Tuesday 5 August 2014

We are at War

Gwyn Street [BorB/K2/5a]

Wednesday 5th August 1914: With the failure of the Kaiser and his ministers to accept Belgian neutrality a state of war now exists between this country and Germany and its ally the Austro-Hungarian Empire. With our brave allies the French and the Russians, not to mention our stout colonies all over the World we must put an end to Prussian militarism once and for all.

The county has been a hive of activity as men prepare for war. Our territorials, the 5th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, who only returned from camp on Monday morning have been mobilised. The order came through to the captains of the various companies at 6.15 last night and the captains notified their men to be at Battalion Headquarters in Gwyn Street, Bedford, this morning at ten o’clock. By ten minutes to nine most men were present, together with a crowd of leave-taking wives and children. A and H Companies were billeted at the roller skating rink[1]. All eight of the battalion’s companies were expected in Bedford by the end of the day. The men are to be paid as if they had been at camp all week in addition to their wages as members of the Regular Army from today.

There is a sense of camaraderie amongst the men who are making the best of things. As they passed through the town in full marching order, with rucksack, haversack, water bottle, entrenching tool, rifle, bayonet and ammunition case they looked a workmanlike body.
The Luton and Ampthill Companies of the 5th Territorials arrived in Bedford shortly after one o’clock. Luton at once marched to the Goldington Road schools. Ampthill went first to the Gwyn Street Headquarters and after a short rest they, too, found their way to the Goldington Road schools. Every man had answered the King’s call and the Company could have brought recruits along with them. They are extremely pleased and proud of their send off from Ampthill where the town band headed the march to the station and the crowd turned out en masse to give them a rousing farewell. This Company specialises in signalling and will supply the signalling section to the East Anglian Division[2] in addition to the regimental signallers. E Company is 122 strong and has a section at Shefford 29 strong, and another at Olney [Buckinghamshire] 27 strong. These arrived earlier in the day.

The South Bedfordshire detachment had a grand send-off from Luton. The streets were so thickly crowded with the cheering mass that the men had the greatest difficulty in keeping their formation. The Red Cross Band headed the march and the scene at the station was indescribable. Every man answered the roll call. Dunstable and Leighton Buzzard sent one company and Luton supplies three. The Luton non-commissioned officers brought along with them twenty recruits, all of whom were army time-expired men. They say they could have taken 100 recruits.

The last of the companies to arrive was that from Biggleswade, in company with a good few reservists. They at once made for the Roise Street schools which will be their temporary headquarters.

This morning the men were paid their bounty of £1 for camp and the second week’s full camp pay although only a short period of it had been served. The same day the increased pay as units in the mobilised army commenced. Kit and medical examination took place and the men made themselves very much at home in their new surroundings. Blankets had not arrived and it was expected that the men would sleep in their overcoats.

Each man is expected to bring his first day’s rations with him on mobilisation. After the first day the army commissariat authorities takes over the responsibility. Neglect of or ignorance of this order caused many to skirmish round or go without, according to the state of his or his friends’ purse, and raids on shops in the localities of where the out of town men were stationed cleared them out. The Bedford men were permitted to billet at home.

Source: Bedfordshire Times 7th August 1914

[1] This was built in 1911 on the north bank of the Embankment between the Swan Hotel and Newnham Road.
[2] This would become the 54th (East Anglian) Division and would see action in Gallipoli, Egypt and the Holy Land fighting the Turks.

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