Sunday, 30 April 2017

Leighton Buzzard Scouts Receive Awards

Leighton Buzzard Scouts [Z1432] 

Monday 30th April 1917: The 1st Leighton Troop of Boy Scouts have been presented with awards today by the Vicar, Reverend G. F. Hills, who congratulated the boys on belonging to the organisation and on the many brave deeds performed by Scouts during the war. Four boys received tenderfoot badges, five were awarded Second Class Scout badges, and nineteen were given service stars. Assistant Scoutmaster Linney received his warrant, together with a framed picture of Patrol Leader George King of the Leighton Troop, who laid down his life for his country. A lady worker’s badge was given to Miss Yirrell, a Red Cross nurse who teaches the boys ambulance work. After the presentation of the awards the Troop was inspected by Miss Enderby and Miss Davey, of Pine Croft, Heath Road, who were impressed with the smartness and discipline of the boys. After the ceremony the boys marched through the town accompanied by the band, which has improved under the leadership of Mr. Costiff. More helpers are needed to teach the boys ambulance and other work so that the size of the Troop can be increased.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 8th May 1917

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Luton Stretcher Bearer Dies to Save Comrade

Frederick Allen

Sunday 29th April 1917: Private Frederick R. Allen, a company stretcher bearer with the Bedfordshire Regiment was killed during intense fighting at Arras on Easter Tuesday when he left his shelter to move a stretcher case to a safer position. In a letter to his parents his commanding officer describes the circumstances of their son’s death:
“For something like 24 hours he and other stretcher bearers worked very hard carrying wounded men out of the line to a dressing station. One of them was Richardson, whose home was at Maulden and who came out with the same draft as your son. While they were at the dressing station shells fell so close that Richardson asked the bearers to shift his position. Your son and two others left their shelter to go to the stretcher. At that moment your son and another bearer, named Mossman, were killed by a shell. The man on the stretcher and another bearer were not hit. The knowledge that your son died a noble death while saving a comrade will, I hope, help to temper your feelings of sorrow. He was a son to be proud of.”
Private Allen was 27 years old, and before joining up in March 1916 he was employed by Messrs. C. Clay of Waldeck Road, Luton as a velvet cutter.

Source: Luton News 26th April 1916

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Casualties at Arras

Unicorn Hotel, Lake Street, Leighton Buzzard c.1910 [Z1432/2]

Friday 27th April 1917: News is arriving at Leighton Buzzard of local casualties suffered in the Arras area, where intense fighting has been taking place since the 9th of April. Two sons of Mr. and Mrs. J. Stevens of the Unicorn Hotel in Lake Street, Trooper Tom Stevens of the Hussars and Lance-Corporal Jack Stevens of the Yeomanry, have both been wounded. Before the war Tom was ranching in America and Jack was farming in Canada, but both came home to enlist. They have been serving in France for two years, and were both wounded in the fighting leading up to the battle. Jack suffered a shrapnel wound in the leg while building a bridge, and Tom was wounded in both thighs during a charge. Reports say that both are progressing well in hospital. Fred Dimmock, the son of Mrs. Dimmock of 55 North Street has been reported wounded in the shoulder. His mother, a widow with a young family, has already lost seven nephews in the war. This is the second time Fred, who enlisted at the beginning of the War, has been wounded

Worse news has been received in Bedford Street, where Mr. and Mrs. Roberts have  been notified that their younger son Sidney has been killed in action. Sidney had been working in the family’s blacksmith’s business but volunteered to take the place of his brother Sidney, who was invalided out of the Army after his health broke down. Miss W. Horn of Mill Road has heard that her brother Private A. Horn of the Canadian Regiment has died of the effects of severe gunshot wounds to his thigh. Before emigrating to Canada Private Horn worked at the Leighton Buzzard Wire Works.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 1st May 1917

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Wedding at Bedford

Banksia Roses (Wikimedia, Creative Commons)
Wednesday 25th April 1917: A wedding of considerable local interest took place today at St Mary’s Church, Bedford. The bride was Edith Florence Killick, youngest daughter of Caleb Killick of Bedford. The bridegroom was Captain Ernest James Howard of the Royal Flying Corps, eldest son of Mr and Mrs Howard of Essex. Miss Killick was a member of the Bedford branch of the Red Cross Society and did valuable work for the Society over a considerable period of time. She also assisted the Clerk of the Borough Tribunal ably.

The bride was given away by her father and was simply attired in a dress of ivory crepe de chine and serge, with hand embroideries in cream and silver. She carried a bouquet of pink carnations and white heather. The bridesmaid looked pretty in pink crepe de chine with a wreath of Banksia roses. The mother of the bridegroom wore a dress of black silk and carried a bouquet of Parma violets. Following the reception, the happy couple left for Bournemouth. The presents included a framed engraving from the Chairman of the Bedford Tribunal (the Mayor), a silver cream jug and sugar basin from the Town Clerk and a canteen of cutlery from the bridegroom’s fellow officers at Farnborough.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 4/5/1917

Edith Killick attended Bedford Modern School for Girls. Her wedding is recorded in the Old Girls' Association Newsletter of January 1918, held at Bedfordshire Archives (see under 'Personalia' below)

DAH9/1/7/6, Old Girls' Association Newsletter, January 1918 (Bedfordshire Archives & Records Service)

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Leighton Buzzard Soldier Describes German Retreat at Arras

Dudley Street, Leighton Buzzard 1908 [Z1130/72/70]

Sunday 22nd April 1917: Over the past couple of weeks a great battle has been taking place around Arras. The British attack has succeeded in pushing back the Germans, though whether this will prove to be a breakthrough that will end the deadlock at the Front remains to be seen. Mr and Mrs. G. A. Hull of Dudley Street, Leighton Buzzard, have received an exciting account of the German retreat from their son, Trooper Arthur Hull.
“The past week has been the most exciting time of my life. Last Saturday we were out on a field scheme when suddenly a dispatch rider came along with the order to return to camp at once and move off in marching order up the line, as the Germans were retreating. How excited we all were to think that after two years we were going in. We have been after the Germans ever since. Where the German trenches had been our artillery had wrought terrible havoc. It is absolutely indescribable; everything was battered to atoms … After scouring the country round for miles we came across the Huns and got a few shots from and at them, and my troop took our one and only prisoner so far. We have been on the go ever since, scouting the country to find Fritz, and I reckon in a straight line he must have retreated a good twenty miles on this front. … In one town my own troop were in advance, and were the first Allied soldiers seen for two and a half years. I shall never forget the scene as long as I live. The people were almost mad and the tears of joy streamed down their cheeks. They clutched at our arms as we rode in, and when we dismounted the girls and women absolutely hung round our necks, smothered us with kisses, and held up their kiddies to be kissed.
 We had to wait at this place until the Engineers came up and threw a bridge across the Somme, and then on we went. We have been doing about fifteen hours in the saddle daily, and have had very little sleep. Several nights have been spent in the fields on outpost duty, and two or three nights we have had a few hours’ sleep anywhere we could get. I saw a terrific fight a few days ago between four planes, and one French plane came down. One day four Bosch planes rained machine gun fire on us like water, but their aim was not good enough when we scattered … Our great difficulty is to get water. The Huns destroyed or poisoned every well they saw, and some have had to go back for water every morning. We are all very tired and shall not be sorry to be relieved. We are waiting for the artillery and infantry to come up. I haven’t had my clothes off or had a wash or a shave since we started, so you can guess we are handsome creatures.”
Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 17th April 1917

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Schoolgirl Death - Inquest at Cardington

Z1306/24/6, Kings Arms, Cardington. View from Cople Road, 1922 (Bedfordshire Archives & Records Service)

Friday 20 April 1917: Today an inquest resumed into the death of schoolgirl Jennie Evans. It took place at the Kings Arms, Cardington, and was presided over by the Deputy Coroner for the County. Jennie attended Bedford Modern School and was reported missing from her home on George Street, Bedford, on 14th February. Her body was found last Sunday in the river. Dr A.F. Goldsmith testified that no signs of violence were found on the body, though the body was decomposed from having been in the river for so long. Both hands were clenched and it was his opinion that the girl had died by drowning. It was likely that the girl did not suffer from melancholia, the clenched hands indicating that she had attempted to save herself.  

On the morning of the 14th February, there were missed signs of Jennie’s fate. One witness stated that he had noticed a schoolgirl’s hat floating along the river at the foot of the weir. He reached it easily and plucked it from the water to see if there was a name in the hat. Having found none, he hung it on the fence, assuming it would be reclaimed. Another witness stated that he had seen what he thought was a horse rug floating in the river and had no inkling that it could have been a body.

The body was recently discovered at Fenlake Barns, wedged against a tree. Jennie was fully dressed, wearing gloves and had a ribbon in her hair. She was wearing a blanket overcoat, a gym suit and lace-up boots. Since 22nd February, the river had been searched by police, but a school bag had not been found. 

The girls’ mother testified that Jennie was 17 years old, but looked younger. She was never melancholy or depressed and was fond of studying, particularly art. She used to admire the little island by the river and intended to paint it. She was happy at home, punctual at school and well-liked. On the 14th February, Jennie left home at her usual time of 8.30am, as she liked to get to school ten minutes early, and she often took the route by the river. Jennie’s art mistress, Miss Jones, testified that Jennie was of above-average ability and that she had given her class homework that involved studying the river.

In summing-up, the Coroner said there was no doubt in his mind as to the verdict, that of ‘accidental death’, which the jury returned.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 20/4/1917

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Luton Men Describe Sinking of Troop Ship Tyndareus

Wednesday 18th April 1917: Two Luton soldiers have written describing their experiences on the transport ship Tyndareus, which sank after hitting a mine off the coast of Africa on 6th February. Corporal Stephen Toyer of the Middlesex Regiment, whose home is at 15 Tavistock Street, wrote to his mother:
“You no doubt know what happened to our ship on the night of February 6th. Thank God, I have got through with my life! That is all, as I have not anything at present – lost everything, kit and money, etc. I have only got a cap, shirt, and trousers. … It was a godsend the Lord gave us a moonlight night, or we should not have got off so easy as we did, for I got drenched with water caused by the crash.”
Private Frederick Gilbert wrote the following to his wife, who lives at 42 Albert Road:
“I suppose you have heard about us having an accident to our ship. We reached Cape Town on February 5th, and after a march through the town started again for the next port. We had been on the water twelve hours and three quarters when there was a bang near the fo’castle. Two ships came to our assistance and we were all saved. How near to death we must have been! Lucky the sea was calm to what it is generally. We were 108 miles from Cape Town. … I thank God that we have been saved from a watery grave. The people here [at Wynberg] are very good to us. They gave us a concert, and the Town Hall is open to us. We get black grapes, for which you would have be pay 1s 6d a pound for, for 1½d a pound. We each had a bag of tobacco and a handkerchief given to us, for which they subscribed in the town.”
 Source: Luton News 19th April 1917

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Luton War Hero Wounded

Lieutenant Arthur Andrews

Sunday 15th April 1917: The wife of Luton war hero Second Lieutenant Arthur Andrews, who was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and bar in 1915 has been notified that her husband has been seriously wounded. He is now in hospital in Manchester, where an operation has been performed to remove shrapnel from both his legs. In a postcard to his wife he told her not to worry and that he was as comfortable as possible. She also received the a letter from her husband’s fellow officer, Second Lieutenant George White, telling her of the circumstances: “I have heard from his servant that in bombing a dug-out one of the men accidentally dropped a bomb at Mr. Andrews’ feet. I have been told that his wounds are not serious, he getting one or two splinters from the bomb which compelled him to go to hospital”. 

A soldier with fourteen years in the Army, Lt. Andrews was given a commission in February of this year. His decorations were for showing conspicuous gallantry and ability in keeping telephone communication intact, often superintending the repair of wires under heavy fire. When home on leave his extreme modesty prevented him ever mentioning the deeds for which he was honoured. Lt. Andrews and his wife have four young children, and it is hoped that he will make a quick recovery.[1]

Source: Luton News 19th April 1917

[1] In fact the injuries were worse than initially indicated and one leg had to be amputated, ending Lt. Andrews’ military career [Luton Times 27 September 1917]

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Stanbridge Baker Prosecuted for Selling Underweight Loaves

Corn Exchange, Lake Street, Leighton Buzzard c.1900 [Z1306/72/9/2]

Thursday 12th April 1917: Baker Leonard Charles Jones of Stanbridge has pleaded guilty at the Luton Divisional Police Court to being in possession of an unjust scale at Totternhoe on 21st March and to offering for sale an underweight loaf on the same date. This was the first case brought under the new Bread Order of the Food Controller which provides that no loaf of bread should be offered for sale unless it weighs one pound or an even number of pounds. With the current high price of bread it is considered essential to ensure that the Bread Order is rigidly enforced.

Frederick George Hyde, an employee of Mr. Jones, was seen selling bread at Totternhoe from a cart, using a scale from which a bearing was missing at one end. If the bread was put on one end of the scale it would be two ounces against the customer, and if on the other it would be two ounces against the seller. When the loaves were checked the majority were found to be the proper weight of one or two pounds. However, one loaf was found to be one ounce six drams underweight. While this may appear a small amount it amounts to a fairly thick slice. If the baker had one hundred customers and supplied them with two loaves each, it would be the equivalent of filching from them sixty loaves in a week.

The Inspector of Weights and Measures for the county produced the offending scale, which was clearly in an unsatisfactory condition with the leverage affected by the missing bearing. Mr. Jones said the Inspector had used and inspected the scales many times before and they must have been correct. He knew nothing about the little piece broken off the end, and could not explain it unless it was a result of the continual jarring of the cart on the rough, country roads. The Inspector stated that Mr. Jones had occasionally submitted the scales for checking at the Corn Exchange in Leighton Buzzard, but the last time he had tested them was at least six months earlier. The Chairman of the Bench imposed a fine of 40 shillings for the faulty scales and 20 shillings for the underweight loaf, making it clear that when people were struggling with the high price of food such matters would be taken very seriously indeed. The scales were to be confiscated.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 17th April 1917

Monday, 10 April 2017

10,000 Women Wanted for Farm Work

Women from agricultural college hoeing at Arlesey House [Z49/495]

Tuesday 10th April 1917: Advertisements have appeared in the local newspapers asking for 10,000 women to volunteer for National Service with the Women’s Land Army. 5000 milkers, 4000 field workers, and 1000 carters are needed immediately. Benefits for women who enrol will be:

1. A free outfit, high boots, breeches, overall and hat.
2. Maintenance during training.
3. Travelling expense in connection with the work.
4. Wages 18 shillings per week, or the district rate, whichever is the higher.
5. Maintenance during term of unemployment.
6. Housing personally inspected and approved by the Women’s County Committees of the Board of Agriculture.
7. Work on carefully selected farms.
8. Promotion – good work rewarded by promotion and higher pay.
9. After the War, special facilities for settlement at home or overseas.

Source: Luton News, 5th April 1917

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Memorial to Highlanders, Bedford Cemetery

Monday 9th April 1917: On Easter Monday a memorial cross in Bedford Cemetery was dedicated by the Reverend Canon Speck (Vicar of St Paul’s). The Cross was erected in the memory of the Highlanders and Welsh Divisions who died while in training at Bedford. During the service, heavy snow fell and was accompanied by peals of thunder. The memorial cross bears the following inscription:

‘To the Glory of God. These memorial crosses were erected by many Bedford and other friends, and are dedicated to perpetuate the memory of those men of the Highland Division and Welsh Divisions who died at Bedford while in training for active service, 1914-1915.’

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 13/4/1917

Thursday, 6 April 2017

MP’s Support for Women’s Suffrage

Women’s Social and Political Union Poster 1909 [Wikimedia]

Friday 6th April 1917: Mr. Lionel de Rothschild, the Member of Parliament for Aylesbury whose Buckinghamshire constituency includes the town of Linslade, has voted in favour of a resolution to bring forward legislation which would grant women the right to vote. In the following letter he explains that he has changed his mind on the issue of women’s suffrage as a result of the participation of so many women in the war effort:
“As in my election address I stated that I was totally opposed to the extension of the franchise to women I think it only right to inform all my friends in Buckinghamshire that I am one of those who have changed their views since War began. I feel most strongly that the many millions of women workers who are now in existence in this country working for the State, giving their time, their liberty, and their health to the attainment of the ideals which this country has set up, should be entitled to a part in the decision of the great questions which must shortly come before the British Parliament. I agree that perhaps it may not be advisable to grant the franchise to women on exactly similar lines to that given to men at the present time, but for various reasons I feel convinced that some measure of Woman Franchise is urgent just now.”
Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 10th April 1917

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Luton Mayor's Son Wounded

John Henry Staddon, formerly Mayor of Luton, as High Sheriff of Bedfordshire 1938-9 [Z49/261]

Wednesday 4th April 1917: News has been received of two of the sons of Luton’s Mayor John Henry Staddon. His eldest son, Lieutenant Wilfred Staddon, was initially reported missing in action in September last year, but was soon afterwards found in a Red Cross Hospital in Rouen suffering from a bullet wound in the back. He had been at home in Luton recovering from his injury, but was making only slow progress and has now been admitted to hospital in Cambridge for further treatment. Lieutenant Staddon enlisted in the Inns of Court Officers’ Training Corps (known as “The Devil’s Own”) in May 1915 and was commissioned in the East Surrey Regiment in the following September. The Mayor’s youngest son Lieutenant C. E. Staddon has written to his parents to tell them he has arrived safely in India. He was met on his arrival by the Revd. Frank Hart; formerly connected with the Waller Street Methodist Circuit in Luton, he is now the senior Wesleyan Chaplain in Bombay.

Sources: Luton News 21 September 1916 & 5th April 1917 [for more information on Lt. Wilfred Staddon see Luton WW1]

Monday, 3 April 2017

Assault-at-Arms at Bedford Grammar

AD 3814, Programme for Annual Assault-at-Arms, 1893 (Bedfordshire Archives & Records Service)
Tuesday 3rd April 1917: An annual assault-at-arms at Bedford Grammar School attracted a large audience of ladies and gentleman, as well as scholars. The boys displayed their gymnastic skills, performing on the parallel bars, horizontal bars, rope-climbing and sword fighting. The boys also demonstrated their physical prowess in displays of boxing, wrestling, a bayonet fight and free marching. The audience was particularly appreciative of the vault horse display, whereby the boys leaped over two lads standing and sitting on a horse.

During an interval in the programme the Headmaster (R Carter) praised the gymnastic standards and thanked Sergeant Fowler who had worked strenuously in the absence of Sergeant Brookes, serving at the Front. Gymnastic medals were awarded to two seniors (Earles and Hockliffe) and two juniors (Ashton and Seegar), and a fencing medal was awarded to Halsey. At the close the Head Boy thanked the Headmaster and the national anthem was played.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 5/4/1917