Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Drunk Man Chases German PoWs

Peacock Inn, Lake Street c.1910 [Z1432/3/1/8/5]

Thursday 28th February 1918: William Dickins, a 60 year old labourer from Chalk Hill, Houghton Regis, has been charged with being drunk and disorderly on the highway at Leighton Buzzard on Tuesday. Police Sergeant Dennis said that Dickins was throwing his arms about in Market Square and a crowd of children had collected around him. Dickins was advised to behave himself and leave, but he went round to the back of the Peacock Inn where he said he had a gun. He was told he would not be allowed to have the gun and was asked to leave the premises, but he eventually had to be arrested and locked up. Earlier in the evening he had been seen running after German prisoners in Bridge Street; his conduct towards them had been very bad. Dickins said he remembered nothing about it and was sorry for what he had done. He had three sons serving the country and had got rather excited as one had just gone back to the front. The Chairman of the Bench noted that it had been five years since Dickins had last appeared in Court and fined him five shillings.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 5th March 1918

Monday, 26 February 2018

Luton's First Labour Justice of the Peace

William Mair, 1918 [Luton News]

Tuesday 26th February 1918: The first Labour man to be appointed a Justice of the Peace for Luton will take his seat on the Borough Bench for the first time tomorrow. Mr. William James Mair, who was born in Glasgow, has lived in Luton for about 35 years. He started work at High Town Foundry as a moulder. He then went to the Langley Foundry; when it merged with the Davis Gas Stove Company he moved to the Diamond Foundry, where he has remained ever since apart from one interval. He has long been interested in Trade Unionism and is a member of the Central Iron Moulders, which he has served in various capacities. He has been a member of the County Appeals Tribunal since its foundation, is a member of the Luton War Pensions Committee, and is Chairman of the Local Advisory Committee set up by the Ministry of Labour to deal with industrial questions. He is expected to be a great asset to the Bench as he “is level-headed, talks only when he has something to say, and is very practical”.

Source: Luton News, 21st February 1918

Friday, 23 February 2018

Thanks for Leighton Buzzard War Hospital Depot

Workhouse at Grovebury Road, Leighton Buzzard in use as a hospital c.1915 [Z1432/3/12/2]

Saturday 23rd February 1918: Mrs. Cowper, the Secretary of the War Hospital Depot at Leighton Buzzard, has received the following letter of thanks from the Edmonton Military Hospital:
“I am most anxious that the lady workers in your depot should know how much their assistance is valued. The numerous gifts which you have sent us, including various kinds of splints, personal garments, and surgical supplies, have all been urgently needed, and it has been very gratifying to me to know that my appeal to you met with such a ready response. If the ladies who make these things could occasionally visit a hospital where the numerous demands are made for them, they would realise how much their efforts were appreciated. When attending a depot week after week, I feel sure they must sometimes wonder what becomes of all the garments they make; but I can assure you that without their voluntary help we should not have been able to carry one as easily as we do at present, and I thank them most gratefully for making it possible for me to supply the wants which are daily made at the gift store.”
Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 19th February 1918

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Leighton Buzzard Gas Company

Billington Road showing damage caused by sand traffic 1917-18 [Hi/CRM/1/3/3]

Thursday 21st February 1918: At the annual meeting of the Leighton Buzzard Gas Company, held yesterday at the Gasworks, it was reported that extensive repairs to both pipes and equipment will need to be made this year. The heavy tractors used for sand traffic in the town have caused considerable damage to the mains and service pipes, increasing the amount of gas lost during the year to around two million cubic feet, valued at £250. Due to the expected cost of repairs the Directors had already increased the price of gas by four pence per 1,000 cubic feet with effect from January 1st.

The Company hopes that the authorities will decide to build a tramway or light railway for the sand traffic before much more damage is done to the roads and the gas mains. It has also become necessary to increase capacity at the gasworks as demand continues to increase, both for industry – especially the munition works – and for eating and cooking. This is not proving easy due to wartime conditions, and it is hoped that permission will be granted to build a water gas plant in the summer in order to meet expected demand for next winter.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 26th February 1918

Monday, 19 February 2018

Bedford Soldier in Court on Bigamy Charge

Pavenham, c.1912 [Z1306/87/5/5]

Tuesday 19th February 1918: Albert Victor Herbert, a soldier from Bedford, has appeared at the Maidenhead Police Court on a charge of bigamy. His wife Agnes, the daughter of Thomas Clare of Pavenham, said she married him at the Bedford Registry Office in 1911 and they had two children. Her husband was home on leave last July and wrote frequently. Mabel Haynes, of Norfolk Park Cottages, Maidenhead, said that she met Private Herbert when his regiment was stationed at Maidenhead in January 1916 and started walking out with him. After hearing rumours that he was a married man she questioned him and he denied it. When he went to France he wrote her a letter every day. When the rumours that he was married were repeated he advised her to write to a “Mrs Childs” at Willesden, who told her that Private Herbert was an old friend and a “straight man”, who had been married but was now a widower, his wife having died in childbirth two years ago. After this they arranged to marry on December 22nd last year. The “married man” rumours still continued, and he gave a document supposedly signed by a lieutenant of his regiment certifying that “Herbert was not a married man, as has been stated”. They finally married at Maidenhead Parish Church on 30th January. She stayed with him at Maidenhead for some time before he left for Hitchin, ostensibly to get his discharge; he had since visited her occasionally. Private Herbert was refused bail and was committed for trial at the Assizes. The Mayor remarked on the fact that he gave his age as 21 at the first wedding and 22 at the second, six years later!

Source: Bedfordshire Standard, 22nd February 1922

[1]  Albert Victor Herbert was found guilty of aggravated bigamy at the Berkshire Assizes on 4th June 1918, and was sentenced to prison for 12 months. 

Friday, 16 February 2018

Luton War Babies

Baby in a perambulator, c.1910 [Z1261/1/13]

Saturday 16th February 1918: The Luton Board of Guardians is gravely concerned about the increasing problem of “war babies”. There have never been so many children in the Workhouse, most of them illegitimate. There are currently sixteen in the infirmary in addition to those being cared for in the infant section. Councillor Bone complained that the Government was “encouraging this sort of thing” because it wanted “all the babies they could possibly get”.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 12th February 1918

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Restrictions on Canteens at Bedford

Soldiers at Bunyan Canteen, Bedford, 1914-18 [Z1306/12/11/4]

Wednesday 13th February 1918: Following a meeting called by the Mayor of Bedford, canteens serving soldiers in the town have been asked to restrict the amount of meat and margarine that they use. Canteen managers have now submitted returns showing that in one week soldiers consumed 160 lbs of margarine, 3500 lbs of bread, 183 gallons 3 quarts of milk, and 225 tins of condensed milk – all in addition to their normal rations. A proposition that a letter should be sent to the Army authorities by the Bedford Food Control Committee expressing alarm at the amount of bread and milk being consumed by soldiers was carried. There was also concern that soldiers were using restaurants in the town. This was considered unfair when they were already receiving more rations than civilians and it was suggested that restaurants should be put out of bounds. Instructions had been received by the Food Control Committee that sugar certificates were to be withdrawn from caterers and canteen, with stock to be held by the committee. Tea was also of concern, but supplies were coming in very gradually.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard, 8th and 15th February 1918

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Leighton Buzzard Nursing Association

Nurse Burchell, midwife, at Billington c.1927 [PCBillington19/77]

Monday 11th February 1918: The Leighton Buzzard Nursing Association held its annual meeting today at 11 Hartwell Crescent. Members heard that over the past year the services of the two nurses provided by the Association had been much appreciated and their work had been excellent. The nurses’ report showed that they had attended 204 cases during the year, including 44 midwifery and 14 maternity.  One nurse has been helping the Health Visitor at sessions held every two weeks at the Infant Welfare Centre, which opened in March. The Association’s funds were placed under some strain by the extra expense of providing a midwife, but this had been alleviated by a gift of £20 from the committee of the Invalid Kitchen, who had also given milk and Bovril for the patients.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 19th February 1918

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Comrades of the Great War

George Street, Luton 1905 [Z1306/75/10/23/2]

Sunday 10th February 1918: The organisation “Comrades of the Great War” has recently established itself in Luton. It is hoped that a club and headquarters will soon be opened in premises at 5 Upper George Street, which had been occupied by the military authorities for some time but have now been taken over by the Comrades. The object of the organisation is to create a fellowship among those who have served the country in his Majesty’s Forces, on land, at sea, or in the air. The social club is intended to provide members with some home comfort and also to offer an employment bureau for demobilised men. The promoters also hope to eventually be in a position to give practical help to the dependents of men lost in the war. Last week the membership stood at 288, with over 200 in Luton. The organisers are at pains to stress that they are not in opposition to the Discharged Soldiers’ Federation, and if that impression had been given by anyone it was deeply regretted. Politically the organisation is neutral, with men of any political inclination welcome. The chief desire of the leaders of the movement in Luton is to establish a club which will be a boon to any men who return from the war friendless, and will help to cement friendships and the spirit of comradeship acquired by sharing the fortunes and misfortunes of war. The membership fee is one shilling, with one shilling extra for the badge; the cost of enjoying the social side of the club is expected to be one or two pence a week.

Source: Luton News, 7th February 1918

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Meat Shortage at Leighton Buzzard

Leighton Buzzard High Street on market day c.1920 [Z1130/72/29]

Wednesday 6th February 1918: The shortage of animals available for sale at Leighton Buzzard market continues to be acute. Yesterday only seven fat cattle and five sheep were sent for sale, although the auctioneers Messrs. Cumberland and Hopkins were able to increase the supply to fourteen cattle and twenty eight sheep. All the local butchers were therefore able to receive a reasonable quantity of meat, although still some way short of the amount to which they are entitled. Most have closed their shops again today and are intending to open only for half the day tomorrow and Saturday. A hundred poultry were also sold at the market, realising prices ranging from six shillings for an ancient rooster to sixteen shillings and sixpence, with an average price of ten shillings.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 12th February 1918

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Luton Doctor Awarded Military Cross

Dr. Robert Daniels Bell [Luton News]

Monday 4th February 1918: Luton has been delighted to hear the news that well-known local doctor Robert Daniels Bell of Dunstable Road, who was last heard of a year ago while he was home on leave from Egypt  has been awarded the Military Cross. Captain Bell was serving with the Royal Army Medical Corps on Christmas Eve when the brigade to which he was attached was severely bombarded. He was kept hard at work attending to the wounded, while gas shells burst around him. He took off his gas mask to give better attention to a bleeding soldier, but was gassed before he could put it on again and himself became a casualty. He is now at home and progressing excellently. His brigade took the unusual course of recommending him for immediate honours.

Source: Luton News, 31st January 1918

Friday, 2 February 2018

Sinking of the Aragon

RMS Aragon, 1908 [Wikimedia]

Saturday 2nd February 1918: Warrant Officer J. Watson of the Royal Engineers, an Old Boy of Bedford Modern School was on board the troop ship Aragon when it was torpedoed and sunk outside the harbour at Alexandria on 30th December. On 1st January he wrote a letter to his father at Bedford describing his experiences that day:

“Sent you a cable yesterday saying that I had arrived safely, but it is after swimming for my life, and I had lost everything I possessed except the clothes I stood in. I never thought I should tramp roads without boots on, but I did last Sunday. The scenes I have just gone through have been awful and most heart-rending. We were torpedoed in sight of our destination, and after those thousands of miles safely. I thank God I am safe with a whole skin. I was twice torpedoed, first on the transport close to which I stood, and again on the destroyer which I mounted to the deck.[1]  After the destroyer was torpedoed I waited a bit, and then dived over the heads of a large number of fellows already struggling in the sea. I thank God for my powers of swimming, which I think saved my life. I swam 100 to 150 yards with all my clothes on except boots, but it seemed like three or four miles. I selected a trawler, and managed to arrive in an exhausted condition, but recovered after a time, and gave a hand to help the trawler men, who were hauling the poor chaps in, but some of them did not survive.”

Source: Bedfordshire Standard, 8th February 1918

[1] Many of the Aragon’s passengers were rescued by the escort destroyer HMS Attack, which was itself torpedoed. Of 2700 men and women aboard Aragon, 610 were lost, including the ship’s captain and twenty five men on their way to reinforce the 5th Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment.