Thursday, 21 August 2014

Our Lads at Home and Abroad

Friday 21st August 1914: The 1st Bedfords have reached a town named Gommegnies, south-west of Bavay where they have been billeted. We still have no exact knowledge of where the enemy is but he must be somewhere to the north, close to the town of Mons. There is a rumour that a reconnaissance team of cyclists encountered the Germans near the town of Obourg just north-east of Mons earlier today. One of their number, we believe, was killed*. The men, our contact with the Bedfords tells us, are in good heart and spoiling for a fight with those who have already committed so many dreadful acts of murder, rapine and arson against a peaceful population whose only crime was to happen to live on the Germans’ way to France. The universal view is, we understand that the Germans must be stopped here and now and that our boys are the boys to do it. God Bless them in the days ahead.

There is great but unobtrusive activity going on at the Bedford Depot in connection with the Second Army**. Colonel Tilly, the Commanding Officer and an efficient staff have been working night and day to make matters go smoothly. Judging from observations at present 500 or more men in Barracks are being made as comfortable as possible, and there is no delay about clothing the men as the articles are received. Recruiting must be going on very satisfactorily and large numbers of recruits sometimes arrive late at night, but our representative heard no word of complaint. There is a quiet earnestness of purpose manifest.

We hear that the 5th Bedfords have had a pretty stiff time at Romford and have found the weather somewhat trying. They are nearly always in full marching order on every parade, and carry 100 rounds of ammunition, which "hang heavy". Then many of the men have had to have new boots and there have consequently been lots of blistered heels and galled feet. The men, however, are in good spirits, and make the best of the situation.

Sources: X550/2/5; Bedfordshire Times 21st August 1914

Private John Parr from Church End, Finchley serving with 4th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment. He is buried at Saint-Symphorien Cemetery. He was the first British soldier killed whilst on active service during the war and he was just sixteen years old. His grave is opposite that of George Edwin Ellison of 5th Royal Irish Lancers. He fought in the Battle of Mons in 1914 and was killed ninety minutes before the Armistice on 11th November 1918, the last British casualty of the war, aged forty. These two were separated by 1,543 days and 886,937 other deaths.
** This was the designation for newly raised troops answering the call for volunteers since the outbreak of war. It bears no relationship to the Second Army of the British Expeditionary Force which was created on 26th December 1914 and served for most of the war in the Ypres salient in Belgium except for a spell in Italy between November 1917 and March 1918.

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