Sunday, 31 July 2016

Luton Tribunal Complains About Medical Examinations

Thursday 31st August 1916: The Luton Tribunal hearing appeals against military service has expressed its dissatisfaction with the way in which men are being medically examined at Bedford. The Town Clerk had written expressing concern that two unfit men had been passed for military service and had received a most unsatisfactory reply. A number of other cases had also been noticed, including one man who was not capable even of ordinary volunteering, and another passed fit who was on the verge of consumption. The Mayor remarked that the medical authorities would face serious trouble later if they passed men suffering from consumption. It also seemed that heart disease was not considered sufficient to keep men out of the Army. The Luton Tribunal was not prepared to send men into the Army when it knew they were not getting the examination required by law. A letter has been sent to the War Office and a reply is awaited.

Source: Luton News, 31st August 1916

Thursday, 28 July 2016

The Mayoress’s Working Party: A Call for Volunteers

Friday 28th July: In the old committee room at the town hall, Bedford, the Mayoress, Mrs F. R. Hockliffe, and her party meet daily to make hospital supplies for the troops and garments for women and children in allied nations. However, over August and September, the party will be depleted and more volunteers are needed to carry on the good work. 

Since 6th January 1916, the Mayoress and her party have sent out quantities of garments to Serbian women and children, fly-nets to Egypt (at the request of the War Office), as well as hospital shirts, socks, helmet covers and anti-vermin belts for the troops. At the beginning of the month, when the big push started, the Mayor and Mayoress visited London to enquire what work women could most usefully carry out, besides munitions work. They were instructed to organise hospital supplies. British hospitals and allied hospitals are in urgent need, owing to the increased number of casualties at the front. 

Bedfordshire Standard, 05/08/1916
The committee room at the town hall has been prepared specially for hospital work, with a target of producing one hundred garments a week. Members of the public can visit the working party and inspect the work every morning. The Mayoress is confident that the citizens of Bedford will give generously to help soldiers fighting in increasingly precarious circumstances.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 28/07/1916

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Blinded Soldier Turns Poultry Farmer

The Sun, Leighton Buzzard [© Bedfordshire Archives]

Wednesday 26th July 1916: Private Charles Henry Hills, the son of Mrs Hills of the Sun Inn in Leighton Buzzard, has returned to Australia to start poultry farming. This is a remarkable turn of events as Private Hills was blinded by a shrapnel shell at Gallipoli and only last summer was being led about the streets, apparently helpless. He soon learned to navigate the local streets, and remained in his naturally cheerful spirits. He has since learned to typewrite, and has written to his relatives from Wagga Wagga, where he was living before he enlisted:

“The people are very good to me and are anxious I should settle in the town as they say everything original goes to Sydney and Melbourne. I have been in the papers several times and the keenest possible interest is being shown in the poultry farming experiment. The difficulty of obtaining the necessary ground to start on is engaging the attention of all the best men in Wagga Wagga.”

Private Hills has been interviewed by the Sunday Times in Sydney and has told them it is a great consolation to him that he “got” five Turks before he was wounded. He spent time in nineteen hospitals before he was taken to St. Dunstan’s in Regents Park, a home established for blind soldiers and sailors. While there he occupied the same room in which the Kaiser had slept when he had been a guest at the same house before the war. While there he was trained first in typewriting, and then studied poultry raising in the country life section. This new industry for the blind is proving successful and Private Hills intends “hitting out in the hen departure”, confident he can make a success of the business. Private Hills is also a great reader, and is looking forward to receiving a supply of the latest works from the Sydney Blind Industrial Institute.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 1st August 1916

Friday, 22 July 2016

Belgian Matters

Corn Exchange and Plume of Feathers, Lake Street, 
Leighton Buzzard c.1905 [Z1306/72/9/6]

Saturday 22nd July 1916: Belgian refugee Lambert Giebels, who was sentenced to three months imprisonment for theft in May, has appeared in court at Bletchley charged with assaulting a police inspector. After completing his gaol sentence Giebels was taken to a detention camp in London to await deportation, but on Thursday morning he escaped, despite being “scantily clad”. Giebels returned to his cottage at 7 Plantation Road, Leighton Buzzard, but the Leighton police had been informed of his escape and were on his trail. Yesterday afternoon a special constable spotted him walking towards Bletchley with his wife and baby. The constable fetched Inspector Callaway, who told the court that he found the prisoner and his wife in a field. He accused the man of being Giebels and took a pair of handcuffs from his pocket, but when he saw them the prisoner said he would go quietly; however Giebel’s wife got between them, allowing her husband to run away. The Inspector chased him and after a violent struggle the escapee was arrested and taken to Bletchley Police Station. While he was being searched he took a piece of paper out of his pocket, tore it in half and tried to eat it, but Inspector Callaway seized him by the throat and hooked the paper out of his mouth with a finger, getting badly bitten in the process. Giebels was remanded in custody, shortly before two Belgian military police from London arrived in search of him.

Despite this incident, which is most unusual, the people of Leighton and Linslade have great sympathy for the suffering Belgians. The girls of Linslade Council School recently held an open day in support of Belgian Day, which collects money to help Belgian children who are still in their own country. The girls brought cakes, fruit and vegetables for sale, raising nearly £2. They gave a performance of drill, songs and recitations, and two little Belgians sang the French and Flemish national anthems. Altogether the day raised a total of over £4. Two days later the children of the Infants’ School also held an open day for the same cause, which raised a further £1.11s. The Leighton Buzzard Observer has also published an appeal (in French) by Charles Piron, a Belgian refugee staying at the Plume of Feathers Hotel in Lake Street, Leighton Buzzard. On behalf of his son, a prisoner of war, he has asked for help in sending food parcels to Belgian prisoners of war who are unable to receive them from home.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 18th and 25th July 1916

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

From Luton to the Somme

Sergeant Sam Impey

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

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

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

Saturday, 16 July 2016

War Savings Week, 16-22 July

Advert in the Bedfordshire Times
Sunday 16th July: A campaign is launched for the National Savings Committee. The movement promotes cost-saving measures to fund-raise for government expenditure and calls upon citizens to limit consumption and form local associations out of patriotic duty:

“When you save you help our Sailors and Soldiers to win the war. When you spend on things you do not need you help the Germans, because when you spend you make other people work for you, and the work of everyone is wanted now to help our fighting men, or to produce necessaries, or to make goods for export.”

Citizens are advised to:
  • Cut down on meat bills
  • Reduce the amount of gas, coal and electricity used
  • Cut down on parcel deliveries
  •             Put in a regular order for newspapers, to reduce paper waste and labour
  •       Avoid spending on luxury items
Citizens are encouraged to form local associations so they can lend their savings to the country by purchasing war savings certificates. These certificates earn interest over time. It is hoped that every church, office, shop, factory, school, village and club will start an association.

Source: Bedfordshire Times 14/07/1916

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Miss Walmsley’s “At Home” Exhibition

Friday 14th July: An exhibition embracing cookery, laundry, upholstery and needlework is held at Miss Amy Walmsley’s school, part of Froebel teacher training college. Miss Walmsley is a prominent figure in Bedford, being the first female councillor of the town, and very active on Bedford’s home front. Her school specialises in domestic science and economy. A number of new and tempting dishes are on display amongst the cookery exhibits, created with a view to the strictest economy in the use of meat and fish. Roast beef, boiled hams, homemade bread and cakes – walnut cake being a speciality – blanc mange and fish cutlets...all were served-up in a manner to tempt the most jaded appetite. Vegetarians also had a wide choice of attractive dishes and salads.

Miss Walmsley and her young ladies are praised for the spotless, ‘mirror-like’ condition of cooking utensils and the quality of their needlework. The newspaper notes that ‘in these strenuous days, the work of women in nearly every sphere can…be termed war work.’ Miss Walmsley’s exhibition was, in short, an ‘education in the art of how to do things.’

Amy Walmsley (centre) dress-making with college students (ref: Z50/9/346)

Source: Bedfordshire Standard, 21st July 1916

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Death of a Linslade Hero

William Harper Brantom (Find-A-Grave)

Thursday 13th July 1916: A year ago we heard that William Harper Brantom of Ivy Dene, Stoke Road, Linslade, had won the Distinguished Conduct Medal. Now news has been received that he is one of the early casualties of the terrible battle that has broken out in the area of the Somme. Brantom, was a popular local figure.  He was an old boy of Dunstable Grammar School and a keen sportsman, playing for both Leighton Town Cricket Club and Linslade Football Club. He joined the Civil Service Rifles immediately war broke out and won his DCM for gallantry in a bombing raid at the Battle of Festubert, during which he was wounded in the shoulder. He was offered a commission on a number of occasions, but refused as he did not want to leave his comrades. When he was given the unusual honour of being offered a commission in his own battalion he accepted, and at the time of his death he was a Second Lieutenant.

 Lt. Brantom had been home on leave at the end of June, when he was in excellent health and spirits. He had only been back in France for four days when he was killed. His father has received the following letter from his commanding officer:
“As Colonel of the battalion and on behalf of all my officers, I wish to offer you and your family our deep sympathy. On the night of July 3rd-4th, there was heavy artillery fire on our trenches and your son was struck by a piece of shell, which penetrated his steel helmet and killed him instantaneously. Last year at Festubert he and three others gained the DCM. These were the first honours that the battalion had gained, and we were proud of them. When he rejoined the battalion as an officer in January last, we were all glad to have him back. His loss to us is great, for he was a most capable and trustworthy officer. He was buried yester afternoon by one of the Chaplains of our Brigade, in one of the recognised Cemeteries here.”
Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 18th July 1916

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

A Wartime Romance

Soldiers at Biscot Camp [Z1306/75/16/14]

Wednesday 12th July 1916: A wartime romance has reached a happy conclusion in Luton with the marriage today of Sergeant R. Hayward, an artillery sergeant at Biscot Camp, to Miss Rose Charlotte Marsh of 112, Leagrave Road. The wedding took place at Christ Church, Luton. The bride wore white with a silk veil and orange blossom and carried a bouquet, with bridesmaids Lily and Violet Marsh wearing white voile, and a third bridesmaid, Miss Eva Kirby, wearing shantung. The bridge and groom met quite recently at a military concert in Luton.

A rather less happy event took place at Biscot this evening when Driver Green of D Battery of the London Royal Field Artillery was playing football. He slipped and fell heavily, sustaining severe bruises and dislocating three fingers. He is now recovering in the Bute Hospital.

Source: Luton News, 20th July 1916

Friday, 8 July 2016

Leighton Buzzard's Conscientious Objector

Friends Meeting House, Leighton Buzzard 1969 [Z50/72/2]

Saturday 8th July 1916: Leighton Buzzard’s only conscientious objector has appeared at a military tribunal to request absolute exemption from war service on religious grounds. The man, who has not been named, is a 27 year old house decorator living in Regent Street. The tribunal was told that the applicant’s views were of long standing: before the war he had posted peace posters around the town; he had spoken publicly against the war; and he was peace correspondent for the local Society of Friends (also known as Quakers). He stated that not only was he not prepared to fight, but he would also not take part in the war in a medical capacity, knowing that the wounded would be sent back to fight again once they recovered. He would also not help with minesweeping as he would only be allowed to sweep German mines.

The advisory committee recommended that the applicant should be made to serve as a non-combatant. One member of the tribunal said he thought a man holding such views should be put into a boat on the North Sea and left to choose which side he would take; another suggested that the final decision should be left to the County Appeal Tribunal; and a third pointed out that the man was acting within his legal rights. After considerable discussion the decision was taken that his conscientious objection should be accepted and he was released from military service on condition that he would undertake agricultural work.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer 11th July 1916

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Help from Luton for Napsbury Hospital

West Hall of former Napsbury Hospital (Wikimedia under Creative CommonsLicence)

Monday 3rd July 1916: Napsbury Asylum, near St. Albans, has now been converted into a large military hospital. The former patients have been moved elsewhere, and the new hospital is able to accommodate over 1,500 soldiers. While the authorities have provided all necessary medical equipment, there is nothing available to entertain the men during their stay. Mr J. C. Kershaw, who has been appointed Almoner for the Luton district to the new hospital, is appealing for help to provide equipment for both outdoor and indoor games to make the soldiers’ time there more pleasant. The list of items required includes: cricket bats, stumps, balls, pads and gloves; tennis racquets, nets and balls; croquet mallets, balls and hoops; bowls; quits; footballs; draughts; chess sets; dominoes; playing cards; bagatelle boards; gramophones and records. He has also asked for donations of money to buy items for the men, in particular tobacco and cigarettes.

Source: Luton News, 6th July 1916

Friday, 1 July 2016


Our contributors at Bedfordshire Archives Service have been posting daily on both this blog and our companion blog Bedfordshire At War for almost two years. Our intention has always been that this would continue through to the centenary of the Armistice in 2018. Unfortunately a reduction in our resources means that while we will still be posting regularly the Bedfordshire Home Front entries will no longer be appearing daily, and will from now on be focusing primarily on the Bedford, Leighton Buzzard and Luton areas. The Bedfordshire At War blog will still be appearing on a daily basis. We aim to post on this blog three times a week, and hope that you will continue to enjoy the entries here even though they will appear a little less frequently.