Sunday 31 January 2016

A New Commander

Hugh Stainton Poyntz [X550/1/82]

Monday 31st January 1916: The 2nd Battalion are still at Suzanne which was still being shelled yesterday, though not so violently. The adjutant tells us that in the last three days twelve men have been wounded commenting that this is: “a remarkably small number considering the very bad fortifications found in this village”.

Lieutenant-Colonel Onslow left to command the 1st Bedfords and Major Hugh Stainton Poyntz has assumed command. Major Poyntz was, before the war, a cricketer of some note. He played for Somerset and brother, Massey Poyntz captained the eleven in 1913 and 1914. Major Poyntz has played 39 times for Somerset making 1,148 runs at an average of 19.46.

Source: X550/3/wd

Roll of Honour - 31st January 1916

Died of Wounds

8th Battalion

  • 17041 Lance Corporal William THOMAS, 20, son of Evan and Ada Mary Thomas of 45 Plymouth Street,  Swansea [Glamorgan] (Étaples Military Cemetery)
  • 17138 Lance Corporal Arthur GATHARD, 25, son of William and Emily Gathard of 7 Thorpe Road, Saint Albans [Hertfordshire] (Saint Albans (Hatfield Road) Cemetery)

Saturday 30 January 2016

More Action Around Frise

Map showing Frise (right) and Suzanne (left) - Eclusier is on the south bank of the Somme in the second full square

Sunday 30th January 1916: The 2nd Battalion reports that German attacks continued yesterday south of the River Somme against the French. Suzanne, where the Bedfords are billeted was also, once again, shelled. The battalion sent a machine gun to fire into the German flank and help the French defending Éclusier-Vaux on the south bank and another gun was sent to the Royal Dragoons in the village under attack where they had gone to help our French allies. In the evening orders came to send two platoons to dugouts in Vaux Wood in support of the dragoons and French, the battalion receiving two platoons from the Norfolk Regiment to replace them.

Amidst all this action the Battalion is to lose its commanding officer. Lieutenant-Colonel C C Onslow has been transferred to command the 1st Battalion and will leave today.

Source: X550/3/wd

Roll of Honour - 30th January 1916

Killed in Action

1st Battalion: Bray-sur-Somme, snipers active
  • 4/7386 Private Thomas Arthur ASKEW, 21, born Birkenhead [Cheshire] son of William Arthur and Louisa Askew of 42 Green Lane, Letchworth [Hertfordshire] (Carnoy Military Cemetery)
  • 13632 Private Thomas HOLTON, 19, son of Charles and Mary Jane Holton of Woolmer Green [Hertfordshire] (Chipilly Communal Cemetery)

Bedfordshire Yeomanry

  • 1496 Private Albert Edward ROBERTS born and resided Langford (Vermelles British Cemetery)

Friday 29 January 2016

The Germans Make an Advance

Map showing Frise (right) and Suzanne (left)

Saturday 29th January 1916: the adjutant of the 2nd Battalion revealed that yesterday morning the Germans began shelling the area where the Battalion is billeted at Suzanne on the north bank of the River Somme. The enemy used high explosive, shrapnel and poison gas and the bombardment lasted throughout the day. Only one man was wounded, however, as the Bedfords were not the target. It became apparent in the afternoon that the French immediately south of the river were the beneficiaries of the Germans’ attention and the village of Frise and high ground south of that village were taken by assault, the enemy advancing his line some half a mile on a frontage of 500 yards. By nightfall the shelling ceased. One wonders if a full scale German offensive is under way or whether this was an isolated incident(1)

Source: X550/3/wd

(1) The great German offensive against the French to the south around Verdun would begin on 21st February.

Roll of Honour - 29th January 1916


Unspecified Battalion

  • 17857 Corporal A GIDDINS, 38, husband of Gertrude Emily (Luton Church Burial Ground, Crawley Green Road)

Thursday 28 January 2016

A Suspension of Football

Friday 28th January 1916: We have heard from Lance Sergeant Fred Blakeman of A Company, 7th Battalion, a Bedford lad who is well-known on most of the football grounds of this county: “I am pleased to inform you that I remain first class but we are in the trenches once again and have had it a bit rough this time and won’t be sorry to get back for a rest; but all the boys are as cheerful as one could expect under the circumstances. The last time we were resting we managed to arrange a few games of football, my company beating B by 3 goals to 2. During this match(1) “Fritz” got the range nicely and planted several shells within forty yards of our pitch; no one was hurt, but I have never seen a footer ground cleared so quickly. Eventually we returned and completed the game. The following day I played in a Rugby match against a team of Fusiliers(2), whom we beat by 23 points to nil, your humble scoring a couple of tries. You know a little bit of sport of this kind helps to keep up the boys’ spirits, but our greatest regret now is that the ball you sent us is about played out so should you know of anyone with an old football, no matter what condition it may be, ask them to send it over here”.

Source: Bedfordshire Times 11th February 1916

(1) On 26th January – the war diary states: “Enemy sent over one round battery fire at men playing football North Road end. No damage done”.

(2) Probably 11th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers who were in the same brigade

Wednesday 27 January 2016


Thursday 27th January 1916: It is an oddity of war, where men face death every day, that some men choose a certain death, of their own making, rather than facing the strain of dreading death day by day. Such an incident happened yesterday near Fricourt where the 1st Battalion are in the trenches. The adjutant tells us that it was a quiet day but a man from C Company was found shot nearby where he had fallen out when coming up into the line the previous evening. He had almost certainly shot himself during the night rather than face another tour in the trenches. He was killed by the war as surely as a man shot by an enemy sniper(1).

Source: X550/2/5

(1) The only casualty who fits the bill is Private Arthur Gray who is listed as having died on 26th. He was born in Liverpool and lived in Derby. He now has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.

Roll of Honour - 27th January 1916

Killed in Action

8th Battalion: front line near the Canal Bank, Ypres

  • 20064 Private Edward Bernard ELFORD born Lambeth [London] resided Stockwell [London], brother of Miss B L Elford of 101 Corbyn Street, Hornsey Rise [Middlesex] (Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres

Tuesday 26 January 2016

Leighton Hero Wounded

Bridge Street [Z1306/72/6/2]

Wednesday 26th January 1916: Mr R T Mallett, the well-known tradesman of Bridge-street(1) has received a letter from his son, Lance Corporal Ronald A Mallett, intimating that he has again been wounded and is in hospital in France. Lance Corporal Mallett has been previously wounded while serving with the 2nd Bedfordshire Regiment in France where he has seen nearly twelve months fighting. Last Saturday week a rifle grenade landed in the trench near him and exploded and several pieces embedded themselves in his back. From the fact that he writes it is gathered that his wounds are not so serious as they might have been.

It will be remembered that this hero was wounded in the great Battle of Loos and was subsequently officially commended for his coolness and courage. His stay in hospital on that occasion was short, being only a week and he returned to the firing line without leaving France.

A Wesleyan local preacher of considerable gifts, Lance Corporal Mallett gave up a good situation at Llandrindod to enlist.

Source: Luton News 3rd February 1916

(1) Grocer of 21 Bridge Street

Roll of Honour - 26th January 1916

Died of Wounds

1st Battalion
  • 7460 Private Arthur SAVILLE as a prisoner-of-war, born Hertford, resided Edmonton [Middlesex] (Niederzwehren Cemetery)


1st Battalion

  • 4/7341 Private Arthur GRAY born Liverpool [Lancashire] resided Derby (Thiepval Memorial) 

Monday 25 January 2016

Military Cross for a Bedfordshire Regiment Lieutenant

Shop in Whitbread Avenue [Z1306/10/71]

Tuesday 25th January 1916: yesterday we heard of the award of a DCM to Company Quarter Master Sergeant Bell of Luton. Today we complement that with the award of a Military Cross to an officer from Bedford – Lieutenant P Whittemore of the 2nd Battalion. It was gained by very gallant conduct at the second battle of Ypres. He and others in the trench had been gassed, but when the Germans reached the trench he and a few others had partially recovered, and he led a very gallant defence, beating off the attack and killing a large number if the enemy.

Lieutenant Whittemore is the second son of Mrs E Whittemore of 31 Althorpe-street, Bedford, and is a Bedfordshire boy, having been born at Cotton End. He joined the Bedfords about twenty years ago and was in South Africa at the time of the last war. He has served in various other parts of the King’s Domains and at the beginning of the War was Regimental Sergeant Major of his Battalion in South Africa. His first spell in Flanders was for three weeks about Christmas 1914 during which time he was gazetted as a Second Lieutenant in his own Battalion, a signal honour. He came back to England wounded in the chest and it was some months before he left again for the Continent. After another month in action he was gassed at Hill 60 and has now been in France a few months for his third spell. Lieutenant Whittemore’s wife and family reside in Whitbread-avenue and he has two brothers serving.

Source: Bedfordshire Times 11th February 1916

Roll of Honour - 25th January 1916

Died of Wounds

1st Battalion
  • 9609 Sergeant George Henry FLUTE, 25, born Hardmead [Buckinghamshire], son of Edwin and Mary Flute of Harrold (Wandsworth (Earlsfield) Cemetery)

6th Battalion

  • 15340 Private Joseph THOMPSON, 30, son of Emma Jane Thompson of Drove House, Park Hall Road, Somersham [Huntingdonshire] (Doullens Communal Cemetery Extension No. 1)

Sunday 24 January 2016

First Award to the 1st/5th Bedfords

Monday 24th January 1916: Private R Bell has received the Distinguished Conduct Medal, second only to the Victoria Cross, and was included in the list published this morning, the official record stating that it was awarded: “for conspicuous gallantry and determination during operations at Suvla Bay, Gallipoli Peninsula, on many occasions, notably the following: On August 15th 1915, he organised and led a party of men when their officers had become casualties. On August 16th he went out under a very heavy fire, dressed and brought in a wounded officer. On August 17th he made a valuable reconnaissance of a Turkish position”.

While he was only a private in August, when his gallantry earned him this decoration, he has now been advanced to the rank of Company Quarter Master Sergeant. He has recently been in the Fern Hill Auxiliary Hospital, Bacup [Lancashire] to which he went from a Manchester hospital after a lengthy stay in Saint Elmo hospital, Malta. Last week he was discharged from hospital and arrived at Bedford.

Writing recently about some of his experiences Company Quarter Master Sergeant Bell said: “Suddenly the lieutenant gave a little gasp and exclaimed ‘They got me that time’. I helped him to a bit safer cover a few yards away and found he was hit through the leg just above the knee. The bullet had gone right through his leg and out the other side. I made a few suggestions as to his safety, but the lieutenant said he would crawl back and tell one of the men to come down and give me a hand when it was dusk. I didn’t like letting him go, but after he had left me I looked round and saw a lot more heaps of khaki lying about. I found seven men and one officer all dead. They looked as if they had been dead a couple of days. I began to get anxious about Lieutenant R(1), as we had pre-arranged that he should give a certain signal. Glancing to my right, I saw him creeping along in the wrong direction. He had evidently lost his way and was getting nearer the enemy’s lines. I yelled to him to stop where he was and I would come. I got to him and had to bandage his leg, as the dressing had slipped through his crawling among the bushes”.

“After this was done, I found out I was in the same boat as himself – I could not tell just which direction to make for. We arranged that I should make my way back to our trenches and ask the others to hang something over the parapet as a guide. I started off and, after a few minutes dodging about the bushes and rocks I noticed a khaki helmet ‘bob up’ for a second or so. When I succeeded in getting to the trench I went and reported the circumstances to Lieutenant N. He and R being personal friends, he was much cut up. He offered to hold up the periscope above the parapet as a guide for me to bring in the wounded lieutenant. Well, I needed to have a charmed life that day; the Turks could not hit me beyond riddling my water bottle and helmet, while a bullet went through my boot, skinning a couple of toes. However, by difficult bursts of crawling I succeeded in getting the lieutenant back and subsequently went back to endeavour to reach a wounded Londoner. I got to him and tried to lift him, but he was in too much pain and the firing so heavy that I had to abandon the task. He was too badly wounded to get in without a stretcher, so I made him as comfortable as I could, gave him some water and promised to come down again for him with s stretcher. However, things so turned out that I did not get the chance to go again myself”.

Source: Luton News 27th January 1916

(1) This may be Lieutenant Rawlings, mentioned as being with 3rd/5th Bedfords in the article on 20th January - he would have gone home with his wound and then been posted to a second or third line battalion for recuperation.

Saturday 23 January 2016

Officer’s Life in a German Prison Camp

Sunday 23rd January 1916: Captain Wagstaff of the 1st Bedfordshire Regiment, who is a prisoner in Germany, has written to his relatives in Leighton Buzzard: “Our Christmas here was so different to last year, when we had no parcels and precious little of anything else. A friend sent me two little Christmas trees and we had them on Christmas Eve for all the British; there were toys for them, tops and whistles, and we had such fun. We began with hot punch as we were allowed special “wine” for the day and that was the best way to drink it. Then the tree was all lit up with candles, and then we made a snapdragon with raisins, and we finished with bobbing for apples in a tub of water, Colonel and everyone. It helped us so much. Then we sat round the tree and talked about you all and wondered what you were doing. We had our big meal on Christmas evening, a selection of all the best things anyone had in their parcels; we secured a white tablecloth and some serviettes for the occasion and the centre was occupied by a large jam pot (concealed), full of artificial carnations on a table centre. It took four people an hour before we found out how to fold the serviettes. It was too amusing to see them at it. The table really looked human again, until the crash came, when the old cutlery came out, black handled three-pronged forks and knives to match, a large and small lead spoon each and a soup plate and one other. But we overlooked that and I can’t thank you enough for the good things we had. We managed to get a ten pound turkey through the canteen, cooked in the kitchen by the “chef” of the biggest hotel in Bordeaux: the chestnut stuffing we made ourselves in the room from a recipe in Pears’ Encyclopaedia, rather changed, the rest of the meal was all from parcels. Each of us had a menu with our regimental colours on it. I don’t know how we should have got through the day without this to think of and arrange”.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 11th February 1916

Roll of Honour - 23rd January 1916

Killed in Action

1st Battalion: mining fatigue near Bray-sur-Somme

  • 15110 Private George Edward EVEREST, 28, C Company, born Woolwich [London] son of William and Susannah Everest of 21 Stanley Street, Foleshill Coventry [Warwickshire] (Citadel New Military Cemetery, Fricourt)

Friday 22 January 2016

A Chance Hit

Saturday 22nd January 1916: When in the front line a dug-out gives a feeling of comparative safety. They are, as the term suggests, pits below the level of the bottom of the trench, lined with boards or corrugated iron to keep the sides from falling in and with a corrugated iron roof on which earth is heaped. Every so often pure chance means that a trench mortar bomb or shell strikes a dug-out full on causing casualties from blast or burial and this happened to the 7th Battalion last evening when a small dug-out was hit killing two of the four occupants as they rested – a lance corporal and a private soldier.

Sources: X550/8/1

Roll of Honour - 22nd January 1916

Killed in Action

2nd Battalion: front line near Maricourt

  • 21061 Private Robert Andrew QUICK, 18,  formerly 52346 Royal Garrison Artillery, nephew of Clara F Treadwell of Dover Road East, Northfleet [Kent] (Cérisy-Gailly Military Cemetery)

Thursday 21 January 2016

A Typical Day on the Western Front

Friday 21st January 1916: Soldiers expect there to be casualties in battles and may even be able to resign themselves to becoming one. This war, however, is particularly notable for the numbers of men killed and wounded every day merely “holding the line” – a phenomenon known as “daily wastage”.

A good example of this dreary roll call of casual death happened to the 6th Bedfords yesterday. It was a fine day and a German Fokker aeroplane came over their lines and bombed the town of Bienvillers without doing much damage. Later the Germans shelled battalion headquarters in Hannescamps with eleven shells of 77mm shells. Again no material damage was done. Then one of the Bedfords’ trenches was shelled. A corporal – M Brand and three privates – A Prior, C Greenslade and C R Mitchell were wounded. One man, Lance Corporal R Taylor is missing believed killed whilst out on his own sniping at the enemy(1)

Source: X550/7/1

(1) Lance Corporal Robert Taylor, from Hertford, is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. Private Conrad Greenslade died of his wounds at home on 10th October 1916 and is buried at Fort Pitt Military Cemetery, Chatham [Kent] and Private Albert Prior was killed in action on 17th July 1916 and is also commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial

Roll of Honour - 21st January 1916

Killed in Action

6th Battalion: front line near Hannescamps
  • 12093 Lance Corporal Robert TAYLOR born and resided Binbrook [Lincolnshire] (Thiepval Memorial)

7th Battalion: front line near Fricourt
  • 15086 Private Horace Charles DAY, 21, born Slip End, resided  Luton (Méaulte Military Cemetery)
  • 14849 Lance Corporal Thomas Mathew GRIEVE, 18, C Company, son of Farquharson and Emma Grieve of Oaks Farm, Little Hallingbury [Essex], he had been born at High Wych [Hertfordshire] and resided at Sawbridgeworth [Hertfordshire] (Méaulte Military Cemetery)
  • 17436 Private Horace HARRISON, 36, B Company, son of Joseph and Emma Harrison of Old Fishery Cottages, Boxmoor [Hertfordshire], he had been born at Hemel Hempstead [Hertfordshire] (Méaulte Military Cemetery)

Died of Wounds

8th Battalion

  • 17315 Private Robert Charles LIVINGS born and resided Ardley [Hertfordshire] (Poperinghe New Military Cemetery)

Wednesday 20 January 2016

3rd/5th Bedfords at Halton Park

Bayonet practice [X550/1/195]

Thursday 20th January 1916: The boys of the third line of the 5th Bedfordshires are spending a healthy and not unhappy time among the hills of Buckinghamshire. The camp is a large one and is situated at Halton Park, the residence of Lord Rothschild. Innumerable wooden huts dot the hillside and accommodation has been found for thousands of men, for other regiments besides the 3rd/5th Beds are quartered there. And there are still lots of vacant beds and plenty of khaki suits that require to be filled. The situation of the camp is beautiful. A great expanse of fair English country stretches away westward and north and south is an encircling arm of hills, beyond one of which is Tring. In the middle distance is Aylesbury and on the left of the picture is Wendover, nestling at the foot of a hill. The palatial mansion of Lord Rothschild stands out boldly against the sky and on a distant hill can be seen the monument to the brave men of Buckinghamshire who fell in the South African war.

It was on a day that was uncommonly like spring that our representative and a colleague, accompanied by Lieutenant R W Lambert paid a brief visit to the camp and were very kindly received by Lieutenant-Colonel R R B Orlebar. We learned that the total strength of the battalion is nearly 600, but this is likely to be increased by arrival, for training, of numbers of Derby recruits(1). The spirit of the men is excellent and the behaviour exemplary. By the kindness of the Acting Adjutant, Lieutenant Rawlings, just returned from Gallipoli, we had an opportunity of seeing a portion of the Battalion at drill and bayonet exercises, the work being very smartly and intelligently performed.

The huts are warm and comfortable and lighted by electricity. Each building contains board beds, with straw palliasses and plenty of blankets. Then there are the baths, a separate cubicle being provided for each man and hot and cold shower baths are much appreciated.

The food is wholesome, varied and plentiful. For instance the following dishes figure in the breakfast menu for the present week: rissoles, bacon and tomatoes, corned beef, boiled bacon, sausages and liver, steaks and onions. Then for dinner, roast or boiled meat or brown stew, potatoes, cabbage, turnips, rice, bread and fruit puddings and fruit salad. Soup is supplied for supper.

Source: Bedfordshire Times 18th February 1916

(1) Lord Derby’s scheme, introduced in Autumn 1915, required men between 18 and 41 not in a reserved occupation to make an attestation at a recruiting office after which they would be put into the reserve in one of 46 groups which would be called when needed, single men, for example, before married men. The scheme was superseded by conscription in March 1916.

Roll of Honour - 20th January 1916

Killed in Action

7th Battalion: front line near Fricourt

  • 16949 Sergeant Harry PESTELL, 29, son of Robert Harry and Marian Alma Pestell of  Buckhurst Hill [Essex] (Méaulte Military Cemetery)  

Tuesday 19 January 2016

Coolness in a Mine

Wednesday 19th January 1916: the adjutant of the 7th Bedfords tells us that about 6.15 last night the Germans blew up one of the battalion’s mines being dug under the German lines. The enemy kept up a persistent bombardment with trench mortars and rifle grenades until 11pm when they were silenced by our trench mortars and guns.

Thirteen men became casualties from the noxious fumes in the mine and two of them, including Bernard Ashpole from Kempston, have died. The adjutant tells us that there would have been more deaths had it not been for coolness of Corporals Ernest Blanshard and James Ivory who entered mine shaft and removed all the gassed men. One hopes their bravery will be rewarded(1).

Source: X550/8/1

(1) Happily both corporals seem to have survived the war and both received the Distinguished Conduct Medal a short time later

Roll of Honour - 19th January 1916

Died of Wounds

7th Battalion

  • 17021 Private Thomas COE, 24, son of Robert and Elizabeth Coe of Woolpit [Suffolk] he resided Hammersmith [London] (Corbie Communal Cemetery)

Monday 18 January 2016


Tuesday 18th January 1916: The 6th Battalion are in the front line, south-east of the city of Arras. Yesterday the machine guns of two brigades of their division combined to barrage the village of Monchy-le-Preux with bullets – a total of 26 guns in all. This was undertaken to try to gauge in what strength the town is held. The enemy’s reply was noted as feeble. Does this mean that there are not very many of them there or that they simply chose not to give away their strength by replying?

Source: X550/7/1

Sunday 17 January 2016

Luton Man Fighting Since Mons is Killed

Junction of Collingdon Street and New Bedford Road [Z50/75/184]

Monday 17th January 1916: Although no official intimation has yet been received there is no doubt as to the death of Private Stephen George Hare of the 1st Bedfords. Mrs. Hare, who resides at 8 Collingdon Street, first received the sad news on Saturday morning from Shillington. A young man, who was at the front with her son wrote to his relatives at Shillington. The letter from Shillington follows: “Dear Aunt – I’ve thought a lot about you this morning and feel I must write s few lines to know whether you have heard anything about dear Steve. I had a letter from a young man this morning who lives near your sister. His name is Walter Armstrong and he is in the Service Co the same one that Steve was, and he also said that Steve was killed on January 6th. Poor boy; I am so grieved about him. Walter was only fifteen yards from him when he was killed. He was shot in the head by a bullet and did not live five minutes. He said they buried him very nicely. Poor fellow, he is very sorry to lose him, for Steve was the only fellow in the Company that Walter knew. I feel so pleased that someone was with him at the time who knew him to let us know”.

“I had my last letter from Steve on New Year’s Day and in it he said that he had had a bad cold but it was a bit better. I am sure that if you have not heard anything about it you will be upset, and I do feel so sorry for you all. I hope God will give you strength to bear this great trial. I am sending the young man’s address so that if you care to write to him you may”.

Private Hare was only 25 years of age, and was a single man. He had not long finished seven years with the 1st Bedfords when war broke out and had been in South Africa and other parts of the Empire.

For some months he was at the Skefco works and on the outbreak of war, as a reservist, was called up with the 1st Bedfords. He came home on leave last August.

Source: Luton News 20th January 1916

(1) Private Hare was killed in action on 6th January and is buried in Carnoy Military Cemetery.

Roll of Honour - 17th January 1916

Killed in Action

7th Battalion: shelling in the front line near Fricourt and explosion of a mine
  • 15837 Private Bernard ASHPOLE, 26, son of Arthur and Mary Anne Ashpole of Kempston West End (Méaulte Military Cemetery)
  • Temporary Second Lieutenant Donald Gurney WHATMOOR, 23, son of Herbert Wade and E Mary Whatmoor of Briarfield, the Drive, Northwood [Middlesex] (Méaulte Military Cemetery)

Died of Wounds

7th Battalion

  • 16221 Private Edward Richard Victor KING, 21, son of Edward John and Ada Emma King of 237 Monega Road, Manor Park [Essex], he had been born in Hoxton [London] (Méaulte Military Cemetery)

Saturday 16 January 2016

All Change

Sunday 16th January 1916: The adjutant of the 2nd Battalion, in the front line near Maricourt on the Somme mentioned to us this morning that there was a reshuffle of positions last night with A Company moving from the reserve to the front line, D Company from support to front line, C Company to support and B Company to the reserve. This illustrates that most units hold the front line with two of their four companies with one in support, close behind the front line and ready to go instantly to where they are needed and one company further back in reserve in case of a determined attack or breakthrough. During a tour of the trenches companies are shuffled around so that no one has to spend all their time in the front line where they will become tired from the strain more quickly than in support or reserve.

Source: X550/3/wd

Friday 15 January 2016


Saturday 15th January 1916: The adjutant of the 2nd Battalion tells us that one of his men, Private Lawrence Wignall from Kirkdale in Lancashire has died of meningitis – an inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. This complaint can be caused by a number of causes and, naturally, the man’s companions are worried that they might catch it – though none has so far developed symptoms. Here we are faced by yet another reminder that the boys at the front face more dangers than bullets, shells and poison gas(1)

Source: X550/3/wd

(1) No other cases were reported.

Roll of Honour - 15th January 1916

Killed in Action

2nd Battalion: shelling in front line trenches near Maricourt

  • 18924 Private George William ROLPH, 29, son of George William and Maria Rolph of 51 Beech Road,  Luton (Cérisy-Gailly Military Cemetery)

Thursday 14 January 2016

Death of a Particularly Brave Bedford

Friday 14th January 1916: the adjutant of the 1st Battalion, currently at Bray-sur-Somme tells us that Sergeant Albert Higgins from West Ham in Essex was killed about two o’clock this morning whilst out repairing barbed wire in no man’s land. This is, sadly, a relatively common occurrence but Sergeant Higgins’ death is made more poignant by the fact that he did not quite live a see his name in the newspapers, for having been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for bravery – an award second only to the Victoria Cross(1).

Source: X550/2/5

(1) He is buried in Carnoy Military Cemetery – his death is given erroneously as 13th January on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website and in Soldiers Died in the Great War.

Roll of Honour - 14th January 1916

Killed in Action

2nd Battalion: shelling in front line trenches near Maricourt

  • 3/6691 Private David GILLSON, 23, son of John and Emma Gillson, born and resided Fulbourn [Cambridgeshire] (Cérisy-Gailly Military Cemetery)
  • 7719 Private Lawrence WIGNAL, 32, son of John Wignal of Liverpool [Lancashire], husband of Christina French (ex-Wignal) of 22 Dart Street, Kirkdale [Lancashire]; he had been born in Canterbury [Kent] and resided in Kirkdale (Cérisy-Gailly Military Cemetery)

Wednesday 13 January 2016

Entrenching Battalions

Thursday 13th January 1916: The adjutant of the 2nd Battalion, in front line trenches near Maricourt on the Somme tells us that they are expecting 25 reinforcements today from 3rd Entrenching Battalion.  We were curious as to what sort of unit this entrenching battalion might be and the adjutant told us that it is a temporary formation put together by an army corps and comprising men sent out from any number of units and assigned to front line units needing reinforcements. Thus a man might join the Essex Regiment, for example, be sent to an entrenching battalion on arrival in France and end up in the Bedfords. The adjutant’s response to such a situation? He’s probably luckier than he deserves!

Source: X550/3/wd

Roll of Honour - 13th January 1916

Killed in Action

1st Battalion: front line near Fricourt

  • 10094 Sergeant Albert William Edward HIGGINS DCM born Bromley-by-Bow [London] resided West Ham [Essex] (Carnoy Military Cemetery)      

Tuesday 12 January 2016

No Visit

Sir Douglas Haig

Wednesday 12th January 1916: the 7th Battalion are out of the front line at the moment resting in the town of Méaulte(1). Some excitement was occasioned yesterday by news that the Commander-in-Chief, Sir Douglas Haig, was in the vicinity. However, he did not pay a visit to the Bedfords on this occasion. When a visit is paid by a high ranking officer such as this the men naturally feel honoured but it is also a lot of work, so perhaps their feelings were mixed!

(1) A town in which Exocet missiles are now produced.

Roll of Honour - 12th January 1916


9th Battalion

  • 16726 Private Arthur Ernest EWINGS, 1, son of Alfred Charles and Mary Ann Ewings, he was born Kensington [London] and resided Paddington [London] (Colchester Cemetery)

Monday 11 January 2016

6th Bedfords Football Record

Tuesday 11th January 1916: The various battalions of the Bedfordshire Regiment continue to add fresh laurels to their football honours. Lance Corporal W A Powell told us: “We are now resting after spending Christmas and New Year’s Day in the trenches. During this little spare time we get, football matches are played with the object of winning a cup which is presented by the Divisional Commander. Already the battalion is on the way to victory, as is shown by the following: - since November last, played 8, won 7, drawn 1, 30 goals for, 6 against”.

“A great match was played yesterday by this battalion and the 8th East Lancashire Regiment, which was witnessed by about 1,000 spectators including the Divisional Commander(1). Great excitement prevailed throughout the game, which was due to the grand footwork displayed by both teams. The game ended in a win for the 6th Battalion by 4 – 1. The team consisted of the following, some of whom are no doubt well known: Lance Corporal Stanbridge; Private N Smith; Sergeant Bilsborrow; Lieutenant Hitch; Private Wiggs; Private Ironmonger; Lance Corporal Hunter; Private Hawkes; Private Chambers; Sergeant Abbott; Private Munro(2). The evening was then brought to a successful close by a good two hours continual laugh in the Divisional Theatre, where the ‘Barn Owls’ (who are singers and dancers selected from the division) gave us a delightful time”.

Source: Luton News 27th January 1916

Sunday 10 January 2016

Roll of Honour - 10th January 1916

Died of Wounds

8th Battalion

  • 15627 Private Thomas DRAGE, 20, son of Arthur and Mary Ann Drage of 89 Queen's Road, Royston [Hertfordshire], he was born in Cheshunt [Hertfordshire] (Étaples Military Cemetery)

Lucky Escapes

The Anglia

Monday 10th January 1916: Private Bert Milliner of the 2nd Bedfords is home at Biggleswade on ten days’ leave. He is an old militiaman and enlisted in the 4th Bedfordshire Regiment practically a year ago. After training at Dovercourt he went out in the early autumn to join the 2nd Battalion. While serving with a bombing party in the Givenchy district he was wounded in the shoulder and after being placed on a stretcher he was wounded in the lower part of the body. His troubles did not end, for after a stay at the base hospital he was being brought to England on the “Anglia” which struck a mine in the Channel. Fortunately he was among those that were safely transferred to the “Saint George”(1). After a lengthy stay in hospital at Torquay, he was sufficiently well to come home on leave. He still walks very lame, but is progressing. He is the possessor of a fine alpenstock, which he secured from a Prussian Guardsman out in Flanders.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 14th January 1916

(1) This was on 17th November 1915. 134 people died.

Saturday 9 January 2016

Two Brave Bedfords

Ribbons for DCM (left) and MC

Sunday  9th January 1916: Those who assisted in the usual farewell lunch to wounded Bedfords on Saturday, had the pleasure of meeting two of the bravest of the Brave Bedfords, the thrice decorated Sergeant-Major Stringer and Sergeant-Major Flint (1). When the former won his second decoration he was still Corporal Stringer, and consequently it was again a Distinguished Conduct Medal which fell to him, but as Sergeant-Major Flint then held warrant officer rank, he received the Military Cross for his gallant deed. Since then promotion has come rapidly for the Bedfords’ double DCM and he now most deservedly holds warrant rank. The Czar has been pleased to grant him also the Order of Saint George, 2nd Class, and he is expecting the Medaille Militaire. Both men are being recommended for further gallantry honours, and both have been thrice wounded, Sergeant-Major Flint having been in Leicester Hospital thirteen weeks with a bullet wound through the lungs.

Source: Bedfordshire Times 14th January 1916

(1) Both served with the 2nd Battalion and happily both seem to have survived the war.

Roll of Honour - 9th January 1916

Died of Wounds

8th Battalion
Temporary Lieutenant Edmund Wallis BECK, 26, son of Percy Charles and Alice Mary Beck of Smedley Hydro, Matlock [Derbyshire], born in India (Boulogne Eastern Cemetery)

Friday 8 January 2016

All Change Again for the 2nd Bedfords

Saturday 8th January 1916: The 2nd Bedfords are currently leaving Naours in France for Pont-Noyelles. Since 19th December they have been part of 89th Infantry Brigade of 30th Division, having previously been part of 7th Division. From today, however, they will form part of 90th Infantry Brigade, still part of 30th Division. Their division has also changed corps, now forming part of X Corps.

Changes of corps are relatively routine but changes to the brigade (which contains four battalions) and division (which contains three brigades) are much less so. Divisions are the major building block comprising our armies in France and it is to these, almost as much as their regiment and battalion, that a soldier looks for a sense of identity.

Source: X550/3/wd

Roll of Honour - 8th January 1916

Died of Wounds

7th Battalion
  • 12797 Lance Corporal Henry George ASPLEY, 20, son of Alfred and Martha Aspley of Silver Street, Stevington (Thiepval Memorial)

8th Battalion

  • 16464 Lance Corporal Albert Harry RENEVILLE, 28, C Company, born at Tower Street, London Fields, Hackney [London], husband of Daisy of 1 Russell Place, Boxmoor [Hertfordshire] (Wimereux Communal Cemetery)

Thursday 7 January 2016

Useful Trench Mortars

Wilfred Stokes and his mortar

Friday 7th January 1916: the adjutant of the 7th Battalion, in the front line near Fricourt on the Somme, tells us that yesterday the Germans opposite used rifle grenades and trench mortars aimed at part of their positions. He remarked: “Their grenades outnumbered ours so we retaliated with trench mortars. These did exceedingly good work. Timber was blown into the air from the enemy lines opposite. We must have inflicted serious damage the on enemy. All active hostilities ceased on their part after our mortars had fired”.

This highlights just how useful trench mortars have become. Indeed, those in the front line consider them indispensable. Sir Wilfred Stokes’ mortar was only introduced in September last year, in time for the Battle of Loos, but, as the above shows, has quickly proven its effectiveness. It is light (being smaller than the example shown above) at just over one hundred pounds and portable by a two man team enabling it to be moved to different positions in a trench system to prevent the enemy zeroing in on it and destroying it with artillery of their own. It can fire up to 25 bombs per minute at ranges up to half a mile. The bombs have a diameter of three inches and weigh 10 pounds, 11 ounces. The bombs go high into the air to drop into enemy trenches and cause substantial damage.

Source: X550/8/1

Wednesday 6 January 2016

A Warm Night on the Somme

Thursday 6th January 1916: The 1st Battalion are back in the front line near the village of Fricourt on the Somme. The adjutant reports that our artillery cut the German wire opposite and at dusk last night a patrol ventured out to inspect the damage and found the trench very strongly held, suggesting the enemy expected an attack or a raid. Our artillery fired around sixty shells of which twenty were six inch shells – some idea of their power can be obtained by the fact that they six inch guns form the main armament of a light cruiser.

Next door, as it were, are 7th Battalion who experienced considerably more rifle fire from the enemy last night, perhaps as a result of what 1st Battalion was up to. The Germans seemed to be playing a game involving snipers trying to smash the Bedfords’ periscopes with which they peer over the trench into No Man’s Land (to stick one’s head up is to invite instant death).

Sources: X550/2/5 and X550/8/1

Roll of Honour - 6th January 1916

Killed in Action

1st Battalion: front line near Fricourt
  • 8426 Private Stephen HARE, 29, son of E Hare of Luton he was born in Shillington and resided in Hitchin [Hertfordshire] (Carnoy Military Cemetery)

7th Battalion: front line near Fricourt
  • 15751 Private Archie Clement CURTIS, C Company, son of William Thomas and Eliza Curtis of 17 Eustace Road, Walham Green [Middlesex] born Playden [Sussex] (Méaulte Military Cemetery)


1st Garrison Battalion

  • 23861 Private John CARR, 33, formerly G/8149 Royal West Kent Regiment, son of John and Elizabeth Carr of New Cross [London], born Rotherhithe [London] husband of Minnie M Roseman (ex-Carr) of 191a Jamaica Road, Bermondsey [London], he resided at New Cross (Brockley Cemetery)