Thursday 18 September 2014

The 5th Bedfords at Home, the 1st Bedfords in France

Friday 18th September 1914: Inquiries at headquarters confirm that the 5th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment for foreign service has been brought practically up to full strength. Slightly over the necessary 60 per cent volunteered for foreign service in the first instance and this number has been constantly added to, so that now about 70 per cent are prepared to go. Therefore practically 300 men were wanted to complete the Foreign Service Battalion. All the vacancies in the Bedford and South Beds Detachments have been filled by enlistment and many more men could have been got. There are a few vacancies in the Ampthill and Shefford district and the Biggleswade and Eaton Socon District Companies.

A Reserve Battalion has been formed which will be known officially as the 5th Reserve Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment. As a nucleus the Battalion receives the 300 men who, for various good and sufficient reasons, no doubt, have not volunteered for the front. Recruiting commenced on Monday week and 250 have come in. This gives up to Wednesday a total of 550 out of the 1,000 wanted for the new Battalion – a very satisfactory result. There are vacancies in all the Companies which are to follow the territorial divisions in the original Battalion, and young men are urged to come forward at once. At the time of writing the officers are not gazetted but it is expected that the Hon. Victor Russell, the brother of Lord Ampthill, and cousin of the Duke of Bedford, will be in command. Many more applications than there are appointments have been received and they include many well-known names.[1]

Our contact with the 1st Bedfords reports that B and D Companies are occupying trenches south of the River Aisne alongside the road from Sermoise to Soissons[2]: “We had several rumours of spies running about in motor cars and had orders to stop and examine every car coming along the roads, so we placed a great barrier across the road and waited for them to roll into it. None came much to our disgust”.

“I went into the village of Sermoise which was practically totally destroyed by shells and fires. I, however, managed to secure five large ducks! Several of the houses were being looted by French civilians and they were most openly carrying away the booty in wheelbarrows. Those who remained complained to us and we were told that several of the professional class of burglar had arrived from Paris and were making a good thing out of it. We then started to stop them”.

“I saw a ladder against the remains of one house and told one of our men to mount the ladder and look in the window while I went into the house. I went in and on the upstairs floor found two men ransacking the room and picking up the bed. I asked them what they were doing and they said that the things were theirs and that they were taking them away. I told them to leave them alone and clear out and they began to be obstreperous when the face of the other man appeared at the window on the ladder. This decided them and they went off at once”.

Source: Bedfordshire Times 18th September 1914; X550/2/7

[1] This Reserve Battalion did not go on active service. It was known as 2nd/5th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment and joined 69th Division at Newark in January 1915 and spent the war in Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire. It was disbanded in March 1918. A 3rd/5th Battalion was formed in June 1915 and spent most of the war at Tring. It was merged with 1st Reserve Battalion, Hertfordshire Regiment in July 1917 and spent the rest of the war in Sussex.

[2] Today’s Rue de la Renaissance.

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