Thursday, 13 November 2014

Bedfordshire's Proud Recruiting Record

Friday 13th November 1914: "I have no complaint whatever to make about the response to my appeals for men … but I shall want more men, and still more until the enemy is crushed" So said Lord Kitchener at the Guildhall Banquet on Monday night, and that knocks on the head all the wild talk about Conscription, and should quiet for a long time those panic-stricken people and papers who have been calling for it.[1] But let us see how we stand here in Bedfordshire, and what more is wanted of us. We have tried to get at the facts, and set out below some of the results of our inquiries, and some interesting facts contained in a letter from the Lord Lieutenant [2], to whom we wrote on the subject.

Mr. Howard Whitbread, who has from the outbreak of war, and before it, carried out his duties as President of the County Territorial Force Association with whole-hearted energy and thoroughness, reminds us that the Association has done two distinct things during the present year. Early in the summer, with none of the enthusiasm which arises in war time, the Association undertook to raise some 400 men to complete the 8 companies of the 5th Battalion Beds Regiment[3], and received cordial recognition from the authorities in London of the complete success of their efforts. Shortly afterwards the Army Council asked them to duplicate the whole Establishment by the formation of Reserve Units for the General Service Units. This has been done with the exception of about 125 men for the Reserve Infantry Battalion, a few vacancies in the technical ranks of the Yeomanry and Royal Engineers, and 2 or 3 vacancies for officers in the E. M. B.[4] Field Ambulance. The Lord Lieutenant says, quoting the words of a high military authority: "That is a record of which any county may be proud".

The position is given in the following table: -

These figures exclude the National Reserve, of whom 170 have rejoined the Army, and 130 men and 4 officers have been called up for bridge guarding. Major Jarvis still wants 34 more men, aged 42 to 55.

The Lord Lieutenant says further: "I should like to add that the Association, though highly pleased with the response to its appeal, is still eager for more men. We want, immediately, the 125 men to complete the establishment of the Infantry (Reserve) Battalion[5]and is, as we hope, our General Service Units[6] have the honour to go abroad, there will be the inevitable wastage of war, which will require mire men to fill up the ranks". We are confident the men of military age in Bedfordshire will, as soon as they realise what is required, offer themselves to meet the need.

Besides the 3,861 Territorials which Bedfordshire has provided, and the 130 men of the National reserve, there are the recruits who have joined the Army in response to Lord Kitchener's appeal numbering, we understand, at least 2,500. Further, there must be reckoned the large number of Bedfordshire men serving in the Navy and the Army when war broke out. This would bring the number of Bedfordshire men serving in H. M.'s forces to well over 7,000. The Census returns for 1911 show that the total number of men of military age (19 to 38) in Bedfordshire is 28943, and of these 14,551 are married men, leaving 14,392 unmarried men of military age. It would be interesting to see how that total compares proportionately with similar figures for other counties. Anyhow, it is obvious that Bedfordshire has done very well.

Source: Bedfordshire Times 13th November 1914

[1] It was introduced on 2nd March 1916.
[2] Traditionally responsible for raising men for military service. For the duration of the war the Lord Lieutenant was Samuel Howard Whitbread.
[3] This would be four companies plus a headquarters on active service.
[4] East Midlands Brigade
[5] Later 4th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment
[6] The 6th, 7th and 8th Battalions, Bedfordshire Regiment.

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