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

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Recent Casualties

All Saints Church, Leighton Buzzard c.1905 [Z1306/72/2/1]

Thursday 19th September 1916: Sadly news has reached us of a large number of recent casualties from Leighton Buzzard. These include:

Cecil H. Green: the youngest surviving son of the late Mr. W. S. Green of Grove Road was admitted to hospital in France on Sunday September 8th and died of wounds the next day. Cecil, who was 29 years old, was educated at Berkhamsted and then spent two years at Colchester learning the corn trade before joining his uncle’s corn merchant’s business. He enlisted in the Public Schools Battalion in September 1914 and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in October 1915. He had been at the Front since 27th December.

Private John Horne:  a Beds Regiment reservist, who has previously served in the army for four years, he was called up when the War broke out. He was sent to France early on and had since been in the thick of the fighting. He had previously been slightly wounded in the hand, had been gassed, and had been hospitalised with fever. He came through the advance on the Somme which took place on 25th September without a scratch and had just been relieved from the trenches. He was asleep in a hut behind the lines when it was bombed by an enemy aeroplane, killing three and wounding eighteen of the occupants. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. George Horne of 11 Hockliffe Road, have now been officially informed of his death.

Lance-Corporal James Wernham: the following letter has been received by Mrs. Wernham of 12, Regent Street from a comrade of her son in the Border Regiment … “Your son James and myself have been very close friends since he was transferred from the Bedfordshire Regiment at Felixtowe. In the early hours of the morning (September 24th) whilst on duty, the Boches were firing away, and I regret to say, he fell. I could not leave my post to see if he was dead at that moment, but every possible assistance was there, and he passed away in a very few seconds. During the later part of the morning we buried him.” Lance-Corporal Wernher was a former scholar at the Hockliffe Street Baptist Sunday School.

Lance-Corporal F. C. Gibbs: the 19 year old son of Mr. and Mrs. Gibbs of South Street, he joined the Royal Sussex Regiment two years ago and was sent to France about a month before he was killed on 28th September. He was an old boy of the British School, and a former chorister and bell-ringer at All Saints’ Church. A muffled peal is to be rung on the All Saints’ bells on Sunday evening in his memory.

Private Fred Sear: the son of Mrs. Sear of 15, Vandyke Road is now in hospital at Stourbridge suffering from wounds in his right leg and both feet. He has sent a cheerful letter home saying that he is going on satisfactorily. He joined the County of London Regiment in March 1916, and had only been in France for a very short time.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 17th October 1916

Friday, 14 October 2016

Buy Your Overcoat Now!

Saturday 14th October 1916: Luton’s fashionable stores are promoting their new stock of coats and accessories for the winter. Webb Brothers of Bute Street claim to be showing “a larger and more varied stock of overcoats than any other firm in the Midland Counties” for which demand is already so great that they advised their customers to “Buy that Overcoat Now”. Their range includes overcoats for children and youths as well as for adult men. At Paris House in George Street a variety of ladies’ coats are on offer, ranging from a smart swing coat with adaptable collar in navy cheviot for twenty-one shillings and nine pence, to a velour coat with strap belts and the latest pockets for forty-nine shilling and nine pence. For those with more money to spend and coney seal fur coats are available for five guineas and musquash coats for ten guineas. The fashionable example shown above is available from Gibbons’ for three and a half guineas and is described as an “extremely stylish coat in saxe blue and grey velour with black hair collar, cut on very full lines”.

Source: Luton News, 5th and 19th October 1916

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Branch Meeting of the National Union of Women Workers

Wednesday 11th October: A well-attended meeting of the Bedfordshire branch of the National Union of Women Workers took place in Bedford under the chairmanship of the aptly named Mrs Trustram Eve. Members listened to an address by Miss Baverstock of the Central Bureau for the Employment of Women. Miss Baverstock’s central message was that women should look to employment beyond the war because they deserved to earn a wage. She spoke of the tremendous developments in women’s work because of the war. There were openings for women in chemistry and the best way of training to become a chemist was to take a degree or become an Associate of the Institute of Chemists. There was also a demand for women in the optical trade, where the training is inexpensive and the wages after 2 years are £2 per week. There was also a great need for women dentists, who were better suited to attending to women and children – a dentist could expect to earn as much as £4 or £5 per week. Gardening & forestry, the motoring industry, welfare work in factories were also areas that women could work in. Miss Baverstock was not so sure about clerical work, as many wounded soldiers were engaged in this work and only those equipped in languages and shorthand would get on. She deprecated women working at lower wages than men, a sentiment met with hearty applause.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 13/10/1916

Monday, 10 October 2016

Thanks for a Munitions Worker

Workers making shell cases at Robinsons Basket Factory, Leighton Buzzard, 1914-1918 

Tuesday 10th September 1916: Many girls from Leighton Buzzard are now helping to produce munitions and it appears some of them are personalising their work by including messages with the ammunition. One girl, Miss M. Underwood of 19, Friday Street, has received the following letter after inserting her name and address into the top of a fuse:
“Dear Miss Underwood, Please excuse the liberty I am taking in writing to you, but finding your address inside a fuse, thought I would let you know that it had arrived out here. I cannot say where it is now, as it was fired into the Hun lines a few hours ago. This Battery has been out here since the war first began, so we have been through the mill a little bit, and nothing gives us greater pleasure than to send souvenirs over to Fritz with the compliments of our munition workers at home, and I can assure you that we are not giving them much rest at present. All of us out here are very proud of the way our girls at home are keeping us going, but we can still do with millions more rounds of ammunition. At present we are paying back a few debts we owe them from the days of Mons, Marne, and Aisne, and I think we are doing it fairly well. I mustn’t forget to thank you for the good wishes; next time I fire I will send a few compliments over to Fritz for you. I must finish now, wishing you the best of luck and hoping you will make thousands of more rounds, and remain, yours truly, G. Randall (Sergt.), R.F.A., B.E.F.”
Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 10th October 1916

Thursday, 6 October 2016

A Conscientious Objector and his Family

Springfield Road, Leighton Buzzard [Z1432/1/2]

Friday 6th October 1916: The Guardians of the Leighton Buzzard Poor Law Union have been asked to provide information in relation to William Rose, a conscientious objector from Linslade. Mr. Rose was convicted at a court martial for disobedience of lawful commands, and his case has been sent by the Central Appeal Tribunal to the committee for the employment of conscientious objectors. The Home Office has provided that where such men are to be employed on work of national importance, separation allowances will be paid to their dependents if necessary. The Relieving Officer for Leighton is now making inquiries into the situation of Mr. Rose’s wife, who lives at 10, Springfield Road, Linslade. He has been asked to find out how many children the couple have, what their average weekly income was before Mr. Rose’s arrest, and how this compares to their current average weekly income. If it seems likely that the family would otherwise be forced to claim poor law relief, Mrs. Rose will receive a separation allowance.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 10th October 1916

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

War Bonuses

Z1130/10/58/4, Postcard of Town Hall, St Paul's Square, 1905 (Bedfordshire Archives)
Wednesday 4th October: A special meeting of the Bedford Town Council was held to consider the question of war bonuses for educational employees who are on less than £200 a year, irrespective of gender. The bonuses proposed ranged from 7.5 per cent to 15 per cent of the salary, in proportion to the salary received. The meeting was used as an opportunity to discuss all war bonuses. Alderman Browning pointed out that war bonuses had been liberal, as it was not expected that the war would last long. However, there were a good many people not entitled to it - families who had been struggling before the war and were now having to grapple with the increased cost of living. A discussion followed about the risks associated with reducing current bonuses, not least loss of faith. The Mayor agreed that current bonuses should remain the same and he carried a successful resolution that the matter of all war bonuses (which require expenditure of around £1,600 per year) be handed over to the Finance Committee to consider.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 6/10/1916

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Last Moments of a Zeppelin

Monday 2nd October 1916: Ten airships crossed the East Coast of England last night; two of them on a mission to attack London. One was driven off but the second was brought down near to Potters Bar, close enough for residents in the south of Bedfordshire to witness the event. Those standing on the Midland footbridge at Luton Railway Station had a particularly good view as the Zeppelin fell from the sky in flames, and the whole town was illuminated by the blaze. In Dunstable many people had just missed seeing the airship shot down at Cuffley last month, and when they heard the Zeppelin alarm they made their way to positions likely to offer a good vantage point. For a short time Dunstable was flooded by a light which was remarkably bright, considering the distance of the town from the place where the menace of the air was shot down. At Silsoe a dull red light suddenly appeared in the sky around midnight, followed by flames which shot up to a good height. The Zeppelin gradually fell and the light diminished, disappearing completely after three minutes.

Source: Luton News, 5th October 1916