Monday 1 September 2014

A Wounded Bedfordian’s Experiences and More Action for the 1st Bedfords

Netley Hospital chapel

Tuesday 1st September 1914: Mr. and Mrs. Inkersole of Dunville Road, Bedford, received notification that their son George was lying at Netley Hospital [Hampshire] with a gunshot wound in the scalp. They went at once to Netley and found him quite conscious, in very good spirits and recovering. He said he had been with about fifty in a trench either at Mons or Charleroi and he was the only one who came out alive. His father asked him if he accounted for any Germans. He said he must have done. Anyone who could shoot could not help it, but as soon as one was shot down it seemed that two popped up. Asked if he would be coming home, he said he hoped not, as he was required at the front. Every man, he said, was needed.

Private Inkersole of the Essex Regiment is a Bedford boy, educated at Queen’s Park School, who joined the Army quite young, and has three years’ service to his credit. He sacrificed one stripe in order to go abroad. He is six feet in height. Mr and Mrs Inkersole hope that his friends will be assured by these facts, as a rumour gained currency that he was killed. [1]

Our sources at the front tell us that today the 1st Bedfords fought another rearguard action against the advancing Germans. It was a very foggy morning and firing began at first light in the vicinity of Crépy. Our contact tells us: "We took up a position alongside a cornfield and a wood but could not see anything and at 11 am had the order to retire so went back to another position in a cornfield moving in artillery formation[2]".

"Later we retired again and took up another position alongside a railway station at Ormoy Villers on the Paris main line at about 4 pm"[3].

"Uhlans were about but personally did not see any. At the railway station our Royal Engineers blew up the water tower with much noise and the whole place was flooded. We then closed the railway and marched off along a very dusty road to Nanteuil-le-Haudoin[4]".

"C Company in the meanwhile had a slight scrap with Uhlans and Major Walter Allason riding along a road with West of the North Irish Horse[5], on suddenly turning a corner in the road came across a mounted German officer and his orderly riding towards them. Both sides charged, firing their revolvers and brandishing their swords but missed each other. Allason and West then turned and gave chase and succeeded in bringing them both down and killing the officer. On searching him Allason found that he had some very important papers on him and maps giving the distribution of the German forces in the neighbourhood. C Company marched their prisoner in with great gusto". The battalion is now billeted at Nanteuil.

Source: Bedfordshire Times 4th September 1914; X550/2/5; X550/2/7

[1] He seems to have survived the war.
[2] Artillery formation meant that a company of around 250 men took up a frontage of about 100 yards with a depth of 30 to 50 yards. This was a loose enough formation to avoid too many casualties through shrapnel but close enough to maintain cohesion. By this stage the 1st Bedfords would have been reduced to quite a bit less than 250 men per company and so Lieutenant Davenport's company would probably have occupied a smaller frontage and/or depth.
[3] Around six miles south-west of Crépy
[4] Around five miles to the south.

[5] Possibly Richard Annesley West, who later rose to Lieutenant-Colonel. He was given a posthumous Victoria Cross on 29th October 1918 for an action in which he was killed on 2nd September 1918 when commanding 6th Battalion Royal Tank Corps. He was 40 years old and is buried at Mory Abbey Cemetery in the Pas de Calais.

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