Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Bedford Soldier Gassed

Signaller Sydney S. Darrington

Thursday 29th August 1918: Signaller Sydney S. Darrington, the elder son of Mr and Mrs J. W. Darrington of The Cedars, St. John’s Street, Bedford has died in France. Signaller Darrington was an old boy of Bedford Modern School, well known for his sporting activities; he was a member of the Bedford Swimming Club, the Hockey Club, and the Argyll Football Club. After leaving school he joined the staff of Messrs. Dudeney and Johnstone where he worked for ten years. Just before the war his father retired from The Café in St. John’s Street, and the business was taken over by Sydney and his brother Percy. Both joined the Army: Sydney was attached to the Kite Balloon Section of the Royal Flying Corps, and Percy joined the Howitzer Brigade. Before going to France in January 1916 Sydney married his wife Alice, and they have a 20 month old daughter. When he returned to France from leave last August he was transferred to the Sherwood Forresters. Despite spending many months in the trenches, Sydney had not been wounded until Saturday 17th August, when he was badly gassed. His wife received a telegram telling her that he was in hospital and advising her to travel to France. She and her mother-in-law left Bedford on the Monday morning, but when they arrived in London they received the news that Signaller Darrington had died.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard, 23rd August 1918

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Tenancy Dispute over Cottage for Wounded Soldier

Woburn Road, Heath and Reach, 1906 [Z1306/57/5]

Monday 26th August 1918: Mr. John Loke, of Heath Road, has applied for possession of a cottage at Heath which is currently occupied by Thomas Thompson. Mr. Loke wanted the cottage for Joseph Hack, a discharged soldier who had worked for him for ten years before he was mobilised with the Territorials in August 1914. Hack had been badly wounded at Gallipoli, losing a foot, part of his right hand, and part of his jaw and ear. He had been discharged, and was now again working for Mr. Loke. This was the second application for possession made in respect of this tenancy. The first had failed when it was found that Mr. Loke’s agent had received rent from Thomas Thompson after expiry of the notice to quit. A second notice to quit had been served, and again an attempt had been made to get Mr. Loke to accept the rent, which was in arrears. Two rent books was produced as evidence: one by the defending solicitor showing that it was a Saturday tenancy; the second by the prosecuting solicitor for a Monday tenancy, as stated in the application. The Bench examined both books, concluding that it was indeed a Saturday tenancy and the application was therefore invalid.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 27th August 1918

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Luton Deserter Captured

The Antelope Public House, 51 Albert Road, Luton c.1960 [WB/Flow4/5/Lu/Ant2]

Friday 23rd August 1918: Gustavus Streeton junior, aged 29, of 57 Albert Road, Luton has appeared in court charged with deserting from the Army, and of being in possession of Army Form B 2079, contrary to regulations. His father, Gustavus Streeton senior, aged 66,  of the same address was also charged with obstructing a policeman in the execution of his duty and with concealing a deserter. A third man, Ernest Folks, aged 27, a munition worker of 84 Albert Road was charged with allowing the Army Form to be in the possession of Gustavus Streeton.

Police Sergeant Janes told the court that he found Gustavus Streeton between the landing ceiling and the roof of 57 Albert Road, and that the prisoner admitted desertion. On behalf of the military authorities Captain Miller asked for the prisoner to be detained until they could ascertain to which unit he belonged. He had been a deserter for two years. The pass, a discharge certificate which belonged to Folks, was found in Streeton’s possession. He at first said he had been given the certificate by Folks, then that Folks had dropped it while visiting his house and he had later found it on the floor.

Folks pleaded not guilty to allowing the form to be in the possession of another person. Inspector Janes said he had interviewed the defendant and asked him to produce his discharge papers. He brought downstairs a parcel of papers including a Territorial discharge and said “I had another one here”, but could not find it. He then said that about a week ago he went to mend Streeton’s bicycle, and the paper must have been taken from his coat pocket. He claimed not to have seen Streeton for two years until the police arrested him; after the obvious inconsistency with the bicycle story was pointed out he refused to answer further.

Streeton then gave evidence that he had been at Lilley a fortnight ago, on the road to Luton, when he met Folks. They sat down by the roadside and Folks took out his discharge papers from his pocket. He left one on the bank, Streeton then picked it up and kept it until he was arrested. Captain Miller told the court that although it may not be local knowledge, there was considerable trafficking in discharge papers. It was a dangerous and unpatriotic practice, and required severe penalties. Streeton was fined ten shillings or seven days, and Folks was fined £6 or two months’ hard labour. The elder Mr. Streeton admitted concealment but denied obstruction. He knew that if his son was sent back he would suffer very severely as a deserter on draft for the Front. Gustavus Streeton senior was fined £1.

Source: Luton News, 22nd August 1918

Monday, 20 August 2018

Company Fined for Employing Girls on Sunday

Welders at Morgan and Company Limited 1914-18 [Z1432/2/13/22/15]

Tuesday 20th August 1918: Morgan and Company Limited of Leighton Buzzard have been summoned for unlawfully employing women and girls at their factory in Lake Street on three Sundays in June. The Factory and Workshops Act does not restrict the employment of men over 18, but limits the hours of work of women, young persons and children; unless special exception is made, they cannot be employed in a factory or workshop on a Sunday. Morgan’s have obtained an exemption order which allows women over 18 to work exceptional hours, but this is specifically limited to weekdays. While there was no suggestion that the company had acted from improper motives, it was a matter of principle – not only were there religious considerations, but in many cases Sunday work destroyed family life and reduced people’s social enjoyment. Experience had also shown that it was not economically desirable.

Constance Alice Louisa Pooley, aged 14, of 32 Dudley Street, gave evidence that on 9th June she was employed on machine work from 7.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. with ten minutes for lunch at 10 a.m. and an hour’s break at 12.30 p.m. She had volunteered to work overtime, and was paid double time of sixpence an hour. She had just had a week’s holiday and a money gift from the company, she was happy in her work and her health had not suffered through the Sunday work. The firm put in a guilty plea, but pointed out that it was engaged in work of great national importance; it was contracted to produce a fixed quota of machines in a given time, and had been successfully meeting its quota. At the time of the offences some of the machinery at the main works in Linslade was out of order and could only be mended at the weekend. As a result the work’s manager had asked if any of the girls at the Lake Street works could help, without thinking about the working hours restrictions. However, in November 1917 the company had been sent a warning letter after an inspector had found Morgans was employing women and girls for more than the legal limit of sixty hours a week - some were working as many as eighty-eight hours and staying at work into the early hours of the morning. In view of this a fine of £16 was imposed.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 27th August 1918

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Bakers Selling Bread to German Prisoners

Chalgrave Church [Z1130/26/2]

Friday 16th August 1918: Another case involving the passing of food to German prisoners of war was heard today at the Woburn Police Court. This time Hockliffe bakers Walter Harris, aged 28, and his brother John Harris, aged 17, were charged with selling bread on June 17th to a prisoner of war at Chalgrave. John Harris was also summoned for a second offence which took place the following day. Evidence was given by Police Sergeant Dennis of Toddington, that on June 18th, as a result of something he had heard, he hid near a field where the prisoners were working at Lord’s Hill, Chalgrave. He saw John Harris drive past. Some of the prisoners whistled; Harris then turned back and served the prisoners with four half-quartern loaves. He challenged Harris, who admitted he had done wrong, but said he had sold the prisoners only four loaves although they asked for six. He also admitted serving the prisoners with bread on the previous day, when his brother Walter had been with him.

When interviewed Walter denied selling any bread, saying “I have never served a prisoner with bread and I have repeatedly cautioned my brother not to do so”. He admitted being with his brother, but said he had only held the reins of the cart and did not know whether his brother had served the guard or the prisoners. The prosecuting solicitor pointed out that if Walter had been aware of the sale it was a ‘contemptible wriggle’ to blame his brother. Such actions showed a ‘gross want of patriotism’, with the men seeming to care nothing for their country provided they could get a bit of extra money in their pockets. William Garner, a postman from Dunstable said he saw the baker’s cart on June 17th standing opposite a field gate with several German prisoners round it. They had a bag with them which he assumed contained bread, although he did not actually see any bread change hands. As Harris drove on he called out “You ought to get six months for serving German prisoners!” 

Sergeant-Major Richard Malone of the prisoner of war camp at Leighton Buzzard said there were forty prisoners in the camp at this time, who were being sent out in gangs of six with one soldier in charge. The prisoners had breakfast at 6 a.m. of biscuit, bread, jam, cheese and coffee. When they came back from work they had potatoes, meat or fish, and there was no need for them to buy bread except out of greed or for other purposes. He had received no complaints that they did not have enough food from the prisoners.

John Harris gave evidence that on June 17th the guard in charge of the prisoners had asked for the loaf of bread, had paid for it, and then went back into the field with the prisoners. The next day the prisoners had come out of the field with a bag and asked for six loaves, but he only sold them four as this was all he had in the cart. He had told the policeman he was very sorry if he had done wrong, but the guard had told him that he could supply the prisoners – Sergeant Dennis however denied that Harris had said this. Unfortunately the prisoners’ guard, Private Rumble, could not be called as he was in hospital with double pneumonia and was given little chance of recovery. The element of doubt over whether the guard had neglected his duty and told John Harris that he could sell bread to the prisoners made it impossible for the magistrates to decide on the case without his evidence. Due to Private Rumble’s illness the hearing was adjourned indefinitely.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 20th August 1918

Monday, 13 August 2018

Worker Killed in Fire Extinguisher Explosion

The Avenue, Flitwick c.1920 [Z50/50/41]

Tuesday 13th August 1918: Yesterday evening an employee of the George Kent Ltd. works at Chaul End was killed in an unfortunate accident. Wilfred Joy of The Ridgway, Flitwick, was employed as a fitter at the works, and at about 5.30pm he was apparently unscrewing or doing something with a large fire extinguisher. He was holding the extinguisher between his knees, when for some reason the bottom blew out and the point of the cylinder struck him over the left eye, rebounding between thirty and forty feet. Mr. Joy was taken to the Bute Hospital, where he died at about eight o’clock. A considerable amount of gas escaped in the explosion, and it is not clear whether the cause of death was the injury or the gas. Mr. Joy’s body was identified by his brother Charles Joy, a wheelwright of Leighton Road, Toddington. He told the inquest that his brother was 36 years old, single, and lived with their sister, Mrs. Cunningham. The inquest was adjourned to allow a post-mortem examination to be carried out.

Source: Luton News, 15th August 1918

Thursday, 9 August 2018

A Twin Problem

Bedford Board of Guardians 1907 [Z160/933]

Friday 9th August 1918: At yesterday’s meeting of the Bedford Board of Guardians an impasse was reached over the case of twin babies who are currently inmates in the Workhouse. The twins were born to the wife of a soldier who had recently returned from France, but were not his children. He said that his wife had been assaulted, but no proceedings were taken against the man. She had been receiving the Army allowance for the babies, but the husband had agreed to repay this to the Guardians of the Poor. He appeared before the Board and stated that he would not have the children in his home as they were not his; if he had them there could be no happiness in the home. He was informed that it did not matter whose children they were, as the mother’s husband he would be responsible for them and the babies would be handed over to him during the next week. The man insisted he would not take them.

Source: Bedfordshire Times, 9th August 1918

Monday, 6 August 2018

Rumour Causes a Riot at Bedford

Bedford Police Officers 1925 [QEV20/7]

Tuesday 6th August 1918: Edward Arthur Drew of 2 Shaftesbury Avenue, Bedford has appeared in court on a charge of obstructing a police constable while in the execution of his duty. This is a sequel to severe disturbances which took place in Bedford on the nights of Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th July. These resulted from a rumour that the police had arrested a wounded soldier named Brierley, and that in taking him to the police station the police had nearly killed him. The facts of the case were that a soldier who had drunk too much was arrested at the Fleur de Lis public house in order that he should be taken care of. He became very violent and the military police sought assistance from a police constable. When he arrived at the police station a doctor was sent for who thoroughly examined him, and found that he was suffering only from too much drink. The next morning the Brierley remembered nothing of the night before, and was handed over to the military authorities by whom he was punished. Meanwhile, rumours spread that the soldier had been taken to hospital, where all his old wounds had to be re-stitched. By Monday a woman even asked the Mayor whether it was true that the man was dead.

At the court hearing evidence was given that as the police constable took the soldier along the High Street, Drew and his wife had stopped him. Drew put his hand on the constable’s shoulder and said “Let loose of his arm, you brute; you are hurting a wounded soldier”.  The couple refused to leave, following them to the police station. News spread quickly that the police were hurting a wounded man, and this caused a hostile crowd of two to three hundred people to gather outside the police station. In the riot that followed several military policemen were assaulted. Drew said that the military police were holding the soldier’s right arm, and the police constable was twisting the man’s left arm in such a way as to cause intense pain, with “absolute agony” on his face. He felt it is duty to intervene. William S. Robbins, an engineer, also stated that he thought the soldier was being treated in a rough manner.

The Bench decided unanimously that Drew should not have behaved as he did, and that he should be ashamed of himself. They were sorry he saw fit to interfere with the police. Drew was fined £5 and 4 shillings costs.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard, 2nd and 9th August 1918

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Soldier Gaoled for Supplying Food to German Prisoners

Aspley Guise Woods 1921 [Z1130/3a/62h]

Friday 2nd August 1918: Private Frederick William Brock of the 383rd Motor Transport Company, Bedford has appeared at the Leighton Buzzard Police Court charged with supplying Quaker Oats to German prisoners of war from the camp at Woburn. Private Thomas Patrick Dasey of the Canadian Forestry Corps gave evidence that while he was working in the woods between Aspley Heath and Woburn on 16th July he saw Private Brock, who was driving one of the timber supply motor lorries, take a parcel from his van, carry it about 150 yards into the wood and place it behind some brushwood. Five minutes later he saw a German prisoner, who had been working nearby, fetch the parcel and take it away to where the prisoners were cutting pit props.

Private Walter Croft of the Royal Defence Corps said he was on sentry duty over the prisoners when Brock took the parcel into the wood. He saw the German prisoner drop the parcel behind a heap of pit props; he was 150 yards away, and thought the defendant could not see him. Private Croft reported the incident to Corporal Frederick Smith, who was in charge of the prisoner escort that day. Corporal Smith went to the prisoner and asked through an interpreter what he had received. He said it was bread. When asked to show it he produced a small linen bag with about one pound of Quaker Oats in it. Corporal Smith also found three full two pound packets of Quaker Oats under the prisoner’s cape. He claimed Private Brock had admitted to him having given these to the prisoner, but Private Brock said this was not true – he had said he put the parcel behind the brushwood, not that he gave it to the prisoner.  

Private Brock said he had bought the oats at Thirsk in Yorkshire in May due to a problem with rations. He had got tired of carrying them about with him so decided to pack them up and send them away, but found the postage too expensive. He had therefore simply walked out into the wood and dropped them where he expected they would be burnt with the brushwood. There were no German prisoners within 100 yards of the spot, and he did not know what had happened to the oats until the Corporal came and asked about them. When pressed Private Brock admitted that prisoners had asked him to procure things for them, but said he had refused. When asked why he did not give the oats away while he was billeted in Bedford he said it was because he knew no one there. When it was pointed out to him that throwing the food away was as serious an offence as to give it to the prisoners, he claimed he did not know what else to do with it.

An officer from the prisoners of war camp said there was reason to fear that this kind of thing was happening more often than it should, and that it tended to make the prisoners get out of hand. The Chairman of the Bench took into account Private Brock’s previous good character and sentenced him to three weeks imprisonment.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 6th August 1918