Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Bedfordshire Regiment Comforts Fund

Lt-Col. Reginald Le Huquet © IWM (HU 124051)

Thursday 29th November 1917: Colonel Tilly, the Honorable Secretary of Lady Ampthill’s Comforts Fund for the Bedfordshire Regiment received the following letter from Lieutenant-Colonel Reginald Le Huquet, written on 25th September:
“Dear Colonel Tilly, You were asking me whether I had any suggestions to make about Christmas presents for the men this year. Last year I was with our –th Battalion, and the arrangements you made then were excellent in every way. If you are able to do the same this year I think you will find it very difficult to improve on these arrangements. The gifts were distributed on Christmas Day, and the men were told that they were presents from the people of Bedfordshire, and I can assure you these gifts were very much appreciated. Very many thanks for your offer of footballs and cigarettes. We could do with six footballs if you can spare this number, with a few extra bladders, and cigarettes are of course welcome at all times.”
The Fund was able to fulfil his wishes and Lt-Colonel Le Huquet has sent a further letter in which he thanks Colonel Tilly and requests a large number of socks:
“The footballs arrived the day we came out of the line, and today I have given, as a first issue, 50 cigarettes to every man in the Battalion, saying that they are from the Comforts Fund, Bedford, and I can assure you they are very much appreciated, and on behalf of all ranks I thank you very much indeed for your very kind gift. Football at present is in full swing, and your gift of footballs was more than acceptable. We all appreciate more than I can say your kindness to us all, and if funds are available, and if I am not asking too much, do you think you could manage to let me have 600 pairs of socks? The winter is more or less on us now, and we have the mud and water to contend with. My aim in the trenches is always to be able to give every man of an evening a dry and clean pair of socks, and if I have an extra pair a man this would make things very much easier.”
Source: Bedfordshire Standard, 30th November 1917

Monday, 27 November 2017

A Call for Food Rationing

Potato queue at Kingsbury Farm, Church Street, Dunstable in April 1917 [Z50/36/142]

Tuesday 27th November 1917: Mr. T. A. Foster of 12 Cromwell Road, Luton has written to the Luton News arguing forcefully that the time has come to introduce food rationing in the face of the current “miserable scramble for food”. Continuing to appeal to the better nature of “food hogs” is pointless; meanwhile the responsible members of society are short of almost all necessary foods. He says:

“The greedy part of the community care nothing for talk or warnings. Nothing but drastic action will ever move them. Let us share and share alike, and thus avoid this most humiliating hunt for food. In the name of common sense, why – if the food question is a matter of life and death to the nation – is it still being tampered with? How ludicrous is the position. On the one hand we are being warned and threatened by the Food Controller that we shall have to have compulsory rationing all round, if we are not more moderate in the use of foods. On the other hand we have the great mass of the people everywhere looking forward to compulsory rationing as a relief. Indecision is, and has been throughout the war, our greatest enemy. We see it in every conceivable direction … When, oh when, will our “wobblers cease from wobbling”?

Source: Luton News, 28th November 1917

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Major Evelyn de Rothschild and Hon. Neil Primrose MP Killed

Ascott House, Wing [Wikimedia]

Sunday 25th November 1917: Major Evelyn de Rothschild of Ascott, near Linslade, has died of wounds while fighting in Palestine. Major Evelyn was called home in May when his father, Mr. Leopold de Rothschild was seriously ill, but did not arrive in time to see his father alive or to attend the funeral. He stayed in England for some time before returning to Egypt with his cousin, the Honorable Captain Neil Primrose  who had obtained a commission in the same squadron. Major Evelyn spent much of his life at Ascott where he was able to indulge his great love of horses and hunting. He rarely missed a meet of the Rothschild stag hounds and was very popular in the field. His funeral took place at Cairo on Monday.

Tragically the Hon. Neil Primrose, the younger son of Lord Rosebery of Mentmore Towers, was killed in the same action as his cousin. He had served as the Liberal Member of Parliament for Wisbech since 1910 and had held office as Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Foreign Office, as Military Secretary to the Ministry of Munitions and as a Whip. In 1915 he married Lady Victoria Alice Louise Stanley, the daughter of Minister for War Lord Derby; he leaves an infant daughter.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 20th and 27th November 1917

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Blood Donation by Bedford Soldier

Carluke War Memorial (© Kevin Rae, Wikimedia)

Friday 23rd November 1917: In a heroic act of self-sacrifice a soldier from Bedford has allowed a large quantity of his blood to be transferred to a dying soldier in France. Sapper H. E. Greenaway of the Royal Engineers, the son of Mr. E. Greenaway, a dairyman of Iddesleigh Road, was a member of the Salvation Army Band at Bedford before the war. He joined the Royal Engineers Signal Service on 30th September 1914 and has been in France since September 1915, attached to a number of different companies. He was wounded in July this year. While in hospital at Rouen a volunteer was needed to give a blood transfusion to Gunner Andrew Selkirk of the Royal Field Artillery, who had been wounded at about the same time. Sapper Greenaway came forward and a large amount of his blood was taken. Sadly, the transfusion was not able to save the life of Gunner Selkirk, from Carluke in Scotland. He had been brought into the hospital with an extremely severe wound to his back and left leg from a shell explosion, which was followed by blood poisoning. The soldier’s widow said in an interview that she did not know how to thank Greenaway for the sacrifice he made to try to save her husband, “a noble act” which showed the quality of many of the men fighting for their country.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard, 23rd November 1918

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Dishonesty of an Ex-Soldier

Falcon Public House, Stanbridge Road c.1910 [Z1432/2/2/26]

Wednesday 21st November 1917: Frederick Chadwick, an ex-soldier living at Kempston, has appeared in court at Leighton Buzzard charged with obtaining money by false pretences. Thomas Page, a labourer who lodges at 17 Stanbridge Road told the court he first met Chadwick about two years ago when he was a corporal in the Monmouth Regiment lodging at Page’s daughter’s house in Queen’s Park, Bedford. Earlier this month Chadwick called on Page and borrowed four shillings, saying he was short of money. They went to the Falcon for a drink and to buy a postcard to send to Chadwick’s wife. After tea, Chadwick said he heard that Page had been drinking recently. Page took him upstairs and showed him some paper money as proof that he had not. They spoke about Chadwick’s work – he said he was a special constable looking for deserters, and implied he had his eye on two men working at Morgan’s.

Lodgings were found for Chadwick at the house of Mrs. Florence Lawson at 44 Stanbridge Road. Chadwick joined Page for breakfast and accompanied him to work. On the way he produced a document which he said entitled him to draw £2.15s, but said he could not cash it until Monday and asked to borrow 30 shillings. Page agreed and told Chadwick to go to his lodgings for the money. On Monday Chadwick showed Page an official paper, which appeared to be a bank form for £6 10s. He got Page to sign the form, telling him he was going to draw the money on Thursday, and said that if he did not come back Page could draw it. That night Chadwick again slept again at Mrs. Lawson’s. The next morning he asked her to provide dinner for himself and his wife, but did not return.

Page’s story was corroborated by his landlady, Tamor Field. She said that when Chadwick returned to collect the 30 shillings he claimed Page had agreed to lend more to cover the expense of taking a “deserter” to Cumberland. She had therefore let him have £4. On the Monday Chadwick left a paper he said was a £5 cheque with her for Page, and also asked Page to sign a form which he said would mean £20 in his pocket. Mrs. Lawson said she also believed Chadwick’s story that he was a detective hunting for army deserters. The morning after he first lodged with her he left a man at her house while he went to Miss Field’s. When Chadwick returned the next Monday he said the man he had brought in on Saturday was “one of the biggest scoundrels” he had ever known and was now serving six months in Cumberland. On Monday night Chadwick said he was short of money, and feeling it her duty to help him she lent him 3s 6d. She prepared dinner for Chadwick and his wife on the Tuesday, but he did not return. He had not paid for his lodging.

P.C. Cheshire said that when Chadwick was arrested at Bedford he said he had a pension of 6 shillings a week and would repay all the money at 5 shillings a week. He claimed to have borrowed the money, not stolen it, and to have left security with Mr. Page. P.C. Jeffrey of Clapham said he had known Chadwick for four or five months. He lived in a little cottage, and the only work he had done was a fortnight’s night watching at Cardington aerodrome. He had never had anything to do with the constabulary. Chadwick said he had no intention of getting the money by false pretences, but had been drinking at the time. However, faced with the evidence and other examples of Chadwick’s dishonesty set out in a police letter, the magistrates sentenced him to two months imprisonment with hard labour. 

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 27th November 1917

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Bedford Volunteer Regiment on Parade

Bedfordshire Volunteer Training Corps on parade, June 1915 [Z1306/12/4]

Sunday 18th November 1917: The Bedford Volunteer Regiment will be holding a parade and inspection today. The parade will begin at the Corps Headquarters in Ashburnham Road at 2.30 pm. The Volunteers will march via Midland Road, the High Street, and the Embankment to Russell Park, where they will be inspected by the Lord Lieutenant. The exercise had originally been planned as a joint parade of both the Bedford and Luton Battalions, but the shortage of railway facilities and other factors made it impossible to bring the Luton Volunteers to Bedford to take part. It is hoped that this parade will help in the recruitment of new volunteers. The establishment strength of the Battalion is 1,000, but the numbers currently enrolled are 550 at Bedford and 660 at Luton. If the Bedford Battalion cannot be brought up to full strength then there is a danger that the Bedford and Luton Battalions will be merged. Badged and exempted men, and men over the age of 41 are eligible for the Volunteer Corps. Anyone interested in serving in this way can obtain information from the Battalion’s Headquarters.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard, 16th November 1917

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Funeral of Leighton Buzzard Soldier

Beaudesert Boys’ Council School 1913 [Z50/72/21]

Wednesday 14th November 1917: The funeral of Company Sergeant Major Walter Dennis Toe was held at Leighton Buzzard this afternoon. His coffin was covered with a Union Jack and carried on a gun carriage, and Royal Engineers from Dunstable provided a firing party. Three volleys were fired over his grave at Vandyke Road Cemetery and the Last Post was sounded. “Dennis” Toe was just 20½ years old and the youngest of six brothers serving in the army in Egypt, France and England. Their late father, Frank Toe, served for 22 years in the Kings Rifle Regiment before becoming a postman in Leighton Buzzard. Dennis Toe joined the Northamptonshire Regiment early in 1914 and was sent to France eighteen months ago. He was awarded the Military Medal for gallantry at the Minament Trench in February and was offered a commission, which he refused.  He was severely wounded in the head in August, and died in St. George’s Hospital, London on Saturday following an operation. Among the tributes placed at his grave was a shield sent from his old school inscribed “Beaudesert School salutes one of its heroes”.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 20th November 1917; Luton News, 15th November 1917; Rollof Honour Leighton Buzzard 

Monday, 13 November 2017

King George V Visits Luton

Women munitions workers at George Kent Ltd, 1916 [Z1306/75/17/20]
(Caption reads: "We are helping those who are helping us")

Tuesday 13th November 1917: The King has today honoured the town of Luton with an unexpected visit. The news that he would be making an informal visit was announced on Monday afternoon. He was met by the Mayor and the Town Clerk and paid a visit to various works including those of Messrs. George Kent Ltd. The King arrived shortly before 11.00 a.m. in the Royal car and left between 12.30 and 1.00 p.m. He is reported to be looking alert and fit, with no signs of his age except a little grey in his beard. He wore the uniform of a field marshal, with a black crepe band on his left sleeve as a symbol of mourning. The processes carried out in the first works visited so interested the King that he stayed for twice the expected time.[1]

At George Kent’s works the King was greeted with enthusiastic cheers. Again, he showed a keen interest in the work of the various departments. A number of discharged soldiers now working at Kent’s were drawn up in two ranks at the foot of the stairs, where they stood to attention when the King approached. He was also saluted by the officers of the Kent’s Corps of Girl Guides. Violet Golding, a young munitions worker who recently received the Order of the British Empire for her bravery in returning to work after she lost two fingers in an explosion, was also presented to the King. In one of the workshops he asked a young girl “How many of those can you do in the course of a day?” She answered, “I don’t know, Sir. We don’t count. We just carry on.” The King replied, “Capital. What is required of us is that we should carry on to the best of our ability.”

The King thanked the Mayor for his trouble, asked him about the hat industry in the town, and was pleased to hear that it was busy with both straw and felt hats. As the Royal car left for London the route was lined with sightseers.

Source: Luton News 15th November 1917

[1] The works was not named, but it is thought likely that it was the National Fuse Filling Factory at Chaul End. 

Friday, 10 November 2017

Luton Brothers Wounded

Saturday 10th November 1917: Two Luton brothers who were wounded in a recent battle in the Ypres area have both written to their parents at 132 North Street describing their experiences. Private Albert Anderson told them:

“We went up on the 20th, and went ‘over the top’ on the 21st, and I think we can say we have been in one of the biggest battles of this war. We had to go through a wood to get to our objective, and the wood was simply swarming with Germans. They were all round us, sniping us, and what with bullets and shells and things, it was a perfect hell. We took our objective, though, and took a lot of prisoners, too. I think the Germans had a lot more casualties than we, although we had a great lot. I got slightly wounded in the shoulder with a bullet, but it is nothing serious. I didn’t trouble to go to the dressing station with it, and it’s getting on very well.”

The British soldiers dug themselves in and cleaned their muddy rifles, but when attacked by the Germans they were forced to retire under a barrage of fire. Private Anderson “gave up hope of ever getting out of that lot alive”, but now feels it is “certain this old war cannot last much longer by the way things are going on – the Germans can’t stand it, I’m sure”.

Signaller Horace Anderson, who was more seriously wounded than his brother, has sent a letter from the Royal Victoria Infirmary at Newcastle:

“I am in good old ‘Blighty’ once more, and, by jove! It is a perfect treat to be out of that lot for a while, and I thank God that I came out with my life. The day before I got hit was the hottest time I have had in my life, but I came through all right, and then the next day was not so bad. I was just returning to the battery after being forward, and I had got within about two yards of shelter when over came this big one, and, of course, I was ‘napoo’ for a while. But it gave me a nice little ‘Blighty’ one. I have a gunshot wound in the right leg just below the knee.”

Before the war Signaller Anderson worked for Messrs Kilby and Sons, but moved to Davis Gas Stove Company to work on munitions before joining up in April 1916.

Source: Luton News, 8th November 1917

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Russians Fail to Register

New Road, Linslade c.1900 [Z1432/3/13/1/4]

Wednesday 7th November 1917: Three Russians have been fined for failing to report a change of residence to the local police while lodging temporarily in Linslade. Mrs. Rebecca Rosdensky, aged 41, of Walden Street, near Commercial Road in the East End of London, was staying at 2 Sunnyside, New Road, Linslade.[1] When Inspector Walker visited the property on Saturday 6th October to inspect the lodgers’ registration forms he found Mrs. Rosdensky’s name filled in as Rebecca Rose. She told him she had been there since 29th September and was returning to London the next day, which she then did without registering. Her employer said she had not been out of London since the beginning of the war and no idea it was necessary to register. She has lived in England for twenty five years.

Mrs. Rosdensky’s mother Leah Shaps, and Annie Goldstein, aged 13, of Hunton Street in Spitalfields, were also staying at 2 Sunnyside, and both were summoned for the same reason. All three of the Russians were fined 15 shillings and sixpence, including costs, for their breach of the alien registration regulations.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer 13th November1917

[1] Although the newspaper report gives the address of Sunnyside as New Road, it was in fact on the corner of Old Road and Station Road. In the late 19th century the house was used as a school. In 1900 it was sold and was subsequently divided into apartments. It has since been demolished and Lara House now stands on the site. 

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Edgar Mobbs Challenge Cup

Bedford Modern School c.1910 [Z1130/9/2/2/1]

Sunday 4th November 1917: A general meeting of subscribers to the Colonel E. R. Mobbs Memorial Fund has been held at Northampton, at which it was unanimously decided that a challenge cup should be provided for Bedford Modern School. The cost of the cup is not to exceed £50. A sum of £500 is to be given to the East Midlands Rugby Union, and the remainder of the fund is to be used to provide a permanent memorial to Colonel Mobbs after the war. 

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 2nd November 1917

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Leighton Buzzard Conscientious Objector at Tribunal

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

Friday 2nd November 1917: William M. Holland of Regent Street, Leighton Buzzard has appeared at an appeal tribunal asking for his conditional exemption from military service on grounds of conscience to be renewed. He explained his reasons in writing:

“I still believe that war is the devil’s business and that Christians should not kill or assist to kill those for whom Christ died. I believe that the war is being continued for territorial gain and the gratification of military pride, and I welcome this opportunity of protesting against the sacrifice of lives to the ambition and vainglory of statesmen and army commanders. It is impossible to believe that this country is fighting for liberty and justice when over 1,200 men are in prison for loyalty to conscience and for claiming that exemption to which they are entitled by Act of Parliament. I would also point out that (1) The genuineness of my case has been recognised by the Tribunal on two occasions by granting exemption from all forms of military service. (2) I have fulfilled the conditions of my exemption.”

Mr. Holland has been a member of the Society of Friends, or Quakers, since 1909, and made his initial appeal for exemption from military service in July last year. Colonel Fenwick, challenging the appeal on behalf of the Army, engaged in a long argument with Holland over his pacifist views. After this was brought to an end by the Chairman the tribunal considered a recommendation by the Advisory Committee that Holland should serve in a non-combatant corps. Holland told the tribunal he was not prepared to undertake non-combatant service and was working 9½ hours a day as a farm labourer. He then produced a protection certificate from the Bedfordshire War Agricultural Committee which had been sent to him last week. The Chairman pointed out that a lot of time and trouble would have been saved if he had presented the certificate earlier, but Holland declared he did not ask for the certificate, did not want to be protected by it and intended to send it back. After lively discussion the tribunal came to a majority decision that his certificate of temporary exemption should be renewed for another six months.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 6th November 1917