Thursday, 28 December 2017

Luton Soldiers Absent Without Leave

King Richard III public house, Castle Street, Luton c1965 [WB/Flow4/5/Lu/KR3/1]

Friday 28th December 1917:  Four Luton soldiers have appeared in front of the magistrates after going absent without leave to get home for Christmas. Lance-Corporal Arthur Odell, aged 31 went missing from the Eastern Command Labour Corps on Monday and was found in bed at his home at 8, Spring Place by the police. Frederick Solomon of the Royal East Kent Regiment giggled when his name was called and claimed he was not absent without leave but had merely overstayed it. He was found at his home, the Richard III public house on Castle Street, on Wednesday. Private Charles Fensome had stayed three days beyond the end of his leave from the Essex Regiment, and was found at home after the police received information from his father. All three were remanded to await an escort back to their units.

The court was more sympathetic to Lance Corporal Thomas Spacey of the Bedfordshire Regiment, who appeared in court wearing the uniform of a wounded man and walking with the aid of a stick. Police Inspector Janes explained that he had received a telegram from the Commandant of a V.A.D. hospital at Rochester about Corporal Spacey. He went to the home of the 19 year old soldier’s parents at Alfred Street and found him there. Inspector Janes explained that the young man had been in hospital for a long time and was anxious to spend a few hours with his parents, but had been refused leave as the hospital authorities thought it was in his own interest to stay. On Wednesday Spacey applied at a Special Court for permission to go home. He showed the Clerk a medical certificate stating that his mother was very ill. As the escort had not yet arrived to take him back to the hospital and his wounded leg had received proper medical attention the magistrate gave him permission to go home until the escort came for him; if they had not arrived by then he must report to the Police Court tomorrow morning.

A fifth Luton soldier could hardly explain his absence as a desire to be home for Christmas. Private Herbert Henry Smith of the Anti-Aircraft Service was found in the kitchen of a common lodging house and when asked for his pass he said he had lost it. On investigation the police found that Private Smith had been absent for two months; he enlisted on September 20th but deserted barely a month later on October 24th.

Source: Luton News, 27th December 1917

Monday, 25 December 2017

Christmas Dinner Table Collection

Children’s ward at Bedford Hospital with Christmas tree, c.1910 [Z1306/10/6/15]

Tuesday 25th December 1917: The Mayor and Mayoress of Bedford, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Browning, have organised a Christmas dinner table collection in aid of the Lord Roberts Memorial Workshops Fund. These workshops teach soldiers and sailors who have been disabled in the war to make useful articles, enabling them to feel that they are earning their wages and are not dependent on charity. The workshop products include woodwork of every kind, furniture, brushes, baskets, metal goods, tinware, wooden and metal toys, stationery and printing of all kinds. These are made in light, airy factories, where crippled men are turned into valuable citizens. They are specially equipped with adapted machinery for the use of the men.  The aim of Mayor and Mayoress’s appeal is that a collection will be made at every dinner table in Bedford today. Every house in the town has been provided with an envelope, which will be collected over the next two days.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard, 21st December 1917

Friday, 22 December 2017

Death of Discharged Luton Soldier

Saturday 22nd December 1917: The verdict of “suicide while temporarily insane” returned at an inquest held in Luton yesterday afternoon is a sad reminder that mental wounds as well as physical injuries are producing casualties in this war. John Long, a 44 year old carpenter of Cobden Street had been discharged from the Army, and had recently been strange in his manner and suffered from insomnia. While he was in the Army he had been “upset” by the air raids.

Source: Luton News, 27th December 1917

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Leighton Buzzard Boys Cause Damage at Timber Yard

Leighton Buzzard police station and magistrate’s court c.2000 [Z1432/2/1/20/47]

Friday 21st December 1917: Three boys from Chapel Path, Leighton Buzzard have been summoned for committing wilful damage to hay and boards belonging to Henry George Brown, timber merchant of Mill Road. He had complained at the last Court sitting that he found Horace Major (aged 16), Frank Kempster (aged 15) and Alfred Mills (15) and others in his yard on the afternoon of Sunday 25th November, throwing wood and hay about. However, as none of the boys attended the hearing it had been adjourned. When asked why they had failed to appear but had sent their mothers instead, Superintendent Matthews said he supposed the boys were busy earning too much money. He now had witnesses - two boys who had heard Major threaten to set fire to Mr. Brown’s stacks if he had to pay much that morning. Major said he had been earning fourteen shillings a week but was now out of work; Kempster had done four days’ work last week for which he was paid ten shillings. Each of the boys were fined £1.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 25th December 1917

Monday, 18 December 2017

A Quarrel Between Munitions Girls

Munitions workers at Leighton Buzzard, 1914-18 [Z1432/2/12/2/5]

Tuesday 18th December 1917: At the Leighton Buzzard Police Court today Annie Underwood, aged 22 and a munition worker from Vandyke Road, Leighton Buzzard, was summoned for assault by Kate Pratt, also of Vandyke Road. The smartly dressed Miss Pratt complained that on December 4th, as she was coming home from night work at about 7.30 am, Miss Underwood met her and knocked her across the head and face with her hands, accusing her of saying things about herself and her mother in the railway carriage. Miss Underwood had also claimed that other girls had stopped Miss Pratt calling her names out of the carriage window. Miss Pratt said both claims were a lie.

Miss Underwood said she was on her way to work when the girls told her what Miss Pratt had said. When she asked for an explanation Miss Pratt had pushed her gently off the path, saying “Don’t insult me”; she therefore claimed that Miss Pratt had struck her first. Miss Pratt told the court “I pushed her off the path and said I shouldn’t be insulted by a girl like her – nor I shan’t sir!”  Dorothy “Dolly” Short, also of Vandyke Road, was called as a witness for Miss Pratt. She said that Underwood came up to Kate Pratt accusing her of having said things in the railway carriage, which Kate did not know anything about – Miss Underwood then struck her on the face. She agreed that Miss Pratt had gently pushed her off the path.

The defendant claimed she had asked Miss Pratt civilly why she had been “telling girls my character” but that she refused to answer. “It isn’t the first time she has insulted people; you can’t go out without they’re poking fun at girls”, she told the Chairman. She simply pushed Miss Pratt back after she pushed her off the path. Another witness, Dorothy Kempster, said that as she was going to meet her friend Annie Underwood she saw her talking to Kate Pratt, who pushed Annie off the path. Asked what happened she replied “Of course, Annie struck her back”. The Chairman told Miss Underwood she really must not smack other people’s faces, and ordered her to pay a fine and costs of fifteen shillings and sixpence.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 25th December 1917

Friday, 15 December 2017

Two More German Prisoners Escape at Woburn

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

Saturday 15th December 1917: There has been another escape by German prisoners of war working at Woburn. Two prisoners were felling trees in the woods on Friday afternoon when they went missing. It is believed the escape was only made in order to get away from some other prisoners with whom they had differences and who had been making their lives uncomfortable  - after an escape has been attempted prisoners are generally sent to a different camp. The two men  were recaptured the same evening.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 18th December 1917

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Food Shortages

Willard’s grocer’s shop, 47 High Street, Leighton Buzzard c.1920 [Z1432/2/1/19/134]

Thursday 13th December 1917: The Divisional Food Commissioner has asked the editor of the Leighton Buzzard Observer to publish the following letter:
Sir – I wish to appeal very urgently to all to whom butter, margarine and tea are not necessities to refrain from using them during the present scarcity, which it is hoped will be overcome shortly. I particularly address this appeal to the larger households and to the servants in those houses especially in the country. I do not think it is realised how the shortage affects the women and workers in the towns who, after a hard day’s work, often have to spend their spare time in obtaining very insufficient quantities of those commodities, and sometimes have to wait in queues for hours at a time only to be disappointed in the end.
It is hoped that some scheme of better distribution and a fair equalisation of supply to each consumer will be evolved shortly, and in the meantime I appeal to everyone in the country to use as little milk and butter as possible, and so release more of these two commodities for the towns. Every pint of milk and every pound of butter released from the country districts is of invaluable help in the towns.
 Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer 18th December 1917

Monday, 11 December 2017

Winston Churchill Speaks at Bedford

Winston Churchill 1904 [Wikimedia]

Tuesday 11th December 1917: Bedford Corn Exchange was packed to capacity last night to hear a speech from the Right Honorable Winston Churchill, M.P., the Minister of Munitions.  It had proved impossible to meet demand, with every ticket issued more than a week ago.

Mr Churchill told his audience that they were gathered in a grave hour. When he spoke two months ago in London he said the war was entering its sternest phase, but admitted that the situation was now more serious than expected. The country was in greater danger than it had been since the Battle of the Marne saved Paris and the Battle of Ypres saved the Channel Ports. The cause of the Allies was now in danger and the future of the British Empire and of democratic civilisation hung in anxious and solemn suspense. Anyone could see that Russia had been thoroughly beaten by the Germans, her heart broken by German might and intrigue. Much of the German army which had been at the Russian front would be used to attack the French and British forces in the West, and the Austrians would be able to switch troops to fight the Italians and maybe to join the Germans on the Western Front. It was necessary to look these things in the eye “because Britons are stirred on by the signs of danger and emergency to exertions of which our foes had never dreamed … because, if we had the will, we have also the means to conquer”. The facts should be stated plainly, but he would also show some of the means by which we would be able to overcome these dangerous circumstances.

The country’s war aims were still as they had been in August 1914, that those who had committed crimes like the trampling down of Belgium, like the sinking of the Lusitania, and many other atrocities, should not profit by them. The Germans should not emerge from the struggle stronger than when they began it, and should not be able, when the war is over, to retire and plan “another hideous catastrophe to let loose on her unsuspecting neighbours”. Prussian militarism should be crushed and the German people realise they had been led into misfortune and disaster by the rulers in whom they had trusted. That was what Mr. Asquith, Mr. Lloyd George and President Wilson meant when they said our aims were reparation, restoration, and security. For the moment Prussian militarism was more menacing than it had been at any time since the first rush of the invaders was stopped, and until it was beaten there would never be peace nor safety in the world. No peace based on weakness or war weariness on the part of the Allies could be honourable or lasting. To make peace now would simply hand on to our children the temporary consequences of the Russian collapse. Although the military situation was an anxious one, he was confident that there were no means by which this country could be overcome if everyone did his or her part. The greatest danger was that the people might be tempted by specious peace terms.

Our aims were plain, and admitted of no compromise. When great danger had threatened this country before the British nation had simply held on with a bull-dog grip, and it had always come out all right. If they held on there was a clean line marked out to victory. The heart of the people was as sound as a bell, with the output of munitions increasing every hour. He had abundant confidence in the people of this island. The country still had great reserves of men; the Navy was grappling with the submarines; and there was a steady flow of new ships. England was war-hardened but not war-weary. The loss of Russia was a great disaster, but the entry of the United States of America into the war was a greater consolation. The “great democracy of the West” had come to the aid of humanity. Practically the resources of the whole world were united against the Germanic powers and would secure the victory.

England must bear the burden until the spring of next year until American aid could arrive. This was the climax to which all English history had led up – “this old Motherland holding up with bleeding but undaunted arm the threatened freedom of mankind while her mighty daughter, from whom she had been so long divided, hastened across the vast wastes of ocean to bring overwhelming deliverance and aid.” Talk of peace now would be equivalent to rejecting the offer of the United States, would repudiate all that our brave men have done, and would desert the cause of the down-trodden and oppressed nations we had pledged ourselves to defend. The country must act resolutely. Army must be raised to its greatest possible strength … “Let them have tons upon tons of ammunition, hundreds upon hundreds of guns, and thousands upon thousands of aeroplanes. They can be got ready – they must be got ready”.

[Churchill’s speech was greeted with cheers and loud applause]

Source: Bedfordshire Standard, 14th December 1917

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Discharged Soldiers to be Trained for Hat Industry

Demonstrating a machine in a Luton hat factory, mid-20th century [PL/PH/3/53]

Sunday 9th December 1917: Arrangements are being made for men to be trained at Luton to work in the hat trade as straw hat machinists, blockers and stiffeners. The training will be free, with allowances paid to the men and their families while they undertake it. Those who complete the training satisfactorily will be given a bonus. Applications are to be sent to the Secretary of the War Pensions Committee at Luton Town Hall.

Source: Luton News 13th December 1917

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Theft of Provisions at Biscot Camp

Soldiers at Biscot Camp c.1917 [Z1306/75/16/14]

Friday 7th December 1917: At a hearing lasting four and a half hours at Luton Court House four men charged with theft and conspiracy to steal provisions from Biscot Camp have been sent for trial. Bombadier Frederick Thomas Cocksidge was charged only with theft; Bombadier John James McGrath, Walter John Baxter (assistant storekeeper at the Canteen) and Thomas Charles Mortimer (storekeeper) were charged with theft and conspiracy; and Mortimer was also charged with receiving stolen goods. The prosecution took place following management changes at the Regimental Institute at Biscot and the appointment of a new President, Lieutenant Clyde Wilson, who discovered the alleged offences.

The main witness, Percy Walter Beale, had been reduced  from the rank of mess sergeant to gunner after four charges against him were heard by the Messing Committee. He admitted giving away items that did not belong to him, and said he later acted as decoy to catch the prisoners. He had also made accusations against Captain Lane (the former President of the Institute) and Lieutenant Baker, but did not know what had happened to them. He admitted giving presents to Baxter and receiving from him pickles, cigarettes and chocolate; and said he had also received money from Mortimer.

McGrath had signed a confession, and the other three prisoners had admitted the offences. Baxter and Mortimer were also prosecuted by the Navy and Army Canteen board for receiving stolen hams, and Mortimer was also charged with attempting to steal five cases of salmon. The defending solicitor described some of the evidence for the prosecution as “a combination of Jonathan Wild and Judas Iscariot”, but agreed the prisoners should be sent for trial. All were allowed bail except Mortimer.

Source: Luton News 13th December 1917

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps Needs Cooks

Group of army cooks “awaiting orders to cook the Kaiser”, 1914-18. Photograph by J. T. Welch [Z835/18/1]

Wednesday 5th December 1917: There is an urgent need for women cooks to enrol in Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps to work in camps both in this country and in France. Every woman who serves in this capacity will release a fit man to serve as a combatant. Anyone willing to undertake this patriotic and suitable duty should apply to the Ministry of Labour.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard, 7th December 1917

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Misdemeanours on the Railway

Leighton Buzzard Station c.1915 [Z1306/74/1/4]

Monday 3rd December 1917: Two cases relating to the railway were heard at Leighton Buzzard police court today. In the first Henry Maze Jenks of Haverstock Hill in London pleaded guilty to travelling in a luggage van on the London and North Western Railway, contravening the Company’s bye-laws. Mr. Jenks travelled by the 4.15 train from Wolverhampton to Euston on 12th September. Between Northampton and Leighton Buzzard he was found first in the guard’s van at the front of the train, and later in the van at the rear; the communicating doors between the carriages had all been unlocked and left open. Mr. Maze was said to have caused a “good deal of trouble”, claiming to be a friend of the Chairman of the line and telling staff he would do as he liked. It was pointed out that this sort of behaviour put the safety of the train at risk, as there was a valve in the guard’s van which would automatically divide the train if it was touched when approaching a signal. In Mr. Maze’s defence his solicitor stated his client was a large manufacturer and a season ticket holder, and like many other people at this time was overworked. When he got into the train he was extremely tired and as all the carriages were very crowded he went through into the guard’s van to have a sleep – the matter should be seen as merely a technical offence. The Chairman of the Bench told Mr. Maze he should have left the van when he was told to do so and that interfering with railway employees was a serious matter. He was fined £2 with £2 5s costs.

In the second case two local boys, William Cornish, aged 17 of 1 Albany Road, and Harry Stroud, aged 16 of 3 Billington Road, pleaded guilty to trespassing on the railway platforms at Leighton Buzzard and refusing to leave when asked to do so. Frank Buckingham, a vanman at Leighton Buzzard Station, said that he had found the two boys and another lad named Rickets on the station without tickets at 6.45 on November 20th. He told them they were trespassing but they did not leave. Ten minutes later a railway detective took their names and told them they would be reported. One of the boys said he was not doing any harm and there were plenty of others there. The Court was told that gangs of youths had been a “continual source of annoyance” to the Stationmaster for the past year, hanging around on the platforms pretending to wait for munition trains from Luton and refusing to leave. The two boys were fined six shillings each, and warned that in future offences of this type would be severely dealt with.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 11th December 1917

Friday, 1 December 2017

Leighton Buzzard Milkmen on Strike

Horse-drawn milk cart from Eli Boarder’s dairy, Leighton Buzzard, c.1900 [Z1432/2/8/3/5]

Saturday 1st December 1917: The hot topic of the moment in Leighton Buzzard and Linslade is the price of milk. The price which farmers can charge to milk vendors has been fixed from today, however local Food Control Committees are allowed to decide the price retailers may charge the public in their area. In Leighton Buzzard the retail price has been set at six pence a quart, but in Linslade milkmen are allowed to charge seven pence. As a result Linslade consumers are feeling aggrieved, whereas in Leighton milkmen are complaining that a price of six pence is not enough for them to sell profitably. The great irony of the situation is that in many cases the same milkmen serve both towns.

This morning milk has been delivered as usual in Linslade at the price of seven pence a quart; in Leighton Buzzard, however, most of the milkmen went “on strike” and refused to make deliveries. They gave advance notice to the customers that they could not deliver or give credit, and have informed them that milk will be available but only if the customers bring a container and fetch it themselves. As can be imagined there are a large number of irate housewives in the town.

The Linslade Food Control Committee have stated that they fixed their price after very careful consideration, and were convinced that six pence a quart would be “grossly unfair” to the retailers. The Leighton Buzzard Committee have not made a public statement, but there was some suggestion at a Council meeting on Thursday evening that if there was a problem with supplies they would consider establishing a municipal supply. There is growing support for the idea that a price of six and a half pence should be set for both towns as an interim measure and the issue referred to the District Commissioner.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 4th December 1917