Thursday, 4 September 2014

Recruiting in Toddington; the 1st Bedfords on the Marne

Toddington Green [X291/186/82]

Friday 4th September 1914: The great enthusiasm created by the war has fairly laid hold of Toddington. The young and able-bodied men are offering themselves in good numbers. Already about fifty have gone, several of them young men with families ranging from one to seven in number with the satisfaction of knowing that their wives and families would be provided for in addition to the Government grant. This will be supplemented by money grants from their employers. There has been a steady stream during the past ten days. On Monday Dr. Waugh, District Examining Officer, passed twenty-three young stalwarts. With some from the surrounding villages they marched through Toddington on Monday afternoon and on to Harlington Station, singing lustily “It’s a long way to Tipperary”. They entrained for Bedford by the 3.50 from Harlington. At night the Band organized a torch-light procession and paraded the streets playing patriotic airs. On Wednesday four others went forward and the enthusiasm grows.

Our contact with the 1st Battalion at Quincy-Voisins has told us: "We went round the outpost and were greeted by an American lady who lived in a house near one of the pickets. She was very good to us and to the men and gave them everything that they wanted. The view was simply perfect and we could see for miles".[1]

"It was simply grilling hot and Pope[2] and I made a look-out on a platform about a hundred feet high which had been put up and from which the Republic had been declared in 1871. We got some lovely pears to eat and these we sucked all the morning. We also managed to get a bath in the dispensary".

"At 2.15 pm I had to take off Number 14 Platoon to take up a position on a dangerous ridge on the left of the Cheshires, King's Own Light Infantry and West Yorkshires as Uhlans were supposed to be all around us. On arrival at 3.30 pm I arranged a kind of ambush and prepared small trenches and then lay in wait. At 7 pm I was relieved by Ker and Rendell[3] with A Company and I marched off and joined the rest of the Company at the billet".

"I heard that Sergeant Nolais' Platoon just missed catching eight uhlans who practically walked into the picket and we were very sick about it. We then all marched off to join the rest of the battalion". The battalion are now on a march through the night.

Sources: Bedfordshire Times 4th September 1914; X550/2/5; X550/2/7

[1] Lieutenant Davenport later wrote, when writing up his diary: "She afterwards wrote of our meeting in her book called "The Hilltop on the Marne". This identifies the woman as Mildred Aldrich (1853-1928), originally from Providence, Rhode Island. In France she became a friend of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. She was a journalist and lived at Huiry. Her book was published in 1915. She is buried in Quincy-Voisins.

[2] Lieutenant C. Pope who became a prisoner-of-war in November 1914.

[3] Cecil Howard Ker, killed in action just eleven days later and buried at Vendresse British Military Cemetery, he was from Tavistock [Devon} and was thirty years old. Leonard Wyndham Rendell died on 19th October 1914 and is buried in Bethune Town Cemetery; he was from Taunton [Somerset] and was twenty three.

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