Wednesday 13 August 2014

Villagers’ Kindness to 5th Bedfords

Bedfordshire Regiment personnel at camp [X550/1/195/1]

Thursday 13th August 1914: A letter has reached us from a member of the 5th Bedfords: “We have seen a bit of rural England. A week ago we left Romford for a long march, which we finished last Friday night. We have been through and halted at the following places, sleeping out in the open with only a topcoat and blanket; Chelmsford, Braintree, Halwell*, Sudbury and Bury Saint Edmund’s. From there we came to this place, having travelled over 85 miles. Water is very short here, one pailful having to do for sixty men to wash in, so you can guess there is a rush for the first wash. We are having Army and Navy biscuits and jam for breakfast one day, and bread and cheese every other day. For dinner we get meat and bread. There is a big shortage of potatoes”.

“We do not know from day to day where we are going. Every morning we have nothing less than a six-mile march with full pack and 100 rounds of ammunition. One thing that has helped us along has been the very kind receptions we have met with at every village we have been through. Last Wednesday we stayed at Halwell and were allowed out for four hours. A party of us went into the town for grub and could not find a café anywhere, so I went to a grocer’s and asked him if he could recommend us a place where we could have a good feed. He invited us inside and fed us like kings. After tea he took us upstairs into his room and handed round his cigars, so we had a very pleasant two hours. That is typical of how we are being treated by the people. When a fellow has a box of eatables from home there is a big rush and he can, if he is short of ready cash, soon make a little fortune”.

“We get some very heavy dews now in the morning, and most of us have got bad colds … I have now to go about two miles to get some drinking water”.

Source: Bedfordshire Times 28th August 1914

This is clearly a mistake for Halstead, on the A131 between Braintree and Sudbury. Kelly’s Directory for Essex for 1914 lists the following grocers in the town: E. and T. P. Doubleday in the High Street and Trinity Street; Percy F. Evans, 19 High Street; Frank Rayner, 43 High Street; John and James Seymour, 63 and 65 High Street and Eli Wright of 17 Tidings Hill. 

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