Wednesday 31st January 1917 from our correspondent in the field
As it is the end of the first month of the new year your correspondent has tried to contact all the Bedfordshire Regiment battalions in France and Flanders. The 1st Battalion are in billets in Béthune, struggling to train in the extreme cold.
The 2nd Battalion are at Beaurepaire east of Doullens. The whole battalion is employed in a railway fatigue but some members were given time-off to take part in the Divisional Inter-Battalion Cross Country Race. This was won by 20th Battalion King’s (Liverpool) Regiment with 2,769 points. The 2nd Bedfords had to be content with a close second place on 2,763 points but did have the satisfaction of having the winning runner - Corporal Joyce.
The 4th Battalion are in the front line north of Beaucourt-sur-Ancre. They have been under shell fire today as well as the usual sniping and have lost four men killed outright, another who died of wounds and fifteen men less seriously wounded.
The 6th Battalion are in 63rd Brigade reserve area at Zelobes near Béthune. 7th Battalion are in huts in Martinsart Wood on the Somme. They are furnishing working parties for Royal Engineers’ work, with one company digging communication trenches near the front Line. This company is billeted in the Support Line, sleeping in tents and working during the night. The adjutant remarked to me: “In spite of the intense cold, frost and snow the men appear very fit and are changed over every third day”. He went on: “Every opportunity is being taken to improve backward men with classes for drill, musketry, sniping, scouting and signalling, also for non-commissioned officers and young officers who require extra tuition are kept going daily except when the Battalion is actually in the trenches”.
The 8th Battalion adjutant has given me the field state for the battalion which stands at 29 officers and 1,106 other ranks. During the month the Battalion has lost one man killed, two men missing, seven men wounded and 88 sick in hospital, of whom 52 have returned to duty.The adjutant remarked: “The majority of the sick are men recently out from England”.
The last we heard from the 1st/5th Battalion in far-away Egypt they were moving from Suez into the Sinai Desert. The adjutant told me the speculation was of an imminent campaign to drive the Turks out of Palestine, victories in December and January having taken the army to the borders of this territory.