Sunday 31 May 2015

Join up Now!

Monday 31st May 1915

For King and Country


Are you doing your duty?

It is the Imperative Duty of EVERY Man to serve his Country at the present time, and there is some duty everyone can perform

1. Are you of Military age, physically fit, and not engaged on Government work? Then apply at once at the Kempston Barracks and join H M Regular or Territorial Forces

2. Are you of Military age, and, through medical or other legitimate reasons unable to join the Regular Forces? Then you can serve your country by joining the Bedford Volunteer Training Corps

3. Are you over Military age? Then you can serve your country by joining the Bedford Volunteer Corps

4. Are you between 16 and 19 years of age? Then you can serve your country and prepare yourself for the Army by joining the Bedford Volunteer Training Corps

Every Man can and should take his part. There is no room for Slackers in the Country during the present crisis

Is Your Conscience Clear?


ENLIST IN THE REGULAR FORCES at Kempston Barracks any day

ENROL IN THE BEDFORD VOLUNTEER TRAINING CORPS, Mayor’s Parlour, Town Hall, Bedford on Tuesdays and Fridays between 6-7.


Source: Bedfordshire Times 21st May 1915

Saturday 30 May 2015

The Bedfords on Film

The Empire Cinema [Z1306/10/41/27]

Sunday 30th May 1915: In these days of the popular cinema, an explanation of the headline is unnecessary. The film itself, however, is worth a good deal of explanation, although when seen it explains itself(1).

The Bedfordshires have been filmed in order to illustrate the life in a service battalion. Pictures were taken at the Barracks, at the Ampthill Camp and in the grounds of Hinghingbrooke Castle in Huntingdon, and the three thousand feet of film exposed depict scenes of interest with a degree of success that reflects credit on that skilled operator, Mr. W. N. Blake. Although episodes such as boot inspection, drilling in Ampthill Park, serving out dinners etc. were taken on the 12th of this month, the complete film was shown privately at the end of the last week. It will be exhibited at the Empire at 3, 7 and 9(2) accompanied by rousing music and the appropriate applause of full houses.

Officers and men from Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Huntingdonshire figure in the production and spectators are able to see their relatives and friends at work without having to make a more or less long journey for that purpose. The film in in narrative form, if one may be allowed to use the expression, and shows the man enlisting, taking the oath of allegiance, drawing clothing and necessaries and being fitted for uniform until one day he emerges from the chrysalis into the glorious imago of the King’s uniform. Thereafter he is shown at work and play. On the Barracks Square he is drilled, and a day comes when he is one of the draft who answer to their names, receive their rations, a few words of cheer from the chaplain, and march off along the Kempston-road to the station, ready to go wherever duty to King and Country calls.

Excellent views of the training camp at Ampthill are shown. There are bayonet fighting, drawing dinners, boot inspecting, the Battalion forming and marching in mass headed by the Commanding Officer, the Duke of Bedford, Major F. A. Stevens (Second-in-Command) and Major Nelson (Adjutant) – all clearly and picturesquely recorded. Space does not permit of a detailed description, but all who feel a pride in our gallant men, and would see them at work in their interesting surroundings, should not miss this opportunity. Special matinée performances are arranged for the two days mentioned. We understand that Private Bentley, of the Bedfordshire Regiment, who has recently been awarded the DCM, will address a few words from the Empire stage each evening and at the Saturday matinée.

Source: Bedfordshire Times 21st May 1915

(1) Sadly the film does not seem to have survived

(2) The showings were on 21st and 22nd May. The Empire was at 27 Midland Road and was owned by Blake Brothers, it survived at least into the 1970s though by then its sole staple seems to have been X-rated adult films.

Roll of Honour - Sunday 30th May 1915

Killed in Action

1st Battalion: in support near Hill 60

  • 13157 Private Stanley BRADFORD, 22, son of John Lewis and Martha Bradford of 96 Apsley End, Hemel Hempstead [Hertfordshire], born West Hackney [London] (Railway Dugouts Burial Ground (Transport Farm) Ypres)

Friday 29 May 2015

The Battles of Festubert and Ypres End

Saturday 29th May 1915: News from France is that the Battle of Festubert is at an end. General Rawlinson, commanding IV Corps, has called a halt to further attacks and is well pleased to have advanced by about a mile and a half and to have taken the village and held all gains in the course of the fortnight’s fighting. German counter-attacks now seem to have ended and so, presumably, the line will solidify at this point for the foreseeable future.

We understand from a source in high command that casualties have been severe, but an inevitable cost for such a victory. We understand that they break down as follows:

·       - 2nd Division (which includes 1st East Anglian Field Company, Royal Engineers): 582 killed; 3,845 wounded; 1,018 missing – total 5,445
·       - 7th Division (which includes 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment): 731 killed; 2,726 wounded; 666 missing – total 4,123
·     -  Meerut Division: 224 killed; 2,037 wounded; 260 missing – total 2,527
·     -  47th (2nd London) Division: 233 killed; 1,535 wounded; 597 missing – total 2,365
·     -  Canadian Division: 381 killed; 1,606 wounded; 217 missing – total 2,204

This gives a combined total of 2,151 killed, 11,749 wounded and 2,758 missing or 16,658 casualties in full. It is thought that the enemy have lost about 5,000 men including 800 prisoners-of-war.

The struggle around Ypres also seems to have ended. We have had our eyes fixed on Hill 60 where the 1st Bedfords fought so bravely but there have been German attacks in many places. Our forces hold a large salient, essentially a bulge like the mirror image of the letter C around the city of Ypres and the enemy has succeeded in pushing our lines back in places but nowhere have they achieved the coveted breakthrough. We seem to have suffered just under 60,000 casualties, our French allies about 18,000 and the Canadian troops, who then went on to fight at Festubert, around 6,000. It is believed that the enemy lost around 35,000 men(1).

(1) Private Edward Warner of the 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, would receive a posthumous Victoria Cross. Nine other VCs were awarded: Lance Sergeant D. W. Belcher (London Rifle Brigade); Captain E. D. Bellew (7th Battalion, British Columbia Regiment); Jemadar Mir Dast (55th Rifles, attached 57th Rifles, Ferozepore Brigade); Lance Corporal F. Fisher (13th Battalion, Royal Highlanders of Canada); Company Sergeant Major F. W. Hall (8th Battalion, Winnipeg Rifles); Private J. Lynn (2nd Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers); 2nd Lieutenant W. B. Rhodes-Moorhouse (2nd Squadron, Royal Flying Corps); Captain F. A. C. Scrimger (Canadian Army Medical Service and 14th Battalion, Royal Montreal Regiment) and Corporal I. Smith (1st Battalion, Manchester Regiment).

Roll of Honour - Saturday 29th May 1915

Killed in Action

1st Battalion: in support near Hill 60

  • 13897 Private Arthur BROWN, born and resided Hitchin [Hertfordshire] (Railway Dugouts Burial Ground (Transport Farm) Ypres)

Thursday 28 May 2015

An Inspection by General Joffre

General Joseph Joffre

Friday 28th May 1915: Yesterday 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, along with the rest of 7th Division, was inspected by the French General Joseph Joffre, who is in command of all allied armies in France including, nominally, those of this country. He is popular amongst his own countrymen in uniform, who refer to him as papa, or Daddy, Joffre(1)

Source: X550/3/wd

(1) He was replaced by Robert Nivelle in December 1916 as it was believed his leadership had cost unnecessarily large numbers of lives

Roll of Honour - Friday 28th May 1915

Killed in Action

1st Battalion: in support near Hill 60
  • 9344 Private George JARVIS, born and resided Luton (White House Cemetery, Saint-Jean-lès-Ypres)
  • 9073 Private William Edward MCCLEERY, 29, son of Robert and Helen McCleery of Perth [Western Australia], husband of Olive L of 717 Madison Street, Seattle [Washington] (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)

2nd Battalion: route marches around Bellerive (perhaps on fatigue duty near the front)

  • 7305 Private Jesse Charles MARDLING, born Hatfield [Hertfordshire], resided Ayot [Hertfordshire] (le Touret Memorial)

Wednesday 27 May 2015

Recovering Bodies

Captain Harold Huntriss

Thursday 27th May 1915: Over the last two days Company Sergeant Major S. M. Flint and Corporal Vailes of the 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment have been industrious in an unpleasant task. Captain Harold Huntriss died on 17th May in the attack on Festubert. Corporal Vailes was the last man to see him alive and so, two days ago, he and Company Sergeant Major Flint went out to try to find the captain’s body. They were successful in this endeavour and Corporal Vailes told us that the body lay about fifty yards from where he had parted from his officer. He could only assume that Captain Huntriss managed to crawl this distance before receiving another, fatal, wound.

Yesterday Company Sergeant Major Flint and Corporal Vailes, assisted by Lieutenant Powell, recovered Captain Huntriss’ body which must, we are forced to conclude, have been in a state of some decay. They also brought in the body of Major Mackenzie VC. Everything possible is done to recover officers’ bodies.

Corporal Vailes tells us that Huntriss and Mackenzie have been buried alongside Captain William Hutton Williams of the East Surrey Regiment, who was attached to the 2nd Bedfords and who fell the day after Captain Huntriss and Major Mackenzie. The recovery party has even highlighted the spot so that the graves do not get lost: “On dividing line between map references S.26.d. and A.2.b. under the letter U of FESTUBERT in the order Captain Williams on right or North, Major Mackenzie in the centre and Captain Huntriss on the left, facing the crosses”(1)

Source: X550/3/wd

(1) All three men now lie at rest in The Guards Cemetery, Windy Corner at Cuinchy. Happily Lieutenant Powell, Company Sergeant Major Flint and Colonel Vailes all seem to have survived the war.

Roll of Honour - Thursday 27th May 1915

Killed in Action

1st Battalion: in support near Hill 60

  • 3/6757 Lance Corporal Thomas BRIERS, 22, son of George and Ellen Briers of Hodney Road, Eye [Cambridgeshire] (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)

Tuesday 26 May 2015

Festubert Captured

47th Division insignia

Wednesday 26th May 1915: The 2nd Bedfords’ part in the Battle of Festubert may be over but the battle continues and we hear that last night 47th (2nd London) Division, a formation of Territorial Army soldiers who have never been in battle before, captured the remains of the village of Festubert. They managed an advance of four hundred yards across a front of one thousand yards, a tremendous achievement for untried troops.

Roll of Honour - Wednesday 26th May 1915

Killed in Action

1st Battalion: in support near Hill 60

  • 3/7359 Private James William STIBBARDS, born Enfield [Middlesex], resided Enfield Wash [Middlesex] (Railway Dugouts Burial Ground (Transport Farm), Ypres)

Monday 25 May 2015

A More Inspiring Speech

Major General Hubert Gough

Tuesday 25th May 1915: Readers will remember that we expressed some reservations about a speech given to the 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment by its brigadier a few days ago. We are pleased to report that the adjutant of this unit spoke with us last night, telling us that yesterday the divisional commander, Sir Hubert Gough, had come round the battalion’s billets in Bellerive, speaking to the men and praising them for their work in the late attack, saying they had done splendidly and that he was proud to have the Battalion in his Division. This is the sort of leadership our men need and we feel confident that a bright future awaits this general officer(1).

Source X550/3/wd

(1) Gough’s reputation grew the longer he was at the front as he was seen as energetic and thrusting. Unfortunately, promoted to commanding officer of 5th Army he performed poorly at Bullecourt during the Battle of Arras and the opening of the Third Battle of Ypres in 1917. His army was overrun by the German Spring Offensive of 1918 as it was too stretched by having to take over a longer frontage to help the French and ironically, Gough was then sacked for something which was not really his fault. 

Roll of Honour - Tuesday 25th May 1915

Killed in Action

1st Battalion: in support near Hill 60
  • 14194 Private George BREWER, 35, son of James Brewer of Church Hanborough [Oxfordshire], born Southampton [Hampshire] (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)

Died of Wounds

1st Battalion
  • 8050 Private George CYSTER, born Aston Clinton [Buckinghamshire], resided Watford [Hertfordshire] (Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension)
  • 8745 Acting Lance Corporal William WEBB, born Islington [London], resided Watford [Hertfordshire] (Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension)


4th Battalion

  • 19314 Private Samuel HEAD, 34, A Company, son of John and Fanny Head of Keyston [Huntingdonshire] (Harwich Cemetery)

Sunday 24 May 2015

Italy Joins the War

Monday 24th May 1915: Today we celebrate the fact that Italy has joined the alliance of civilized nations against Teutonic aggression. Of course their major effort will be against their neighbour, Austria-Hungary but we can hope that their involvement will suck in units of the German Army from France and Belgium, giving our troops an easier road to victory.

Roll of Honour - Monday 24th May 1915

Died of Wounds

2nd Battalion

  • 4/6869 Private Ernest Hector SMITH, 22, son of Frederick and Elsie Smith of Hall lane, Great Chishall [Hertfordshire] (Boulogne Eastern Cemetery)

Saturday 23 May 2015

Bedford Lieutenants in Hospital

Sunday 23rd May 1915: Writing home to Bedford from No. 4 general Hospital, Versailles, Lieutenant Small(1) says: “You will be very surprised at me writing from the above address. Fancy me being in hospital already”. About a week before, Lieutenant Small and Lieutenant Whittemore(2) had left Bedford Barracks after their recuperation from wounds received at the First Battle of Ypres, after which they were promoted from the ranks. He goes on: “But there is nothing to be alarmed at. I am suffering from gas poisoning. I reached the trenches on Sunday night, and we have been hard at it ever since up to the time I left (Wednesday, May 5th). On Wednesday morning they sent this gas over our trenches and we had a very bad time, but they did not break through the Bedfords, although they beat back the Regiment on our left (for a time only)”.

“Thank God I came safely out of it, and am now feeling quite well. Whittemore was in the same trench as me, but left in the afternoon, he being gased and unfortunately, with a bayonet thrust through his hand, but only slight. I am informed by a brother officer that he came down on the same hospital train as myself; that being so, he would be in this hospital. I shall try to find him as soon as I am up. I expect I shall soon be out again and back to the front, as they are so short of officers. It was very hard fighting. We lost one officer and 43 men killed, three died of gas, and God alone knows how many wounded. The captain was wounded through the shoulder – nice fellow(3). Now for a bit of cheery news. This is a magnificent hospital. I am told by the Sister that before the war it was considered the most gorgeous Hotel in the suburbs of Paris. We get splendid meals and what we want to drink within reason”(4).

Source: Bedfordshire Times 14th May 1915

(1) This may be E Small of George Street, Bedford who ended the war a captain and died on 28th April 1921

(2) Presumably the Lieutenant Frederick Whittemore killed at Arras on 29th March 1916

(3) Captain Gledstanes, see yesterday’s piece

(4) It was, presumably, a hospital for officers only.

Roll of Honour - Sunday 23rd May 1915

Died of Wounds

1st Battalion
  • 14459 Private Arthur THOMAS, 20, son of William and Emma Thomas of 9 Godfrey Street, Netherfield [Nottinghamshire] (Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension)

2nd Battalion

  • 3/7771 Private George STONE, son of Martha E Stone of Sundon Road, Harlington (Harlington (saint Mary) Church Cemetery) his brother James D Stone was killed with 4th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment on 27th August 1918 and is commemorated on the Vis-en-Artois Memorial

Friday 22 May 2015

The Bedfords and Poisoned Gas

Arlesey Station [Z1306-2-14-1]

Saturday 22nd May 1915: Mrs. Bland of Railway Tavern, Arlesey has received the following letter from her son, Private G. H. Bland, 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment(1). His father is now serving with the 5th Battalion, currently stationed at Newmarket. The son, writing on 7th May said: “Dear Mother – just a few lines hoping you are all well, as it leaves me in a rather queer state, after the gas, which the brutes sent over to us on the 3rd and the 5th – the first we have had since the taking of Hill 60, which we are still holding, but we had to retire owing to gas(2). The Devons were forced to let them break through, but the good old Bedfords stopped them. We have had a rather hard time since Hill 60; only been out of the trenches three days, but we were relieved by the Irish Rifles on 7th, when we came back for a short rest. Our casualties are as great as Hill 60, but gas used in shells there had not half the effect of this which they pumped out of the bottom of their trench. I myselfam wearing a silver ring on my little finger which the gas cankered, but we gave them a horrible job to get that, which the Devons had to leave. Not a man could stand owing to the terrible stuff which streamed from their trench to ours, but the breeze changed and drove it back into their trench. Then our machine-guns got onto them, so they were forced to retire from their own trench. Then we laughed, you can bet”.

“We have named them “The Old Gas Bags” on Hill 60. They prayed for mercy but the boys all say “never no more”. Well I am sorry to say my old mate Harry Cox (Captain Gledstanes’ servant) who lived in Queen’s-street, Stotfold, was killed by one of our own shells that dropped short on the 5th during the recent battle(3). If possible, let Mrs. Cox know(4). I felt quite downhearted over it. I must draw my letter to a close but they tell me the 1st Rifles have regained the lost trenches on other side of Hill 60 (not losing the hill). Good-bye mother and all brothers and sisters. I omitted to say that Captain Gledstanes got wounded later in the day of Harry’s death(5). Good-bye mother. I will write more next time, Harry. P. S. I received letter and parcel. I hope you got my pc(6)”.

Source: Bedfordshire Times 14th May 1915

(1) 3/7450 Private George Henry Bland died with the 1st Battalion on 4th October 1917, he was just 20 and is buried at Hooge Crater Cemetery

(2) In fact the hill was lost on 6th May.

(3) He is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial

(4) Like many women, she soon remarried

(5) He died of wounds on 9th May and is buried in Bailleul Communal Cemetery

(6) Postcard.

Thursday 21 May 2015

A Less Than inspiring Speech

Brigadier Watts

Friday 21st May 1915: Today Captain Thorn has left 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, we are told, in order to join 2nd Battalion. This latter force is still billeted behind the lines and have been on parade. They were addressed by their Brigadier, H. E. Watts C.M.G, C.B. as follows: “Major Onslow and soldiers of the 2nd Bedfordshire Regiment, I have come to speak to you, hearing how disappointed you are at the non-success of the attack upon which you were launched on the 17th. Let me tell you that its non-success was no fault of yours, but was one of the fortunes of war, which cannot always be successful. The attack was carried out in a most gallant and determined manner, and its non-success was caused by the usual chance of war, which did not allow of a proper artillery preparation, or a thorough reconnaissance. Your casualties which were 2 officers killed, 6 officers wounded, 45 other ranks killed, 68 missing and 200-odd wounded shows your determination, and I feel sure, when you are again called upon to attack, you will show the same spirit, and your efforts will be crowned with success”.

The Brigadier is, we are sure, a fine leader. Nevertheless, we are not sure whether three uses of the term “non-success”, for which another single word might be substituted, in so short an address was necessarily calculated to raise the morale of the men he was addressing. The Battle of Festubert is today in its seventh day.

Source: X550/3/wd

Wednesday 20 May 2015

News from Belgium, France and Gallipoli

Thursday 20th May 1915: 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment has returned to the vicinity of Hill 60 today, to trenches it occupied previously. The 2nd Battalion is now billeted in the village of Bellerive and has today received 120 reinforcements. Lieutenant-Colonel Thorpe has left the Bedfords to take command of 2nd Battalion, Border Regiment and a new Medical Officer, Lieutenant J. M. Fleming has joined 2nd Battalion. The Battle of Festubert continues but no major attack is underway at present.

We also hear, from far-off Gallipoli that the Turks made a substantial attack on colonial troops from New Zealand and Australia yesterday. We are happy to report that this was beaten off with great loss.

Source: X550/2/5

Roll of Honour - Thursday 20th May 1915

Died of Wounds

1st Battalion:
  • 13366 Lance Corporal William James CLARKE, 22, son of James and Maud Mary Clarke of Heath Cross Nurseries, Uttoxeter [Staffordshire], born Grappenhall [Cheshire] (Boulogne Eastern Cemetery)
2nd Battalion
  • 9161 Private John BALLS, 21, B Company, born and resided Bury Saint Edmunds [Suffolk] (Chocques Military Cemetery)
  • 9061 Drummer Harry William BLOOMFIELD, 27, son of W J and A Bloomfield of 43Surbiton Road, Ipswich [Suffolk] (Bethune Town Cemetery)

Tuesday 19 May 2015

More News from Festubert

Wednesday 19th May 1915: After the events of the night of 17th/18th, yesterday saw more attacks on the blood and mud soaked battlefield between Neuve-Chapelle and Festubert. The battle is today in its fifth day.

Yesterday morning the bad weather of the previous twenty four hours began to clear and a new bombardment of the German lines got underway in the afternoon with the intention of attacking at 4.30. Sadly, we believe that the attack orders often did not get through until about an hour beforehand, leaving the units concerned little time to prepare. Two brigades were destined for the attack, 4th (Guards) Brigade on 2nd Division and 3rd Canadian Brigade, which is attached to 7th Division. Sirhind Brigade of the Indian Army was selected to make a subsidiary attack, to draw German attention, some way to the north of the main thrust. What an Empire wide effort this was, with men from east and west, Asia and North America along with those of the Mother Country – brave men all.

It is understood that the artillery bombardment was late in beginning and did not materially affect the German defences. This, together with heavy German machine-gun fire stopped the attacks of Briton, Indian and Canadian in their tracks, even the Guards could make no headway. The Canadians scarcely began their attack before it was called-off as the position was seen to be hopeless.

Overnight the Canadian Division has been replacing 7th Division in the line. The 51st (Highland) Division is replacing 2nd Division. So the interest of Bedfordshire in this battle remains keen, as the highlanders have been our guests in Bedford practically since war broke out. We wish them well. 47th Division has entered the line to the south of Festubert. The 2nd and 7th Divisions have suffered much but, it must be remembered, have been thwarted by bad weather, ill luck and strong defensive positions. It is not yet clear whether there will be any more attacks or whether the battle has ended.

The adjutant of 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment tells us that his unit was relieved by one company of 2nd Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment about 3 a.m. and returned to billets in Rue l’Epinette. The strength of the battalion, he tells us, is 8 officers and 417 other ranks. Lieutenant Baird is the new Medical Officer. Total casualties during operations from 8 p.m. on 11th to 3 a.m. on 19th May have been 2 officers killed, 9 wounded and one sick with 45 other ranks killed, 276 wounded and 68 missing.

Source: X550/3/wd

Roll of Honour - Wednesday 19th May 1915

Died of Wounds

2nd Battalion

  • 13290 Private Arthur COX, 22, son of Samuel and Angelina Cox, born Lambeth [London], resided Pimlico [London] (Lillers Communal Cemetery)

Monday 18 May 2015

2nd Bedfords in Action at Festubert

Tuesday 18th May 1915: We understand that the last twenty four hours have been frenetic and costly for 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment as they went into action north of Festubert. Before we come to what our local regiment has done, however, it might be best to set the scene by describing what has been happening across the battlefield as a whole.

Yesterday morning there was still a gap between the 2nd and 7th Divisions, caused by the unevenness of their separate advances. This gap had been in some measure closed by the elimination of the garrison of a position called The Quadrilateral but falling rain made attacks difficult. By 9 a.m. most of the Germans between the two divisions had either been killed or had surrendered and by 10.15 that strongpoint was in British hands.

The next stage of the attack was to begin at 2 p.m. with 2nd Division and 3 p.m. with 7th Division, including 2nd Bedfords, as we will hear presently. These attacks both failed. The 7th Division attack failed due to heavy fire coming in on their flank from a newly dug, and unnoticed, German trench system. The 2nd Division attack could not be organised until after the 7th Division attack had already begun and did not develop until 5 p.m. Its route was then blocked by reserve troops of 7th Division. By 8 p.m. they reached the line held by 21st Brigade. It may be of interest to readers that one of these units of 2nd Division was the 1st/1st Battalion, Hertfordshire Regiment, a Territorial Army unit.

Meanwhile, 2nd Bedfords were ordered about 1.30 p.m. to move at shortest notice and about 3 p.m. orders were received to move to a position in the rear of the old German fire trench between points referred to as L1 and L2 (see the map at the head of this page) in order to make an attack in conjunction with 4th Battalion, Cameron Highlanders. There was no time for reconnaissance of the four hundred yards of ground in front of them. The grass was about a foot high and the going looked reasonable enough. So about 7.30 p.m. B and C Companies advanced south-eastwards to the attack, on the right of the 4th Camerons. Two sections of bomb throwers under Second Lieutenant W. J. Stonier worked on the right down a communication trench towards points numbered K.4 and K.5. B and C Companies were less successful; on vacating the trenches to make the assault they were met by heavy shrapnel, machine-gun and rifle fire, one of the acting Company Sergeant Majors being killed as he climbed over the parapet(1).

By about 9 p.m. when the whole Battalion, less two platoons of A Company, which were kept in reserve by commanding officer Major Cranleigh Onslow, had been launched in attacks, information was received that the officer commanding the attack had called a halt, as he was unable to collect a party sufficiently strong to assault the German position, owing to the darkness and the many serious obstacles which could not have been seen previously due to the tall grass. These obstacles were ditches varying from two to five feet in depth and the same dimensions in width and filled with water, running diagonally as well as parallel to the advance. They broke all cohesion in the attacking force. The Bedfords were also unable to get in touch with the Cameron Highlanders. We understand that a number of men have drowned in these water choked ditches.

Just at this time too, Second Lieutenant Stonier reported having arrived at the point called K.4 and, meeting with opposition in that neighbourhood, his party had expended all their bombs and had themselves come under fire from bombs and trench mortars from their objective, the point known as K.5 and had had to retire into the communication trench, which they continued to hold.

A portion of the Battalion had, in the meantime, retired to its original position. It is difficult for civilians such as ourselves fully to comprehend the atmosphere of confusion, doubt and fear that prevails upon a battlefield but this catalogue of unexpected setbacks and misfortunes goes some little way to enlightening us.

Under these circumstances Major Onslow reformed the whole of the Battalion in the original position from which the attack had been launched. It goes without saying how bitter our proud boys feel about this complete failure. Sadly, during these operations Major Mackenzie VC was killed.

During the night information was received that a portion of the 4th Cameron Highlanders had succeeded in entering the enemy trench system. Accordingly, about 3 a.m. Brigadier-General H. E. Watts telephoned, ordering that the Bedfords should advance along the communication trench towards points K.4 and K.5 and take the German trench from that flank, to join up with the Camerons.

A new supply of bombs having been received, the bomb throwers of D Company under Second Lieutenant C. H. Brewer, with A and B Companies, in support were ordered to make their way along the communication trench to K.5 to gain possession of that point and work along the German trench to the point numbered L.8 to meet the Cameron Highlanders.

While this attack was developing, the commanding officer received authentic information that the party of Cameron Highlanders who had gained the enemy trench had been bombed out of it and retired from it during the night. This information, and also the fact that the Bedfords were very weak in numbers was telephoned by Major Onslow to Brigadier Watts, who replied that if Major Onslow was absolutely convinced that no Cameron Highlanders were holding any portion of the German trenches, he should stop further operations and make good ground occupied.

The Bedfords, therefore, ceased their advance and consolidated K.4 and the communication trench, holding it with Second Lieutenant Brewer’s bomb throwers, D and A Companies, with C and B Companies remaining behind the original starting point for the attack (Points L.1 and L.2).

The adjutant mentioned to us that during the night Second Lieutenant B. H. Waddy, attached from 3rd Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment, who had been doing excellent scouting and reconnaissance work, had to be removed from the firing line by order of the Medical Officer and admitted to Hospital. This Medical Officer, Lieutenant D. G. Watson, who had been most assiduous in tending and removing the wounded from the firing line under heavy shell fire, was severely wounded by shrapnel on his way back to his dressing station. Seven stretcher bearers were also either killed or wounded(2).

This morning the Battalion is still holding the line and points mentioned above. No doubt the battle will continue for some days yet but the large number of casualties the Bedfords have taken may mean that their active participation in it has come to an end(3).

Source: X550/3/wd

(1) This gallant soldier was Arthur Sidney Brown, who had already won the Distinguished Conduct Medal.  He was in C Company and was 26 years old. He had been born in Mogerhanger and information was later received that he had been promoted to be Second Lieutenant in the 2nd Battalion, Cheshire Regiment. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the le Touret Memorial.

(2) Sadly, Lieutenant David Galloway Watson died of his wounds on 5th June. He, too, was 26 and from Edinburgh. Despite his obvious bravery he does not seem to have been recommended for any gallantry award. He is buried in Étaples Military Cemetery – “First officer to be laid in the cemetery”.

(3) This was the sort of shambles, brought about by poor communication, bad weather, lack of time to make and co-ordinate complex plans, a determined and resourceful enemy and sheer bad luck that would earn the First World War such an evil memory and cause such high casualties to armies of all nations.

Roll of Honour - Tuesday 18th May 1915

Killed in Action

2nd Battalion: Battle of Festubert – unsuccessful attack
  • 8440 Private John BARTRAM, born and resided Wilshamstead (le Touret Memorial)
  • 14706 Private Stanley Beale CAMP, 18, son of Edward and Martha Camp of Lander Cottages, Letchworth Heath [Hertfordshire], born Aldenham [Hertfordshire] (le Touret Memorial)
  • 9439 Private Alexander Dudley Barrington CONOLLY, 20, son of Thomas Parker Conolly, born and resided Edinburgh [Mid Lothian] (le Touret Memorial)
  • 6895 Private Richard CRIPPS, born Anlaby [Yorkshire], resided Kensington [London] (le Touret Memorial)
  • 4/7127 Private Daniel DORE, 40, son of John and Ellen Dore of Newcastle West [Limerick] (le Touret Memorial)
  • 4/6548 Private William Charles DORMER, 23, son of D and C Dormer of Low Hill, Roydon [Essex], born Waterbury [Buckinghamshire], resided Saint Albans [Hertfordshire] (le Touret Memorial)
  • 13033 Private John HARDINGHAM, 25, son of A Hardingham of 64 Sydney Street, Brightlingsea [Essex] (le Touret Memorial)
  • 4/5988 Private William JEFFREY, born Brent Pelham [Hertfordshire], resided Little Hadham [Hertfordshire] (Guards Cemetery, Windy Corner, Cuinchy]
  • 8339, Acting Lance Corporal George William PARKER, 28, son of W Parker of 105 High Street, South Rushden [Northamptonshire] (le Touret Memorial)
  • 8804 Private Richard Edward James PLUMB, also known as Herbert Victor Alexander PLUMB, son of Annie Plumb of 7 Wivenhoe Road, Peckham [London], born Brockley [London] (le Touret Memorial)
  • 5537 Private Alexander PRATT, 38, husband of Mary of 1 Suez Road, Ponders End [Middlesex], born Hertford, resided Enfield [Middlesex] (le Touret Memorial)
  • 3/8559 Private Eric Leslie RICHARDSON, son of Joseph and Mary Francis Richardson of 227 Loose Road, Maidstone [Kent], born Brighouse [Yorkshire] (Guards Cemetery, Windy Corner, Cuinchy)
  • 8996 Private Dennis RILEY, born Flamstead [Hertfordshire], resided Dunstable (le Touret Memorial)
  • 14142 Private Percy SELL, born and resided Bassingbourn [Cambridgeshire] (Guards Cemetery, Windy Corner, Cuinchy)
  • 4/7027 Private George SPENCER, born and resided Hitchin [Hertfordshire] (Pont-du-Hem Military Cemetery, la Gorgue)
  • 9291 Private Ernest Charles SUMMERFIELD, born and resided Bedford (le Touret Memorial)
  • 4/6950 Private James TURNER, 30, son of William and Lydia Turner, born Weston [Hertfordshire], resided Stevenage [Hertfordshire] (le Touret Memorial)
  • 14423 Private Alfred Thomas UNDERHILL, 23, son of Arthur Thomas and Elizabeth Underhill of 31 Victoria Road, Netherfield [Nottinghamshire], born Horninglow [Staffordshire] (le Touret Memorial)
  • 3/6164 Private Percy Arthur WATSON, born Saint Neots [Huntingdonshire], resided Eynesbury [Huntingdonshire] (le Touret Memorial)
  • 10127 Private Arthur John William WILDMAN, born and resided Ellington [Huntingdonshire] (le Touret Memorial)

Died of Wounds

2nd Battalion

  • 14509 Private Arthur GREEN, 21, son of Joseph and Louisa Sarah Green of Netherfield [Nottinghamshire] (Bethune Town Cemetery)
  • Lieutenant Alfred Edgar KUHN, 20, son of Alfred and Marie Kuhn, later Kean, of 75a Lansdowne Place, Hove [Sussex] (Bethune Town Cemetery)
  • 4/7071 Private Alfred MILES, 28, son of Alfred and Mary Miles of Port Vale, Hertford (le Touret Memorial)
  • 4/7070 Private James WALLACE, 36, son of James and Mary Ann Wallace of Maiden Street, Weston [Hertfordshire] (Bethune Town Cemetery)

Sunday 17 May 2015

The Second day of the Battle of Festubert

Monday 17th May 1915: The adjutant of 2nd Bedfords tells us that they made no further attack yesterday, instead working parties under 2nd Lieutenants F. Powell and N. Dabell from B and C Companies respectively, did excellent work, while being heavily shelled, making communications from our old front line trench. Sergeant. T. Eustace of B Company with Lance Corporal Coleman of 2nd Battalion, Border Regiment showed great gallantry in bringing in wounded men to the cover of our trenches while under heavy shell fire. These two non-commissioned officers brought in over fifty wounded and gained the praise of several officers. The Battalion was heavily shelled all day and night and it is understood that 2nd Lieutenant R. A. B. Orlebar from Hinwick was buried for a while and wounded(1).

Later yesterday morning both 2nd and 7th Divisions made attacks to try to link up, a dangerous gap having developed between them. This failed and the men of 6th Brigade of 2nd Division were forced to withdraw some way.

This means that more attacks have begun this morning by 7th Division and parts of 2nd to close the gap between them. An intense bombardment on the position known as The Quadrilateral, which stopped the advance of 6th Division on the first morning of operations resulted in the garrison surrendering en-masse. It is understood that it is raining this morning which will mean mud and thus render any attack more difficult. It is understood that the attack will be made by 21st Brigade and so our men will be involved. We pray they may be fortunate.

Source: X550/3/wd

(1) Sergeant Eustace won the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his bravery. Sadly he was killed on 31st July And is buried at Saint-Vaast Post Military Cemetery, Richebourg-l’Avoué. Happily, Dabell and Powell seem to have survived the war.

Roll of Honour - Monday 17th May 1915

Killed in Action

2nd Battalion: Battle of Festubert – unsuccessful attack
  • 10347 Private William ADDINGTON, son of J Addington of 19 Baker Street, Northampton (le Touret Memorial)
  • 10732 Private Sidney ASHFORD, 19, born and resided Chelsea [London] (le Touret Memorial)
  • 9760 Acting Corporal William BARTLETT DCM, 23, C Company, husband of L V Bartlett of 27 Downing Street, Farnham [Surrey], born Caversham [Berkshire] (Guards Cemetery, Windy Corner, Cuinchy)
  • 9143 Private Edward James BLADON, born Potten End [Hertfordshire], resided Boxmoor [Hertfordshire] (le Touret Memorial)
  • 14276 Private Albert BLEWITT, born Dudley [Worcestershire], resided Brierley Hill [Staffordshire] (le Touret Memorial)
  • 3/7361 Private William BOON, born and resided Luton (le Touret Memorial)
  • 10425 Private Harold BRICKNELL, 19, son of John and Annie Bricknell of  4 Thames Street, Saint Aldates, Oxford (le Touret Memorial)
  • 8310 Sergeant Arthur Sydney BROWN DCM, 26, C Company, son of Keziah Brown of 1 Castle Hill Cottages, Bedford, born Mogerhanger, resided Lower Grafham [Huntingdonshire] (le Touret Memorial) [information later received that he had been promoted to Second Lieutenant 2nd Cheshire Regiment]
  • 4/6189 Private John William BROWN, born and resided Watford [Hertfordshire] (le Touret Memorial)
  • 4/5723 Corporal Charles CHALKLEY, born and resided Hitchin [Hertfordshire] (Guards Cemetery, Windy Corner, Cuinchy)
  • 12716 Private John CONLON, 33, son of John Conlon of West Street, Castleblayney [Monaghan], born Sheeterham [Monaghan] (le Touret Memorial)
  • 13005 Private Thomas Henry COTTS, 33, son of William Thomas and Elizabeth Cotts of Station Road, Holt [Norfolk] (le Touret Memorial)
  • 4/6740 Private Walter EVERETT, born and resided Bishop's Stortford [Hertfordshire] (le Touret Memorial)
  • 13353 Private William Ward Clement FOWLES, 35, son of Emma Fowles of 19 Nelson Street, Ryde [Isle of Wight] (le Touret Memorial)
  • 3/7906 Private John James GENTLEMAN, born and resided Hackney [London] (le Touret Memorial)
  • 9158 Private Bert HACKETT, 28, son of Tom and Mary Ann Hackett of Great Staughton [Huntingdonshire] (le Touret Memorial)
  • 3/7282 Private Alfred HARPER, born Cranfield, resided Woburn Sands [Buckinghamshire] (le Touret Memorial)
  • 4/6760 Lance Corporal Frank HARRADINE, 21, son of Arthur Butler and Emma Harradine of High Street, Ashwell [Hertfordshire] (Guards Cemetery, Windy Corner, Cuinchy)
  • 3/7781 Private Edward Francis HARRIS, 21, son of John and Florence Harris of Sundon Road, Harlington (le Touret Memorial)
  • 4/6145 Private Ernest Godfrey HARVEY, 25, son of Mary Ann Woolner of 65 Sunnyside Road, Hitchin [Hertfordshire], born Newport [Essex] (le Touret Memorial)
  • 13843 Private Alfred HERRING, born and resided Apsley End [Hertfordshire] (Guards Cemetery, Windy Corner, Cuinchy)
  • 16496 Private Ernest Charles HODSDEN, 20, son of Charles and Margaret Hodsden of Woodside, Potten End [Hertfordshire] (le Touret Memorial)
  • Captain Harold Edwards HUNTRISS, son of William Huntriss JP and Charlotte E Huntriss (Guards Cemetery, Windy Corner, Cuinchy)
  • 3/7196 Private Stanley JEFFS, born Stoke Goldington [Buckinghamshire], resided Kempston (Guards Cemetery, Windy Corner, Cuinchy)
  • 13450 Lance Corporal Horace Courtney LITCHFIELD, 24, son of William and Elizabeth Louisa Litchfield of 64 Mount Pleasant Road, Lewisham [London], resided Walthamstow [Essex] (le Touret Memorial)
  • 7772 Private Arthur LOAD or LOAN, born and resided Tiptree [Essex] (le Touret Memorial)
  • 3/7802 Private James LOFT, born Cardington, resided Bedford (le Touret Memorial)
  • Major John MACKENZIE VC, 44, native of Contin [Rossshire] (Guards Cemetery, Windy Corner, Cuinchy), his VC citation reads: "On the 6th June, 1900, at Dompoassi, in Ashanti, Sergeant Mackenzie, after working two Maxim guns under a hot fire, and being wounded while doing so, volunteered to clear the stockades of the enemy which he did in the most gallant manner, leading the charge himself and driving the enemy headlong into the bush."
  • 13952 Private Harry MOCKRIDGE, born Southwark [London], resided Hoxton [London] (Guards Cemetery, Windy Corner, Cuinchy)
  • 14701, Private Harry MOULE, son of H Moule of Aspenden [Hertfordshire], born Stratford [Essex] (le Touret Memorial)
  • 14464 Lance Corporal Nimrod OAKINS, 23, son of George and Lucy Oakins of 29 Mill Street, Apsley End [Hertfordshire] (le Touret Memorial)
  • 3/7550 Private Henry Samuel PARISH, 25, son of Samuel and Sarah A Parish of 41 Offa Road, Bedford (le Touret Memorial)
  • 12969 Private Thomas PAYNE, 22, son of Joseph Payne of 73 Fearnley Street, Watford [Hertfordshire] (le Touret Memorial)
  • 9153 Acting Corporal William PEARSON, 28, son of John and Charlotte Pearson of 16 Inkerman Row, Sudbury [Suffolk] (Guards Cemetery, Windy Corner, Cuinchy)
  • 4/6983 Private William Harry PETTS, born and resided Hertford (Guards Cemetery, Windy Corner, Cuinchy)
  • 4/7087 Private James Walter SCOTT, born Ware [Hertfordshire], resided Cheshunt [Hertfordshire] (le Touret Memorial)
  • 3/7255 Private Frederick Charles SMITH, born and resided Aspley Guise (le Touret Memorial)
  • 13718 Private William Thomas TAYLOR, born Bedminster [Bristol], resided Hardwick [Northamptonshire] (le Touret Memorial)
  • 3/6747 Private Herbert Henry TYSOE, son of Mr and Mrs Tysoe of 18 Greenhill Street, Bedford, born Kempston (le Touret Memorial)
  •  3/7731 Private Charles WILKINSON, 20, son of James and Elizabeth Jane Wilkinson of Beauchamp Roding [Essex] (le Touret Memorial)

Died of Wounds

2nd Battalion

  • 10479 Private John CREW, 19, son of James Crew of 53 West Hyde, born Newmill End, Hyde (Bethune Town Cemetery)