Monday 31 August 2015

Roll of Honour - Tuesday 31st August 1915

Died of Wounds

1st/5th Battalion

  • 4327 Private Alec Joseph FAULKNER, resided Leighton Buzzard (Helles Memorial)  

Sunday 30 August 2015

Inter-County Cricket Match

Monday 30th August 1915: Owing to Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire not being able to meet this year in Minor County cricket, the representatives of the two counties who are serving with Territorial units at the Front decided the other day that they would make up for it by having a match out there. Hertfordshire were represented by the 1st Hertfordshire Regiment and Bedfordshire by the 1st Field Company of the East Anglian Royal Engineers, the Herts men granting the Engineers the loan of their cricketing material.

“It was quite a novelty” says one of the EAREs, “to have a cricket match only two miles behind the trenches” and the Engineers had the satisfaction of beating neighbours by 14 runs. The Engineers scored 65 and the 1st Herts 51, the principal scorers being Driver J H Joyce 27 and Sapper G W Webb 24 for the EAREs and Private H Peck 20 for the 1st Herts.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 27th August 1915

Saturday 29 August 2015

3rd/5th Bedfords at Windsor

Windsor Great Park by Martin Morgenstern

Sunday 29th August: The following is from one of the Battalion members: “This Battalion, which, it will be remembered, was formed as a result of the Recruiting March held last June under the aegis of Major Orlebar, who is now in command, is at present encamped at Bears Rail, Windsor Great Camp. We left Bedford on August 9th and after about two-and-a-half hours’ run were landed safe and sound at Windsor”.

“Our camp is situate about two-thirds of the way along the Long Drive, or as we call it, the “Three Mile Walk”. One end is crowned by a gigantic equestrian statue of King George III and our home; the other is graced by the towering walls of Windsor Castle, the home of our King George”.

“Our main purpose, of course, is to train and send out drafts to fill up those much regretted but unfortunately essential gaps that occur in our first line, the 1st/5th, now fighting hard out at Suvla in Gallipoli”.

“Tent life we find is very jolly, and a great change from the billet era of our previous existence. We are not without some of the luxuries of life either, as a maternal Government has arranged such items as shower baths and floor boards for our tents”.

“Members of the Royal Family constantly visit our lines, even HRH Prince of Wales, home on leave from the front(1). We have frequent calls from battle-planes which come careering madly round the Castle, over the Camp and away again before we have got the stiffness out of our necks”.

“While I think of it, we are all anxious that amongst our forthcoming recruits we should have some good footballers and cricketers; we’re keen to play and beat the Essex, Northants, Hertfords, RAMC(2), ASC(3) etc. who are all here in Camp with us, not to mention the Guards”.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 27th August 1915

(1) The future Edward VIII, he joined the Grenadier Guards in August 1914 but was not allowed by Lord Kitchener, Secretary of State for War, to serve in the front line. He still managed to win a Military Cross in 1916. This later made him popular amongst Great War veterans.

(2) Royal Army Medical Corps

(3) Army Service Corps

Roll of Honour - Sunday 29th August 1915

Died of Wounds

2nd Battalion

  • 18053 Private Frederick James CLARKE, 24, son of Frederick and Sarah Clarke of 31 Oxford Street, Watford [Hertfordshire] (Abbeville Communal Cemetery)

Friday 28 August 2015

A Visit from the King

King George V

Saturday 28th August: His Majesty the King and Princess Mary paid a visit to the camp of the 3rd/5th Bedfordshires in Windsor Park last week, and after he went the following notice was posted in the camp – “His Majesty the King was graciously please to express to the Commanding Officer this morning His Majesty’s sorrow at the losses which the 1st/5th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment has received in the fighting in which they had been engaged, which he said he knew had been heavy and the CO thanked His Majesty for his kindness”.

“The CO would also express his deep sympathy with those in the battalion who are suffering personal anxiety on behalf of their relations and friends, and to say the whilst he knows how hard it is to bear, he feels assured that the spirit of all will be cheered and strengthened by the magnificent proof of the determination of Bedfordshire men to their duty in the face of serious difficulties”.

More on the 3rd/5th Battalion at Windsor tomorrow

Source: Luton News 2nd September 1915

Thursday 27 August 2015

Notes on Crater Fighting

 Lochnagar Crater on the Somme by Alertomalibu

Friday 27th August: Following their unsatisfactory experience of crater fighting at Givenchy-lès-la-Bassée on 16th-17th June this year, it is with some wry amusement that the adjutant of the 2nd Battalion has sent us the following, to our mind rather chatty, instructions on how to do it.

1. Size of Craters.
For the benefit of those who have had no experience of craters formed by mine explosions - both our own and those of the enemy - these notes are intended as a guide. They are all based on actual experience gained whilst in the trenches in the Givenchy and Cuinchy Sections of the line.

It should be remembered that craters formed by a mine explosion are as a rule not like glorified shell holes, but something totally different, and on a far larger scale. It is difficult to give exact measurements but some that have been seen are fully 50 feet deep with very loose, steep crumbly sides and 30 to 40 yards in length; the circumference of these can only be imagined, until actually seen, and then only an approximate idea can be obtained as the whole cannot usually be seen at once and often only through a periscope. If it is possible to look at them with the naked eye, it can be necessarily only for a moment. These craters, therefore, are something out of the ordinary, and cannot easily be crossed without the assistance of much material and engineer labour, even if it is then possible. As to filling them in with sandbags which has been suggested, this is quite impossible and the idea could only have been originated by someone who had never been near one.

2. Actions when enemy's mines are expected.
In many instances the miners working in various shafts can give warning when an enemy mine is about to be exploded, or at any rate when an enemy shaft is approaching or in the vicinity of the trenches. Then is the time to withdraw the garrison for some 60 yards or so, on either side, keeping them in support trenches ready to rush in as soon as the explosion takes place. But sometimes warning is impossible, and such instructions should be issued as will ensure certain men in support trenches being ready always to rush in when an explosion does take place. The reason for this action is obvious for two reasons. First because it is probable that the men in the front trench will be so shaken - if they are not destroyed - as to be incapable of any immediate action; and secondly, this being so, it is imperative at least to reinforce the front line trench in case of an attack. It is sometimes the case that in certain parts of the line there is always a possibility of a mine explosion. Then, it is generally wise to hold this part of the line very lightly, preferably with outposts only, having men in support trenches ready to move forward at once when the explosion occurs.

3. How to deal with craters.
The question now arises, how should these craters, formed by the explosion of the enemy's mines, be dealt with? Naturally much depends on the circumstances but it seems advisable to establish men first of all on the near tip of the crater, and gradually to work round on either flank. It must be borne in mind that it will be impossible to get across the crater, anyhow those which are being described, and if this is attempted, it is probable that the men who get into the craters will fall victim to the enemy's bombers. Therefore it is suggested that this is not attempted, but efforts should be made to get round the flanks, and patrols be sent out to protect the working parties who would dig a trench round the near lip, with saps forward so as to look down into the crater, and, of course, communication trenches back to the main line, if necessary. When once men have been established in this position circumstances will be the best guide as to the future procedure. By the above means it is likely that the crater will at least be denied to the enemy.

4. Action when our own mines are exploded.
Much the same method should be adopted when one of our own mines is going to be exploded, except that, in this case the actual time of the explosion is known, and men should be withdrawn from the front trenches if necessary at the last possible moment so as not to cause any suspicion to the enemy, if the lines are very close, and placed in communication trenches with definite orders how to act when the explosion takes place.

5. An example.
It might be well to give an actual example of exactly what did occur, and arrangements made on the explosion of a mine at Givenchy early in August.

The enemy had been heard working near our shaft head and it was decided to explode three mines in close proximity to one another in this region. The Officer Commanding the Battalion engaged, having settled with the mining expert as to the best hour for exploding the mine - in this case it happened to be 8.30 p.m. - arrangements were made with the artillery to bring fire to bear, when the explosion took place, on certain enemy communication trenches and fire trenches which it was thought advisable to block by fire. It was arranged to have the trenches cleared on either side for a distance of nearly 100 yards, with the exception of a few men left for the purposes of security, and to deceive the enemy as to what was going on; this was to be completed by 8.15 p.m. and the remainder were to be withdrawn at 8.25 p.m. Two parties of about 12 men each with Bombers were told off to immediately rush forward and seize the near lip of the crater, and patrols from these were detailed to push round on either side if possible and get up to the enemy's trenches to see if they had been damaged, and if so to send back word so that men could be sent up to enter them. Behind these two parties came men with spades and sandbags ready to start digging a trench round the near lip, and back to the main line from both flanks of the crater formed. The distance between the two lines before the explosion of the three mines was roughly 80 yards, but there were other craters close by. The effect of the explosion of the three mines, which was simultaneous, was to form one huge crater fully 60 yards long, and very deep and wide. The northern end joined up with another enemy crater so it was impossible to get round this flank, but patrols pushed round the Southern side as far as the enemy's wire which was intact. The enemy did not reply for nearly 20 minutes and then began to fire machine guns, and bombs and a little artillery. The working parties were covered by bombers who continued to throw grenades throughout the night. Under cover of this a trench was dug during the night round the near lip of the crater which bent back to the main line and the occupation of the crater was completed by the digging forward of saps from the trench so as to look into the crater itself. This is only just an instance of what did occur, and may perhaps form some sort of guide to any future operations of this nature.

6. Saps and forward posts.
It is usually advisable to consult the mining officer as to how far forward saps and posts should go because they can tell how far their shafts go, and if these posts are pushed out too far to the front they are apt to come within the danger zone of the enemy shafts and therefore liable to be blown up without warning. For this reason saps and forward posts in craters should be held rather lightly until the mining officer reports that his shaft is ahead of them. The idea that when once a crater has been formed no further explosion can take place in it is wrong, for in certainly one case at both Givenchy and Cuinchy craters were considerably enlarged by further explosions.

Source: X550/3/wd

Wednesday 26 August 2015

Coincidental Meeting in the Trenches

Thursday 26th August: A and D Companies of the 7th Battalion have been in the trenches at Bécordel and are being relieved today by B and C Companies so that all the battalion will have had a gradual introduction to this gruelling and deadly environment. It is an irony that they have been introduced to the front line by the kilted favourites of the County Town, the 51st (Highland) Division who were, until earlier this year, stationed in Bedford. No doubt many reminiscences were exchanged in the process.

Source: X550/8/1

Tuesday 25 August 2015

7th Bedfords in the Trenches

Wednesday 25th August: The adjutant of the 7th Bedfords, Captain P R Meautys, tells us that he is currently in the front line trenches with other officers as they reconnoitre the front line near the River Somme. The rest of the Battalion is at the village of Ribemont but will soon move forward for its first spell in the line near the village of Bécordel. All last night enemy shelled his trenches but inflicted little damage.

Source: X550/8/1

Roll of Honour - Wednesday 25th August 1915

Killed in Action

2nd Battalion: front line east of Festubert

  • 13501 Private Archibald Southwell BARNES, born and resided Ramsey Saint Mary's [Huntingdonshire] (Brown's Road Military Cemetery, Festubert)

Monday 24 August 2015

Captain Foss’s Victoria Cross

Tuesday 24th August: It is with the greatest pleasure we have to announce that Captain Charles Foss, DSO, of the 2nd Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment, has been awarded the Victoria Cross for conspicuous bravery at Neuve Chapelle. The award was made, together with five others, last night and the feat that won the coveted honour for Captain Foss irresistibly recalls O’Leary’s famous exploit(1). The captain, with only eight men, captured an important German position and 52 men. The following is the officlal account of Captain Foss’ bravery: -

“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 party 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 very few men”.

Captain Foss joined the Bedfordshire Regiment in March 1904 as a Second Lieutenant, and went with the 2nd Battalion to Gibraltar in 1906, afterwards proceeding to Bermuda and South Africa. On November 20th 1912 he was promoted to the rank of Captain and on returning from South Africa he was the Adjutant of the Battalion. On arrival in this country he immediately went to the front, where he quickly distinguished himself for his heroic work. In the words of an officer who was with him in France, Captain Foss “never spared himself and met with some very narrow escapes. He was always to the fore and never failed to look after his men”.

Caotx Foss is a son of the Right Rev Hugh James Foss, Bishop of Osaka and in June last he obtained leave, coming over to England and was married at the time, not knowing he had won the VC although the action in which he gained the Cross was fought in March(2)

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 27th August 1915

(1) Lance Corporal (later Major) Michael John O’Leary, Irish Guards, won his VC on 1st February 1915 at Cuinchy, not far from Neuve Chapelle, by taking our two machine gun nests single-handed in front of his unit’s advancing men. He later emigrated to Canada for a while and led a colourful life, before returning to Britain and serving in World War two. He died in 1961, aged 70.

(2) Charles Calveley Foss was born in 1885 in Kobe [Japan]. He later rose to the rank of Brigadier and died in London in 1953. The medal is on display in the Regimental Gallery at Wardown Museum, Luton.

Roll of Honour - Tuesday 24th August 1915

Killed in Action

2nd Battalion: front  line east of Festubert

  • 17002 Private Ernest WRAY, born and resided Preston [Hertfordshire] (Brown's Road Military Cemetery, Festubert)

Sunday 23 August 2015

East Anglian Royal Engineer Killed at Gallipoli

Monday 23rd August: We have heard that another of our East Anglian Royal Engineers was killed yesterday. The 2nd/1st Field Company are serving with 54th (East Anglian) Division in Gallipoli. A popular young man was Saddler Albert Walter Bunker, affectionately known as “Nibbo”, son of Mr A Bunker, the well-known harness-maker of 4 Bridge Street, Luton. He was approaching his 21st year and was saddler to his company in the East Anglian Royal Engineers, which he joined last January. A bright, vivacious young man, a regular member of Christ Church congregation, he was formerly identified with the Boy Scouts. The last message from him was a postcard written at Alexandria”.

His commanding officer tells us “He was struck in the head with a fragment of shrapnel when our camp was being shelled yesterday and died within an hour without regaining consciousness so that I feel sure he suffered no pain. The officers and men of my Company feel that they have now lost a willing and brave comrade”(1)

Luton News 2 September 1915

(1) Nibbo Bunker is buried at Hill 10 Cemetery, Gallipoli

Roll of Honour - Monday 23rd August 1915

Died of Wounds

10th Battalion
Temporary Captain John Amherst TENNANT, 26, son of John and Margaret Croom Tennant of 19 The Boltons, South Kensington [London] 1st Battalion, attached Border Regiment (Helles Memorial)

Saturday 22 August 2015

The Death of a Hero of Gallipoli

Lieutenant Shoosmith 

Sunday 22nd August : We have just heard the sad news that one of the heroes of the 1st/5thBedfords’ attack at Gallipoli on 15th of this month has been killed. Lieutenant F S Shoosmith , the Machine Gun officer, was a favourite with his men and the whole battalion feels the loss by his death, for the work he did with his machine-gun was magnificent. He worked practically single-handed for three whole days and nights but unfortunately yesterday he was speaking with the Machine Gun Officer of the 1st/11th London Regiment in the trenches, when a sniper spotted them and shot them both. Lieutenant Shoosmith was wounded in the head and died an hour afterwards. He was unconscious to the last. He had often remarked that if it were his lot to die, he wished to die a short and unpainful death. The officer of the Londons also died later in the day(1)

Source: Luton News 16th September 1915

(1) Lieutenant Shoosmith has no known grave and is commemorated on the Helles Memorial, he was 21 and from Hart Hill, Luton. No London Regiment officer is recorded as dying that day or the next by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Roll of Honour - Sunday 22nd August 1915

Killed in Action

1st/5th Battalion: Gallipoli
  • 4461 Private Alfred Richard COUSINS, 20, son of Richard Alfred and Susan Cousins of 47a Chapel Street, Luton (Helles Memorial)

Died of Wounds

10th Battalion
  • Temporary Lieutenant John Thomas ADAIR, son of Elizabeth Adair of 2 Century Street, Belfast, attached 1st Battalion, Border Regiment (Helles Memorial)


1st Battalion
3/8577 Private Francis Joseph MURPHY, 38, husband of Florence of 191 New Road, Leigh-on-Sea [Essex], attached 175th Field Company, Royal Engineers (Glasnevin, or Prospect Cemetery, County Dublin)

Friday 21 August 2015

Money for Telescopic Rifle Sights Wanted

Saturday 21st August: As mentioned in our article of 7th August, telescopic sights are needed for newly formed bands of snipers. We would again draw the attention of our readers to the appeal made by Mr Pym, Hassells Hall, Sandy, for funds to provide telescopic rifle sights for the crack marksmen of our Bedfordshire Battalions at the Front. It is known that all German snipers are with these telescopic rifle sights, which enable them to pick off our men with almost certainty up to 500 yards, while our own troops have only two such special rifle sights to each Battalion. The disadvantage to our men and the necessity of putting them on an equality with the enemy in this matter will be apparent, and it is earnestly hoped that the subscriptions asked for will quickly be forthcoming. Six telescopic rifle sights are wanted for each of the two Bedfordshire Battalions at the Front, more, if possible, and from £150 to £200 is required. The Duke of Bedford, Mr Pym and Mr C Guy Pym have each subscribed £5 5s to the fund. Mr Archibald Allen £1 1s and Mrs Josselyn 10s. Further sums may be sent to Mr Pym, Hassells Hall, Sandy or to Barnard’s Bank, Bedford. A list of the subscriptions will be published next week.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 27th August 1915

Roll of Honour - Saturday 21st August 1915

Killed in Action

1st/5th Battalion: Gallipoli
  • Lieutenant Frank Stewart SHOOSMITH, 21, son of Francis and Minnie Shoosmith of Hart Hill, Luton (Helles Memorial)

Died of Wounds

1st/5th Battalion
4025 Acting Lance Corporal Rowland ABBOTT, 39, husband of Lizzie L of 226 Leagrave Road, Luton (Helles Memorial) 

Thursday 20 August 2015

I am Hanged if I Want to Go Through Any More Like That

Friday 20th August: We have heard from Private E J Albon of Stotfold, 1st/5th Bedfords. “No doubt you will hear of us being in action on Sunday [15th], but don’t worry about me at all. Remember my initials are E. J. and Number 2815, so if you read anything don’t make any mistake. Our action proved a great success, but I am hanged if I want to go through any more like that … but all I can say is that I am not worrying at all until it is necessary. I will write more news when I get a fair rest, as I am not out of the trenches properly yet. I didn’t like to tell you at all on account of mother, but I guess I am made to come to England and die properly, as I have been grazed on the right arm and ribs and hit through the back of my coat with three different bullets”(1)

Source: Bedfordshire Times 10 September 1915

(1) He does, indeed, seem to have survived the war.

Roll of Honour - Friday 20th August 1915

Died of Wounds

1st/5th Battalion

  • 3899 Corporal William JARVIS, resided Luton (Pieta Military Cemetery, Malta)

Wednesday 19 August 2015

6th Battalion Loses its First Officer

Thursday 19th August: The adjutant of the 6th Battalion tells us about the first officer’s death they have had on active service. Last night they were digging reserve trenches under the direction of an officer of the Royal Engineers about one mile north of Kemmel. Unfortunately Second Lieutenant G A Smith-Masters, just 20 years of age, advanced out of the trenches and was shot dead, it is supposed by a Sniper. It is an object lesson for his men, and the rest of the inexperienced unit, that a moment’s loss of concentration, even behind the front line, can be fatal(1).

Source: X550/7/1

(1) Smith Masters was from Oxfordshire. His brother, serving with the Essex Regiment, would be killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 1st July 1916

Roll of Honour - Thursday 19th August 1915

Killed in Action

6th Battalion
  • Temporary Second Lieutenant George Arthur SMITH-MASTERS, 20, son of John Ernest and Eliza Margaret Smith-Masters of Camer [Kent], a native of Kidmore End [Oxfordshire] (Dranoutre Military Cemetery); his brother Captain B S Smith-Masters, 24, died with 2nd Battalion, Essex Regiment on 1st July 1916 (Sucrerie Military Cemetery, Colincamps)

Died of Wounds

2nd Battalion
13079 Private Richard Henry STARLING, son of R Starling of 9 Williss Street, Arncliffe [New South Wales], born Chingford [Essex], resided Harlington (Chocques Military Cemetery)

Tuesday 18 August 2015

Death of a Sportsman

 Private Howe

Wednesday 18th August: It was with peculiar grief that we heard this morning that Private Percy Howe had been killed in the Dardanelles on August 16th. Percy Howe was 22 years of age, son of Mr and Mrs A. Howe of 38 Margetts Road, Kempston, of the sunniest disposition and a favourite everywhere. In the great sympathy which is felt for the bereaved family, our staff deeply share. He was a great lover of a field sports, a keen follower of Kempston football teams and a popular member of the Beds Times Cricket Club”.

“He came to us in January 1911 and was employed in our machine-room and left in March 1914 to enter the Queen’s Engineering Works. His cousin, Private F. Gillett, Grenadier Guards, has died from wounds and another cousin, Private Boyce, 1st/5th Bedfords, is severely wounded(1)

Source: Bedfordshire Times 10th September 1915

(1) F W Gillett, 3rd Battalion, Grenadier Guards, son of William and Emily of 2 Church Walk, died at home on 21st May 1915 and is buried in Kempston Cemetery. Private Boyce seems to have survived the war.

Roll of Honour - Wednesday 18th August 1915

Died of Wounds

1st/5th Battalion

  • 2445 Sergeant Thomas Richard William BUTLER, husband of Mrs Butler of Potter's Cross, Wootton, born Kempston (East Mudros Military Cemetery, Lemnos)
  • 3998 Private George Edward STOKES, 27, son of Joseph and Emma Stokes of 20 King Street, Kempston (Helles Memorial) 

Monday 17 August 2015

A Brave Machine Gunner and a Lucky Escape

Lieutenant Shoosmith

Tuesday 17th August: We have heard more of Lieutenant Frank Shoosmith of Luton and his gallantry on Sunday. Nearly all the NCOs and men of his Machine Gun Section were knocked out; but still, with only one man to aid him, he fought his guns with the greatest gallantry, simply sweeping the ground ahead and clearing the way for the advance of his comrades.

Major J E Hill at once saw the straits to which the Machine Gun Section was reduced and, going across to Shoosmith. He tells us that he asked him: “Who is to fight the gun if you get knocked out? No one else knows enough about it up here; your section is gone, and you had better show me how to do it”. The breezy answer he received from young Shoosmith was: “Oh, you just pull this and press that! It’s quite simple”. As Major Hill remarks: “And during this conversation, mark you, Shoosmith was pumping hell into the Turks”.

Lieutenant F W Ballance, a Dunstable officer, who was reported to be wounded, is now in the Australian Hospital at Lemnos Island. Lieutenant Ballance says his mess-tin saved his life. After describing the difficult country in which the battalion had to do their fighting and the trouble they had with snipers, who were painted green, he says “A Turkish battery of big guns spotted us and in less than no time they fired shell after shell. I owe my life to the fact of having my mess-tin on my back. The bullet from the first shell hit the top of the mess-tin, striking the side nearest my back and then turned and came out of the bottom. If the tin had not been there that bullet would have got me in the back”.

“I was dressing one poor fellow who had a nasty wound in the shoulder when the Turks started at us again and a bullet from the next shell struck me in the instep of my right foot and stuck inside. My servant helped me back to camp – nearly three miles – in the broiling sun. Luckily a stretcher met us half-way. The difficulties of getting wounded back to hospital are extremely great owing to the country and the snipers. I was sniped at the whole way back and one hit the stretcher, but luckily did not touch me”

Lieutenant Ballance

Sources: The History of the Fifth Battalion Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment (TA) by F A M Webster; Luton News 2nd September 1915

Roll of Honour - Tuesday 17th August 1915

Killed in Action

1st/5th Battalion: Gallipoli
  • 3684 Corporal Thomas BILLING, born and resided Wootton (Helles Memorial)
  • 3026 Acting Sergeant Albert Frank DRACUP, 20, son of Albert and Fanny Dracup of 138 Honey Hill Road, Bedford (Helles Memorial)
  • 2958 Sergeant William Henry FOSTER, born and resided Luton (Helles Memorial)
  • 3035 Lance Sergeant Jack Alexandra William ROBINSON, 23, son of Hannah Robinson Hymus of 18 Bryn Road, Clydach [Glamorgan], born and resided Ampthill (Helles Memorial)

Died of Wounds

1st/5th Battalion

  • 3120 Private Bert BARTON, born and resided Luton (Hill 10 Cemetery, Azmak)
  • 3553 Private John STENHOUSE, born Falkirk, resided Luton (East Mudros Military Cemetery, Lemnos)
  • 2762 Private Benjamin THURLOW, born Australia, resided Luton (Helles Memorial)
  • 2928 Private Albert WOODCRAFT, 21, son of Walter and Alice Woodcraft of The Ridgway, Flitwick, born Ampthill (Helles Memorial) 

Sunday 16 August 2015

The Yellow Devils at Gallipoli

Lieutenant Ralph Brighten

Monday 16th August: Yesterday the 1st/5th Bedfords who, we understand, have been given the nickname of the Yellow Devils, went into action for the first time. The battalion paraded just after midday and the subsequent attack, in conjunction with 10th Division, was carried through with tremendous dash – both target hills were taken and entrenched, though casualties were heavy - 14 Officers and 300 men.

A weary Lieutenant-Colonel Brighten told us this morning: “We are now in the middle of a fight which started at one o’clock on Sunday. We have had a hell of a time. I can never describe to you what we have been through, but the regiment has done well, splendidly. We’ve got the ammunition and I’ve sent it up to Shoosmith, who knows how to kill Turks with it. He has done top whole, fought his guns splendidly, though most of his men were knocked out”. Lieutenant Frank Shoosmith is the Battalion’s Machine Gun Officer.

“What cuts me up is to think about our losses. They are all of them a gallant lot. Poor Brian Cumberland is dead, leading his company most gallantly. I got him last night and he is buried about 20 yards from his dug-out and I am writing to his father and hope to get it off after dark tonight”(1).

“The men are full of fight and confidence”

From information received it is clear that the battalion made a successful advance, cutting through the Turks and capturing three lines of trenches. From other sources we have determined that the Battalion was acting as support on the right to 10th (Irish) Division, which was making a frontal assault on a high ridge.

As soon as their advance began, at 1 pm, the Bedfords came up against the Turks in occupation of a hill. B Company, under the command of Captain C T Baker, son of the Rector of Dunstable, was posted on the right flank of the Battalion. A Company, under Captain Brian Cumberland of Luton was extended back on the left flank. The Machine Gun Section, commanded by Lieutenant F S Shoosmith, was detailed to act in support of A Company. The Battalion Headquarters followed in the rear of the two leading companies, while C and D Companies, commanded by Captain W K Meakin and Captain R Forrest, formed the Battalion Reserve.

“As we advanced up the hill” one man told us “my thoughts and, I suppose those of most of the other fellows, turned to home and to the girls we had left behind us. These thoughts saddened me but they also strengthened my determination to do my duty to the utmost of my ability”.

“But all thoughts of home were soon banished as we came under heavy rifle and shell fire. Men who had passed through previous campaigns, or were gifted with nerves of steel, might have viewed such a sight with cold-blooded calmness; but we boys who were advancing now under such awful fire might have been excused if our steadiness had deserted us, But instead of shrinking as we saw our comrades fall, the sight rather braced up our strength to the sticking point and we forged ahead. We had the Colonel to thank for that, for he had driven it into our minds that the only way to protect our wounded would be by keeping our line intact and by holding the ground that we had taken”.

The hill which the Battalion attacked was very strongly held by the Turks. A, B and C Companies were ordered to storm the position. They went to their work with a will. Well as the leading companies attacked, however, it became obvious they needed further aid. D Company was at once flung in to support the charge. The whole line went at it again and this wave of brave, intrepid and well-disciplined men, only too anxious to blood their steel, soon cleared the position at the point of the bayonet.

Then came a brief pause as the Battalion reorganised before the second leg of its advance, against a position called Kidney Hill from its shape. Casualties had not been particularly heavy, but Kidney Hill was to prove a far more formidable obstacle. To reach its objective the Battalion had to cross an open stretch of land, about a quarter of a mile in depth.

Captain Cumberland

A Company, splendidly led by Captain Brian Cumberland, had borne the brunt of the fighting in the taking of the first objective. As soon as the second advance started the Battalion came under heavy shrapnel fire from the Turkish guns in front and was harassed by galling rifle fire from the right flank. Many severe casualties resulted.

As the advance went on direction and cohesion was lost in the wilderness of bushes, rocks and gullies and Major J E Hill and the Adjutant, Captain H Younghusband, performed prodigies of valour, as they moved from place to place maintaining or re-establishing touch between the companies and platoons. The Brigadier, himself wounded and seeing the plight of the Bedfords issued orders for two more battalions to move up to the support. Before these reinforcements could arrive, however, the Bedfordshire men had achieved their objective and Kidney Hill was taken. They had advanced through a veritable hell of fire and they had cleared it at the point of the bayonet.

Captain Baker

Casualties were heavy: as the last advance was made Captain C T Baker, his arm completely shattered, went on at the head of his Company until he fell, mortally wounded; Lieutenant C R Lydekker, of Harpenden, also went down, while an eye-witness has described how Captain Brian Cumberland called on his Company for the last charge up the crest and, in the act of waving them on, was shot through the head”. Private Harold Scott of Luton tells us that his last words were “Come on boys, we’ve got them now!”

Almost in the same moment the Colonel’s brother, Lieutenant Ralph Brighten, commanding No. 1 Platoon, A Company, was killed. No one knows when Captain W K Meakin, commanding C Company was killed; although he is believed to have led his men almost up to the last moment when they got busy with their bayonets. The body of Lieutenant Derek Rising, believed killed, has not been recovered.

Captain Meakin

Sources: X550/6/8; Luton News 2nd September 1915; The History of the Fifth Battalion Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment (TA) by F A M Webster

(1) His grave was not found later and he is commemorated on the Helles Memorial

Roll of Honour - Monday 16th August 1915

Killed in Action

1st Battalion: front line trenches near Fricourt
  • 15078 Private Peter JOHNSON, son of G Johnson of Thrapston Road, Brampton [Huntingdonshire], born Kingston-on-Thames [Surrey] (Dartmoor Cemetery, Bécordel-Bécourt)

1st/5th Battalion: Gallipoli
  • 4087 Private Harry BERRY, resided Luton (special memorial at Azmak Cemetery, Suvla)
  • 5073 Private Albert Edward BLAYDON, 18, son of Sidney and Lily Blaydon of The Knapps, Toddington Road, Leagrave (special memorial at Azmak Cemetery, Suvla)
  • 2911 Sergeant David William BUCKINGHAM, 29, son of David and Ada Buckingham of 82 Warwick Road, Luton (memorial at Azmak Cemetery, Suvla)
  • 4606 Private Jonathan CAVES, resided Marston Moretaine (Helles Memorial)
  • 3819 Private George Henry DIEMER, resided Bedford (memorial at Azmak Cemetery, Suvla)
  • 3915 Private Alfred James ELLINGHAM, resided Luton (Helles Memorial)
  • 3256 Corporal James Richard ELLISON, 20, son of Joseph and Rose Amy Ellison of 57 Bunyan Road, Kempston, born Bedford (Helles Memorial)
  • 5037 Private George FARNHAM, 20, son of John and Fanny Farnham of 103 Edward Street, Dunstable (Helles Memorial)
  • 3019 Private George Alfred Victor FINCH, 19, son of A Finch of 215 High Street South, Dunstable (Helles Memorial)
  • 3964 Lance Corporal Frederick FOLKES, resided Wootton (Helles Memorial)
  • 3840 Private Horace GOODSHIP, resided Stopsley (Helles Memorial)
  • 4489 Private Alexander GRAVES, 27, son of Henry Graves of 5 Ferndale Road, Luton, husband of Maud Agnes Cooper (ex-Graves) of 39 North Street, Luton (Helles Memorial)
  • 2382 Sergeant Albert HINKS, 28, son of Albert and Elizabeth Hinks of 11 Windsor Street, Luton, husband of Clara Elizabeth of 14 Croft Road, Godalming [Surrey], born Mansfield [Nottinghamshire], resided Luton (Helles Memorial)
  • 3178 Private Percy Archie HOWE, 22, son of Alfred and Caroline of 38 Margetts Road, Kempston (Helles Memorial)
  • 4229 Private George HUTCHINGS, 20,son of William John and Sarah Ann Hutchings of 30 Canning Street, Bedford (Helles Memorial)
  • 5064 Private Harry KING, 19, son of Samuel King of Standon Lane, Meppershall (Helles Memorial)
  • 4245 Private Alfred Fieldhouse LLOYD, 20, son of George Fieldhouse and Emily Lloyd, resided Luton (Helles Memorial)
  • 4932 Private Ethelbert OVERTON, 19, son of Robert John and Ethel Maud Overton of 3a Loke Road, King's Lynn [Norfolk], resided Newmarket [Suffolk] (Helles Memorial)
  • 3339 Private Charles Edwin PARKER, born and resided Bedford (Helles Memorial)
  • 3066 Private Harold Fred PUDDEPHATT, born and resided Luton (Helles Memorial)
  • 4085 Private Frank RIMMER, resided Luton (Helles Memorial)
  • 4905 Private Maurice SHREEVES, resided Kempston (Helles Memorial)
  • 4275 Private Alfred SMITH, resided Luton (Helles Memorial)
  • 4277 Private Francis Edward SMITH, resided Houghton Regis (Helles Memorial)
  • 3959 Sergeant William STAPLETON, born and resided Ampthill (special memorial at Hill 10 Cemetery, Azmak)
  • Private Frederick THURLOW, born Australia, resided Luton (Helles Memorial)
  • 3744 Private Joseph TOWNE, born Manchester [Lancashire], resided New Harrowden (Helles Memorial)
  • 4291 Private Benjamin TUFFNELL, resided Luton (Helles Memorial)

Died of Wounds

1st Battalion
  • 13727 Private Bert COLLIER, born Gloucester, resided Bedminster [Bristol] (Bristol (Arnos Vale) Cemetery)

1st/5th Battalion

  • 3449 Private Leonard HURD, born Homerton [Middlesex], resided Luton (Helles Memorial)
  • 4746 Private Albert John CURTIS, 20, son of Samuel and Emma Curtis of Bromham Green (Helles Memorial)
  • 4065 Private Horace MARDLE, resided Caddington (Helles Memorial)
  • 3030 Private Ernest Charles PAGE, born and resided Saint Neots [Huntingdonshire] (Helles Memorial)

Saturday 15 August 2015

First Bedfordshire Casualties at Gallipoli

Scenery near Suvla Bay

Sunday 15th August: We have heard from the adjutant of the 1st/5th Bedfords that they have taken their first casualties. They happened whilst the men were digging trenches under heavy shell fire. He reports: “Lieutenant Chaundler and Private Barton were both wounded. Upon that occasion the young officer from Biggleswade furnished a striking example of the splendid discipline which the Bedfords have built up through the long months of training in England. He sustained a most painful wound and, though unable to stand, stuck to his post and continued to direct the work of his platoon until he was sent down to the first-aid dressing station, a hospital tent erected on the beach”.

The adjutant continued: “The men suffered much fatigue from the intense heat, while the extremely salt bully beef, which, with biscuit, comprised their ration, created an exasperating thirst”. He went on that the mood brightened considerably when it was understood that 10th (Irish) Division have been ordered to advance, with the co-operation of the 54th Division, and to seize the crest of a hill called Kiretch Tepe Sirt. Lieutenant-Colonel Brighten then spoke to the men and instilled in them the importance of upholding the honour of the Regiment, rained on the blood-soaked plains of Flanders. He ended by stating that their watchword should be “What we take we hold!”

It is thus likely that, as these lines are being written and read, the Bedfords are in action for the first time.

Private Barton

Source: X550/6/8; The History of the Fifth Battalion Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment (TA) by F A M Webster

Roll of Honour - Sunday 15th August 1915

Killed in Action

1st/5th Battalion: Gallipoli

  • 3500 Private Charles John AMBRIDGE, born Wavendon [Buckinghamshire], resided Luton (Helles Memorial)
  • 4386 Private Edward ANDERSON, 30, A Company, husband of Rose Maud of 27 Brache Street, Luton (Helles Memorial)
  • 4414 Private Charles BACCHUS, resided Luton (Helles Memorial)
  • Captain Charles Tanqueray BAKER (memorial in Azmak Cemetery, Suvla)
  • Second Lieutenant Ralph Dalton Jarvis BRIGHTEN, 22, son of William Green and Fanny Elizabeth Brighten of 60 Kensington Mansions, Earl's Court [London], born Southend-on-Sea [Essex] (memorial in Azmak Cemetery, Suvla)
  • 3005 Private Herbert Bruce CARTER, 35, born Clifton, resided Shefford (Helles Memorial)
  • Captain Brian Clark CUMBERLAND, 26, A Company, son of Hugh Cumberland JP CA of The Lynchet, Luton (memorial in Azmak Cemetery, Suvla)
  • 3715 Lance Corporal Walter DUMPLETON, 35, son of Thirza Dumpleton of 4 Midland Road, Luton (Helles Memorial)
  • 4487 Private William FENSOME, resided Luton (Helles Memorial)
  • 3323 Private Arthur GRIBBLE, born and resided Bedford (Helles Memorial)
  • 3706 Acting Sergeant Thomas HOPKINS, resided Bedford and worked at Grafton Cranes (Helles Memorial)
  • 3834 Private Albert Frederick KNIGHT, 19, son of Charles Frederick and Z Knight of 9 Prebend Street, Bedford (Helles Memorial)
  • Lieutenant Cyril Richard LYDEKKER, 25, son of the late Richard Lydekker FRS and Lucy Marianne Lydekker of Harpenden Lodge [Hertfordshire], educated at Haileybury College (memorial in Azmak Cemetery, Suvla)
  • Captain Walter Kendrick MEAKIN (Helles Memorial)
  • 2289 Lance Sergeant Albert PAYNE, born and resided Luton (Helles Memorial)
  • 3457 Corporal Nathan PAYNE, born and resided Luton (Helles Memorial)
  • 2846 2846 Private Frederick Ernest PERRY, 21, son of David of 11 Queen Street, Leighton Buzzard (Helles Memorial)
  • Second Lieutenant Frederick RISING (Helles Memorial)
  • 3099 Private Cyril SNOXELL, born and resided Luton (Helles Memorial)
  • 4108 Private Reginald TRUEMAN, resided Bedford (Helles Memorial)