Saturday 31 January 2015

The Engineers Lose Their First Officer

Lieutenant Munby

Sunday 31st January 1915: The 1st Field Company, East Anglian Royal Engineers have lost their first officer killed, Lieutenant Ernest John Munby. Lieutenant Munby was 38, the son of the late Rev G. F. W. Munby(1).

Rev. George Frederick Woodhouse Munby was Rector of Turvey from 1869 until 1905. His widow, Lieutenant Munby’s mother lives in Hitchin. Lieutenant Munby was married to Emily, the couple had no children. He will be much missed in the village where he was a popular resident.

Source: 1st Field Company, East Anglian Royal Engineers war diary [WO95/1332/1 at The National Archives]; Bedfordshire Times 5th February 1915

(1) He is buried at le Touret Military Cemetery, Richebourg-l’Avoué.

Roll of Honour: 31st January 1915

Killed in Action

1st Battalion: front line trenches north-west of Wulvergem

  • 3/5697 Acting Lance Corporal Alfred WARD, 24, son of Robert and Mary Ward of 3 East Avenue, Luton (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)
  • 4/7730 Private John WARRINGTON, 22, son of Samuel and Lucy Maria Warrington of Court Estate, Rushden [Northamptonshire], born Sawtry [Huntingdonshire], resided Hemingford Grey [Huntingdonshire] (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres

Friday 30 January 2015

The Good Heart of the 1st Bedfords

Saturday 30th January 1915: Private F Wright of the 1st Battalion tells us: “This is what the trenches are like today. It is snowing fast and my two comrades are fast asleep in the land of dreams. One of them knows how to snore, sitting over the empty fire bucket. We have run out of coke(1), so must grin and bear it. This is a small part of how things are out here”.

“We know that it has to be done and therefore it is done with a good heart”.

“I have put a sack over our heads, and the snow has melted and the water is dripping into our fire bucket, trying to put the fire out which is not there. It makes one laugh it sit and watch it although it is not very comfortable”.

Source: Bedfordshire Times 12th February 1915

(1) Coking coal for the fire.

Roll of Honour: 30th January 1915

Killed in Action

1st Battalion: shelled in front line trenches north-west of Wulvergem
  • 8482 Acting Sergeant Joseph George CHURCH, 27, son of William Church of Midland Cottages, Kempston (Dranouter Churchyard)

2nd Battalion: trenches south-west of Fleurbaix
  • 9491 Private George SMART, 24, son of Thomas Smart of Bedford (Rue-David Military Cemetery, Fleurbaix)

Died of Wounds

1st Battalion
  • 8891 Private George BROWN, born and resided Glemsford [Suffolk] (Bailleul Communal Cemetery)


1st/5th Battalion

  • 3575 Lance Corporal Herbert William STREET, 22, son of Thomas and Hannah Street of 7 Albert Row, Arlesey (Arlesey (Saint Peter) Churchyard)

Thursday 29 January 2015

Night Work

Friday 29th January 1915: The 1st Bedfords are working at improving the front line trenches near Wulvergem which are in a bad way due to all the rain. Each might they work at constructing a communication trench.

Our trenches, and those of the enemy, are not simply one line but are an intricate maze of fortifications. Communication trenches lead back, more or less at right angles from the front line and connect it with the second line trench which runs parallel to it but some way back, giving a second line of defence against any enemy incursion. The work, though within our own trench system is hazardous as the sounds of work attract German shelling.

Source: X550/2/5

Roll of Honour: 29th January 1915

Killed in Action

1st Battalion: in front line trenches north-west of Wulvergem
  • 3/6633 Private George FREEMAN, born Peterborough, resided Woburn Sands [Buckinghamshire] (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)

Died of Wounds

1st Battalion

  • 8475 Acting Lance Corporal Sidney John OLNEY, born Ickleford [Hertfordshire], resided Great Missenden [Buckinghamshire] (Bailleul Communal Cemetery)

Wednesday 28 January 2015

Trench Foot

Trench foot

Thursday 28th January 1915: We are glad to report that no attack was made by the Germans yesterday, despite it being their Kaiser’s birthday. The 2nd Bedfords are currently at Pont-de-la-Justice near Fleurbaix and out of the firing line. They have just held a parade to determine battalion strength, the numbers being 721 fighting men and 58 transport – a total of 779.

A battalion at full strength should muster just over one thousand men so it will be seen that the 2nd Battalion is some way under strength. There are a number of reasons for this. Some of the losses in the severe fighting of last October have still to be made good. Some men will have been detached to assist in other activities such as guarding stores, bridges and the like. In addition, we are in the depths of winter and, moreover, a winter which has been very cold and wet so a good number of men will be incapacitated by severe colds and chills, rheumatism and a condition known as trench foot.

This latter complaint comes from standing around in trenches which are full of water. The feet never get dry and the soldier loses feeling in them. They can become red or blue due to insufficient blood supply reaching them and they can begin to swell. In the worst cases the foot actually starts to rot as tissue dies because not enough blood has reached it.  It may swell up and gangrene may set in, resulting in amputation.

How and why the condition develops is not fully known and so preventing it is something of a lottery. Ideally the feet would be kept dry and warm but in the trenches this is not possible. However, regular inspections can catch the problem in its early stages and remedial action can be taken, such as ensuring the man is kept out of the worst sections of the trenches until the condition clears up. The men are encouraged to remove boots and socks whenever they can, drying their feet and replacing drenched socks with dry ones. Keeping stints in the wettest trenches to a bare minimum, one or two days, also helps to keep the problem within manageable bounds.

Source: X550/2/wd

Roll of Honour: 28th January 1915

Killed in Action

Bedfordshire Yeomanry

  • 964 Private Lewis KING, 21, son of Thomas King of Heath Hill, Warboys [Huntingdonshire] (Vermelles British Cemetery)

Tuesday 27 January 2015

1st Bedfords’ Dispositions

Kaiser Wilhelm II

Wednesday 27th January 1915: we have heard that the 1st Battalion is quite spread out at the moment. It has been behind the lines at Dranouter but today has moved forward to the vicinity of Lindenhoek in support of our front line. Near a crossroads, in a group of farm buildings, are posted the headquarters, C and D Companies. A Company is closer to the front supporting the 1st Battalion, Cheshire Regiment whilst B Company supports 1st Battalion.

The reason for this movement is that we expect a German attack. Their Kaiser is 56 today and it would not be surprising if his birthday was the excuse for an attack.

A draft of sixty non commissioned officers and private soldiers has also joined the battalion today. This will make good some of the losses the battalion suffered in November last as well as losses incurred since.

Source: X550/2/5

Monday 26 January 2015

Redoubt Work

Tuesday 26th January 1915: Since 17th January the 1st Field Company, East Anglian Royal Engineers, attached to 2nd Division, have been constructing redoubts at Festubert. This area is very flat and our defences can only be improved by constructing what amounts to a fortress of trenches, barbed wire and concrete emplacements.

Unusually, the engineers have been helped by French civilians. The local inhabitants have been providing much of the labour under the engineers’ instructions. They are providing an intermediate line of trenches between the front line and reserve line to help soak up any German attack as the enemy has shown himself aggressive in this locality.

Source: War Diary of 1st Field Company, East Anglian Royal Engineers at The National Archives [WO95/1332/1]

Sunday 25 January 2015

A Childless Widow

Lance-Corporal Harry Hack [Luton News 21/1/1915]

Monday 25th January 1915:  Mrs Elizabeth Hack of 71 Ivy RoadLuton, has suffered a tragic double bereavement. Her only child, a baby son born just after the war began, died a little over a week ago. Within a day or two of  her child’s death she received a letter telling her that her husband, Lance-Corporal Harry Hack of the 1st Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment had been killed in action. Drummer C Dimmock of Bolton Road, Luton wrote:
Just these few sorrowful lines to you, with deepest sympathy for the loss of your husband, as he was killed in action on January 8th. He was shot in the left eye, the bullet coming out of the right temple. He died two minutes afterwards, and never murmured. I am very sorry to lose him as he was my best pal, and we both came from Luton.
The news was confirmed in another letter received at Houghton Regis and official notification by the War Office was received yesterday. Lance-Corporal Hack had joined the Bedfordshire Regiment six years ago, intending to serve for twelve years. When war was declared he was sent straight from Mullingar in Ireland to the Front, and it is about fourteen months since he last saw his wife. He generally wrote to her twice a week but she had not received a letter since 31st December which made her suspect all was not well.

Mrs Hack has also received a letter from Company Quarter Sergeant F Halsey of A Company of the 1st Battalion in which he says:
Your husband was respected by all who came in contact with him. He was one of the very few of us left who left Old Ireland with the dear old regiment for the meat of war, and he did his duty thoroughly to the end. Do not mourn his loss more than you can help. The loss to you, Heaven knows, is great, but to us, his comrades, much greater. I am proud to be able to say he was one of the bravest and best, and a thorough example of the true British soldier. I know he died as he wished, fighting for you and the country he so dearly loved – a glorious death.” 
He was killed in the trenches at --- (I will give you the name of the place in the near future) on January 8th.[2] He died with a smile, and so far as I know he did not speak after being hit. … Now, cheer, oh! I feel sure as time rolls on and you overcome the shock of having lost him you will be able to speak of him with a glow of pride as a true example of manhood, and when at some future date peace reigns throughout the world you well be able to say ‘I gave all towards that end’. Before closing, may I ask you to place me on your list of friends? If at any time I can help you in any way, no matter what, I shall consider it a pleasure and a great favour for his sake.
Source: Luton News, 21st and 28th January 1915

[1] Harry Hack married Elizabeth E Smith in 1913. Their son Harry R Hack cannot have been more than six months old when he died. Elizabeth married a Leonard Rolt early in 1917 and gave birth to another son, Leonard R G Rolt, a year later. This second son died at the young age of 17 in 1935.

[2] The 1st Battalion took over trenches at Wulvergem from the 1st Battalion of the Dorset Regiment on January 7th. Six men were killed by snipers and two wounded on the 8th. Harry Hack has no known grave and is commemorated on the Menin Gate.

Roll of Honour: 25th January 1915

Died of Wounds

2nd Battalion

  • 3/7191 Private William KIRBY, 19, son of William and Jane Kirby of 16 Chapel Lane, Chatteris [Cambridgeshire] (Merville Communal Cemetery)

Saturday 24 January 2015

News from the East Anglian Royal Engineers

Stagsden High Street about 1915 [Z50/107/21]

Sunday 24th January 1915: Sapper H. Reginald Barcock(1) of the East Anglian Royal Engineers (son of Mr Herbert Barcock of 1 The Grove, Bedford) tells us: “We are sleeping in a big barn, horses one end and we the other. Of course we never undress now, it’s too cold. It’s been snowing here all the day, so you can guess what sort of a state we are in. Talk about mud, it’s up to our puttees. People could only imagine what it’s like if they saw a company as they came out of the trenches, absolutely plastered with mud and some poor beggars can hardly walk. We are with a lot of crack regiments, or what are left of them – the Coldstreams, the Grenadiers and lots of others(2), but they look different now. We had five chaps wounded in the trenches where we work, by shells. They are all in hospitals. I thought I’d got one the other day. Four of us were working in a house making frames for the trenches, and one came buzzing over and burst about fifty yards away. Then came another and I said to my pal “Look out! This devil’s got us”. Then there was a bang and it burst just over the road – twenty yards away. We crouched by the wall; it wounded two chaps. Then we had the order to clear out, which never took us long, I can tell you. Another came and burst on the road and smashed one of the tool carts, but luckily there were no horses in it. It’s been pretty quiet today, thank goodness!”

“We went out one night last week, all night working, the other side of the trenches. That’s the time to hear bullets pinging about. It’s the snipers that pick you off at night. Every now and then our people shoot up a rocket to see who’s about. Then you have to lay flat down and not move until its gone out, or you would soon be put out of action. No one got hurt that night”.

Sapper C. Pratley of the same unit, nephew of Mrs Churchill of Clarendon-street, Bedford told us: “Our Section is billeted in an old thatched cottage and I and twelve others sleep in the loft. We have made ourselves very comfortable considering the place, and have got a bucket with a fine fire and are quite merry with a mouth-organ and singing”.

Driver Leslie Haffenden, a driver with the company told us of the death of Sapper George Daniel Linger today. He was the son of Albert John and Alice Linger of High Street, Stagsden(3). “We are having a hot time and today a sad gloom is thrown over the entire company. Sapper Linger was laid low by a German bullet. It was like this: two sections fell in at six last night and marched off to do some work under cover of darkness near the enemy’s lines. A bullet was fired and yet another decent British lad had laid down his life for the common cause. We have had some narrow escapes before, what with shell-bursting near where our sappers are working, but we have only had some fellows wounded. One is now back in England. We are billeted in a village the size of Elstow sleeping in barns, lofts etc. and are about one and a half miles off the British artillery behind the trenches. We get rum in our tea now and again and it warms you up and resists the cold weather attacks on your chest. It is all rot what these “pump puritans” write to the papers about rum in soldiers’ tea, saying it encourages drinking. Let them come out here and try a spell in the trenches and they will be soon convinced”.

Source: Bedfordshire Times, 29th January 1915

(1) Sadly he died on 2nd February 1915 and is buried in Béthune Town Cemetery.
(2) 2nd Battalion and 3rd Battalion, Coldstream Guards and 2nd Battalion, Grenadier Guards were part of 4th (Guards) Brigade, 2nd Division along with 1st Battalion, Irish Guards. The 1st/1st Battalion, Hertfordshire Regiment (a Territorial Army unit) joined the brigade in November 1914 and called themselves the Herts Guards! Other units in 2nd Division were: 2nd Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment; 2nd Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry; 2nd Battalion and 1st/9th, Highland Light Infantry; 1st Battalion (King’s) Liverpool Regiment; 2nd Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment; 1st Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment and 1st Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps.

(3) He is buried in le Touret Military Cemetery, Richebourg-l’Avoué.

Roll of Honour: 24th January 1915

Killed in Action

2nd Battalion: trenches south-west of Fleurbaix

  • 3/8297 Private William INGS, 30, son of Mathias Ings of 6 Brightwell Road, Watford [Hertfordshire], a native of Streatham [London] (Rue-David Military Cemetery, Fleurbaix)

Friday 23 January 2015

The Perils of Gathering Brushwood

Saturday 23rd January 1915: Private S. Lovell of the 2nd Bedfords, who lives at 38 Sandhurst Road, Bedford(1) tells us: “The 6th Gordons occupy the trench on our right(2) and I don’t think I shall ever forget them. I will tell you why. Two days ago one of our officers told six of us to go  and collect brushwood for the bottom of the trench (also some planks) We proceeded to the rear of 6th Gordons where a farm had been heavily shelled by German artillery, when we were fired at by German snipers. We all made a belt for the farmhouse, at least five did, myself being too far away in a field adjoining. I had to make the best cover possible so I chose the side of a ditch with large trees along it. I lay down behind one and four shots wee fired at me, three hitting the tree and one miss. Where I was lying I could see my comrades in the farmhouse. They told me to crawl round the ditch and then make a run for it, about fifty yards. I did so and reached them safely. The 6th Gordons’ trench is immediately in front of the farm, so four of the party went through into ours. I and another fellow, not to be done out of our brushwood, waited until dark, and then dragged it home.

Source: Bedfordshire Times 22nd January 1915

(1) This may be 9095 Sergeant S Lovell MM, 32, whose wife lived at 23 Eastville Road, who died with 2nd Battalion on 23rd August 1918 and is buried at Daours Communal Cemetery Extension.

(2) 1st/6th Gordon Highlanders were part of 20th Brigade, 7th Division (the same division as the 2nd Bedfords) from 5th December 1914. 

Thursday 22 January 2015

Praise for the 2nd Bedfords

Sir Thompson Capper

Friday 22nd January 1915: Major-General Sir Thompson Capper KCMG, CB, DSO has written a despatch in which he praises the conduct of the 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment so far in this war. He writes: “This battalion was in the Brigade Reserve during the early days of the fighting round Ypres, but portions of it were continually called upon to move up under shell fire and occupy positions in the face of hostile rifle and machine gun fire. Steadiness and good leading were required and given and the Brigade Commander considers that the battalion behaved in a most gallant manner throughout a trying and arduous period”.

On the 29th October the battalion took part in a general counter attack, advancing steadily and gallantly in spite of heavy enfilade(1) artillery and rifle fire when its losses were heavy. On the 31st October the battalion made several counter-attacks and lost many officers and men, including the Commanding Officer and Second in Command”.

At a later date Sir Thompson inspected the battalion when it had again been brought up to strength. He inspected the men closely and afterwards spoke a few words to the battalion. He complimented them on their appearance and turn-out generally, and again impressed on all ranks how well the battalion had carried out its duty on all occasions, and when the time came, with what confidence he knew he could rely on all ranks to upload the traditions of the regiment.

Source: Bedfordshire Times 22nd January 1915

(1) Enfilade meant that the unit was being shot at from the flank. When a unit was advancing in a line this meant that rifle fire by a group of enemy, for example, would rake down the line and thus kill many more men.

Roll of Honour 22nd January 1915

Died of Wounds

1st Battalion

  • 7350 Private Arthur James JOHNSON, 29, son of Thomas Johnson, husband of Florence of 30 Hatley Road, Finsbury Park [London], born Saint Neots [Huntingdonshire] (Highgate Cemetery)

Wednesday 21 January 2015

Good Bedfordshire Recruiting Record?

Thursday 21st January 1915: At the meeting of the Bedfordshire Education Committee the other day, the Lord Lieutenant (Mr Samuel Howard Whitbread) asked the Committee to sanction a proposal he had to make to the head teachers in the county schools. He thought it was very desirable after these months of war and recruiting that they should ascertain if possible, the number of men in the county who were now serving in His Majesty’s Forces, and those who had volunteered, but who were rejected because they were medically unfit. He believed it would be a very satisfactory return, as he had heard that Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire had a very good recruiting record – one of the best in the Eastern Counties – (hear, hear). But that was gossip and he thought some steps should be taken to establish a fairly accurate return. It seemed to him that the most practical way was by means of asking the head teachers in the different schools in the county to assist. In the majority of cases rolls of honour were kept and returns could be made of men who were in the Forces, whether before the outbreak of war or those that had enlisted since, and those, too, who had volunteered, but were rejected because they were unfit – (hear, hear).

Source: Luton News 21st January 1915

Tuesday 20 January 2015


Wednesday 20th January 1915: Last night the German airships known as Zeppelins bombed the Norfolk towns of Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn. These silver monsters appeared over the coast under cover of darkness. Eleven bombs are reported to have fallen on King’s Lynn, doing considerable damage. Worse, two people were killed in Bentinck Street. The enemy has reached a new low by thus killing innocent civilians in their own homes.

The 3rd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment are stationed just down the coast at Landguard Camp, outside Felixstowe. The adjutant tells us how angry this attack has made all the men and he expects them to go about their training over the next few days with even greater intent.

Monday 19 January 2015

Linslade Man Wounded and Luton Man Killed

Yirrell's Butcher's Shop, Old Road, Linslade [Z50/74/15]

Tuesday 19th January 1915: Private Arthur Kent of Old Road, Linslade has been wounded as he helped a fatally injured comrade while fighting with the 1st Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment. At Ypres on 7th November he was fighting side by side with Private Bert Spacey of Luton when Private Spacey was shot. As he fell Private Kent caught him, but as he turned to lay his comrade down he was exposed to the enemy’s fire and was hit in the shoulder by a bullet. After a short time at home recovering from his injury Private Kent returned to the Front where he has now been wounded again fortunately only slightly.

Private Spacey was aged only 19 and was the son of Mrs Ellen Spacey of East AvenuePark StreetLuton. She has received a letter from another fellow soldier, Private Harold H. Saunders, who says “He died as I know he would have wished, fighting for his country and those he so dearly loved. The loss to you and to us, his comrades, is great; but we all have the consolation of knowing that he died doing his duty.”

Private Kent first joined the army as an 18 year old in 1902. He initially joined the Corps of Hussars but soon transferred to the Bedfordshire Regiment. In December 1905 he became a reservist and has since worked as a coal miner in the Rhondda – an unusual occupation for a Linslade lad – and latterly as a railway employee. He married Maggie Barton in May 1913, putting their family situation on a regular footing as the couple already had a young son, William George Arthur, born in March 1912, and Maggie was pregnant with her second baby. Sadly this baby, named Harry, died in January 1914 when he was only two months old. [1]

Sources: Leighton Buzzard Observer and Linslade Gazette, 19th January 1915; British Army WW1 Service Records

[1] No doubt due to his mining experience in April 1915 Private Kent transferred to the Royal Engineers as a tunneller. He served in this capacity in France until May 1917 and then again from January 1918. He survived the war and was demobilised in February 1919. Harry and his wife had a third child, Kathleen Doreen, born in 1924. In 1911 he appears in the census living with his brother’s family in Wales; both the Kents were listed as “coal miner, repairer”. Private Spacey has no known grave and is commemorated on the le Touret Memorial

Sunday 18 January 2015

7th Bedfords Leave Liphook

Monday 18th January 1915: The 7th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, created from volunteers in August last year and thus part of Lord Kitchener’s “New Army”. They left Liphook, in Hampshire, today for Haslemere in Surrey, to the great regret of the village, who gathered en-masse to see the men march off to the strains of “The Girl I Left Behind Me”.

During their two months at Liphook, officers and men made many friends and won golden opinions of their conduct and prowess. The Adjutant, Captain Evelyn Whelan, was presented with a sword by the NCO’s on his recent promotion to the rank of Captain. Regimental Sergeant Major Herbert made the presentation. Major Digby and many other officers were present and a smoking concert followed, an excellent programme being arranged by Sergeant-Major T Taylor Vinson.

Source: Bedfordshire Times 12th February 1915

Saturday 17 January 2015

Route Marches


Sunday 17th January 1915: The 1st Battalion have left the waterlogged trenches at Wulvergem and proceeded to slightly drier ground at Bailleul just over the French border. After the cold damp of the trenches the men will be warmed up by a series of route marches over the next few days.

Source: X550/2/5

Friday 16 January 2015

Royal Engineers

Saturday 16th January 1916: The 1st Field Company, East Anglian Royal Engineers will be on the move tomorrow. For the last eleven days they have been at Locon, north of Béthune. They are constructing defences east of the junction of the Rue du Bois and the Rue de l’Épinette, some way east of the village, as well as in the front line(1).

Source: War Diary of the 1st Field Company, East Anglian Royal Engineers at The National Archives [WO95/1332/1]

(1) Today the D166 and D171 south of Richebourg-l’Avoué. 

Thursday 15 January 2015

Wounded by a Shell

Sandy about 1915 [Z1306/99]

Friday 15th January 1915: Private G. W. Franklin of C Company, 1st Bedfords and who lived at Willow Hill, Sandy tells us: “I have stopped a bit of a shell in my thigh, but it is going on all right. Glad to say it was the last shell the Germans fired this afternoon. The same shell killed the Captain and two men(1). I was talking to the captain at the time, so you see I must have been lucky. It wounded two more besides me”(2).

Source: Bedfordshire Times, 29th January 1915; X550/2/5

(1) The officer was Captain Basil John Orlebar from Silsoe. Four other ranks were also killed that day.

(2) 8238 Corporal George William Franklin, Russian Order of Saint George (4th Class), 28, son of William and Lucy Franklin of 7 George Town, Sandy died on 5th June 1915 and is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial.

Roll of Honour 15th January 1915

Killed in Action

1st Battalion: shelled in trenches north-west of Wulvergem
  • 7820 Private Charles BONE, 33, B Company, husband of Beatrice Ellen Suter (ex Bone) of 20 Lower Heston Street, Semilong [Northamptonshire] (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)
  • 7842 Acting Lance Corporal John HEARNDEN, 27, son of Charles William and Mary Hearnden of 39 Ballad's Buildings, Watford [Hertfordshire], born Bradford [Yorkshire] (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)
  • 6432 Private Joseph MESSENGER, born Saint Albans [Hertfordshire], resided Forest Hill [London] (Wulverghem-Lindenhoek Road Military Cemetery)
  • Captain Basil John ORLEBAR, 39, son of John Orlebar of Silsoe, husband of Barbara F of The Dene, Triangle [Yorkshire] (Dranouter Churchyard)
  • 6663 Private Sidney Arthur STRATTON, nephew of Miss L Kiff of 67 Cecil Street, Watford [Hertfordshire] (Wulverghem-Lindenhoek Road Military Cemetery)

2nd Battalion: billets at Pont-de-la-Justice (perhaps on a fatigue near the front)
  • 4/6961 Private Ralph BENTLEY, 22, son of Ralph and Rebecca of 26 South Street, Stanstead Abbotts [Hertfordshire], born and resided Barkway [Hertfordshire] (Rue-David Military Cemetery, Fleurbaix)


1st/5th Battalion

  • 3946 Private William Herbert WHITE, 29, son of William Frederick and Mary White of 1 Sunny Side Cottages, Cranfield (Cranfield (Saints Peter and Paul) Churchyard)

Wednesday 14 January 2015

Sometimes Flooded Trenches are a Blessing

Thursday 14th January 1915: readers will be aware that, at the moment, the trenches in France and Belgium are in a terrible state owing to constant rain. Many have become small streams. As can be imagined this makes Tommy Atkins curse as he is never dry or warm in them.

Sometimes, however, this can be a blessing in disguise. We have spoke with the adjutant of the 1st Bedfords today, who tells us that the right hand section of trenches where the battalion is stationed, near Wulvergem, have been shelled by the enemy. These trenches are completely waterlogged and thus not manned, so all the German shells did was to make the water ripple.

Source: X550/2/5

Tuesday 13 January 2015

Taking Over

Wednesday 13th January 1915: The 1st Bedfords are today taking over front line trenches near Wulvergem from the Dorset Regiment. The relief, as it is known, tends to happen at night and as quietly as possible to hide the fact that it is occurring from the enemy. This is because it is a hazardous time both for the unit withdrawing and the unit coming in to replace it.

Such wholesale movement, involving up to two thousand men in a very confined area, means that they are, inevitably, more focused on the task in hand than on the enemy and this can result in showing themselves above the parapet, with the inevitable tragic result. It also means that there is a certain amount of disorganisation which can lead to any raid by the Germans meeting with considerable success, even to the extent of taking the front line trench.

Source: X550/2/5

Monday 12 January 2015

A New Commander for the 2nd Bedfords

Tuesday 12th January 1915: readers will be familiar with the 2nd Bedfords’ commanding officer, Major William Henry Denne. He remains with the battalion but now as second-in-command, the new commanding officer being Major Cranley Charlton Onslow.

The battalion is currently in trenches south-west of Fleurbaix. It is very wet here and the trenches are full of water. Yesterday the battalion received four semi-rotary pumps, two of them of a type used by the French. We hope they will be able to stem the flow of water converting trenches into streams.

Source: X550/3/wd

Roll of Honour 12th January 1915


7th Battalion

  • 3/7750 Private Charles CHAPMAN, 42, son of Archer Chapman of Shingay [Cambridgeshire], husband of Kate of Shingay Gate, Royston [Hertfordshire] (Wendy (All Saints) Churchyard

Sunday 11 January 2015

Fascine Making

Monday 11th January 1915: the adjutant of the 1st Bedfords tells us that the men, who are currently back at Dranouter, out of the firing line, are busy making hurdles or, to give them their military name, fascines.

These fascines are, essentially, bundles of relatively thin branches, without leaves or twigs protruding from them, all tied together in a bundle. The thing looks not unlike a bundle of tapers used for lighting candles, but on a larger scale. These can be piled up on top of one another and tied to give the slimy faces of the trenches some rigidity and to help prevent them collapsing.

Source: X550/2/5

Saturday 10 January 2015

The Noble Death of Corporal Goldsmith

Sunday 10th January 1915: Quarter Master Sergeant O. H. Perkins of the 1st Bedfords has told us of the death of Old Bedford Modernian, Corporal Hubert Goldsmith of 20 Saint Andrew’s Road, Bedford which occurred today at Wulvergem, south of Ypres: “He died a hero, went out of his trench to dress a wounded comrade (voluntarily) like a gallant soldier”.

“It might be some small comfort to you to know that he can have had no pain. I have lost a good and promising NCO, one of the best. His future was certain, had God spared him. He was buried in a soldier’s grave just inside a farm close to where he fell. The Captain of his Company read the burial service and all his comrades who could be spared from the trenches attended the sad ceremony”(1).

Source: Bedfordshire Times 5th February 1915

(1) He belonged to A Company, was 19 and is buried at RE Farm Cemetery.

Roll of Honour 10th January 1915

Killed in Action

1st Battalion: relieved from front line trenches north-west of Wulvergem
  • 8250 Private William FITKIN, born and resided Hertford (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)
  • 10277 Corporal Hubert Foden Excil or Exell  GOLDSMITH, 19, A Company, son of Captain J J F and Annie Goldsmith of 20 Saint Andrew's Road, Bedford, born Multan [India] (RE Farm Cemetery, Ypres)

Died of Wounds

1st Battalion
  • 3/6145 Private Edgar BOON, born Great Barford, resided Saint Neots [Huntingdonshire] (Bailleul Communal Cemetery)


2nd Battalion

  • 3/7398 Private Harry GRAY, born and resided Luton (Luton Church Burial Ground, Crawley Green Road)

Friday 9 January 2015

The 1st Battalion at Wulvergem

Saturday 9th January 1915: As we related yesterday the 1st Battalion is in front line trenches near Wulvergem in Belgium. We have just spoken with the adjutant who told us: “The enemy have brought up a quick-firer, probably a motor gun (that is, mounted on a lorry), to within a few hundred yards of our trenches and is firing obliquely on them”.

“We have had seven men wounded. The ground in the direction of this gun is convex, that is, the gun is below a very slight hill, meaning we cannot bring effective rifle-fire to bear on it”.

“Earlier today we shot two Germans at close range who were moving along the parapet of their trench. Probably it was full of water, ours is and our trenches and those of the Germans are only about thirty yards apart in places. The men keep busy each night in endeavouring to bale water out of the trenches. They also have to revet the trenches after landslides caused by constant rain and unstable soil”.

It is sobering to those of us who have played cricket to imagine that the Germans are not much further away from our men than a batsman is from a bowler as he approaches the wicket.

Source: X550/2/5

Roll of Honour 9th January 1915

Died of Wounds

1st Battalion
  • 9079 Private Arthur Edwin TODD, 31, son of Stoker and Ellen Todd of 41 Eve Road, West Ham [Essex], born Faversham [Kent] (Portsmouth (Highland Road) Cemetery)


1st/5th Battalion

  • 4878 Private Richard James HYDE, 21, son of Benjamin and Ellen of 28 Vandyke Road, Leighton Buzzard (Leighton-Linslade (Leighton Buzzard) Cemetery)

Thursday 8 January 2015

First Bedfordshire Regiment Men Killed in Action this Year

Harry Hack

Friday 8th January 1915: Just over a week into 1915 and today the Regiment has had its first men killed in action. The 1st Battalion are currently in the front line trenches north-west of Wulvergem, which is south of Ypres.

They have been shelled whilst holding the trenches and six men have been killed. Three of these men were from Bedfordshire – Private Wright from Shefford, Private Pestell from Bedford and Lance Corporal Hack from Luton. The other four men are from Essex, Hertfordshire, Warwickshire. This shows how widely the regiment recruits.

Many men in the Bedfordshire Regiment have always come from Hertfordshire, as that county has no front line infantry regiment of its own and this seems to be continuing, with many Hertfordshire men joining since the outbreak of war. However, men are recruited from further a-field, particularly London and others of the eastern counties.

We understand that it is War Office policy to ensure that, wherever possible, regiments comprise men from a variety of geographical backgrounds. This makes good sense when one considers the disaster which might be visited upon a locality if one of the battalions in its local regiment were to suffer high numbers of casualties in an action. This policy should help to ensure no missing generation in the towns and villages of Bedfordshire, however long the war lasts.

Source: X550/2/5

Roll of Honour 8th January 1915

Killed in Action

1st Battalion: shelled in front line trenches north west of Wulvergem

  • 9645 Private Thomas Henry DUNN, 18, born Stratford [Essex], resided Clerkenwell [London] (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)
  • 7743 Acting Sergeant William ELEMENT, born and resided Mill End [Hertfordshire] (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)
  • 7517 Private Ralph GRIFFIN, 28, husband of Mrs Powell (ex Griffin) of Mountfield Gardens, Southam [Warwickshire], he was born in Farnborough [Warwickshire] (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)
  • 9564 Lance Corporal Harry HACK, born Houghton Regis, resided Luton (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)
  • 3/6733 Private William Levi PESTELL, brother of F C Pestell of 17 Council Cottages, Theydon Bois [Essex]; he was born Goldington and resided Bedford (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)
  • 3/5536 Private Samuel Thomas WRIGHT, 31, son of Edward Wright of 13a New Street, Shefford (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres

Wednesday 7 January 2015

No Truce This Time

Sunday 7th March 1915: A Sergeant of the 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, tells us that when they were in the trcenches about a month ago (at Fleurbaix): "The Germans shouted: "Are you all Bedfords? We are the 115th". It appears that they are the same lot that were facing us at Christmas time when we had the truce. They also told us to look out for February 18th (the blockade date). Of course our men gave them some decent replies, you can  bet. Some of our fellows get nasty wounds, but are quite cheerful. Last night a man got shot right through the neck. It was a very lucky escape for him. Another half-inch would have killed him outright, but all he said was "Would you mind binding me up, please?" He managed to walk to the dressing station, about 500 yards in the rear of the trenches"(1).

(1) Instances of the Germans shouting out to the British soldiers in trenches opposite are well attested, as is their habit of welcoming new units into the line by name. Not unnaturally this inspired thoughts of traitors in the British ranks, as it was probably meant to do. In fact the Germans were tapping unscrambled telephone lines running back from the British front line to headquarters.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 12th March 1915

Very Bad Trenches

Thursday 7th January 1915: The 1st Battalion have just gone into the front line after three days in support at Dranouter. They have taken over from the 1st Battalion, Dorset Regiment and have discovered that that unit has had a rough time.

The trenches are continually full of water because of all the rain. This part of the Flemish plain has a high water table and in winter the soil is almost always mud but at any depth this becomes slime. This means that not only is the trench itself full of water to perhaps one two or even three feet depth but the sides continually cave in. How all our boys must be praying for drier, warmer weather.

Source: X550/2/5

Tuesday 6 January 2015


Dranouter church

Wednesday 6th January 1915: The 1st Bedfords are out of the firing line at the moment, being in support at Dranouter. However, this does not mean they are at rest as they are having to find men to do fatigues each day.

It is probably true to say that fatigues are amongst the most hated things in a Tommy’s life. As the name suggests they tend to be fatiguing often involving fetching and carrying. They are also dangerous. The Bedfords are, at the moment, providing fatigue parties carrying ammunition, barbed wire and other necessities up to the units in the front line. This, of course, exposes them to enemy shelling and snipers. Thus, even though not officially in the front line men will spend some time there each day.

Source: X550/2/5

Monday 5 January 2015

East Anglian Royal Engineers Near the Front Line

Tuesday 5th January 1915: Today we have heard from some of the men of the 1st East Anglian Field Company, Royal Engineers, a Territorial Army unit based in Bedford in peace time. Sapper H. Statham of 147 Castle Road, Bedford told us: “We are 600 yards off the firing line, digging trenches, with the shells flying over us. You can see the ambulances bringing the wounded up the road”. The company is Guarbecque, north-west of Béthune.

Sapper W. Prentice of Clapham told us: “We had our first experience of actual warfare today when we were digging trenches. Our artillery was shelling the German lines behind us. It was a funny sensation to hear the shells screaming over our heads, but we soon got used to it. The Germans tried to reply, but they were a bit wide; we could see the shells explode in the field next to us, and a stray bullet or two came over our heads. Send me some chocolate and cigarettes as soon as possible”.

Source: Bedfordshire Times 15th January 1915

Sunday 4 January 2015

Up to the Neck

Monday 4th January 1915: A signaller in the 1st Bedfords tells us: “The trenches are terrible – up to one’s neck in mud and water. It’s terribly hard for the troops, but I can assure you they will stick it well. All the same they are nearly all done in”.

“It seems impossible for us to advance on account of the ground. If we gain a few yards we think we have done marvellously well and you would say so, too, if you could only see it for yourself. The weather is still bad and all the roads are cut up”.

Source: Luton News 14th January 1915

Saturday 3 January 2015

Presents for the 2nd Bedfords

Sunday 3rd January 1915: Major W. H. Denne, commanding officer of the 2nd Bedfords tells us: “A large consignment of presents arrived from the Women of Bedfordshire Comforts’ Fund a few days ago, consisting of a towel, a handkerchief, one piece of soap and two candles. This has been distributed to the men of the battalion and I cannot tell you how delighted they were with it. They call it the best present they have ever had, and from what I hear I think it must be true. If I may make a suggestion I should like to say that socks are one of the most needed things these days. A very few days in the trenches wears them out. Then again gloves not mittens are always required. Would you mind expressing my very best thanks to the “Women of Bedfordshire” for their great kindness and forethought in providing the men of the Battalion with so many comforts. You will only be able to realise how much they appreciate them when they come home and can speak for themselves”.

Lady Ampthill, who runs the committee, adds that a pot of Vaseline and a cake of chocolate were also sent to each man. Beside this Christmas largesse she tells us the committee has also sent out over the months: 1,833 pairs of socks; 1,321 pairs of mittens; 914 scarves; 535 body belts; 453 shirts; 50 housewives (1); 88 sleeping helmets; 24 pairs of kneecaps; 12 cardigans; 8 chest protectors; 4 Thermos flasks; 31,000 cigarettes; 6 gross of matches; tooth brushes; writing paper; peppermints; acid drops; tinder lighters; letter-wallets; braces; boracic condiment and cold cream.

Source: Bedfordshire Times 15th January 1915

(1) A housewife (pronounced “hussif”) was the army term for an all-purpose sewing kit.

Friday 2 January 2015

East Anglian Royal Engineers in France

Saturday 2nd January 1915: The 1st Field Company of the East Anglian Royal Engineers are honoured by being the first Bedfordshire Territorials to be sent to the Front. Since they mobilised in August they have been usefully trained at various places in the Eastern Counties and for a considerable time were engaged on coast defences. The latter part of their training has been undergone near Bury Saint Edmunds and it was from this place that they moved off. The Company sailed from a Southern port on Christmas Eve and had a quiet and safe passage.

Sapper Charles Chesher writing home on Christmas Day, soon after the arrival in France says: “Arrived safe in France. The passage was quite smooth. The sea was just like a lake, hardly a ripple on it and the moon shone lovely. I was on deck nearly the whole of the way to see if we got any fun, but everything passed off quietly. We have just had dinner, but no plum pudding. It will be a Christmas I think I shall never forget. I have just been talking to Jack Negus. He is just about the same as when in Bedford”. The company is currently at Heuringhem, a few miles south of Saint-Omer.

Source: Bedfordshire Times 1st January 1915

Thursday 1 January 2015

New Year’s Day


Friday 1st January 1915: The commanding officer of 2nd Battalion has told us that there has been no repeat of the fraternisation with the enemy which happened over Christmas. The Battalion is once again in the front line near Fleurbaix and last night they heard the Germans singing songs and saw lighted Christmas trees on the enemy parapets. They evidently welcomed the New Year in by Berlin time because at 11 o’clock they rang bells in the villages behind their lines.

One or two of the Battalion’s companies decided to respond to the Germans’ festivities and did this to the tune of a burst or rapid fire from their rifles aimed at the enemy positions. Indignant yells were heard from across the way.

The 1st Battalion is behind the lines at the moment. It is billeted in the French town of Bailleul near the Belgian border and is in Divisional Reserve. The men are given exercise in the form of short route marches and drills.

Sources: X550/3/wd; X550/2/5; The Story of the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment (The 16th Regiment of Foot) Volume II 1914-1958

Roll of Honour 1st January 1915


8th Battalion
  • 14209 Sergeant Oliver Percy RIDOUT, son of Edwin and Ellen Ridout, born and resided Bath [Somerset] (Brighton City (Bear Road) Cemetery)

Bedfordshire Yeomanry

  • 1112 Private Thomas ADAMSON, born Whitby [Yorkshire], resided Woburn (Hatfield Peverel churchyard, Essex)