Friday, 26 December 2014

1st/5th Bedfords' Christmas and War Returns to Wulvergem

Saint Edmundsbury Cathedral

Saturday 26th December 1914: the 1st/5th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, is currently stationed at Bury Saint Edmunds [Suffolk]. It is stationed at the ice rink in the town, a spacious building which admirably served the purpose of a dining hall. A special church parade was held in the morning when the Battalion paraded with the bans and marched to the Saint James' Cathedral Church[1] where a special military service was held. With the one exception of this parade the men were given leave for the entire day, and at one o'clock Christmas dinner was served. The menu consisted of roast turkey, sausages, potatoes, greens, plum-pudding etc. The usual Christmas desert was also provided, as well as beer and mineral waters. The welfare of the men was well attended to by the mayor (Alderman Owen A Clark), the mayoress and the Brigadier-General C de Winton, Colonel F N Butler and a large company of officers[2]. The Mayor congratulated the men on their good behaviour during their stay in Bury Saint Edmunds.

All the arrangements were carried out under the direction of the Quartermaster (Lieutenant Kiddle). Gifts of cigarettes and tobacco were distributed, a large number of those being given by the inhabitants of the town. The band, under the able conductorship of Bandmaster Goodyer, gave a selection of patriotic airs. The afternoon was spent in general jollification and in the evening the Battalion spent an enjoyable time at the Royal Colisseum where a special concert was given, the arrangements having been made by the management and the Quartermaster. The day, which is sure to be remembered with pleasure for years to come by all now serving in the Battalion, closed with the singing of the National Anthem and cheers for the Mayor of Bury Saint Edmunds. There will also be special celebrations on New Years Day.

The adjutant of the 1st Battalion tells us that some of the Germans in the front line opposite his unit seem to be under the impression that the suspension of hostilities and the fraternisation, undertaken by some British and German units yesterday, might still be in force. Some of them came forward into no man's land, apparently "with a view to friendly intercourse. A few shots were fired in their direction as a hint to withdraw". later in the day the Germans shelled the trenches and the ruined village of Wulvergem behind, several rifles were damaged and one man wounded.

Source: Bedfordshire Times 1st January 1915

[1] The former parish church, upgraded to a cathedral in that year.
[2] It is the custom in the British Army for the officers to serve the other ranks on Christmas Day when not in the face of the enemy.

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