Thursday, 14 August 2014

The 1st Battalion Leaves for Active Service

Bayonet fighting practice [X550/1/195/1]

Friday 14th August 1914: We hear that the 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment left Mullingar in Ireland at two o’clock this morning. We understand they are on their way to Belfast where they will board ship for France. We wish them God Speed.

A Bedford man with the 5th Bedfords, a Territorial Army unit which is in training in Romford [Essex] has written to us as follows. "Everything is carried out strictly under war conditions and the men are only allowed out when not engaged in duty, for a short time in the evening. The men attended church parade with rifles and ammunition and afterwards were exercised in drill and had a route march in full marching order. The commissariat and the health of the men are good. One lamentable accident occurred to one of the Cambridge men when, by some chance, a man dropped or caught his rifle in something and as it was loaded it discharged, the bullet entering his leg. The leg had to be amputated but the poor fellow died. The inhabitants are very kind to us and are only too pleased to oblige us in any way possible. There is much speculation as to how long we are going to stop here but everything is secret and what talk there is can only be supposition".

A Sandy man in the same battalion has written: "The men are quartered in schools and are daily getting in trim. We are having a strenuous time, carrying full marching order of 56 lb weight and 200 rounds of ammunition. Today we have had a sixteen miles march in the hot sun. It was gruelling! The health of all the local men is excellent. We have been sleeping on the floors of schools, with greatcoats only. Now we have a blanket, which is very nice. Today an order came from the General Officer Commanding calling for volunteers for foreign service. The local men of D Company responded to the number of 56. Biggleswade, Sandy, Saint Neots and Potton are represented in numbers. Every officer in the regiment offered his services. Now we want more men to fill their places and it is up to the men of Sandy and Biggleswade to respond. So, men of Sandy, do your duty! You are urgently requested to do so by your country. Apply at Headquarters, Gwyn Street, Bedford".

Sources: X550/2/5; Bedfordshire Times 14th August 1914

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