Monday 8 September 2014

Recruits Needed! News from the Marne

Tuesday 8th September 1914: The greatest need of this country at the moment is for the young unmarried men of the towns and villages to offer themselves at once as recruits for Lord Kitchener's Army. I am perfectly certain that this need has only to be realised to ensure a prompt and willing response. Now is the time for our young men to show their patriotism. Now is the time for them to prove that they are worthy to bear the honoured name of Englishmen. Now is the time for them to prove that conscription is unnecessary. Let them demonstrate that for every vacancy in the ranks there are three or four volunteers. Let this be the answer of Bedfordshire to the country's call. I want to appeal to the young men in every township and village in Bedfordshire to at once offer their services to the country. Offer for the period of the war. In almost every case employers will guarantee to keep situations open for you on your return at the close of the war. Talk the matter over at home. Consider the matter seriously and act promptly -

"A place in the ranks awaits you
Each man has some part to play"

The prompt enlistment of every eligible young man will be England's best answer to the German menace. The war is not of our seeking. Our cause is just and the fight must be waged until we win. The struggle will be severe, and it may be prolonged, but England can never submit until victory is achieved. The past few weeks have shown that we have to fight a stern and relentless foe. The British troops have already proved capable of upholding the finest traditions of the past. The troops must be fortified with the knowledge that the whole nation is behind them. Large reinforcements will be necessary and the place of every man who falls in the fight must instantly be filled. It is for these reasons I make this confident appeal. We want farmers' sons and labourers' sons, the sons of rich men and the sons of poor men, and we want them now.

A statement has been in circulation that only five of six members of the “A” Squadron of the Bedfordshire Yeomanry have volunteered for foreign service. Major Sidney Peel informs me today that “A” Squadron had responded extremely well, in fact between 80 and 90 per cent had volunteered. He added that Bedford has every cause to be proud of her young men and would have still better reason before the end of the war.

Today the 1st Bedfords advanced some ten miles north from Boissy-le-Châtel. The battalion was acting as divisional advanced guard, being sent on to cover left of 13th Brigade and, with them attacked both Saint-Cyr-sur-Morin and Saint-Ouen-sur-Morin and reached the south banks of the River Marne. The division captured about 200 prisoners, but our own guns fired on both alike, causing most of prisoners to escape. Eventually they are believed to have been recaptured by other units.

Our contact with the battalion sends word. “Captain Gledstanes’ platoon of C Company were detailed as firing party to shoot a deserter from, I think, the Royal West Kents and finished it off at 7 am. Poor little Gledstanes hated loathed the job[1]”. As they marched north: “Various messages were being passed up and down the column by the staff with the idea of raising the spirits of the troops – not that they required any raising at all as we were all most cheery and utterly bored with the messages. As an example one of these messages came down on this march and reached us as follows – “2,000 Germans were drowned in seven gallons of beer!” rather more prosaically this turned out to have really been “2,000 Germans were surrounded seven miles from here””.

Sources: Bedfordshire Times 4th September 1914 and 11th September 1914; X550/2/5; X550/2/7

[1] Sheldon Arthur Gledstanes from Taplow [Buckinghamshire] would die on 9th May 1915. The unfortunate man executed was L/10061 Private Thomas James Highgate, 1st Battalion, Royal West Kent Regiment, aged 19. He now has no known grave and is commemorated on the la Ferte-sour-Jouarre Memorial. His story, which was a very unlucky one, is told in Julian Putkowski and Julian Sykes' excellent book Shot at Dawn along with those of all the other men executed by the British army during the war. No one from the Bedfordshire Regiment was executed during World War One.

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