributed to the fundraising event held on behalf of the War Hospital Depot in September  will be delighted to hear that their money is being put to such good use.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 31st October 1916

Monday, 24 October 2016

Lecture on the Royal Flying Corps

Tuesday 24th October 1916: The boys of Bedford School have enjoyed a lecture by Captain Court-Treat of the Royal Flying Corps on the organisation and work of that organisation. He explained how the Flying Corps was divided up into brigades, wings, and squadrons, with the squadron a complete fighting unit in itself, including a repair shop. Their numbers had increased dramatically since the outbreak of the war. The work of the Flying Corps includes not just fighting the enemy, but also preventing  enemy planes making reconnaissance over British lines. The difficulties of the Flying Corps’ own scouts in spotting important features such as bridges and railways, and in detecting hidden batteries, were explained.

The lecture was illustrated with an excellent series of slides. These included pictures of the flying machines used, the latest being a Curtiss battleplane with two engines and room for five people. There were also photographs of the German trenches, and of other fields of battle ranging from Ypres to a reservoir in Egypt. 

Source: The Ousel, 4th November 1916 [ref: Z447/23]

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Tragic Year of a Luton Father

Rifleman Arthur James Gaunt

Monday 23rd October 1916: Mr. Edward Gaunt of12 Hartley Road, Luton has heard that his 20 year old son Rifleman Arthur James Gaunt has been killed in France. Rifleman Gaunt was a former Luton telegraph boy who transferred to Harrow as a postman before enlisting with the Post Office Rifles (8th City of London Rifles). This is the third bereavement suffered by Mr. Gaunt in less than a year. His wife Lucy died last autumn, and his ten year old daughter Esther died earlier this year.

Source: Luton News, 26th October 1916; Registrations of Deaths

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Protest Meeting in Russell Park, Bedford

Russell Park, Bedford, postmarked 1907 (Z1130/9/933)

Friday 20th October: It is reported that The Bedford Trades Council held a meeting in Russell Park to protest against the high cost of food. The following resolution was carried unanimously: ‘That this public meeting in Bedford protests against the inaction of the Government with regard to the continual rise of food prices, and also condemns the liberty allowed to the capitalists whilst the workers are not allowed to sell their labour to the highest bidders. This meeting also urges the Government to so act as to ensure that no capitalist is better off than before the war.’

The people were not going to continue to make sacrifices for the benefit of the profiteers. During the war the average increase in wages was 25 per cent and the cost of living had risen by 60 per cent. Alderman Morley stated that there was a need for more statesmanlike and far seeing patriotism. He had been in communication with soldiers who had been in the mouth of hell, some of the best men in the country, and they were beginning to ask the question whether it was for the benefit of the capitalists that they were risking their lives. If the Government was not careful there would be so much discontent as to rouse the Government from inaction with regard to food prices. There had been increased activity amongst the people who manipulated the food supply of the world and these people were concerned about lining their own pockets. Bacon had risen by 66% prior to the war and was still rising, whilst milk was extortionate. Alderman Morley stated it was as necessary to protect the food supply of the people as it was to get recruits. Textile, tea and rubber firms were seeing increases in their profits. The Government had to realise that the exploiting of the people must stop, or they were not a Government of the people.  

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 20/10/1916