Tuesday, 31 July 2018
Wednesday 31st July 1918
1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, near Merville, are currently training behind the lines at Villorba Camp, named after one of the places they encountered in Italy. Even though behind the lines the camp is occasionally subject to the enemy's big guns. Therefore some of the battalion have been ordered to build buttresses against the huts to prevent splinters from blasts flying around inside.
Monday, 30 July 2018
Tuesday 30th July 1918
Today the 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, moved from divisional to brigade reserve at Franvillers. They have moved closer to the front line, relieving the 56th Australian Battalion, men from New South Wales. Lieutenant-Colonel Percival has also returned to take command after a stint commanding 54th Infantry Brigade.
Sunday, 29 July 2018
Monday 29th July 1918
Today the 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment has been packed on to buses on the road between Ferrieres and Bovelles, west of Amiens and driven the ten or twelve miles to Querrieu(1) from where they marched to trenches at Franvillers, west of Albert where they now form divisional reserve for 18th (Eastern) Division. The adjutant voices what is in many of the men's minds - the opportunity soon to retake Albert.
(1) This had been General Rawlinson's headquarters during the Battle of the Somme in 1916. It had recently seen an attack by the ANZAC Corps and American units to take three German trenches near le Hamel on the south bank of the Somme overlooking the positions at Villers-Bretonneux from which the initial attack of the great allied offensive would begin on 8th August.
Saturday, 28 July 2018
Sunday 28th July 1918
After some official shilly-shallying over the last few days the adjutant of the 7th Battalion has just heard that the training cadre, all that remains of this extraordinary fighting battalion, is to be disbanded tomorrow and absorbed, like the rest of the unit, into the 2nd Battalion. He says that most are excited to be part of what everyone fervently hopes will be a grand allied offensive to drive the Bosches out of Belgium and France for good. He did note, however, that some of the older men, those with wives and children at home, are more anxious.
Friday, 27 July 2018
Saturday 27th July 1918
The 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment is currently out of the line, west of Albert. the adjutant tells me that it was Brigade Sports Day today. The weather was awful, as wet and cold a summer day as those spent in the struggle around Ypres last year. Still, it has been a successful day for the Battalion which won 75% of the prizes on offer.
Thursday, 26 July 2018
Friday 26th July 1918
The 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment is currently behind the lines near Merville. Yesterday half the battalion were training whilst the other half attended the baths. Last night they had a "most enjoyable evening" according to the adjutant, attending a performance given by their concert troupe "The Bedford Boys". A good deal of singing of songs, some I believe somewhat risque, was indulged in and some skits at the expense of the colonel and other senior officers were particularly well received.
Wednesday, 25 July 2018
Thursday 25th July 1918
Over the last two days the training cadre which is all that remains of 7th Battalion, Bedfordshire has received contradictory orders. They are at Abancourt fifteen miles or so south-east of Dieppe. Yesterday they heard that they were finally to be disbanded and all personnel sent to base. This morning the order was countermanded and they were instructed to remain where they are. The adjutant remarked that it was all rather frustrating and that he, personally, wanted disbandment as soon as possible so he could have "another crack at the Bosche".
Tuesday, 24 July 2018
Wednesday 24th July 1918
The 4th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment was today relieved in support by 1st Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment. The battalion is north-west of Albert, where it has been since halting the enemy's advance in March. The adjutant mentioned that things seem to be "winding up" in the vicinity and hopes that an attempt to retake Albert is being planned.
Monday, 23 July 2018
Tuesday 23rd July 1918
Since its capture by our armies last year Jerusalem has become a place of tourism and pilgrimage. The 1st/5th Bedfords are currently resting and training in Egypt but yesterday two officers decided to enjoy the leave they had been granted in the Holy City, seeing the sites and paying their respects.
Sunday, 22 July 2018
Monday 22nd July 1918
The 1st/5th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment is currently in Egypt, resting and training. One of their diversions yesterday was a talk by a local resident Mr Charles Whitelaw entitled "Why America was late coming into the War".
The adjutant said that Mr Whitelaw's explanation included the following points: many Americans are of German descent; many others are Irish with a deep-seated hatred of this country; the tiny size of the pre-war American army which was just a home defence force; a natural desire to keep out of a conflict which is hugely costly in lives; the fact that Europe is a long way away and the perception that what takes place there is of little relevance to most Americans and the fact that the US saw the opportunity to sell armaments and other material to combatants (mainly the allies) for a profit.
The USA was gradually sucked into the war by such incidents as the sinking of the Lusitania by a German U-Boat resulting in many American deaths, the German atrocities in Belgium and the fact that the president, Woodrow Wilson has, all along, favoured the allied cause. The infamous Zimmerman Telegram suggesting a German-Mexican alliance leading to a Mexican invasion of America was, according to Mr Whitelaw, merely the last straw.
The adjutant described himself as unable to comment on whether Mr Whitelaw's views were accurate. He merely commented ruefully that they were unlikely to see any American troops in Palestine.
Saturday, 21 July 2018
Sunday 21st July 1918
Since Thursday a major offensive has been underway to the south. General Foch, the French commander-in-chief has launched an attack with 24 divisions, including two American divisions(1). The offensive is along the River Marne, scene of such bitter fighting in 1914 and where the German offensive was halted just short of Paris.
Since then a corps of Italian troops has also been involved, which was roughly handled in its attack, but it has been replaced by two British divisions, 62nd (West Riding) and our old friends 51st (Highland) Division, whose initial base was in Bedford.
Yesterday the enemy began to fall back under the attacks of this army of four nations. This is the first serious retrograde movement the enemy has been forced to make since his triumphant Spring Offensive. Let us hope it is not his last(2).
(1) 92nd and 93rd Divisions. Both of these were"colored" divisions. US formations were segregated and both these divisions were manned by African Americans
(2) After 20th July German defences stiffened and renewed allied attacks were costly and without significant gain until; 1st August when a Franco-British attack advanced five miles during the day. German counterattacks on 6th August caused the offensive to peter out, but the British and Imperial troops at Amiens were then ready to launch their own attack which would see the beginning of the great allied advance which would end in the Armistice of 11th November.
Friday, 20 July 2018
Saturday 20th July 1918
At midnight last night the 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, in the front line north-west of Merville, undertook an attack and raid. Your correspondent was somewhat surprised at this nomenclature, after all what is the difference? The difference was explained by the adjutant. The attack was designed to drive the enemy back from the positions he held whilst the simultaneous raid was designed to seize prisoners.
On asking the adjutant the result of both operations he was quite candid. "It was a complete failure", in other words, no prisoners were taken. The attack, on the other hand, was quite a success. The enemy trenches, marked in purple on the map shown above, lay on the other side of a stream called the Platebecque but the enemy had manned the line of the stream and the aim of the attack was to drive him back to his own trenches, which was carried out. In part the success of the attack was the undoing of the raid, because the Germans bolted from their position along the stream so quickly that there was no time to take prisoners.
During this action the adjutant reckoned that the Bedfords lost lone officer killed and one wounded, three other ranks killed, two missing, believed killed, and ten wounded.
Thursday, 19 July 2018
Friday 19th July 1918
1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment is in the front line near Merville. The adjutant has mentioned, casually, that they are "pulling a stunt" tonight and that things are quite tense as the men prepare themselves mentally to go into action. Some of this tension was dissipated earlier in the day as enemy aircraft have been quite active and a number of "dog-fights" developed over the front line. In two separate incidents enemy machines were brought down by our fighters. One exploded in flames, so presumably the engine was hit by bullets and the fuel ignited. The other crashed somewhere behind its own lines.
Wednesday, 18 July 2018
Thursday 18th July 1918
The 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment is currently in the front line near Merville. The other two fbattalions on the Western Front are currently behind the lines. 2nd Battalion is at Ferrieres training and 4th Battalion has today moved into the support line near Albert.
Sources: X550/2/5; X550/3/wd; X550/5/6
Tuesday, 17 July 2018
Today 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment have gone back into the front line west of Merville. Before that Battalion Headquarters was paid a visit by General W B Birdwood, who is General Officer Commanding 5th Army(1). The adjutant was tight-lipped about the reason for the visit but one presumes that something offensive is in the offing.
(1) He had succeeded General Gough, who was sacked following his army's poor performance during the German offensive of March and April, on 31st May.
Monday, 16 July 2018
Tuesday 16th July 1918
Yesterday your correspondent reported news from 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, near Merville, that our artillery had been particularly active and noted the speculations of the troops as to what this might mean.
Today the adjutant reports that the bombardment has been more intense than ever - describing it as "practically continuous, night and day". However he has not observed any "purposeful staff wallahs" as he put it and no special orders have been received, so the betting is still evenly divided on whether this means an attack is in the offing or not. He did make the observation that if High Command intends any sustained offensive the year is beginning to run towards autumn and the lessons of the attack at Ypres last year, which became bogged down in the slither of October and sludge of November, suggest that a major offensive is undertaken is best commenced at high summer and not later.
Sunday, 15 July 2018
Monday 15th July 1918
More from the 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment today, in support behind the front line near Merville. Today the adjutant reports that our artillery have been very active, though the enemy has not fired a shot in anger.
This, of course, makes Tommy Atkins speculate? Are the big guns softening up enemy positions ahead of an attack to retake the ground lost earlier this year? Are they undertaking some sort of methodical destruction of enemy artillery? Why have the Germans not responded? Are they short of ammunition? Have a lot of their guns been taken out by our shells? Are the positions opposite not very strongly held? Are they conserving ammunition for an attack themselves? Are they lying doggo trying to lull our generals into a sense of false security? And many more questions besides. Whilst holding the front line or resting there is plenty of time for such speculation and the most intricate theories can be woven like a spider spinning her web
Saturday, 14 July 2018
Sunday 14th July 1918
The 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment are still behind the lines, training, though they are also in support which means they can be called on at short notice to help stem any German attack. It also means that they can have to find working parties to do necessary labour behind the front line.
This has been the case today. Some of the men have been undertaking work for the Royal Engineers (never numerous to carry out the work allotted to them themselves). Others have been digging communication trenches up to the front line, thus strengthening the defences by deepening them and making it easier to get to any spot attacked whilst under cover. It was the lack of such defences in any depth which largely accounted for the German successes in March and April and High Command seem to have vowed to learn the lessons.
Friday, 13 July 2018
Captain R L V Doake [X550/1/82]
Saturday 13th July 1918
The 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, resting in billets at Ferrieres after their move last night have welcomed a familiar face. Captain R L V Doake has rejoined the battalion from base, along with thirty reinforcements. Strictly speaking Captain Doake has joined the battalion because his previous service was with 7th Battalion until May this year, but as two-thirds of the 2nd Battalion are old 7th Battalion hands he mentioned to me in a brief conversation on the blower that it felt like coming home.
Thursday, 12 July 2018
Friday 12th July 1918
This evening the 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment has left its billets at Contay and is on its way to Ferrieres, a few miles west of Amiens, where they will be undergoing training in new battle tactics. They are expected to arrive about ten o'clock tonight. They are part of General Headquarters Reserve and must be ready to move at nine hours notice if the enemy make some new attack on our lines.
Wednesday, 11 July 2018
Thursday 11th July 1918
The 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire is, like the 1st Battalion, currently behind the lines. However, it has been finding men for working parties. Yesterday 9216 Sergeant A F Cobbold heard that he has received the Meritorious Service Medal. This medal, given for service or gallantry in the field also entitles Sergeant Cobbold to a small annuity.
Tuesday, 10 July 2018
Wednesday 10th July 1918
The 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment is currently resting and training behind the lines. This afternoon a boxing tournament took place. To allow as many as possible to see it was held outdoors but mid-way through the afternoon we had a terrific rainstorm, which curtailed matters very quickly as, apart from anything else, it was impossible for the contestants to be sure of their footing. Those of us delighted by the batting of Jack Hobbs or the artistry of the late, lamented Colin Blythe are all too used to rain stopping play, the same is not so true of addicts to the art of pugilism
Monday, 9 July 2018
Tuesday 9th July 1918
The 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, spent this morning training. The weather has been very warm in the last few days and the Brigade organised swimming sports in the afternoon. The adjutant proudly told me that the battalion won each race - 50, 100 and 250 yards.
Sunday, 8 July 2018
Monday 8th July 1918
The 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment is currently in billets. This evening they are going to practise manning battle positions at short notice. The enemy has been quiet for nearly two months now but as the adjutant said, it would be foolish indeed to be lulled into complacency.
Saturday, 7 July 2018
Lieutenant Colonel Percival
Sunday 7th July 1918
Part of 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment have been engaged in working parties today. A draft of 87 other ranks also arrived from base. Meanwhile the commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Arthur Percival DSO MC has moved to be temporary commander of 54th Infantry Brigade, Major Leslie Keep taking over as CO of the Bedfords.
Thursday, 5 July 2018
Friday 5th July 1918
2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire, now resting behind the lines, has appointed a new assistant adjutant - Lieutenant F F Lapper. Second Lieutenant A W G Smith has been appointed Lewis Gun Officer.
Wednesday, 4 July 2018
Thursday 4th July 1918
Today General Headquarters announced that the rate of exchange for July when issuing French money to the troops has been fixed at five francs for every three shillings and eight pence.
Tuesday, 3 July 2018
Wednesday 3rd July 1918
Today 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, in the front line at le Sart, just west of Merville received a visit from two of the Top Brass, as the adjutant described them - the brigadier of 15th Brigade and the commander of 5th Division, Sir Reginald B Stephens. These persons were also given a warm welcome by the enemy - with trench mortars. One other rank was killed and four were wounded.
Monday, 2 July 2018
Tuesday 2nd July 1918
Today the 4th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment's chaplain Rev. H. G. South left and returned to England. Major P Sandilands of the Royal Marine Light Infantry has joined the battalion
Sunday, 1 July 2018
Monday 1st July 1918
Yesterday's successful operation near Albert by 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment included a number of casualties. The adjutant totted them up as eight killed, forty six wounded and one missing. Two of those wounded were Lieutenant A E Hammond and Second Lieutenant H W Haward. The following other ranks were also hurt:
49675 Private H. Freeman
39758 Private J. Stammers
25841 Private A. Hilliard
49635 Private H. J. Henley
17956 Private E. Albon
25230 Private H. Bird
41528 Private H. Burn
37591 Corporal E. H. Briston
18023 Acting Sergeant O. Crawley
20324 Sergeant W. Deighton
20284 Private M. P. Evans
50195 Private G. Eastaway
18057 Lance Corporal H. Fernyhough
12608 Private O. Goldsmith
14580 Private G. Hayden
32128 Lance Corporal G. Houghton
25954 Private P. J. Hobbs
15897 Corporal W. F. Jacklin
29471 Private J. H. Lilley
13293 Lance Corporal R. J. Minns
14322 Private H. Mattin
29287 Private A. G. Pegg
202671 Private B. Rolf
48974 Private C. W. Raynor
15782 Corporal T. J. Squires
10837 Private J. W. Platts
41559 Private A. S. Smith
16531 Private P. Single
43556 Private W. Tidswell
18631 Private S. Todd
18531 Private W. Woodfield
6594 Private C. Ansell
49308 Private J. W. Bennett
40241 Lance Corporal W. T. Davison
9603 Private W. Giles
49233 Private E. V. Hancock
14446 Sergeant S. W. Jaggard
206737 Private A. Lauderdale
271706 Private H. J. Mann
21607 Private G. Price
47415 Private D. Plews
16575 Private A. Pindred
203338 Private C. Thurley
43799 Private S. Trewhella
WOUNDED AND REMAINING AT DUTY
41539 Private B. Fardon of B Company
39837 Lance Corporal H. B. Wadsworth of D Company(1)
(1) Lieutenant Haward died the following day and is buried at Pernois British Cemetery, Halloy-les-Pernois; Corporal Briston would die on 2nd July and is buried at Pernois British Cemetery; Private Hancock would die of his wounds at home on 4th November and is buried in Willesden New Cemetery; Private Price would die on 1st July and is buried at Pernois British Cemetery; Private Thurley would be killed on 18th September and is commemorated on the Vis-en-Artois Memorial;