Tuesday 31 March 2015

Roll of Honour Wednesday 31st March 1915

Killed in Action

2nd Battalion: relieved from front line trenches near Fauquissart
  • 8840 Private William Charles HORNE, 27, son of Frederick George and Fanny Jane Horne, born Battersea [London], resided Pimlico [London] (le Touret Memorial)

Died of Wounds

1st Battalion
  • 7733 Private William George RAINBOW, born Berkhamsted [Hertfordshire], resided Watford [Hertfordshire] (Bedford House Cemetery, Ypres)

2nd Battalion

  • 13298 Private John EAST, 36, son of William and Ann East of Rickmansworth [Hertfordshire], born Watford [Hertfordshire], resided Gunnersbury [Middlesex] (Rue-du-Bacquerot (13th London) Graveyard, Laventie)

Monday 30 March 2015

Friday 30th April 1915: The 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment is still in trenches to the left of Hill 60. The adjutant reports that a draft of three officers and three hundred other ranks arrived at Ouderdom this morning. One officer and one hundred of these men will sent tonight to join their new comrades in the trenches. As these men are new to the war such a large number all at once would be a challenge for the veterans to train in all the ways of a soldier on active service in the conditions peculiar to this war and untrained men are likely to get themselves killed quickly. The rest of the new arrivals will be integrated gradually as those preceding them acclimatise to their new surroundings and duties.

The adjutant reports there is some difficulty in getting stores and supplies such as ammunition, water and food to the trenches at the moment owing to constant and persistent shelling of all roads and approaches by the enemy. He wonders if this means a German attack is on the way.

Source: X550/2/5

New Blood for the 1st Battalion

Friday 30th April 1915: The 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment is still in trenches to the left of Hill 60. The adjutant reports that a draft of three officers and three hundred other ranks arrived at Ouderdom this morning. One officer and one hundred of these men will sent tonight to join their new comrades in the trenches. As these men are new to the war such a large number all at once would be a challenge for the veterans to train in all the ways of a soldier on active service in the conditions peculiar to this war and untrained men are likely to get themselves killed quickly. The rest of the new arrivals will be integrated gradually as those preceding them acclimatise to their new surroundings and duties.

The adjutant reports there is some difficulty in getting stores and supplies such as ammunition, water and food to the trenches at the moment owing to constant and persistent shelling of all roads and approaches by the enemy. He wonders if this means a German attack is on the way.

Source: X550/2/5

A Sandy Soldier at Ypres

Sandy Market Place [Z1306/99]

Tuesday 30th March 1915: 7163 Private Oscar Emery of B Company, 1st Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment is currently with his unit in the front line near Ypres. He tells us: “We are now doing 60 hours in the trenches instead of 48. The trenches are fairly good There are some old houses just behind the firing line, knocked down by German shells and we have used some of the wood to lay at the bottom of the trench to walk on. The Germans are not very far from us, only 100 yards, and you have to be careful, or they will soon have you down, but we are protected from them by barbed wire”.

“I feel anxious to have my revenge for my poor brother Wales. For, as I am in this trench, I can see his grave in a wood(1). The weather continues to be fine. We have given up our fur coats, so we have not quite so much to carry, but we still have to carry a blanket, a water proof sheet, and a pair of jack boots. I will never mind going brusselling again if I live to get through this lot”.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 16th April 1915

(1) Private Walter Emery was killed in action with the same battalion repulsing a German attack on 7th November 1914. His grave has since been lost and he is commemorated on the le Touret Memorial to the missing.

Roll of Honour Tuesday 30th March 1915

Killed in Action

1st Battalion: front line trenches on canal bank south of Ypres
  • 8571 Private William Ellis REED, 25, son of William and Alice Reed, born Whaddon [Cambridgeshire], resided Royston [Hertfordshire] (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)

2nd Battalion: front line trenches near Fauquissart

  • 9232 Acting Sergeant Joseph John SMITH, 29, son of Thomas Smith of Melbourn Heath Cottages, Royston [Hertfordshire], born Whaddon [Cambridgeshire] (le Touret Memorial) 

Sunday 29 March 2015

French and Other Decorations for the Bedfords

Distinguished Conduct Medal

Monday 29th March 1915: The President of the French Republic(1) has bestowed the decoration Medaille Militaire on the undermentioned NCO of the Bedfordshire Regiment, with the approval of His Majesty the King, in recognition of gallantry during the operations between the 21st and 30th August 1914: 9465 Sergeant P. J. Hunt

The Distinguished Conduct Medal has been awarded to the undermentioned NCOs and men of the Bedfordshire Regiment for acts of gallantry and devotion to duty whilst serving with the Expeditionary Force

9165 Sergeant P. J. Hunt – on 24th August was in charge of the trenches after his officer had been wounded and, although once completely surrounded by the enemy, a mile in the rear of the 3rd Division Rear Guard, he effected the retirement of his platoon.

7814  Sergeant A. J. Mart – for gallant conduct on the 10th November in assisting to recover one of our abandoned machine guns, killing one German who was watching the gun. Sergeant Mart distinguished himself previously on dangerous services.

10129 Corporal P. G. Cyster – for gallantry on 10th November in assisting to recover one of our abandoned machine guns.

10234 Private A. E. Bentley – for gallantry under fire and remaining behind under a hot fire on the 12th October and helping to dress the wounds of three men whom it was impossible to move.

7536 Private R. Piggott – for gallantry under fire and remaining behind under a hot fire on 12th October and helping to dress the wounds of three men whom it was impossible to move.

8035 Private W. Falla – for conspicuous courage on 7th November when he led a charge on a trench occupied by the enemy. Reaching it first he blew it up, with the result that all the enemy were killed or captured(2)

Source: Bedfordshire Times, 26th March 1915

(1) Raymond Poincaré, president from 1913 to 1920.

(2) Sadly he was killed on 28th June 1917 and is commemorated on the Arras Memorial

Roll of Honour Monday 29th March 1915

Killed in Action

1st Battalion: front line trenches on canal bank south of Ypres

  • 3/6115 Private Frederick LAWRENCE, husband of Nellie Eliza Odell (ex Lawrence) of 32 Duke Street, Luton (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)

Saturday 28 March 2015

The Sims at War

The Sims Brothers

Sunday 28th March 1915: The photograph reproduced above is of the brothers Sims, sons of Mr Alfred and Mrs Laura Sims of Albert-street, Bedford. When the war broke out five brothers were members of or joined His Majesty’s Forces and one, First-Class Stoker Alfred Sims, went down with the “Hawke” in September(1).

The soldier on the left is Private Reginald Sims of the 1st Bedfords, who was shot through the base of the skull in the last great fight at Ypres. The centre figure is of Private James Sims, also of the 1st Bedfords, who, although only 19 years of age, has had good fortune to take part in all the battles that the Bedfords have been engaged in and has not been injured in any way(2). The figure on the left is of sapper Fred Sims of the East Anglian Royal Engineers, who was injured in the face and eye “Somewhere in France”. He went out with the 1st Field Company, and was the second on their list of casualties. He is a member of the Junior Unionist Association concert party, the other brother is sadler Horace Sims of the Bedfordshire Imperial Yeomanry.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 19th March 1915

(1) He is commemorated on Chatham Naval Memorial. HMS Hawke was a cruiser, launched in 1891 she was sunk by U-9 off Aberdeen on 15th October 1914, not September as the newspaper article states. U-9 was the u-boat responsible for sinking the Hogue, Aboukir and Cressy on 22nd September off the coast of Holland.

(2) This man is listed as Private Charles James Simms on the Commonwealth War Graves website. He died with the 1st Battalion on 14th March 1916 and is buried at Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez. 

Roll of Honour Sunday 28th March 1915

Died of Wounds

1st Battalion

  • 3/6916 Private Abel CLARK, 19, son of Abel and Mary Ann Clark of Wilburton Road, Stretham [Cambridgeshire] (Boulogne Eastern Cemetery)

Friday 27 March 2015

General Capper's Congratulations to the 2nd Bedfords

Saturday 27th March 1915: Today Major-General Thompson Capper, commanding 7th Division, has issued the following statement: “The Divisional general has now received the reports on the action near Neuve Chapelle on 10th to 14th March. He desires to express his appreciation of the steady conduct of the 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, and particularly of the gallant action of Major Denne and his small party who made a devoted counter attack on the enemy in order to assist a neighbouring battalion”.

“The Divisional general wishes also to record his admiration of the conduct of Captain C. C. Foss, D.S.O., and his few grenade throwers, who succeeded in an attack on the enemy, capturing 50 prisoners. The Divisional General much regrets the losses sustained by this Battalion”.

Source: X550/3/wd

Thursday 26 March 2015

New Officers for the 2nd Battalion

Friday 26th March 1915: We have just heard that five officers have joined 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment to replace casualties received at Neuve Chapelle. The Battalion is currently in reserve trenches at Fauquissart.

Each of the officers has been transferred from another Regiment. From 4th Battalion, North Staffordshire Regiment comes Second Lieutenant E. S. S. Taylor and from 28th Battalion, London Regiment (commonly known as Artists Rifles) come Second Lieutenants: L. F. Beal; R. H. Boys; R. S. Lardner and W. Ramsey(1).

Source: X550/2/5

(1) Lieutenant E. S. S. Taylor died with 4th Battalion, North Staffordshire Regiment on 9th June 1916 and is buried in Fryerning Cemetery and Lieutenant Richard Harvey Boys was killed in action on 13th November 1916 with 4th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment and is buried in Knightsbridge Cemetery, Mesnil-Martinsart.

Roll of Honour Friday 26th March 1915

Killed in Action

2nd Battalion: front line trenches south of Fauqissart

  • 6555 Private Walter SPICER, born and resided Great Hormead [Hertfordshire] (le Touret Memorial)

Wednesday 25 March 2015

News of the 1st Battalion

Sydney Tabor

Thursday 25th March 1915 (Lady Day): We have heard much this month of the exploits of the 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle. What, you may ask, of the 1st Battalion? The answer is that they have been holding the line at Ypres some way to the north. Most days when they are in the line they will take casualties, men killed or wounded by enemy snipers or from bursting shells.

We have heard that today Lieutenant Tabor has been slightly wounded in head. He is son-in-law of John William Green, the brewer, of The Larches, New Bedford Road, Luton(1). He has three children and resides at Little Berkhampstead [Hertfordshire] and was engaged on the Stock Exchange prior to the outbreak of war. Previous to his marriage he served for some ten years in the Naval Volunteers and, offering his services in August he speedily received a commission in 3rd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment. Within weeks of enlisting he was selected to take out to France a draft of two hundred men of the West Surrey Regiment, and he was afterwards detailed to the 1st Bedfords. At that time the County Battalion were recuperating, but they returned to the firing line shortly after Christmas, and since that time Lieutenant Tabor has experienced a good deal of trench warfare. By a curious coincidence, Captain Harold P Green, second son of Mr and Mrs J W Green, who was in training with his brother-in-law in 3rd Battalion before the Lieutenant was drafted to the Front, left for France with a draft of men from Landguard to reinforce the 1st Bedfords only two days before Lieutenant Tabor was brought from the firing line with his injured head(2).

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 9th April 1915

(1) Sidney Tabor survived the war but J W Green’s son Lieutenant Reginald Cumberland Green would be killed with 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment on 18th May 1916.
(2) Harold Green survived the war. Sidney Tabor went on to serve with 7th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment.

Roll of Honour Thursday 25th March 1915

Killed in Action

1st Battalion: relieved from front line trenches on the canal bank south of Ypres

  • 7609 Corporal John MAXFIELD, born and resided Walthamstow [Essex] (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)

Tuesday 24 March 2015

To a Bolnhurst Girl

Bolnhurst School [Z1306/20/1]

Wednesday 24th March 1915: Hilda Whitmore, the eight-year old daughter of Mr and Mrs H Whitmore of Bolnhurst is one of the scholars at Bolnhurst School who has been knitting for the soldiers at the front. She sent a note attached to a muffler she had knitted and has received the following reply from Private Lee, Machine Gun Section, 3rd Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment, Landguard Camp.

“I really must write and thank you for the sweet serviceable present which I received today. How I should have loved to have this present when I was in the trenches, but still I shall treasure it much as wind and rain is awful here at night on the pier and fort guards. I must tell you my adventure from August 14th, when I left Belfast in Ireland(1)”.

“We managed to land at Havre in France on August 16th on a Sunday and the following Sunday I was fighting the German Army at Mons where my Regiment lost very heavy but God took me through safely. We had to hang on until Tuesday, when nearly all the 1st Battalion had been cut up. My two chums were killed beside me, but my time had not yet come to die, so I managed to go through ten big battles until I got to la Bassée. After being in the trenches fifteen days, standing on turnips and straw to prevent the water rising too far up our bodies, on October 27th I was firing my gun with good effect as the enemy were advancing in thick formation. I can account for a few hundreds I killed as my gun (the Baby I call it), fires 450 shots a minute. Then a big black shell found me. It smashed the gun, killed the Sergeant and wounded ten others. I was hit in the head and buried for three hours. The Germans advanced and walked over me and took me for dead. I lay until a sergeant found me with just my feet showing, another five minutes I would have been a dead man, but a drop of rum saved me. The Germans took my other eight chums prisoners. I am still under the doctor, so I am sorry to say I can’t go out again to fight for you after the way you and your school chums are working for us. I must say you have made the scarf splendidly. Thanking you again for your kindness”.

Source: Bedfordshire Times, 26th March 1915.

(1) He was evidently not in the Bedfordshire Regiment at the time.

Monday 23 March 2015

More Extracts from an Officer's Diary

Tuesday 23rd March 1915: The following extracts from the diary of an officer of the 1st Bedfords gives us some idea of the conditions under which our front line troops have been fighting.

“We’re up in the rottenest trench I’ve ever been into. It’s full up with thin mud and there is a spring running into it. This trench was originally German; no wonder they let us have it; it isn’t the sort of place you’d invite your best friend to. The water in parts is over one’s chest. Heaven help a bantam battalion holding this place! They’d be drowned before they got here(1)”.

“Fortunately we have fires and there is coal in a farm at the back, so that we can warm our rations up. But it’s risky going there. We have to go, however, to get water”.

“In my platoon – we’ll call it that, but it’s the remnant of a company – there are two brothers who have been out since the beginning. They have always been together and neither has been sick or wounded. When they think they’ve hit a German they scratch a mark on their rifle butt. One had hit thirty nine and the other forty two and the rivalry is very keen”.

“The rifles in the trenches look more like chunks of mud than anything else. The sights get clogged up, but that isn’t of much importance here for the firing is practically point blank, our trench being about, on an average, twenty yards yards from the German one; but we rarely see anything of them except their shovels. Their trench is evidently in the same condition as ours”.

“Today, while walking (swimming would describe it better) down the trench, I found two men cooking chickens by holding them on a French bayonet over a coal fire. They were thin, of course, and what little meat there was on them wasn’t improved in flavour by the deposit of thick soot with which they were soon covered”.

“I’m having a chicken tomorrow; it will be an improvement on bully. Let’s hope the rain and water don’t put the fires out. That would be the greatest catastrophe I can imagine at the present time; we have a hard enough job to keep them alight as it is, perching them up on old bully beef tins to keep them off the ground”.

“Occasionally one falls over, and then you see how hard a Tommy can work – in his efforts to relight the fire from wet wood and burning fragments from other fires. Matches are no good here. There’s not a dry one in the trench. There are some tinder lighters but they’re no good for pipes. There are no cigarettes or cigarette papers, so we have to light our pipes from the fire, which, owing to the lack of dry combustibles, is not easy”.

“Had an exciting night. We sapped close to their ration trenches by 10 o’clock, and heard their ration party go for their rations. When they had gone we broke through in two places. We got terribly cold waiting for they didn’t come back for about two hours. But when they did come we got them all, for they were quite trapped. There were twenty altogether, but, of course, we didn’t stop to investigate the exact amount of the damage”.

“About six yards from our trenches there is a German lying face upwards with a bayonet through him. The rifle and bayonet are vertical and by the German’s side lies a Frenchman. One can guess what happened with those two”.

Source: Bedfordshire Times, 26th March 1915

(1) Bantam battalions were made up of men below the minimum height for a soldier before the war – 5 feet 3 inches. The minimum height for such a battalion varied but could be as little as 4 feet 10 inches. 

Sunday 22 March 2015

Extracts from an Officer's Diary

Monday 22nd March 1915: The following extracts from the diary of an officer of the 1st Bedfords gives us some idea of the conditions under which our front line troops have been fighting.

“What price chicken, pork, greens, paté de fois gras, grapes and plenty of tinned stuff for dinner, not two miles from the firing line? As our Job’s comforter says, “It may be our last decent meal””.

“Every now and then bullets keep going through the roof of our barn, but where we are is quite safe, for the bullets are mostly high here. I’ve got the reserve trenches for tonight. They are apparently dry, which makes up for any amount of shelling”.

“These trenches are the best I’ve had yet, I’ve got about fifty men, two to each dug-out, for the trench consists of a series of bomb-proofs with a layer of about six inches of dry straw to lie on in each. My hole is about five yards in the rear and has at its side a miniature coal cellar which, being quite full, will be useful, as it’s jolly cold”.

“There is nothing to do in these trenches except to sit tight on the off-chance of the Germans breaking through, in which case it’s “Fix bayonets” and do your best. Let’s hope they don’t break through, for their sakes, for we’re in a pretty strong position and bayonet fighting is so messy and looks unpleasant when it’s all over.. And I don’t want another spell of taking the men out to make another German cemetery, of which there appear to be a lot round here”.

“Most of the dug-outs have a pail used as a fireplace. The poker is usually a bayonet – usually French – as the men save the German ones for souvenirs. There are plenty of unopened bully beef tins round about, so we shan’t go short of food”.

Source: Bedfordshire Times, 26th March 1915

Saturday 21 March 2015

The Busy East Anglian Royal Engineers

The EARE Officers relaxing

Sunday 21st March 1915: The illustration above shows Captain Walker (on the left) and Lieutenant Keeling (on the right), with Scotch officers in the centre, in a dug out, enjoying one of the brief rests that have fallen to the lot of the EARE. During the whole of the three months that the 1st Field Company have been in France Major Wilson says their conduct has been “absolutely fine”. Throughout that period they have only had four days rest, yet they were ever cheerful and carried out the many tasks that they had been called upon to perform with rare enthusiasm. Their work includes the making of new trenches, the construction of bridges, the building of sandbag breast works, the carrying of electric power for pumping purposes along miles of canal banks, the construction and erection of wire entanglements and the rendering of houses into a state of defence. Such tasks require considerable skill and courage when they are under fire, but their conduct is splendid.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 1st April 1915

Roll of Honour Sunday 21st March 1915


3rd Battalion

  • 3/8795 Private Arthur BRICE, 45, husband of Maggie of 48 Milton Road, Southampton (Felixstowe (Walton) Cemetery)
  • 18247 Private George Matthew HIBBIT, born Peckham [London], resided Clapham Park [London] (Streatham Cemetery)

Friday 20 March 2015

How News of the Wounded Trickles Through

Sapper A. Overhill

Saturday 20th March 1915: Mr and Mrs Overhill of Iddesleigh-road, Bedford, whose son, Sapper Albert E. Overhill, was with the East Anglian Royal Engineers, have received disquieting news of him. He was wounded in the fighting near Neuve Chapelle on 10th March. On Monday his parents received the following letter from the General Hospital, Boulogne, under date of March 13th: - “’Bert’ has been wounded in the back by shrapnel. He is here in hospital and fairly comfortable. I expect he will be moved to England soon. He is not in any pain”. On Tuesday evening, however, a telegram was received saying that sapper Overhill was dangerously ill with spinal concussion. Sapper Overhill is well known at the Queen’s Engineering Works, where he has been employed in the fitting department for a number of years”.

“On Wednesday evening Mr Overhill received a letter from a sister in the Boulgone Hospital, in which she says: - “Sapper A. E. Overhill has a gun-shot wound in the right side, not concussion of the spinal cord. He is very dangerously ill, but he is quite conscious and very patient””(1).

Source; Bedfordshire Standard 19th March 1915

(1) He died of his wounds on 22nd April and is buried in Bedford Cemetery in Foster Hill Road.

Thursday 19 March 2015

Disaster at the Dardanelles

Able Seaman Adams

Friday 19th March 1915: Readers may be aware that since last month British naval forces have been bombarding the Turkish forts at Gallipoli. This is a narrow finger of land which is part of Europe, separated from Asia by a narrow strait of water known as the Dardanelles. Behind this strait is the Sea of Marmara and behind this another narrow strait between Europe and Asia on each side of which lies the city of Constantinople. Thus the Dardanelles and Sea of Marmara beyond lie guardian to any attempt to attack the Turkish capital from the sea.

Yesterday a combined fleet of eighteen British and French battleships with supporting cruisers and destroyers sought to pass through the Dardanelles at their narrowest point, just one mile wide. Sadly, this has been a complete failure due to the presence of minefields. The French battleship Bouvet and the British ships Ocean and Irresistible have been sunk.

To lose two capital ships is a blow to the Royal navy, but a harder blow is to their pride in not succeeding in their mission. At the present time the navy comprises far more capital ships than any other fleet in the world and is still a hugely formidable instrument of war. Comprising 36 older ships with lesser armament constructed before HMS Dreadnought in 1906 and thus known as pre-dreadnoughts (Ocean and Irresistible were of this type), 24 modern ships known collectively as dreadnoughts and 9 battlecruisers.

Another Royal Naval pre-dreadnought which has been badly damaged is HMS Inflexible, sister-ship to the ill-fated Irresistible. Turkish shore batteries knocked out one of her main guns and a number of shells exploded high in her superstructure. We have heard that Able Seaman Ralph Stuart Adams of 176 Foster Hill Road, Bedford has been killed on the Inflexible. He was 22 years old and had been educated at Bedford Modern School from whence he joined the navy. 

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 26th March 1915

(1) He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Chatham Memorial.

Wednesday 18 March 2015

The Cogan Family Tragedy

le Touret Memorial

Thursday 18th March 1915: We have learned with regret of the death of Private Philip George Cogan of the 2nd Bedfords at Neuve Chapelle on 12th March(1). His death is particularly poignant as he is the third son of Mr and Mrs Cogan of Albury, Hertfordshire, to die in this war. Two other sons, both sergeants, Alfred James and William John were both killed on the same day, 7th November 1914, with the 1st Battalion(2). Their fourth son, Private Charles Cogan of the 2nd Bedfords has been twice wounded(2).

Private Philip Cogan’s wife also lost her brother, Sergeant Thomas Hutchin of the 2nd Bedfords two days ago(3). These tragedies highlight how chance can deal crippling blows to any family at any time.

Source: Bedfordshire Times 23rd April 1915

(1) Private Cogan was one of the party assisting Captain Foss to capture fifty German prisoners on 12th March, the rest of the party got the Distinguished Conduct Medal and Foss himself the Victoria Cross

(2) None of the men have any known grave and all are commemorated on the le Touret Memorial to the Missing.

(3) He is also commemorated on the le Touret Memorial

Roll of Honour Thursday 18th March 1915

Died of Wounds

1st Battalion
  • 19217 Private Ernest PIKE, born and resided Arlesey (Boulogne Eastern Cemetery)
  • 4/6266 Private Bert SHELDRICK, 26, son of John and Martha Sheldrick of West End, Ashwell [Hertfordshire], born Thriplow [Cambridgeshire] (Sainte-Marie Cemetery, le Havre)

2nd Battalion
  • 9202 Private Edward BUDGE, 26, A Company, son of A Budge of 24 Bradfield Street, Liverpool [Lancashire], born and resided  Launceston [Cornwall] (le Touquet-Paris Plage Communal Cemetery)
  • 9904 Private Charles Daniel WEAVERS, born Copthall Green [Hertfordshire], resided Waltham Cross [Hertfordshire] (Waltham Holy Cross Old Cemetery)


1st Battalion
  • 4/7019 Private Henry Nelson FARDELL, 40, son of Rose Alma Lagden of Sheering [Essex] (Saint-Sever Cemetery, Rouen)

6th Battalion

  • 12379 Private Alan James HOPKINS, 22, C Company, son of Arthur James and Rosa Hopkins of 46 Cromwell Avenue, Highgate [London] (Aldershot Military Cemetery)

Tuesday 17 March 2015

Bedfordshire Depôt Scale of Diet - Week Ending 20th March

Kempston Barracks

Wednesday 17th March 1915: The officer commanding the Depôt Company at Kempston Barracks has posted this week's scale of diet, which is as follows:

Bread and butter and tinned salmon
Meat pies, potatoes and peas
Tea, bread and butter, cake
Bread and cheese and lentil soup
Tea, bread, butter and fried bacon and tomatoes
Roast meat, Yorkshire pudding, potatoes
Tea, bread and butter and jam
Bread and barley soup
Tea, bread and butter and corned mutton
Tomato stew, potatoes and plain pudding
Tea, bread and dripping
Bread and cheese, pea soup
Tea, bread and butter and sausages
Toad in the hole, potatoes and haricot beans
Tea, bread and butter and marmalade
Bread and tomato soup
Coffee, bread and butter, fried liver and bacon
Brown curry, stew, potatoes, carrots and currant rolls
Tea, bread and butter, cake
Bread and cheese and pea soup
Tea, bread and butter and fish
Roast meat, stuffed potatoes and butter beans
Tea, bread and butter and jam
Bread and lentil soup
Tea, bread and butter and boiled bacon
Sea pies, potatoes and peas
Tea, bread and butter
Bread and cheese and barley soup

No wonder so many men, particularly from the poorer areas of Bedford and Luton and from London say they have never eaten so well in their lives before joining the army.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 19th March 1915

Roll of Honour Wednesday 17th March 1915

Died of Wounds

1st Battalion
  • 3/7625 Private Arthur Edward John MARTIN, 31, son of Eliza Bethell of 6 Raveley Street, Kentish Town [London], born Saint Pancras [London], resided Tufnell Park [London] (Poperinghe Old Military Cemetery)
  • 3/6983 Private Charles OAKLEY, 20, son of Alfred and Alice Mary Oakley of 41 Canning Street, Bedford, born Woburn Sands [Buckinghamshire] (Ramparts Cemetery, Lille Gate, Ypres)

2nd Battalion

  • 4/6873 Private Henry BRACE, 20, son of Henry and Mary Brace of Nether Street, Widford [Hertfordshire], born Hunsden [Hertfordshire] (Boulogne Eastern Cemetery)
  • 3/7557 Private Henry George DAVIS, 39, husband of Mrs Bennett (ex Davis) of 25 Edenham Street, Westbourne Park [London], born West Haddon [Northamptonshire], resided Northampton (Lincoln (Newport) Cemetery)
  • Second Lieutenant Alexander Dalzell SPRUNT BA, 24, formerly 4th Battalion, son of John Dalzell and Jane Naismith Sprunt of Montgomerie, Berkhamsted [Hertfordshire], born Hampstead [London] (Lillers Communal Cemetery), his brothers also died: Lieutenant Gerald Harper Sprunt (died 15th October 1919, commemorated on the Hollybrook memorial, Southampton) and Private Edward Lawrence Sprunt (1st Battalion Honourable Artillery Company, died 16th June 1915 commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)

Monday 16 March 2015

A Barton Man's Account of Neuve Chapelle

Church End, Barton-le-Clay [Z1306/7/4/1B]

Tuesday 16th March 1915: Private D Simpkins of the 2nd Bedfords was all through the terrible battle of Neuve Chapelle, and writes to his mother as follows: - “I have been very anxious to write you this letter, as we have had a very rough time; we were called up at 2 am one morning to do an attack, and we had a very rough time I can tell you, but thank the Lord for His very great help, we have done a good deal; we took three of the German trenches and secured two thousand prisoners, as near as I can say, so that shews you what good work we have done, and gained two miles of ground. We advanced under shell fire and when we got there we had to dig holes to get under cover, we were then in them three days and were very lucky to get our food up us, but we had a job to get water, the way I got mine was a very cunning way – the hole that I dug to lay in began to get wet so I cut the foot end of the hole low to keep the wet away from me, then I bored a round hole there and the water dripped in the hole nice and clear, and that’s what I had to drink; but now we have got back to a place where we can take it easy as before”(1).

Source: P21/30/17

(1) 3/7044 Sergeant D. Simpkins was killed in action near Arleux-en-Gohelle with the 1st Battalion on 19th May 1917 and is buried at Bois-Carre British Cemetery, Thelus.

Roll of Honour Tuesday 16th March 1915

Killed in Action

1st Battalion: front line trenches on the canal bank south of Ypres
  • 19155 Private Frank BARNES, 20, son of Thomas Barnes of High Street, Olney [Buckinghamshire] (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)
  • 9213 Corporal Arthur Robert CHANDLER, 25, C Company, son of William and Jane Chandler, husband of Ida Florence of 62 Ingate Road, Beccles [Suffolk], born and resided Spaldwick [Huntingdonshire] (Perth Cemetery (China Wall), Ypres)
  • 8854 Private Frank William WATTS, born Sherington [Buckinghamshire], resided Nazeing [Essex] (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)

Died of Wounds

2nd Battalion

  • 9961 Private Charles NIGHTINGALE, born and resided Bassingbourn [Cambridgeshire] (Merville Communal Cemetery)
  • 10357 Private Francis Joseph TYSOE, born Oakley, resided Bedford (Boulogne Eastern Cemetery)

Sunday 15 March 2015

An Aspley Man's Account of the Battle of Neuve Chapelle

Aspley Guise Square [Z1306/3a/21/2]

Monday 15th March 1915: We have heard from Private Walter C. Crute of Aspley Guise who has just gone through the Battle of Neuve Chapelle with the 2nd Battalion: “Have been in it four days and have never seen such sights before. This seems something worse than war – dead lying about in hundreds. One of our fellows had his pack blown from his back. There were seven of us in a trench that we had made for ourselves. In front of this a shell burst; and if it had been a foot nearer we should all seven have been blown to bits”.

“They say we had 40,000 to fight against at that time and the Grenadier Guards under heavy fire had to advance, come what would. Their officers are brave fellows and no mistake(1). The old Bedfords are all the time in action and cannot get a rest. I don’t know whether I shall ever come back(2). My chum got wounded beside me. The shot came from a Maxim gun, it cut through his cap into his head and it broke my bayonet. If it had not caught my bayonet it would have hit me plump on the forehead. Still, I am walking about now unconcerned”.

“Last night I had to go with some more for rations for our platoon and it was four in the morning before I could find our trenches again; bullets and shells were flying about hot. I came across a Grenadier who was wounded in both legs and couldn’t move. I lay down in the trench and was then able to move him about so that his legs were easy. He did thank me and then he wanted me to stop with him. I would have done but my rifle and equipment were in our own trench so I dare not. We keep on capturing Germans. Our artillery are making a tremendous row”.

Source: Bedfordshire Times, 26th March 1915

(1) The commanding officer of 1st Battalion, Grenadier Guards, Lieutenant-Colonel Laurence Fisher-Rowe died of wounds on 12th March.
(2) Happily he seems to have done so.

Roll of Honour Monday 15th March 1915

Killed in Action

1st Battalion: front line trenches on the canal bank south of Ypres

  • 8216 Private James LUKE, 40, son of William Luke of 16 Catharine Street, Aberdeen, husband of the late Marion Luke (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)

Saturday 14 March 2015

Praise for the Men of Neuve Chapelle

Sunday 14th March 1915: The general officer commanding IV Corps, Sir Henry Rawlinson, who masterminded the battle of Neuve Chapelle, has today issued this statement: “The brilliant success which the troops of the Fourth Corps have achieved in the capture of Neuve Chapelle is of the first importance to the Allied cause, especially at this period of the war. The heroism and gallantry of regimental officers and men and the assistance afforded them by artillery units is deserving of the highest praise and the Corps Commander desires to congratulate them on the severe defeat they have inflicted upon the enemy, whose losses amount to not less than 4,000 men in killed and prisoners alone(1). The magnificent behaviour of the infantry units is deserving of the highest commendation, and in deploring the loss of those gallant comrades who have given their lives for their King and country, Sir Henry Rawlinson hopes that all officers and men fully realise that what they have accomplished in breaking through the German line is an achievement  of which they should all feel justly proud”.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 26th March 1915

(1) Modern estimate are for 12,000 German casualties, of which 1,689 were prisoners-of-war. British and Indian casualties amounted to 11,652 killed, wounded and missing.

Roll of Honour Sunday 14th March 1915

Killed in Action

2nd Battalion: in original positions just south of Mauquissart
  • 12976 Private Alfred EATON, born Plumstead [London], resided Hatfield Heath [Essex] (le Touret Memorial)

Died of Wounds

2nd Battalion

  • 6013 Lance Corporal Alfred BROWN, son of Sarah Brown of Saint Albans [Hertfordshire], husband of Eva Jane of 14 Oster Street, Saint Albans, born Wheathampstead [Hertfordshire] (Merville Communal Cemetery)

Friday 13 March 2015

The 2nd Bedfords in Action at Neuve Chapelle

Saturday 13th March 1915: yesterday morning we reported that the 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment was about to go into action. We can now report more fully what has happened since courtesy of the adjutant. “At 7 a.m. yesterday Major W. H. Denne prepared to make a counter-attack with part of A Company on a trench captured by the enemy shortly beforehand. Major Denne was severely wounded(1). Captain C. B. Cumberlege and Captain J. H. G. Baird commenced another counter-attack but the whole party was killed or wounded. Captain Baird and four men reached the trench which was the object of the attack and one man was killed and the other three wounded”.

“At about the same time it was noticed that the Royal Scots Fusiliers were suffering severely from our own shell fire. I was sent to report this to Brigade Headquarters and the Brigadier directed that the trench should be re-taken”.

“Captain C. C. Foss D.S.O., with men of our Grenade Section advanced along A Company Trench, behind the Northampton Trench, followed by a platoon to make good the trench and they attacked the Germans. These, after one or two grenades had been thrown, held up their hands and were captured. One Officer and 48 Germans surrendered of whom fourteen were wounded. A Company. was sent forward to consolidate the position won. Part of a Platoon of B Company escorted the prisoners back”.

We understand that the names of the brave men led by Captain Foss are as follows: 9078 Private W. Eade; 6215 Private S. Scrivener, 9822 Sergeant W. Peggs, 7270 Private P. Cogan, 6477 Private W. Smith, 9878 Private G. Freshwater, 5803 Private J. Lovett, 9797 Private H. Barnett and 16441 Private F. Brown.
The battalion has lost four officers wounded, fifteen other ranks killed, sixty six wounded and five missing in yesterday’s action. It is understood that Captain Foss’ name is to be put forward for a singular honour and that the men who went with him may also receive gallantry awards in time(2). The Battalion held the same line overnight and continues to hold it this morning.

The battle as a whole now appears to be over due to lack of ammunition for our guns. Our troops have pushed the Germans back some way and shown that their trenches can be captured. The generals will, no doubt, study this limited success in hopes of achieving something even better next time.

Source: X550/3/wd

(1) He died on 21st February 1917, aged 40 and is buried in Brimpsfield churchyard in Gloucestershire.

(2) Charles Calveley Foss was gazetted with the Victoria Cross on 23rd August 1915. The citation reads: “For most conspicuous bravery at Neuve Chapelle on 12th March 1915. After the enemy had captured a part of one of our trenches, and our counter-attack made with one Officer and 20 men having failed (all but two of the part being killed or wounded in the attempt), Captain Foss, on his own initiative, dashed forward with eight men, under heavy fire, attacked the enemy with bombs, and captured the position including the 52 Germans occupying it. The capture of this position from the enemy was of the greatest importance, and the utmost bravery was displayed in essaying the task with so few men”.

Roll of Honour Saturday 13th March 1915

Killed in action

1st Battalion: in support near Ouderdom
  • Second Lieutenant John Hewitt Sutton MOXLY, 23, formerly 4th Battalion, son of the Rev J H Sutton Moxly, Principal Chaplain to H M Forces of 31 Cheyne Court, Chelsea [London] (Ramparts Cemetery, Lille Gate, Ypres)
  • 10250 Private Frederick NICHOLS,  son of Mr and Mrs Nicholls of 182 Simpson Road, Bletchley [Buckinghamshire] , born Bow Brickhill [Buckinghamshire] (Ramparts Cemetery, Lille Gate, Ypres)

2nd Battalion: Battle of Neuve Chapelle – in captured positions just south of Mauquissart
  • 4/7270 Private Phillip George COGAN, born Collingbourne Ducis [Wiltshire], resided Furneaux Pelham [Hertfordshire] (le Touret Memorial)
  • 9414 Private William Gladstone GURNHAM, 25, son of Laura Gurnham of 88 Shelley Street, Northampton, born Battersea [London] (le Touret Memorial)
  • 10111 Acting Lance Corporal John Lane Guy KEMP, born and resided Kingston-on-Thames [Surrey] (le Touret Memorial)
  • 4/6215 Private Stanley Walter SCRIVENER, 24, son of Sarah Scrivener of 35 Lower Dagnall Street, Saint Albans [Hertfordshire], born Luton, mentioned in despatches (le Touret Memorial)

Died of Wounds

1st Battalion
  • 9001 Corporal Frank BRACE, C Company, 27, son of Frank and Ethel Brace of Croxton Kennels [Cambridgeshire] (Boulogne Eastern Cemetery)

2nd Battalion

  • 9371 Private James BROWN, 22, son of James and Alice Brown of May Cottages, Church Path, Sandy, born and resided Girtford (Estaires Communal Cemetery and Extension)
  • 4/7267 Private Horace Benjamin LANGDON, 28, son of Edwin James and Charlotte Langdon of New River Well, Broxbourne [Hertfordshire], born Ware [Hertfordshire] (Estaires Communal Cemetery and Extension)