Monday 29 September 2014

A Letter from the 1st Bedfords at the Front

Tuesday 29th September 1914: We have received a letter from Lieutenant Charles Claude Stafford, a 23 year old from Bedford serving with the 1st Bedfords in France near the River Aisne. He says: “We are right at the front now, and sleep in the trenches. We are 250 yards away from the German trenches. They cannot do much damage to us, as our position is very strong. I am in perfect health and get plenty to eat. I should love a bath or a good wash. Please send me some chocolate or cigarettes as we cannot get either. I have met several officers I knew before I came out. Hopkins was a master at Elstow School and is one of the best. All our letters are censored so that I can’t give you any news but shall have plenty to tell you when I get back. I hope to be home for a Christmas dinner”.

“We get plenty of excitement here. I think our people have just shelled the enemy out of some of their trenches. I sleep like a top through all the noise. I made my part of the trench lovely and warm with straw last night. It is very hot by day and cold at night. We got hold of sometime rabbits and some fowls which we bought”.

“The German artillery is very good but their Infantry is not so good. In fact it is bad. Of course we don’t mind that. I feel sorry for the inhabitants of the villages round us; they have had their houses blown to pieces. The airmen are very brave. They go over the German trenches and are shelled at hard, but manage not to get hit. We can see shrapnel bursting all round them. I have got quite used to shells and bullets flying about. We are all wondering where the Russians are. I have been over a good part of France, but, of course, not nearly so much as the rest of the Battalion. I shall be glad when we land in Berlin. We are all very unshaven but manage to get quite a lot of enjoyment out of everything. W. A. B. Walker, who used to be in the same form with me, is in the Regiment. It is no use sending the men clothing, as when we advance they will have to throw it away. We all carry as little as possible”.[1]

Source: Bedfordshire Times 9th October 1914

[1] Lieutenant Stafford was killed less than a month later – on 13th October when his unit was pushed back 300 yards by German artillery and infantry at Givenchy-lès-la-Bassée. 7 officers and 140 other ranks in all became casualties. Sadly Lieutenant Stafford has no known grave and is commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial. Second Lieutenant Walter Arthur Beaumont Walker died on 30th October 1914 and is buried at Bethune Town Cemetery.

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