Friday, 30 March 2018

Naval Officer Released by Germans

Ruined entrance to Termond, Belgium 1914 [Z160/484]


Saturday 30th March 1918: Lieutenant-Commander Robert Francis Crossman, of the Royal Naval Division, the great-nephew of Mr. J.W. Crossman, Chairman of the Bedford Conservative Club, has just returned to England after three years as a prisoner in Germany. He was captured by the Germans at Manbeke in Belgium after the evacuation of Antwerp, suffering from shell shock and an injury to the head. While waiting to have his head dressed he was ill-treated by his captors, and was placed in a camp at Halle “where the food was uneatable and the sanitary arrangements deplorable”; the prisoners were not allowed to smoke for two months, and many of the parcels which came for them from England were taken by the guard. They were moved to a camp at Hugustabad where they were treated comparatively well. In the winter of 1916 he attempted to escape with six other officers. They spent 6½ months digging a tunnel 72 yards long, which went underneath the main road and came up near an ice shed outside the camp. They crawled through the tunnel to freedom, but it was short-lived as they were discovered by a sportsman’s dog while hiding in a wood. The escapees were locked up together in one room for two days, then taken to Gustrow Camp for 14 days solitary confinement. About a week before the escape attempt he had cut the top of one of his fingers, and blood poisoning set in. When he reached Switzerland he had to have his finger amputated.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard, 5th April 1918


Note: Although the report does not give the reason for Lt-Commander Crossman’s return to England, it is likely that it was as part of an exchange of incapacitated prisoners.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Fare Dodger on the Midland Railway

Luton Midland Railway Station c.1905 Z1306/75/13/6

Wednesday 27th March 1918: Stanley Scales, a 35 year old munition worker of 4 Alma Street, Luton, has appeared at the Luton Borough Police Court charged with travelling on the Midland Railway without having paid his fare and with giving a false name and address. He denied the first charge but admitted the second.

Mr. Scales had travelled from Harpenden to Luton but only had a ticket for the journey from Luton to Harpenden. Arthur George Miller, a porter at Luton Midland Station said he was on duty on January 29th when the 11.27 train from St. Pancras was due, but the train did not arrive until 2 a.m. due to an air raid. He spotted that the ticket Scales produced was wrong and Scales offered him one shilling. Miller refused and Scales gave him the name H. Brown and a false address. The next day Scales gave him the name Friday and a Collingdon Street address. Scales said this was true and his nickname was “Friday”.

Harry Jayes told the court he was on duty at Harpenden on the the night of the 29th January. Scales was the only passenger and had plenty of time to book but did not attempt to do so. Scales said he had a sleep in Jayes’ room and had mentioned the matter to Jayes; the ticket office was never open. Jayes denied this. Scales also claimed that the air raid being on had unnerved him. He was fined twenty shillings in each case.

Source: Luton News 28th March 1918

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Sugar for Jam Making

Advertisement for Chivers’ jam and jellies c.1907 [X704/198]

Monday 25th March 1918: The Local Food Office in Linslade, which also covers the Eaton Bray and Wing areas, has received details of a scheme under which sugar for jam will be distributed to fruit growers. Applications for sugar must be made by the growers themselves, and two separate permits will be issued: one for soft fruit available between the 8th June and 31st July, and the other for hard fruit available between 1st August and 30th September. Rhubarb will be included among soft fruits, and vegetable marrows with the hard fruits. The total amount of sugar for making jam for home consumption will not exceed ten pounds for each member of the household. Anyone expecting to have quantities of fruit which would enable them to use more sugar than this will be expected to place jam at the disposal of the Local Food Committee at wholesale prices.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 26th March 1918

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Success of Bedford Business Men’s Week

Wednesday 22nd March 1918: The executive committee of the Bedford War Savings Committee, which was responsible for organising the recent Business Men’s Week in the town, has written a individual letter of thanks to all those involved, including fifty volunteer house-to-house collectors. Sales of War Bonds during the week reached £137,970 and of War Savings Certificates £19,347 17s. 6d, bringing the totals for the year to 9th March to £230,095 and £49,936 7s. respectively. Expenditure incurred in raising these large sums was only £39 19s 6d. The Committee writes:
“It is to the personal service and influence of yourself and others that this widespread movement owes its strength. We know you will leave no stone unturned to extend the educational and permanent side of our work which is of such great service to the community and without which we cannot hope to attain complete and lasting success.”

Source: Bedfordshire Standard, 28th March 1918

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Bigamy Case at Leighton Buzzard

All Saint’s Church, Leighton Buzzard

Wednesday 20th March 1918: A discharged soldier has appeared at the Leighton Buzzard Petty Sessions Court accused of bigamy. Charles Frederick Smith, aged 27, was charged with marrying Theodora Pratt at Leighton Buzzard in September 1918 when his former wife Florence Smith was alive and living in South Africa. A Quartermaster-Sergeant of the South African Expeditionary Force Pay Office stated that Smith had joined the colours on 11th August 1915 as a married man, giving his wife’s name and an address in Port Elizabeth, Cape Province. She had been paid a separation allowance since that time. Smith applied for discharge on the grounds of medical unfitness and left for South Africa on 9th October 1917; he had since returned to Britain.

Police Inspector Thomas Vincent told the Court that on 8th March he went to London by the same train as Miss Theodora Pratt, and at Euston Station he saw her with her mother and Smith. He identified himself to Smith and cautioned him. When questioned Smith admitted marrying Theodora in September, while he had a wife living at Port Elizabeth. Smith said “I expected this, as I knew inquiries had been made about me. I only arrived in England from South Africa last Tuesday (March 5th), and I wish the boat had been torpedoed before I landed here”. He later said he had arrived back in South Africa in early November and had stayed with his wife for about a fortnight, before leaving her and staying at a hotel. He had seen her at various times before left South Africa on 29th January. They had married in February 1913, and he had left her because of her misbehaviour with another man.

Miss Winifred Blackhaller, a dressmaker from Shepherd’s Bush said she had known Smith for about two years. He had returned wounded from France last summer, and in September he showed her a photograph of a young lady named Dora Pratt. She asked if Dora knew Smith was married and he said she did. Miss Blackhaller next saw Smith after he returned from South Africa, and he told her he had come back because of his wife “carrying on”. She said her mother had received a letter from Miss Pratt asking if she knew that Smith already had a wife in South Africa. He told her he might be arrested for bigamy.

Theodora Pratt, of Plantation Road, Leighton Buzzard, said that when she first knew Smith he was a sapper in the South African Signalling Company stationed at Fenny Stratford. She kept company with him and they became engaged in February 1917. In August he had a week’s leave and came to lodge at Leighton Buzzard. He then went to Yorkshire, but visited her a fortnight later when she told him certain things and he proposed they should get married. On September 7th she sent a letter to Smith’s commanding officer, as a result of which Smith came to her and they were married at Leighton Buzzard Parish Church on 13th September. Smith described himself on the marriage certificate as a bachelor. He left for camp on the following Tuesday, but they met again before he left for South Africa and arranged he would return and take her out to South Africa before Christmas. She applied for a separation allowance, but was told that Smith already had a wife and child living in South Africa. She then went to the police.

Smith was remanded to the next Assizes and was granted bail.

Source: Luton News, 21st March 1918

Note: Charles Smith was found guilty of bigamy at the July 1918 Assizes and was sentenced to 8 months imprisonment with hard labour.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Overcrowding at Leagrave

Leagrave High Street,1914 [Z1306/75/12/3]

Monday 18th March 1918: At today’s meeting of the Luton Rural District Council the Medical Officer reported that during the past month there had been 13 deaths and 17 births in the district. There had been three cases of diphtheria at Kensworth and one case of enteric fever at Limbury. The measles epidemic in Limbury and Caddington was subsiding, but tuberculosis was still increasing, with two more cases. The increase in the number of workers in the Luton area combined with inadequate housing accommodation has led to serious overcrowding and it was feared that the current situation was likely to increase disease; one medical man suggested that half the girl workers would be “crocks” by the time the war ends.

The District Surveyor reported on a case of overcrowding at Leagrave, where three men, nine, women and two children were living in a house with only three bedrooms and a boxroom, which had previously housed a family of four. Nearly all were employed in local works, with some working at night and sleeping in the daytime, allowing double occupation of their beds. After some hesitation due to the lack of alternative accommodation it was eventually decided that the Council would serve a notice on the landlord to end the overcrowding.

Source: Luton News, 21st March 1918

Thursday, 15 March 2018

A Flight in an Airship

His Majesty’s Airship No.9 [Wikimedia]

Friday 15th March 1918: Private Percy Avery, a baker from Leighton Buzzard who joined the Naval Air Service two months ago, was among the crew of two 600 foot airships which sailed over London during the Business Men’s Week campaign recently organised by the National War Savings Committee. He has written to his parents in Ashwell Street describing the experience:

“I have had my first flight in our airship, No. 9, 1000 horsepower. It was simply lovely. We were up in the air 9 hours, and covered a distance of 350 miles. Our journey was to London dropping leaflets. We came as far as Willesden, circled all round Wormwood Scrubbs, went all over the Strand and Westminster. I can’t explain to you on paper what it was like. I am going up again tomorrow (Sunday), out to sea, by the Wash. I have been very excited since the officer told me I was to go up with them. In a good many places we dropped to 250 feet from the ground, and could see everybody running out of their houses and people stopping their horses and motors to have a look up, because our engines make such a noise.”

His Majesty’s Airship No.9 is an experimental rigid airship built by Vickers Limited at Barrow-in-Furness. It made its first flight on 27th November 1916 and is currently stationed at Pulham in Norfolk.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 15th March 1918

Monday, 12 March 2018

Appeal for Women Volunteers

Group of nurses of the Voluntary Aid Detachment Bedford No.2, c.1914-1916 [Z1306/12/10/3]

Tuesday 12th March 1918: Lady Ampthill, head of the Voluntary Aid Detachment, has appealed for more women to prepare for hospital service. She says:
 “We want women not only for France, but for Salonika, Malta, and Egypt, and for the nursing of the wounded we want the very best type of woman. It is not essential that she should have a first aid certificate; if she is the right sort she will readily be accepted and trained. The friction that existed to some extent between the trained nurse and the voluntary helper has died, and they are working together today in the happiest spirit.
We can place about fifty cooks a week, and the cook of forty-five or fifty is just as welcome as the younger woman. Special cookery courses are provided for members to give them a knowledge of hospital needs. We have 300 V.A.D.s driving transports and ambulances in France, and we should be very glad to get more drivers, only they must have had at least six months’ experience. There is an opening for women as laboratory assistants; we give them the necessary training.  
We hope that some of the women discharged from munition works will come to us. The care of the wounded is surely the finest work women can do – the general service member helps in the task no less than the actual nurse. We need a steady flow of recruits during the coming months.”

Source: Bedfordshire Standard, 15th March 1918

Friday, 9 March 2018

Promotion for Luton Soldier

Second Lieutenant Arthur Pollard

Saturday 9th March 1918: Arthur Pollard, one of three sons of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Pollard of 44 Jubilee Street, Luton fighting with the British Army, has joined the growing number of Luton men who have been promoted from the ranks. Second Lieutenant Pollard attended St. Matthew’s School before taking a job at the High Town branch of the Luton Industrial Co-operative Society; when he enlisted in 1916 he was first provision hand and secretary to the Co-operative Grocery Employees’ Association. He attested under Lord Derby’s conscription scheme but was rejected as medically unfit. In May 1916 he joined the Royal Field Artillery at Biscot as a volunteer, and was subsequently transferred to the Middlesex Regiment. He was sent to France in September 1916 and rose to the rank of Corporal. Noticing the great interest Corporal Pollard took in his duties his commanding officer recommended him for a commission. After returning home and passing his examinations he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant on 18th December. In January he was posted to the Northumberland Fusiliers. He has a wife and child living at 177 Hitchin Road, Luton.

Source: Luton News, 7th March 1918

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Bacon Hoarding

Two prize pigs in Brown & Merry Bedford sale yard c.1910 [BMB13/2]


Wednesday 6th March 1918: A case of bacon hoarding has been reported at the Bedford Food Control Committee. A man had called at the office and stated that he had purchased 140lbs of bacon in November and another 40lbs in January. He had been in the habit of purchasing a pig-and-a-half at a time for the past seventeen years. He also had about one hundredweight of potatoes, and at first said he had a sack of flour but then changed his mind. He had been instructed to send in a full return of what food he possessed but had not done so. There were three people in his household. The Committee decided to seize al the bacon except 20lbs, and send it to the two Voluntary Aid Detachment hospitals.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard, 8th March 1918

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Pistol Confiscated from Leighton Buzzard Boy

South Street, Leighton Buzzard c.1900 [Z1432/2/1/34/1]

Monday 4th March 1918: Herbert Olden, a sixteen year old labourer from Leighton Buzzard has been summoned to the Police Court for unlawfully using a pistol while under the age of eighteen years. Police Constable Cheshire saw the boy on the footpath in South Street on February 11th, apparently showing something to another lad. As he approached he saw smoke and heard the sound of a pistol being fired; Olden then put something into his pocket. When P.C. Cheshire asked for the gun the boy gave it to him, claiming he had a licence for it at home. When challenged over this he told the policeman the licence had expired and said “I suppose I can do as I like with my own property”. Police Superintendent Matthews said that Olden had never held a gun licence, and could have been summoned for not having one. The Chairman of the Bench spoke sharply to Olden for “telling a lot of lies” about the licence; he was fined ten shillings and the gun was to be confiscated.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 5th March 1918

Friday, 2 March 2018

Explosion at Munitions Works

George Kent Ltd Munitions Workers, 1916 [Z1306/75/17/21]

Saturday 2nd March 1918: The Press Bureau has issued a statement concerning an explosion which took place in a munition works in the Home Counties, resulting in injuries to some of the girl workers. No further information has been received. [1]

Source: Luton News, 7th March 1918

[1] The explosion took place at the George Kent works at Chaul End on Friday 1st March. Four girls died of the injuries they received: May Constable, Lillian G. Harris, Kate Tomkins, and Florence Warnes. While more minor incidents were usually reported in the local press in some detail, it seems that the authorities were keen to suppress news of a tragedy on this scale.