Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Influenza Causes Bedford Schools to Close

Ampthill Road School, Bedford 1922 [Z1306/9/2/14/1]

Tuesday 31st October 1918: The outbreak of influenza in Bedford has resulted in very poor attendance at local schools. By the middle of October as many as 50 percent of pupils at the Queen’s Park and Goldington Road schools were absent and all elementary schools in the town were closed. They subsequently reopened but the situation is now so bad that they are to close again from today and remain shut until November 11th. There is also considerable sickness among the teachers, with at least seventeen now absent. Some are reported to be very ill, and Mrs. Davis, a teacher at the Priory Schools, has died. The Borough Education Committee has also asked that all Sunday schools should be closed and that picture palaces should refuse admission to children under the age of fourteen while the epidemic continues. Picture palaces and theatres have also been put out of bounds for the troops. Dr. Willmer Phillips, the School Medical Officer recommends that people get plenty of fresh air and avoid going into stuffy places. Anyone feeling at all feverish and then chilly should go straight to bed. Due to the epidemic the out-patients department of the Bedford County Hospital has been closed until further notice.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard, 18th October and 1st November 1918

Monday, 29 October 2018

Sailor Adrift in Red Sea for 101 Days

Steamers at Perim Harbour c.1910 [Wiikimedia Commons]

Tuesday 29th October 1918: After fire broke out in the engine room of his ship Second Engineer Edward Banks, the nephew of Abel Bunn of North Street, Leighton Buzzard, spent 101 days adrift in the Red Sea. In a letter to his uncle he describes the experience: 
“The fire in the stoke hole burnt for six hours. After a struggle we managed to get it out, but that was not the end of our trouble; the fire burnt a pipe from one of the sea cocks and slowly filled the stoke hole and engine room with water. This put the damper on us for getting steam from the main boilers, so we had to set to and convert the donkey boiler (which is in ‘tween decks) from oil to coal. When we got this finished there was 25 feet of water in the engine room, but after a struggle and plenty of wading, about up to our necks in oil, fuel and water, we managed to get one of the pumps going, and pumped the engine room and stoke hole dry. What a mess things were in! We had to set to again and clean up a bit and to get the fires away again. This took us about six days and we drifted 90 miles out of the track of shipping and had some very narrow escapes of going on to the rocks. The dynamo was destroyed by the fire and water so that we could not send out a message by wireless for help. 
After a few days and nights of work we managed to get all ready to make for the nearest port, but just two hours before we were ready to start another fire broke out in the stoke hole, more fierce than the first, and burnt for 48 hours. And, by jove, it did blaze: some parts of the engine room were white hot. Even the ship’s sides in places were red hot, and the decks you could not walk on. It was a good job we were not loaded with benzene (as we have been) or we should have gone up.
This fire eventually died out: we could not do anything but just let it burn. When we were able to get down to the engine room the damage was so great that we could not do anything to get into port under our own steam … When we found we could do nothing the Captain asked for volunteers to sail in the small boat into the track of shipping and hail one of them to come to our assistance; we all volunteered to go, but only four were chosen. The first night they were out a strong gale sprang up and they had a pretty rough time of it. They managed to get to an island (with a lighthouse) in a very exhausted condition, and to the first steamer they passed they signalled, asked the Captain to wireless the position to the gunboats who were looking for us. It was not long after before one of the gunboats came alongside us and towed us to Perim. He was just in time as we had only two days water left, and we had been on our whack for some time. I am pleased to say I am none the worse for my experience.
Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 29th October 1918

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Luton Munitions Workers Awarded OBEs

MBE medal, 1918 [Wikipedia]

Sunday 27th October 1918: A ceremony has been held this afternoon at Luton Town Hall, at which Order of the British Empire medals were presented to three employees of George Kent Limited by the Lord Lieutenant of Bedfordshire, Mr. Samuel Whitbread. All three were awarded for the great courage shown by the recipients during an accident which took place at the works in March. The O.B.E. Is a new award, established last year at the instigation of the King to honour all those men and women who have provided conspicuous service to the Empire as civilians or in military supporting roles. The recipients of the medals are:
  • Samuel Beddall of Harris Villa, Chiltern Road, Dunstable, who at grave personal risk twice entered a burning room and rescued three workers, in spite of dense fumes and personal injuries.
  • Herbert Thomas Honnor of Naseby Road, Luton,for courage and high example in rescuing two fellow workers on the occasion of a fire in a factory.
  • Alexander McKay Pattison of Dordans Road, Leagrave, also for courage and high example at a factory fire. Though suffering from burns he rendered important assistance to several women who were in great danger.
Source: Luton News, 31st October 1918

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Flu Epidemic Kills Three at Toddington

High Street, Toddington c.1910 [Z50/126/27]

Wednesday 23rd October 1918: Toddington has been badly hit by an epidemic of influenza, with over 150 cases. Both the schools have been closed and almost every family has been affected. At least four people have died in the past week, and many others are dangerously ill after developing pneumonia or pleurisy. Mr. George Clarke, a chimney sweep and market gardener of Leighton Road, died on Tuesday morning after being ill for a week. He was a member of the Toddington Primitive Methodist Church and was well known locally as his occupation took him round all the nearby villages. The Wesleyan Methodist Church lost an active worker and supporter in Mrs. Martha Neale, of St. David’s, Toddington. She conducted a large Society Class at the Church and was a Sunday School visitor, and was known for her “genial and benevolent disposition” . After a short illness she died of pneumonia on Thursday evening. Her death has added to the grief of her family, who have suffered other recent bereavements. Mr. Albert Fountain, a farmer at Cowbridge Farm, also died on Thursday after a very short illness; his wife and child are also dangerously ill. The combination of influenza and pneumonia also took the life of Charles T. Evans of Luton Road.  

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 22nd October 1918

Friday, 19 October 2018

Landlord Ordered to Repair Cottage

Stanbridge Village c.1909 [Z1306/108/4]

Saturday 19th October 1918: A soldier’s wife is refusing to pay rent for the cottage in which she is living in Stanbridge until repairs are carried out. The cottage is one of a row belonging to Mr. George Olney, and its poor condition had already been brought to the Council’s attention two years ago. There are large holes in the bedroom floor, and she is concerned that her children could fall into them. The matter was again reported to the Council, whose Surveyor declared that action should be taken to ensure that the woman and her children could live in reasonable comfort. The landlord has been given two weeks to make repairs. If this is not done, the District surveyor will carry out the work and recover the cost from him

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer 22nd October 1918

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Farmers Refuse to Apply for Permits

Market day at Leighton Buzzard 1909 [Z1306/72/10/9]

Wednesday 16th October 1918: At a meeting last night of the Leighton Buzzard Branch of the National Farmers’ Union it was decided that they would all refuse to comply with instructions to apply for permits to feed damaged corn and screenings to livestock. It was considered that this was just another “ridiculous and arbitrary order” being imposed on farmers by Government Departments; it appeared that every week some new order came into force, “generally more ridiculous than those that had gone before”. Under this new plan two officials were to be appointed in each area – some of whom “did not know barley from wheat” – to receive samples and send them to London for a permit, which might take a week or two to arrive. This sub-standard corn was absolutely necessary for feeding livestock, and it appeared the Government did not trust farmers to know their own business. All other branches of the National Farmers’ Union in the area are believed to have passed the same resolution

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer 22nd October 1918

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Munition Worker Fined for Drunkenness

Waller Street, Luton c.1905 [Z1306/75/10/60/3]

Monday 14th October 1918: Amy Lawson, aged 25, a munition worker lodging at 63 Church Street, Luton, has pleaded guilty to having been drunk and incapable in Waller Street last night. Police Sergeant Matsell said that he had found her helplessly drunk at 11.30 p.m. He lifted her up but found she could not stand, and with the help of Inspector Janes he got her to the police station. Miss Lawson is a single woman from Rochdale working at George Kent’s, who has been lodging in Luton for eight weeks. She expressed her sorrow for being in such a position and agreed to enter into a bond to abstain, however she was a “frequenter of public houses” she was fined ten shillings and no bond was imposed, the magistrate appearing to be concerned that it would simply lead to her getting into more trouble.

Source: Luton News, 17th October 1918

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Last Messages from Dying Soldiers

Corporal William Hart

Friday 11th October 1918: News of her husband’s death came as a great shock to Mrs. Elizabeth Hart of Caddington. Her husband, Corporal William Hart of Caddington, was badly wounded in the left arm on Sunday 22nd September. His arm was amputated to the elbow, but he was able to write a message to his wife with his right: “My love to all; keep smiling”. However, he succumbed to his injuries and died in hospital at Rouen on 1st October. A former stoker at the Luton Gas Works, Corporal Hart had joined the Army in October 1914. He was invalided home and spent a year in a London hospital. He had only been back in France for eleven weeks when he received the fatal wound.

Twenty one year old Private Bernard Bone of New Town Street, Luton, has also died of wounds. Before the war he worked for Messrs. Kent and was a member of the Territorials. He served with the East Anglian Royal Engineers until a recent transfer to the Cheshire Regiment. He had been wounded three times and had suffered from trench fever. The chaplain of the Canadian Casualty Clearing Station where he died wrote to his mother: “He was struck by a shell from the enemy causing bad fractures of both legs, and his hands and face were slightly wounded. The fearful shock to his whole nervous system was an alarming factor. He was quite cheerful at first. Everything that the best surgeons and nurses could do was done for your dear boy … When I asked him what message I should send to you he simply said, ‘Give her my love and tell her that I did my duty for God and country, and if God sees fit to take me I am not afraid of death.’ … He saved others; himself he could not save.”

Source: Luton News, 17th October 1918

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Equal Pay for Equal Work?

Frederick George Kellaway, M.P. (Wikipedia)

Wednesday 9th October 1918: Bedford’s Member of Parliament and Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Munitions, Mr. Frederick George Kellaway has today given a speech to the Women’s Liberal Association at Bedford in which he expressed the hope that there will be peace by Christmas … “I shall be disappointed if we do not have peace by Christmas, but we shall be better able to secure peace by Christmas if we proceed on the assumption that we have a long war before us”.

He went on to address the question of whether women should receive equal pay for equal work. The way in which women had become so important to the war effort was unexpected. In 1914 there were a quarter of a million women in the industries that were most needed for munitions – over 100,000 in metal work and engineering, and 15,000 handling explosives or in the chemical trades. It was these factory trained women who had joined munition works in great numbers, and their skills and ability to train others had made possible the replacement of men by women. Before the war women’s wages were about ten shillings a week; these had now risen to about 35 shillings for the same number of hours, and working conditions were much improved.

However, the rise in prices meant that this increase was not as great as it appeared. There was also the argument that where strength was required women could in most cases not do the same work as men. Experience suggested that about five women were equivalent to three women. Also women often learned one particular job, but did not have the overall knowledge of a man who could turn his hand to anything. He believed that women should indeed have equal pay, “if they do the same work as the men, of the same quality and of the same amount, with the same expense to the employer for supervision, and for what I may describe as overhead charges”. After the war women’s labour must not be used to enable employers to make larger profits than if they employed men, and must be of a kind which would not injure their physical health. He believed there was a great future for women in industry, but the claims of the returned soldier must come first.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard, 11th October 1918

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Leighton Buzzard Casualties

North Street, Leighton Buzzard c.1911 [Z1306/72/12/6]

Sunday 6th October: The tide of the war appears to have turned in favour of the Allies and there is real hope that victory is in sight; however, the toll of those killed and wounded continues to rise. Second Lieutenant Vivian Willis, of the Leighton Buzzard solicitors firm W. G. and V. V. Willis, has been wounded while serving with the Tank Corps. He had a lucky escape when a piece of shell flattened a whistle and a watch in his breast pocket and passed down his side, wounding him in both arms and the right thigh, side and hand. He is in hospital at Epsom and is expected to make a complete recovery.

Leading Seaman Frederick Brazier of 3 Friday Street was badly burned in the face, arms and body while serving on a naval ship three weeks ago. He is in hospital at Deal and although the burns are healing it has now been discovered that he has a broken left arm. He has served fifteen years in the Navy and was home on leave from the Mediterranean just a few weeks ago. His wife visited him in hospital and found him cheerful. The son of another resident of Friday Street, Private Harold Butcher of the Suffolk Regiment, is convalescing from the effects of gas. He served for six months in France before being sent to Palestine two years ago, and had only returned to the Western Front within the last three months.

The families of two soldiers now known to have been killed in action have undergone very different experiences, with one enduring a long wait and the other a sudden loss. Private Joseph George Jordan, the husband of Mrs Daisy Jordan of Ivy Cottage, Vandyke Road has been missing for virtually a year. She has finally been notified by the War Office that he is believed to have been killed on or soon after 9th October last year.[1] Mr. and Mrs. George Day of 27 Hockliffe Road have heard that their nineteen year old son, Trooper Cyril George Day, was killed on 5th September, only three weeks after arriving in France.

Sadly enemy action is not the only cause of death for soldiers serving in France. Private Alfred Joseph Dudley, whose parents live in North Street, joined the Army two years ago, and as his fitness only fell into the Class B1 category he was placed in the Royal Army Medical Corps. Service with the Field Ambulance appears to have been too much for his constitution, which was never strong, and he has died of dysentery. He leaves a widow and a three year old daughter.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 8th October 1918

[1] The Commonwealth War Graves Record for Private Jordan gives his date of death as 9th October 1917. He is commemorated at the Tyne Cot Memorial, indicating that his body was never found.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Medal Presentation Ceremony Held in Bedford

Entrance to Russell Park, Bedford c.1905 [Z1130/9/9/31]

Thursday 3rd October 1918: This morning a medal presentation ceremony has taken place in Russell Park, Bedford. A large number of troops marched through the town shortly before 11 o’clock, headed by two bands of the Royal Engineers. The medals were presented by the General Officer Commander-in-Chief, Eastern Command, Lieutenant-General Sir C. L. Woollcombe. The General was slightly late arriving as his car broke down between Bedford and Luton. The Mayor and Mayoress of Bedford and their daughters were also present.

The medals awarded included two  Distinguished  Conduct Medals. One was awarded to Corporal H. L. Bavington of the Hertfordshire Regiment but presented to his mother, as her son had since died of his wounds. The citation read: “For conspicuous gallantry in action. He led a bombing party with great gallantry, and rendered valuable assistance in the consolidation of the position. He has at all times set a splendid example.” The second was presented to Sapper W. J. M. Baldy of the Royal Engineers “for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He kept up communication all day while under fire from several directions, and in spite of casualties among the signallers. He did consistent good work during a long period.”

Other medals awarded at the ceremony included the Belgian Croix de Guerre to Sapper J. McKeown of the Biggleswade Depot; and the Military Medal and Bar to Sappers J. Layton, A. Lough and A. H. Cornwall. Twenty one men received the Military Medal and one the Good Conduct Medal. One of the recipients was Sergeant George Gazeley of Westoning,  one of the “Old Contemptibles” who first joined the Bedfordshire Regiment in 1904 and served in India. As a reservist he was called up at the beginning of the war, and by October 1915 had already been wounded three times. He is now permanently disabled after being badly hit in the leg last year. Two other Bedfordshire Regiment men, Sergeant Bertie Pettingell of Hitchin and Private George Henry Musgove of Kempston have also been serving since October 1914; Sergeant Pettingell enlisted when he was only 17 years old.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard, 4th October 1918