Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Wife Claims Maintenance from Ex-Soldier

Washing day for soldiers billeted in Luton, August 1914 [Z1306/75/16/5]

Thursday 28th June 1917: A case has been heard at the Luton Borough Court in which Edith S. Osborn, a young wife with two infants, claimed maintenance arrears from her husband Walter Henry Osborn. She had married Osborn while he was billeted in Luton at the beginning of the war. He was wounded in action at Ypres and discharged from the army. There were allegations that he had been very cruel to his wife and she was granted a separation order with payment of fifteen shillings a week. Mr. Osborn is now in London, and sent to the Police Court Missionary (Mr. Hawkes) a letter complaining of his poverty-stricken state, saying he did not know when he would get his next pension allowance. He admitted that he received 35 shillings a week, but said he “could not have got about unless a gentleman had given him a pair of trousers” and that his boots were in holes. His wife told the magistrates that her father, who was a naval pensioner was keeping her. The Mayor was reluctant to send her husband to prison and adjourned the case in the hope that Mr. Hawkes would be able to do something for the Mrs. Osborn.

Source: Luton News, 28th June 1917

Monday, 26 June 2017

Leighton Buzzard Officer Decorated for Gallantry

Almshouse residents photographed at Heathwood by Mr. Robert Richmond [P91/25/36b]

Tuesday 26th June 1917: Mr. Robert Richmond of Heathwood, Leighton Buzzard has already suffered the two of his three sons, one at the Somme last year and the second earlier this year. LINK He has now received much better news of his only surviving son, Acting Captain George William Richmond of the Royal Engineers Special Reserve. Captain Richmond has been awarded the Distinguished Service Order with the following citation:

“For conspicuous gallantry and determination while forcing a passage of the river. His coolness and resource were mainly responsible for the successful launching of the pontoons which effected the crossing, and his attitude was an inspiring example to all under his command. He has previously done fine work.”

Captain Richmond carried out his heroic action during the successful British assault on the city of Baghdad in March. The work was carried out under heavy fire, and the whole attack would probably have been held up without Captain Richmond’s successful feat. The Distinguished Service Order is one of the highest decorations which can be given to a soldier, exceeded in rank only by the Victoria Cross. It is only available to officers – the nearest equivalent for other ranks is the Distinguished Conduct Medal – and it is rarely awarded.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 26th June 1917

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Bedford Military Medallist Killed

Wilfred Hammond [Z1360/2/5]

Sunday 24th June 1917: Tragically the young Bedford soldier Sergeant Wilfred Hammond, from whom we heard recently about his work as acting quartermaster, has been killed in action at the age of just 19. His parents have received the following letter from his commanding officer:
“I very much regret to inform you that during the recent heavy fighting your son was killed on the morning of the 7th. As his Company Commander, I am able to speak in the very highest terms of him. He was an extremely reliable and conscientious sergeant, and more than that, a very gallant soldier. He had recently been acting temporarily as my quartermaster-sergeant, and in that position, as in every position he held, his work was done extraordinarily well. I am returning to you a letter you enclosed in a parcel sent out to him, which was received here after his death. The contents of the parcel were distributed among the men of his platoon, as he would himself have wished, I feel sure. The officers, N.C.O’s and men of the Company wish to join with me in expressing their sincere sympathy with you in your great bereavement, and may I express the hope that time will tend to soften the heavy grief you have been called upon to bear.”  
His mother also received the following tribute from the electricity works in Cauldwell Road where he worked before the war: 
“I was much distressed to hear of the death of your brave son. For a boy of his age he was unusually good and would soon have improved his position here so that I am not surprised to hear that he did so well. From the time when the war commenced he was impatient to join the Army and, on account of his age, I tried to persuade him to wait but he took the matter into his own hands and I am sure that, however distressing his early death may be to those he leaves behind, he has been happier for being allowed to fulfil so great a destiny.”
Sources: Hammond family papers [Z1360/1/60-61]; Bedfordshire Standard 22nd June 1917

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Serious Fire at Bedford

Aftermath of the fire [AD1082/4a]

Friday 22nd June 1917: Last night saw the biggest fire Bedford has seen in modern times. It broke out before ten o’clock at Messrs. Hobson and Co.’s timber wharf near the river and devastated about two acres of buildings and wood sheds with their contents. The fire was spotted in its early stages by three young men in the gardens near the Picturedrome. They searched for buckets and water but without success, and the fire soon took hold and the position became hopeless. The Fire Brigade were assisted by their own supernumeraries, the Borough police and special constabulary, and by soldiers in training at Bedford, but the flammable nature of the oils, paints and wood on the premises meant the fire continued to spread. They were also hindered in deploying their hose when it was found that the hydrant opposition the Bridge Hotel had been damaged and was unusable. Fortunately the wind blew the flames across the river and the Brigade were able to prevent it spreading to the south, saving St. Mary’s and Cauldwell Street. However, they were unable to stop the adjacent premises, Messrs Newland and Nash’s malting, from being engulfed by the fire. By midnight the fire had largely burnt itself out and the mill and wood shed had been reduced to a scene of smouldering desolation.

Source: Bedford Volunteer Fire Brigade scrapbook [AD1082/4a]

Monday, 19 June 2017

Water Shortages

Water Tower, Stanbridge Road, Leighton Buzzard [Z1432/2]

Tuesday 19th June 1917: The following notice was issued by Leighton Buzzard Urban District Council on Saturday:   
WATER SUPPLYIn consequence of the shortage of water at this period of the year, the above Council request householders not to use more than is necessary for domestic purposes, and to avoid any waste by running taps, etc. Standpipes should be turned off immediately after use.Leaking taps should be reported at once to the Water Engineer, and the same will be re-washered free of charge.Water for “domestic purposes” does not include water for gardens, lawns, etc. Water used for the latter purposes must be paid for according to the scale of charges under the Council’s Water Regulations.In every case where water is used for other than domestic purposes notice should be given at the Council Offices, or to the Water Engineer.Penalties are provided under the Waterworks Clauses Acts for waste or misuse of water.

The Urban District Council of Linslade has now followed suit with a similar edict:
WASTE OF WATERNOTICEAttention having been called to the serious waste of water caused by leaking taps and defective fittings on private property, and the unauthorised use of water for garden purposes in the district.Notice is hereby given that proceedings under the Public Health Act (Waterworks Act) will be taken against any person wilfully allowing any waste or leakage or misuse to occur on his or her premises.NOTE. – It is the duty of every tenant immediately to inform his or her landlord or landlady, of any defective pipe, tap, or fitting, and to report same to the Council in writing.
The need for these ordinances had become acute. Not only has water wastage by consumers become an issue of national importance, but a considerable amount of water is being lost due to burst service pipes. During May the Water Engineer for Leighton Buzzard had to repair to burst pipes in South Street, North Street, St. Andrew’s Street and Market Square. A plan has been draw up of the water distribution system showing where shut-off valves are situated, and five additional valves are to be installed to allow for better control of the system when carrying out repairs.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 5th and 26th June 1917

Friday, 16 June 2017

Father Sees Son Buried in France

Drawing of Bailey Hill Methodist Church 1898 [MB2274a]

Saturday 16th June 1917: Pioneer Manning, of Frederic Street, Luton, was recently present at the funeral of his twenty year old son Pioneer Harry Manning of the Royal Engineers which took place behind the lines in France. The chaplain who carried out the service has written a letter of sympathy to the young man’s mother, in which he explains that her son was brought in suffering from gas poisoning and could not be saved, although everything possible was done for him. Harry Manning enlisted in the Bedfordshire Regiment in August 1915 and went to France in April last year. He was wounded twice during the Battle of the Somme. In January he transferred to the Royal Engineers and served with them in various parts of the Western Front. Just a week before his death he was transferred to the same company as his father, who was able to see him after he was gassed but before he died. Before the war he worked for a hairdresser in High Town Road, Luton and was a member of the Bailey Hill Church Choir. He was expecting leave when he was killed. His father is now at home on leave, but will return to France tomorrow.

Source: Luton News, 14th June 1917

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

German Prisoners-of-War at Woburn

German prisoners marching along Woburn Sands High Street to work in Duke of Bedford’s woods, 1917 [Z887/2]

Thursday 13th June 1917: The commandant of the internment camp for German prisoners of war at Woburn has been asked if he would allow some of the prisoners to help with the work of potato spraying; this is now being recommended to allotment holders to help avoid blight. He was rather reluctant as he had in the past taken a great deal of trouble to arrange to provide prisoners as labourers, only to find out that they were not wanted after all. When they were employed in gardening and agricultural work experience showed that the prisoners proved very satisfactory, and he would expect to get permission from the War Office if application was made to him in good time. However, he was now “sick of the labour question” and did not intend to waste time pleading with people to employ the Germans. There was plenty of lumber work available for them.

While the German prisoners may make efficient and civil labourers, not all have been prepared to co-operate with their captors. Only a couple of weeks ago one of the prisoners escaped from Woburn Camp and the special constables had to be called out to search for him. He was spotted coming out of Copse Spinney in the parish of Battlesden apparently making for Watling Street, and was recaptured and returned to Woburn by two policemen.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 5th and 19th June 1917

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Heavy Casualties for Sundon

Private Percy Hull senior and Private Percy Hull junior

Sunday 10th June 1917: The experiences of the village of Sundon give an idea of the impact the war is having on many small communities. From a population of only around 350 people, around 60 have joined the forces. In the area known as ‘Slate Hall’ in Upper Sundon nearly every house has suffered a casualty in the recent fighting. Private Percy Hull and his son Private Percy John Hull enlisted together and have both been wounded. The father was hit in the side and head at the Somme in October last year and has now been discharged from the Army; the son was sounded at Arras on April 24th and is now progressing favourably in hospital. A second son, 19 year old Gunner Fred Hull enlisted last October and is now on his way to the Front. Sergeant Fred Marlow enlisted as a private in the Bedfordshire Regiment in November 1915 and was killed on April 29th, the day after receiving promotion to the rank of sergeant. He was “just going to send a fairy light up for a signal for the artillery to open fire, when a sniper shot him through the head.” Sergeant Marlow’s brother George, who enlisted with the Bedfords in December 1914, has been wounded twice and hospitalised with a skin disease, but has now returned to his regiment. Their uncle, Private C Marlow is a patient in a military hospital in Yorkshire after serving at the Front, and his cousin Private Fred Marlow is in Egypt with the Essex Regiment.

The wife of Private John Jellis was notified last September that her husband was missing. After eight months of uncertainty she finally received official notification last month that he had been killed in action. Before the war her husband worked at the Gas Works in Luton. Another Sundon man, Private Arthur Eames, was reported missing on April 29th; his sister is anxious for any information regarding her brother. Another brother, Private T. Eames served in France for 16 months before suffering a wound so severe that his arm was amputated above the elbow. He is now waiting for his official discharge and for admission to Roehampton hospital to receive an artificial arm. Other Sundon casualties include Private George Hull (killed in April) [1]; his brother Private Frank Hull (wounded);Private John Day (wounded); Private Herbert Ward Sanders (wounded); and Lance-Corporal Muckleston (gassed accidentally at a gassing school)

Source: Luton News, 7th June 1917

[1] No relation to the Hull family mentioned above. Twenty one men are listed on the Sundon war memorial; most were killed later in 1917 or in 1918. 

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Two Soldiers Reported Missing

St. Barnabas Church, Linslade c.1920 [Z1130/74/8]

Friday 8th June 1917: Acting-Sergeant Charles Harris, aged 42 and formerly of 8 Water Lane, Leighton Buzzard has been reported missing. Sergeant Harris is a Boer War veteran, who joined the Army at the age of 18. At the beginning of this war he was working at the Wire Works in Leighton Buzzard. Although he was no longer liable to be called up, he volunteered to rejoin the Army and was attached to the Berkshire Regiment. His wife and daughter are now living with her parents at 36, Bassett Road.

A Linslade mother is undergoing the same terrible anxiety. Mrs Janes of Soulbury Road is waiting for news of her youngest son, Private Claude Janes of the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. He took part in an unsuccessful attack on 3rd May and was wounded while crawling from one shell hole to another. He has not been seen since and it is hoped that he may have been taken prisoner.[1] Private Janes is just 19 years old and a former choir boy at St. Barnabas Church in Linslade. He has two brothers also serving in the Army, one in France and the other in Salonica.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 12th June 1917

[1] Sadly both Sergeant Harris and Private Janes were killed in action on 3rd May 1917. Both are commemorated on the Arras Memorial. 

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

A Quarter-Master's Work

Wilfred Hammond [Z1360/2/5]

Thursday 7th June 1917: Sergeant Wilfred Hammond of the King’s Royal Rifles has written home from the Front describing his work as an acting quartermaster:
“At present I am doing Quarter-“blokes” work having taken our Company Quarter-Master Sergeant’s. place while he is on leave. As you probably do not know anything about this item, I will try to explain the work. A CQMS is the man responsible for the supply of everything a soldier needs from a needle and cotton down (or rather up) to the daily rations. Naturally the latter is the chief concern, dealing with a Company of men and wen the Company is in the line the Quarter-master puts the rations into sand-bags and escorts them up to the trenches to the boys. At present my rations go up on pack mules and this frequently causes fun when the said mules play the fool and start stunting about with a pile of rations converting them into Dromedaries.”
 He also recounts an “peculiar incident” in which he was involved:
“I had just stepped out of a trench onto a road when a single horseman was coming down the road at a good pace. When just against me he did a peculiar motion and off came his tin hat. I didn’t look at the man and horse but trotted back for his tin had, and having got it and turned round, I couldn’t see the rider but the horse seemed to have changed shape somewhat. With that rapidity so worthy of the Derwent Duffs I yelled “Are you all right” when through the moonlit air came back “No, I b— well ain’t!” Upon investigating I found the rider hanging upside down under the horse’s stomach with one foot through the stirrup. I grip him and heave him on to the horse’s back and obviously I heave him on with his back to the horse’s head.”
Wilfred Hammond previously worked for the Bedford Borough Electric Light Department, but left to join the army while he was still under military age. He has been in France since Empire Day 1916, and in September last year he was awarded the Military Medal for great presence of mind in action when he took charge of a Lewis gun against the enemy, although this was not work for which he was trained. He anticipates that he will be back in action again soon: “Everything here is quite alright at present but I think we shall see some fun shortly. Mark time on that!”

Sources: Hammond family papers [Z1360/1/59]; Bedfordshire Standard, 22nd June 1917

Monday, 5 June 2017

Policemen as Soldiers

Police parade in Luton, c.1912 [Z1306/75/19/13]

Tuesday 5th June 1917: Two more Luton Borough police officers have volunteered for military service, bringing the total number who have left the Borough Force to serve in the army to fourteen. At the beginning of the War there were 52 police officers in Luton, and the increase in population means that figure should now have risen to 60, but only 36 are now available, including the Chief Constable. The County Divisional Force is also suffering from an acute manpower shortage. It should have a strength of 25 men, but ten have left for the army and two are absent through illness. There are no unmarried men left in either Force. Police Superintendent Panter has paid tribute to the work of the special constables; without their assistance it would be impossible for the police to carry out their work with so few officers.

Source: Luton News, 7th June 1917

Friday, 2 June 2017

Attempted Burglary at Clapham Park Lodge

Z50/29/9, View of West Lodge, c.1930 (Bedfordshire Archives & Records Service)
Saturday 2nd June 1917:  The Bedford Division Bench is told how a plucky Beatrice Hart chased off a midnight intruder at Clapham Park Lodge. Private Thomas Pyle Porthouse was charged with breaking and entering West Lodge on 27th May. Mrs Hart, whose husband is at war, testified that Porthouse called at her Lodge gate asking for a drink of water. She gave him some water and the soldier then went away, disappearing into the bushes. Before going to bed, she made sure the doors and windows were securely fastened. At 11.30, she heard someone moving around at the back and a window being rattled and forced open. Mrs Hart dressed herself and the children and heard the door from the scullery to the hallway being opened. She shouted: “Clear out, or I will shoot your brains out”. She had an air gun and fired it at the door. She then sent her boy and girl to the coachman’s house and Mr Plumber came within ten minutes. Together, they examined the house and found nobody there. However, the scullery window had been opened and Mrs Hart’s bicycle light had been taken and used as a lamp on the scullery shelf. The dog kennel had been placed underneath the window. Footprints led to the window from the rose borders, from which the police were able to take a plaster cast and identify Porthouse. That evening, Porthouse had been round for supper at East Lodge with Rose Broughton and had obviously used the opportunity to make an attempt on West Lodge.

Porthouse had nothing to say at the Bedford Bench and was committed to the approaching Assizes. Porthouse was also committed to trial for stealing a razor belonging to a fellow soldier, Henry Forrester, whom he was billeted with in Milton Ernest.

Source: Bedford Record 5/6/1917