Friday 31 July 2015

8th Battalion Sports

Saturday 31st July: The 8th Battalion held its sports on the cricket field at Blackdown Camp [Hampshire], when several good performances were recorded, although the men had very little opportunity for training. Private H M Card, who did so well in cross-country runs while the Battalion was at Shoreham [Sussex], won the three miles, one mile and half mile, in good times on a rain sodden track. Private Goldstone won the principal sprinting events. Results(1):

·       100 yards – Private Goldstone: time 11 3/5 seconds
·       220 yards – Private Goldstone: time 27 1/5 seconds
·       Sack race – Private Poulter
·       High jump – Lance Corporal W. G. Thomas; 4 feet 8 inches
·       Long jump – Lance Corporal W. G. Thomas; 15 feet 4 inches
·       3 miles – 1. Private H. M. Card, 2 Lance Corporal W. G. Thomas: time 16 minutes, 20 seconds. A good race won by about 8 yards
·       1 mile – 1. Private H. M. Card, 2 Private C. Scripps: time 5 minutes, 23 seconds
·       Sergeants’ Race – Sergeant Taylor
·       Corporals’ Race – Corporal W. Barker
·       ½ mile – 1. Private H. M. Card, 2 Private Ward: time 2 minutes, 23 4/5 seconds
·       Obstacle Race – Private Cartwright Wells
·       Wheelbarrow Race – Private Fleet and Private Hurry
·       Rely Race (1 mile) – 1. A Company, 2. B Company: time 4 minutes 31 4/5 seconds. Each team consisted of four runners, who ran 220 yards, 220 yards, 440 yards and 880 yards successively.
·       Individual Champion (winner of gold medal) – Private H. M. Card

Source: Bedfordshire Times 30th July 1915

(1) The following successful competitors died during the war: Private George Benjamin Poulter from Hitchin was killed in action on 15th September 1916; Lance Corporal William George Thomas from Swansea (Glamorgan) died of wounds on 31st January 1916, Sergeant Harry Taylor from Saint Albans [Hertfordshire] was killed in action on 15th September 1916, Corporal William Barker from Fulham [London] was killed in action on 15th September 1916, Private Herbert Hurry from Chipping [Hertfordshire] was killed in action on 19th April 1916. Poulter, Taylor and Barker are commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, Hurry on the Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres and Thomas is buried in Étaples Military Cemetery.

Roll of Honour - Saturday 31st July 1915

Killed in Action

2nd Battalion: front line trenches south-east of Richebourg-l’Avoué
  • 7925 Sergeant Thomas EUSTACE DCM, born Colchester [Essex], resided Peterborough (Saint-Vaast Post Military Cemetery, Richebourg-l'Avoué)
  • 9852 Private Edward Timothy Michael MOYNIHAM, born and resided Northampton (Saint-Vaast Post Military Cemetery, Richebourg-l'Avoué)

Died of Wounds

1st Battalion

  • 6236 Acting Sergeant Joseph CROSS, born and resided Cork [Ireland] (Norwich Cemetery, Norfolk)

Thursday 30 July 2015

6th Battalion Off To France

SS Empress Queen

Friday 30th July: The adjutant of the 6th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, raised in August 1914 for service during the length of this conflict, tells us this morning that they are on their way to France. They will leave Ludgershall Station, near their training place on Salisbury Plain, this morning for Southampton where they expect to board SS Empress Queen(1) this evening, bound for le Havre

The 7th Battalion went out a few days ago. This will just leave 8th Battalion amongst battalions earmarked for front line service, at home, though they are expecting the call for France any day now

Source: X550/7/1

(1) Lost on rocks at Bembridge, Isle of Wight, on 1st February 1916

Wednesday 29 July 2015

An Unfortunate Death at Headquarters

Turvey church about 1915 [Z1306/128/5/3]

Thursday 29th July: We regret to state that a sudden death occurred yesterday in the Orderly Room of C Squadron, Bedfordshire Yeomanry at Turvey, the deceased soldier being Private Harold Fletcher, a native of Chatteris, Cambridgeshire. Deceased was chiefly employed as typist in the Orderly Room and had been about his usual duties during the morning. He was in the act of writing a letter when he fell from his chair and expired immediately. Deceased having recently been medically examined and declared unfit for foreign service was about to be transferred to the Home Defence Squadron. He had been under treatment for heart weakness. The Coroner thought it unnecessary to hold an Enquiry. Deceased was about 28 years of age and was engaged to be married, his banns of marriage being published for the first time in Turvey church on the previous Sunday

Source: Biggleswade Chronicle 6th August 1915

Roll of Honour - Thursday 29th July 1915


3rd Battalion

  • 20520 Private Michael Anselm O'CONNELL, son of Bridget O'Connell of 9 Sheridan Street, Shadwell [London], born Holborn [London], resided Newington Butts [London] (Felixstowe New Cemetery)

Tuesday 28 July 2015

Assisting with Gas Experiments

Gas masks at the Imperial War Museum

Wednesday 28th July 1915: With some wry amusement the adjutant of the 2nd Bedfords has passed onto us a request from General Headquarters for one hundred men from the corps in which 7th Division resides to assist in experiments with poisoned gas. They are “to assist the chemists who have been specially enlisted for dealing with asphyxiating gases”.

Those wanted should be “Intelligent men with experience in trench warfare”, who should volunteer for the work. “A knowledge of chemistry or a scientific training would be an advantage, but neither is essential. Great care should be taken to select suitable men, as the work required of them is of a very responsible nature”. Of course, intelligent men such as these are just the sort of soldier that every Battalion needs are would be unwilling to part with.

These men will be transferred to the Royal Engineers and given the rank of Corporal with pay at the rate of 2/6d a day with 6d a day Engineer pay. This, of course, would be a fair incentive for any private soldier not too wary at the prospect of having to work with such inherently dangerous materials

Source: X550/3/wd

Roll of Honour - Wednesday 28th July 1915

Killed in Action

2nd Battalion: front line trenches south-east of Richebourg-l’Avoué
  • 13330 Private Frank DOVE, 24, son of G T Dove of Middleton-on-the-Wolds [Yorkshire] (Saint-Vaast Post Military Cemetery, Richebourg l'Avoué)


Bedfordshire Yeomanry

  • 1442 Private Harold Clarke FLETCHER, 27, son of Daniel Fletcher of 4 Church Lane, Chatteris [Cambridgeshire] (Chatteris (New Road) Cemetery)

Monday 27 July 2015

7th Bedfords in France

SS Onward at Boulogne

Tuesday 27th July: Just before two o’clock yesterday afternoon the 7th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, raised in August 1914 for the duration of this war, left Codford Saint Mary in Wiltshire, where it had been training on Salisbury Plain. The 31 officers and 820 other ranks arrived by train at Folkestone at 8.30 yesterday evening and embarked, with 54th Infantry Brigade Headquarters, on SS Onward. On arrival at Boulogne late last night they marched to a rest camp at Ostronove. So, with no fanfare from its home county, this unit has gone into the unknown to do its part in this war.

Source: X550/8/1

Sunday 26 July 2015

How to Strengthen Defences

Monday 26th July 1915: Readers may remember that 2nd Battalion’s trenches were recently criticised by their Brigadier (13th July 1915). The adjutant, mindful of this, has contacted us to explain further work needing to be done in the trench system they are currently occupying, as dictated by an order to all battalions from Divisional Headquarters. The orders read as below.

1. The parapet is to be thickened so as to withstand bombardment by shells of heavy calibre. Whenever possible, this work is to be carried out by working in front of the parapet at night. A borrow pit of not less than 22 feet from the crest of the parapet, of broad but shallow type, is to be made, and the earth thus excavated used to thicken the parapet. The borrow pit so made, is to be filled with a low wire entanglement which will be out of sight of the enemy. Where it is not possible to work in front of the parapet the earth for thickening the parapet must be obtained from the rear; in this case the wire obstacles in front of the parapet are to be increased. The work is to be completed by 2nd August.

2. All communication trenches are to be made capable of being used as fire trenches. The work should be commenced by making banquettes for small parties of men here and there in the trench, and on each side alternately. The trench should be widened as little as possible at these firing places.
A good plan is, if necessary, to cut a shallow recess in the trench wall, to hold four or five men, and to place in this recess, as a banquette, a wooden bench.

3. As soon as the "keeps" now being constructed behind our "support line" are finished, the wire protecting that line is to be opened up in gaps between the keeps so as to admit of counter attack by our reserves. These gaps will be selected by the Brigadier General.

4. Bomb proof shelters for machine guns and their teams are to be made at suitable places in the rear of the foremost line. The object of these shelters is to enable the machine gun detachments and the gun itself to remain safe during the hostile bombardment, and yet to be near enough to get up to their firing emplacements or positions in time to repel the hostile infantry assault.
These shelters must be sited fairly close to the firing line. Sometimes they can be placed opening out of communication trenches. The Brigade Machine Gun Officer will supervise this work.

5. Machine gun firing emplacements and positions must be made to enfilade both the front and support lines of trenches. In every case these emplacements and positions must be adequately protected by wire. Alternative positions are essential. The Brigade Machine Gun Officer will supervise this work.

6. Wherever any communicating or other trenches connecting with "keeps" "defended posts" or "support trenches" admit of an enemy getting up to such positions under cover, care must be taken that traverses are removed and the communicating or other trench opened out, to allow of fire being brought to bear on such trench from such "keep", "defended post" or "support trench", for a distance of 40 yards, that is to say well outside bombing distance.

7. Battalion commanders will report daily by 4 p.m. commencing on the 28th instant, progress made in the above works (using the attached form) for 24 hours ending midday.

Source: X550/3/wd

Saturday 25 July 2015

What an Artillery Duel Means

Sunday 25th July 1915: Trooper W T Hobkirk of A Squadron, Bedfordshire Yeomanry tells us: “Before leaving England I often read in the papers such a sentence as this: “There were several infantry attacks and an artillery duel near ---“. I cast the paper aside considering this no news. Now my opinion is changed for I have an idea of what actually happens in an artillery duel. Last week we were billeted in a wood, as we were on a trench-digging expedition. It was generally known by midday that the previous night the Germans had successfully driven out some of our men from the trenches. On returning to our billet, after witnessing a lot of aerial scouting and wondering why our airmen were taking such enormous risks, for they had been shelled heavily there was a bang, but no one took any notice as it is nothing to hear these explosions, for, as our men at the guns say “We must send them a souvenir now and then to let them know we are still here”. A shell had left the gun, silence and then a distant rumble told us the shell had found its mark. Bang again; still no notice was taken. Again the guns spoke, but there was to be no silence this time, no isolated shots now but one continuous roar, as that of a huge waterfall. Certainly none of us had witnessed anything like it before. In spite of all this tumult the western sky reddened and another day was about to close, and perhaps the lives of brave men fighting were coming to a close with it. But the day’s work was not finished, at least, not as far as the Allies’ guns were concerned. The darkness came, and most of us were keen to see what we could of this wonderful warfare. In the distance, from a mound in our wood, we saw enough to make us thank God we were fighting on the English side. The noise was now more British and more deafening. The enemy were replying to the best of their ability, and I am sure no orator, with the best of lungs, could have made himself heard a dozen yards from his listeners. The guns sent forth death messages with a goodly streak of light, but the exploding shells created much more light. Along the whole line of trenches the Star shells gracefully rose and flared up like a magnesium wire, spluttered out like a rocket and fell, reminding me of the fireworks at the Stadium, White City. At last roll-call came. The din lasted four hours: the shortest four hours I ever remember, and still they were at it; but it was time for us to retire, so we left the mound and slept peacefully. Next day several German prisoners were taken through; they had been captured when our men re-occupied the lost trenches. I spoke to some of our artillerymen and by all accounts on the previous night only twenty guns of ours had been in action, so I can imagine the din when 350 guns were on the go at Neuve Chapelle”.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 6th August 1915

Roll of Honour - Sunday 25th July 1915

Killed in Action

2nd Battalion: front line trenches south-east of Richebourg-l’Avoué

  • 4/7236 Private Joseph SMITH, 25, son of David and Mary Ann Smith of 11 Regent Street, Leighton Buzzard, born Hertford, resided Saint Albans [Hertfordshire] (Leighton-Linslade (Leighton Buzzard) Cemetery)

Friday 24 July 2015

A Shell-Stormed Station

Saturday 24th July 1915: Corporal Ernest Batterson (Bedfordshire Yeomanry) who belongs to Henlow, and who holds the championship of the local Football league, tells us of a journey back from leave in England to his unit: “On arriving at a certain location, my comrade and I went to have a wash at a tap on the station platform. We were drying ourselves on one towel, he at one end, I at the other, when without the slightest warning a 9 inch shell dropped on the station platform. I don’t suppose you have seen a 9 inch shell burst, so you can’t very well imagine the damage it would do. My pal got his in the head, though not severely, and I was nearly getting it too. We scampered to what, at first, looked a safer place but on second thoughts we decided to give the station a wider berth. Luckily we did, for the next shell came slap into the goods shed, and the wall that we were taking cover under was blown out. Two men were blown to bits in the shed and – well, there was no shed left, but for some considerable time bits kept falling down, I suppose for a radius of nearly a quarter of a mile. We got smothered, but were not hurt, and we hastened to find a healthier spot”.

“When things had quietened down a bit I went back to look after our kits, and after having a look at the damage was just coming off, when bang went another just outside the booking hall. I ducked, and luckily I did, for the office window was blown in and other slight structural alterations were made to the station both inside and out. I slid off, and for three-quarters of an hour was lying down, watching houses from 150 to 200 yards away going skyward and being smothered with bits of brick, etc., from the wreckage. We eventually got away, and after an hour’s tramp, found a station, from which we took a train and a ten hours journey brought us to the district to which our division had moved, and the next day, at 4 p.m., I found my people”.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 6th August 1915

Thursday 23 July 2015

Telling It Like It Is

Friday 23rd July 1915: A member of the East Anglian Royal Engineers has spoken to us giving details about the dangerous and tiring lives they lead. “Occasionally one reads in your columns very interesting accounts of the useful work that is being done by the various Training and Territorial Battalions connected with the county and at times your public is given some idea of the impression which the real thing creates in the mind of the newly arrived fighting man, even if it is only by way of a description of a few minutes’ tour of the trenches with just a peep over the parapet. These letters are very interesting, but to those who have been at the front for some considerable time, they appear rather amusing insomuch as they treat with awe and wonder of those things which to the old-hand are of ordinary daily occurrence. On occasions too the veil of censorship is lifted and one gets a glimpse of the doings of the Engineer Field Company, worthy sons of the Town by the River. Were it possible, the sappers could give you not only a much more accurate description of what the war really has been like during an acquaintance lasting over several months; but if their modesty and the censor had permitted they could spin many a yarn which would make the old town justly proud of her children. It is not advisable for various reasons that detailed accounts should appear in the press, but this silence must not be taken to mean that our sappers have no tale to tell”.

“There were times when the Bedford lads might have felt a little piqued at the constant reference in your columns to the Highland Division who the Sappers felt had rather ousted from their rightful place in the local interest, but this was instantly forgotten when by a curious coincidence the Unit was called upon to share the ushering in to its military life in the line of this same Highland Division. Right well did the Scotchmen take to the game, although they hit it in not too soft a place”.

“To take up the tale of the Sappers. Arriving in France at the time when weather conditions were as bad as it is possible to conceive, they were attached immediately to a Regular Division, and were allowed to take their place in the line on the same footing as Regular troops – an honour which the Company was quick to appreciate. At the time the Territorial force was an entirely new element in the firing line and every sapper seemed to feel that all eyes were upon him and that the credit of the volunteer armies was in his keeping. How he acquitted himself is well-known at the front and very soon any doubt which their brothers in the Regiments might have had as to the manner in which they would discharge their duties was entirely dispelled”.

“For the first six weeks of their life abroad they hardly even saw the sun. Day after day an incessant downpour drenched them to the skin. Working in thick mud and water reaching well above the knees with boots worn through with no chance of drying their sodden garments, or even changing them for the night, they carried on cheerfully, making light of discomfort under conditions which it is difficult to imagine. The weather improved but their work has been continuous throughout, except for three short rests of a few days after a particularly trying time. In this respect, the RE differ from the other troops of their division. The infantryman spends four days in the trenches and at the end of that time he is relieved and has four days’ rest some miles behind the line, where he may employ the luxuries of life, such as baths, concerts etc., and he can there rest at night far from the noise made by bursting shells and the almost deafening crash of our own guns”.

“Not so the sapper, who is always on duty and liable to be called-on at a moment’s notice. His billets almost throughout have been in some shell-ridden house at no great distance from the front line whose walls are spattered at night with bullets which have been “overs” from the front line. His rest is often disturbed when enemy gunners are active by the sound of an arrival close by, which, with a slight difference in range or direction, would have brought his flimsy home about his ears. Sometimes by night, sometimes by day, but always within range of the enemy’s fire, the Bedford sappers have taken their share of ll that has been doing since they have been in the country – wiring out in no-man’s-land, building breastworks across spaces where no trench existed, mining, sapping, preparing defence works, drainage, construction of dug-outs and bridges, preparation of explosive bombs and mines, instructing the infantry in matters requiring special care or knowledge, supervising working parties of French and Belgian civilians, yeomanry, infantry and even naval men; in fact the hundred and one things that the RE are called upon to do have fallen within their sphere of activity. And the all-too-long casualty lists of the Company show that the element of danger has constantly been with them in their work”.

“The Sapper could tell you of nights spent in the “in between” where the lurid glow of the magnesium flares lights up for a while those strange, still-outstretched forms whose rest should be sacred, and over whose bodies passes the ceaseless requiem of both armies. He could tell you of the efforts of the Minenwerfer and hand grenade, of the “fizz-bang” and the cramp of nights spent in cellars whose regular occupants were rats and beetles, of hours spent in drowned communication trenches waiting further orders “the guns will lengthen out and storming parties will advance” and of the following wild rush in the open through a hail of shrapnel and rifle bullets. Of these and hundreds of other experiences the sapper could give first-hand details”.

“He could even tell of the delights of evening music from a borrowed piano, of gardens rich in fruit, whose legitimate owners had fled, of a very occasional game of football with a chance met field company but – THE CENSOR. The Engineers have taken part in the various attacks that have been made in the part of the line in which they have been stationed and have earned for themselves on more than one occasion the praise of those of high military rank under whom they have had the honour to serve”.

“Today they are just as cheerful, just as willing and as hardworking as they were in the beginning and it is due not only to the men themselves, but also to those left behind that Bedford should occasionally hear something of the part played in this great conflict by the lads we saw in former years parading in the Ashburnham Road

Source: Bedfordshire Times 23rd July 1915

Wednesday 22 July 2015

A Bedford Bus Driver in France

London Bus converted for troops

Thursday 22nd July 1915: Driver F N Reeve of the Mechanical Transport, Army Service Corps, who before the war was the driver of the motor bus from Bedford to Leighton Buzzard writes from France: “The men of the Beds Regiment, the Engineers, yeomanry and other regiments out here are doing splendid work. There are, to my knowledge, twenty drivers, including myself from the LGOC Garage, Bedford,[1] out here either driving lorries with supplies, ammunition or buses. These men, with thousands of others, are doing splendid work, working under trying circumstances and have travelled thousands of miles in France. I have frequently come into contact with several of them and it certainly does one good to meet each other occasionally. Many are the tales which we tell when we meet and when we all return to Bedford and take up our duties again with the LGOC, there will be many tales told on Saint Peter’s Green. I personally have had some very exciting times, some of which I hope never to experience again. I remember some time ago going with my lorry to a certain town in Belgium and just as we entered the town one of our Military Police suddenly appeared from somewhere and said: “For Heaven’s sake don’t go any further yet, the Germans have already sent us eight shells. A moment later one crashed into a house about 50 yards away and sent some of it into the garden at the back”.

Source: 20th August 1915

(1) London General Omnibus Company 

Tuesday 21 July 2015

Arrival of British Troops Known to the Germans

Wednesday 21st July 1915: A member of the Bedfordshire Yeomanry, now attached to the Headquarters of a Division at the Front(1) says: “Our Division has left and after various marches and a six hours’ train ride we have settled in a new part of France where English troops have never been. You can imagine the curiosity of the people and especially of the French soldiers whom we relieved and who have since departed. The country is very hilly and pretty(2), such a contrast to the monotonous flat country up north. I expect you will soon have news in the papers about the new line we have taken up along with some Regular Divisions. The French soldiers were very elated at our arrival and some, who had evidently worked in England, shouted greetings. One told me that before his Regiment left the trenches the Germans had told them we were coming to relieve them and that they would soon have three lines of trenches back they had lost some little time previously. What a wonderful system of espionage they must have”(3)

Sources: Biggleswade Chronicle, 20th August 1915

(1) 1st Cavalry Division

(2) This sounds like the Somme area.

(3) In fact they were tapping unscrambled Allied telephone lines

Roll of Honour - Wednesday 21st July 1915


1st Battalion:

  • 3/7803 Private Arthur FREEMAN, 44, husband of Fanny of Castle Road, Lavendon [Buckinghamshire], born Lavendon, resided Turvey (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)

Monday 20 July 2015


Tuesday 20th July 1915: The adjutant of the 2nd Battalion tells us that their team has won the divisional swimming relay race. The teams taking part were the 4th Camerons, Yorkshires, Wiltshires, Royal Scots Fusiliers and 2nd Bedfords. Teams of eight per Regiment entered and the 2nd Bedfords won by 30 yards, the 4th Camerons being second. The Bedfords’ team was: Lieutenant Hurrell, Second Lieutenants Pearson, Figgis and Armstrong, Sergeants Grant and Nicholls, Corporal Groves, Private Hastings(1). The trophy was a shell case of the famous French 75mm shell, suitably inscribed.

As might be imagined this caused humorous about the best men to be in the trenches in winter when they are often waist deep in water. Tonight parties from the Battalion will be out in no-man’s-land putting out barbed wire to strengthen the defences.

Source: X550/3/wd and Biggleswade Chronicle 13th August

(1) Second Lieutenant Terence Charles Pearson would be killed at Loos on 26th September 1915; Private Arthur Benjamin Nicholls would be killed on the Somme on 30th July 1916.

Roll of Honour - Tuesday 20th July 1915

Died of Wounds

1st Battalion

  • 13553 Private Joseph SMITH, 25, son of David and Mary Ann Smith of 11 Regent Street, Leighton Buzzard (Leighton Buzzard Cemetery)

Sunday 19 July 2015

Leave for Sappers

Monday 19th July 1915: A father of men in the East Anglian Royal Engineers has contacted us with the following plea: “I would, as a parent with two sons serving in the EARE like to make an appeal in your columns for the privilege of leave to be granted to the Sappers. When the call was made for recruits last September these lads nobly responded, and after a few weeks training, were sent to front instead of getting home on the Christmas leave they had been looking forward to. Surely now, after seven months of active service, and with so many of the older hands and reserves still in England a rest could be arranged for those youngsters by sending home one section at a time. Tomorrow may be too late and I am quite aware that these lads are eagerly looking forward to a few days’ leave with their friends, and it may be their last, so why deny it them any longer?

Source: Bedfordshire Times 23rd July 1915

Saturday 18 July 2015

Getting Mail to the Troops

Sunday 18th July 1915: Relatives and friends of soldiers would greatly facilitate the delivery of parcels, telegrams, letters etc. if they included in the address full regimental number, rank, company and regiment. If this is not done a loss of time in sorting must necessarily occur, thus causing delay in delivery(1)

Source: Bedfordshire Times 23rd July 1915

(1) The postal system to and from France and Belgium, in particular, was very quick and efficient, the War Office, realising the morale benefits of making it so.

Friday 17 July 2015

Probable Fate of an Arlesey Soldier

Arlesey High Street [Z1306/2/5/1]

Saturday 17th July: Private Sidney Papworth, 1st Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment, writing to his sister Mrs Taylor states he was very pleased with the paper sent him with the photo of his brother Percy, prisoner-of-war, and he requested her to call and see Mrs Ernest Dear, wife of Private Ernest Dear of the Beds Regiment and ask if she has heard from him lately “as I have not seen or heard anything of him … and I begin to think he is wounded or killed. Let me know in your next letter”.

We might state that Mrs Dear has heard nothing further about her husband only that she had a card from the War Office about three weeks ago, from which she could gather no definite information regarding his fate(1).

Source: Biggleswade Chronicle 20th August 1915

(1) Sadly Ernest Dear was killed in action on 11th July in the artillery barrage following the explosion of a German mine near Hill 60. He was 40 years old and is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres.

Roll of Honour - Saturday 17th July 1915

Died of Wounds

2nd Battalion
  • 18064 Private Frederick BOWLER, born and resided Beaconsfield [Buckinghamshire] (Hinges Military Cemetery)


3rd Battalion

  • 20312 Private Albert Charles STONE, son of Eliza Stone of 10 Pageant Road, Saint Albans [Hertfordshire] (Saint Albans (Hatfield Road) Cemetery)

Thursday 16 July 2015

No Truth in the Rumour

Ampthill Camp [Z1306/1/34/2]

Friday 16th July: His Grace the Duke of Bedford has requested that it should be made known that there is no truth whatever in the rumour that recruiting has been suspended for the Ampthill Camp. The Duke says men are required for the Line Battalions at the Front and he hopes men will continue to come forward to take the place of those who have already left for service. A finely equipped open-air gymnasium has been added to the Camp on the extreme left of the Park, near the bayonet drilling apparatus.

Source: Biggleswade Chronicle 30th July 1915

Roll of Honour - Friday 16th July 1915

Killed in Action

2nd Battalion: front  line south-east of Richebourg-l’Avoué

  • 3/7611 Private George William BRITTON, born and resided Godmanchester [Huntingdonshire] (le Touret Memorial)

Wednesday 15 July 2015

Who Has Got an Old Violin?

Thursday 15th July: Sapper Bert Tomlinson of 1st/1st Field Company, East Anglian Royal Engineers wants an old violin – let him explain: “We find that music is the best tonic we can have to drive away dull care during our few hours of rest. We have formed a band with various instruments and although as yet it is not quite as good as the Luton Red Cross, it sounds all right when giving a concert of an evening. But there is one instrument which is needed to supply the finishing touch and I should like to ask your readers in Luton and Dunstable if by chance they are in the position to present our band with it. Has any reader a spare violin in his possession that he attaches little or no value to  and would he be willing to present it to our band? Of course, we don’t expect a “Strad” but sometimes learners use one that has to be replaced by something better as they get on. In fact, as the song says, “Any old thing will do”. Perhaps if I mention that it will be played by Sapper Ben White, who is known in Luton and Dunstable circles, it will hasten it along”.

“Although some of our comrades are lying now under French soil, with little wooden crosses above them, and others are wounded and in hospital, we who are spared are looking forward to the time when we can return once again to the dear old town. Let us hope it will be soon. Until that day arrives, dear reader, just have a look in the lumber room and send along that third-rate violin. Our Company wants to be known for the excellence of its band as well as the work it has done here”.

Source: 15th July 1915

(1) Sadly Bert Tomlinson was killed on the Somme on 14th November 1916 and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial

Tuesday 14 July 2015

Not Glamorous Enough

Wednesday 14th July: Arnold White of Farnham Common [Buckinghamshire] writes: “A neighbour of mine, a Company Sergeant Major in the 1st Battalion, Grenadier Guards (recalled to the colours) after nine months’ service in the firing line visited me last week. In the course of conversation in which he described many great and wonderful deeds performed by other men and other regiments, of which he was actually the eye-witness, I enquired which of the many great and wonderful exploits which had come under his own eye, was in his opinion the bravest and best. His reply was immediate – “The charge of the 2nd Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment last time I saw them in action”. Were it possible to give the remainder of the Company Sergeant Major’s account of the circumstances which rendered the action of the brave Bedfordshires exceptionally and conspicuously splendid the parents and relations of the lads who have enlisted in the Regiment, in whatever battalion, would tingle with pride. The Sergeant Major remarked: “There was not a word about it in the newspapers”. Had the men worn kilts, come from overseas or been anything but a battalion of Regulars, the newspapers would have been crowded with descriptions of the charge of the brave Bedfordshires(1)”

Source: Bedfordshire Times 20th July 1915

(1) The action might have been that at Festubert in May 1915

Monday 13 July 2015

Could Do Better...

Tuesday 13th July: The adjutant of the 2nd Battalion informs us that they have been told off by their Brigadier. On going round their trenches yesterday morning he noticed a number of things which require immediate attention.

In some cases Machine Gun Loopholes are so low that the long grass entirely obstructs the view. Loopholes are small gaps in the sandbags on the parapet of a trench allowing machine guns or rifles to be fires safely from cover. The Battalion will have to take steps to raise the level of the gun sufficiently to clear the grass.

The Brigadier considered that many firing steps were either too high, meaning men expose more of their head and body as a target or too low, meaning men cannot see properly over the parapet to shoot. He also noticed that a number of loopholes were obstructed with earth making them useless. They should daily be inspected to see that they are free from obstruction.

A number of waterholes were found to be dirty. Notices should be put up at all waterholes and the greatest care taken to keep them from being fouled as dirty water, if drunk, leads to crippling bowel disorders such as dysentery. The Brigadier insisted that the rule forbidding urinating in the front line trenches is strictly observed. Latrines are provided in communication tranches.

Immediate steps must be taken to see that Vermorel sprayers are in complete working order and filled. These are the front line defence against attacks using poisoned gas as they help to disperse it. The adjutant, though naturally loath to have his Battalion seen in a bad light, thought we would be interested in this episode as showing that occupation of trenches is about house-keeping and daily living as much as defence and action.

Source: X550/3/wd

Sunday 12 July 2015

Odd and Macabre Names

Monday 12th July: We have been given information today by the adjutant of the 2nd Bedfords as to their current position. This illustrates the odd names which the troops give their trenches and other points in the landscape. They are south-east of the village of Richebourg-l’Avoué, near the town of Béthune. They are occupying a number of posts called, respectively, Chocolate, Dead Cow, Ditch, Haystack, Path and Orchard.

Source: X550/3/wd

Saturday 11 July 2015

A Mine Explosion

Sunday 11th July: the adjutant of the 1st Battalion, currently in the front line near the ill-famed Hill 60, tells us that the enemy has blown up a mine, creating a very large crater, near their trenches. Fortunately the Battalion’s trenches are practically undamaged, but several men have been injured by falling debris and some killed in a following bombardment by artillery.

Source: X550/2/5

Roll of Honour - Sunday 11th July 1915

Killed in Action

1st Battalion: front line trenches near Hill 60, German mine blown up nearby

  • 10064 Private Frederick BAKER, 21, son of the late John and Eliza Baker, born Barnet [Hertfordshire], resided New Southgate [Middlesex] (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)
  • 4/7266 Private William CURRELL, born and resided Great Munden [Hertfordshire (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)
  • 6650 Private Ernest DEAR, 40, son of James Dear, husband of Rose Holmes (ex Dear) of 6 Moorland Cottages, High Street, Arlesey (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)
  • 10763 Private George DRAPER, born Markyate [Hertfordshire], resided Luton (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)
  • 14690 Private Robert FISHER, born and resided Battersea [London] (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)
  • Temporary Lieutenant Rupert Edward GASCOYNE-CECIL, 20, son of William Gascoyne-Cecil, Bishop of Exeter and Florence Cecil, born Hatfield [Hertfordshire] (Railway Dugouts Burial Ground (Transport Farm) Ypres); his brothers also died: Lieutenant Randle William Gascoyne-Cecil, Royal Horse Artillery, 1st December 1917 (Cambrai Memorial, Louverval) and Captain John Arthur Gascoyne-Cecil, 75th Field Battery, Royal Field Artillery, 27th August 1918 (Bucquoy Road Cemetery, Ficheux)
  • 10389 Private George William ROGERS, born Chesham [Buckinghamshire], resided Watford [Hertfordshire] (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)
  • 19913 Private Edward SOUTH, son of Eliza J South of Buckland [Hertfordshire](Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)
  • 3/5650 Corporal Herbert WILSHER, 32, son of Minnie Millard of 368 Icknield Way, Letchworth [Hertfordshire], born Stotfold (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres

Friday 10 July 2015

A Campton Man's Bravery

Major General Gough

Saturday 10th July: Private J Albone, 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, who rejoined the army during the first week of war has been at the Front nearly the whole time. His wife has received from him the following appreciation of his services signed by Major-General Gough, commanding 7th Division: “No. 3/7790 Private J Albone, 2nd Beds Regiment. Your CO and Brigade Commander have informed me that you have distinguished yourself by conspicuous bravery in the field on 16th June 1915. I have read their report and, although promotion and decoration cannot be given in every case, I should like you to know that your gallant action is recognised and how greatly it is appreciated”.

Source: Biggleswade Chronicle 6th August 1915

Roll of Honour - Saturday 10th July 1915

Killed in Action

1st Battalion: front line trenches at Hill 60
  • 4/7245 Corporal Joseph FITZJOHN, born Hertford, resided Ware [Hertfordshire] (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)
  •  10426 Private Arthur William MEAD, 19, son of Emma Mead of 18 Bedford Street, Watford [Hertfordshire] (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres)

1st/5th Battalion

  • 3987 Private William Ernest ASHPOLE, 25, son of Frederick and Sarah Ann Ashpole of Hall End, Wootton (Wootton (Saint Mary) Churchyard and Extension)

Thursday 9 July 2015

Bedfordshire Yeomanry Busy at the Front

Friday 9th July: Claud Vincent, an old Biggleswade boy, now serving with the Bedfordshire Yeomanry at the front, writes to his father, Inspector John Vincent, at Woburn, as follows: “On Wednesday last we saddled up in marching order – about 80 of our Squadron – and, of course, we wondered where we were off to. Well, we marched about 15 miles, passing through a town which had been well shelled, and after a dusty ride we halted in a meadow; and our horses were led back, leaving about 15 out of each troop behind. We were taken into a wood with the rest of the Brigade, or rather Division and had teas as soon as possible, and we wanted it badly. For the night we just lay down under the nearest tree and next morning were marched off, after breakfast, about 1½ miles. We started trenching, making a redoubt, which we are on now. We start about seven o’clock and return about 5.30 after a hard day’s work. All day long we can hear the guns and see them fire, and even as I write the Germans have started shelling and they are bursting about 200 yards away, but they are only six-inchers, so they won’t hurt us much. The food we get is good up here and it is a change to get rid of the horses. We have not been cut up yet”.

Source: Biggleswade Chronicle 16th July 1915

Roll of Honour - Friday 9th July 1915

Died of Wounds

2nd Battalion

  • 4/6407 Private John Clarke JENNETT, 25, son of William Henry and Ellen Emma Jennett of Verulam Terrace, Barnet [Hertfordshire], born Somers Town [London] (Étaples Military Cemetery)
  • 17770 Private Alfred Frederick WILLMER, 24, son of Charles and Mary Willmer of George Street, Maulden (Lillers Communal Cemetery)

Wednesday 8 July 2015

Lord Kitchener Inspects

Lord Kitchener (from Wikipedia)

Thursday 8th July: the adjutant of the 2nd Battalion, which is currently in northern France, not far from the Belgian border tells us that they will be going to a place called Saint-Hilaire-Cottes today, where they will line the road as Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener passes by. Then it will be back to finding parties for erecting barbed wire in the front line.

Source: X550/3/WD

Roll of Honour - Thursday 8th July 1915

Died of Wounds

1st Battalion
  • 8723 Acting Sergeant Charles GOLDSWAIN, born Reading [Berkshire], resided Aylesbury [Buckinghamshire] (Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension)
2nd Battalion
  • 8485 Private Harold HOWE, 27, son of Samuel and Mary Anne Howe of 34 Houghton Road, Bedford, born in Lidlington (Berguette Churchyard)

3rd Battalion

  • 20348 Private Harold PEGG, 19, son of Charles and Clara Pegg of 1 Addison Road, Bilton [Warwickshire], born Newbold-on-Avon [Warwickshire] (Felixstowe New Cemetery)

Tuesday 7 July 2015

Two Bedfords Killed in Their Sleep

Wednesday 7th July: The village of Benington, Herts, has been saddened by the death at the front of two soldier lads who were close friends and who died together in their sleep from shell explosion. They were Private R J Warner and Private E W S Mayes, both of the Beds Regiment.

Jack and Willie, as they were affectionately known to everyone in the village, were inseparable chums. They had grown up together as lads, had played together, worked together at their trade as carpenters, enlisted together on the outbreak of war, visited home on leave together, gone out to France together, and it seems only a fitting conclusion to their young lives that they should together lay down their lives in the same great cause, killed by the explosion of the same shell as they rested together in the trenches. Side by side in the same grave they were reverently laid in their last long sleep and the same simple cross bears both their names(1).

Source: Biggleswade Chronicle 9th July 1915

(1)They no longer lie side by side. Curiously Willie Mayes lies in Larch Wood (Railway Cutting Cemetery) near Ypres whereas Jack Warner has no known grave and is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres; it makes one wonder if Warner is also in Larch Wood but unrecorded or whether the shell so disarranged the bodies that they were put in one plot and, when moved at the end of the war, were assumed to be one man.

Monday 6 July 2015

The East Anglian Royal Engineers and Their Monorail

Tuesday 6th July: The 1st/1st Field Company, East Anglian Royal Engineers are at Gorre in northern France, near the town of Béthune: They have taken over the work and supervision of the 2nd Line Defence known as The Village Line, with support points at Cambrin, Pont-Fixe and Windy Corner, Cuinchy (which already existed but had become into a bad state of repair). These were reconstructed and new works made.

Deep dugouts with ferro-concrete walls and roofs were constructed. Walls were loopholed and barricaded with sandbags and second roofs of ferro-concrete to the cellars were made and the cellars where the levels of floors permitted were defended by loopholes for rifles and machine-guns. The houses on the Cambrin-Pont-Fixe Road and the Pont Fixe-Windy Corner Road were also defended in a similar manner.

 A simple design of monorail has been erected in Hertford Street Trench for means of transport. The principle points in the design of the rail are that it can be erected in any good communication trench and will carry any load of reasonable dimensions not exceeding 250 lbs at a fast walking speed and little labour. The most usual loads are found to be dixies(1), rations, ammunition, bombs, sandbags and wounded men. A special stretcher was designed for the latter to overcome difficulties of suspension and taking wounded round trenches, which zig-zag in shape rather than linear. A special chair was also designed for the same purpose and can be adjusted to any angle according to the requirements of the wound, This chair can be handled by one man. The increase of speed and reduction of labour in using the rail have been most marked.

Source: WW1/WD3

(1) Mess tins