Thursday 31 March 2016

In the Shadow of the Sphinx

Friday 31st March 1916: The photograph above shows a mounted section of 2nd/1st East Anglian Royal Engineers and was sent by Pioneer W T King of 17 Gwyn Street, Bedford. The Great Pyramid is in the background. Pioneer King says the horse he is riding is a Russian one. He describes the life of a soldier as a strenuous one and says he could sleep on a clothes line, but is not sorry he joined the Army, as he has seen things he would never have seen otherwise. Although the food has much improved of late, he thanks his relations and friends sincerely for parcels and confesses a weakness for chocolates.

The picture shows (left to right): Sergeant E Mears; Sapper Blackwell; Driver Moore; Pioneer Marks; Driver Newbury; Pioneer King; Pioneer W T King and Sapper Cordingley.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 20th April 1916

Roll of Honour - 31st March 1916

Killed in Action

1st Battalion: relief from front line near Arras
  • 20136 Private Frederick George WILSON, born and resided Little Hallingbury [Essex] (Faubourg d'Amiens Cemetery, Arras)

Died of Wounds

1st Battalion
  • 8198 Corporal Alfred WHEATLEY, born Beeston, resided Langford (Faubourg d'Amiens Cemetery, Arras)


3rd Battalion
  • 27007 Private Horace William LILLYWHITE, 34, born Connington [Huntingdonshire] resided Ramsey [Huntingdonshire] (Felixstowe New Cemetery)

Wednesday 30 March 2016

The Death of Lieutenant Whittemore

Thursday 30th March 1916: The adjutant of the 1st Battalion at Saint-Laurent-Blangy near Arras tells us that Lieutenant Frank Whittemore was killed yesterday. He was out on patrol with Sergeant Quince and Private A Winch and was mortally wounded. In spite of the efforts by the sergeant and private to bring back his body under rifle and grenade fire, it was impossible to recover it. Thus, like tens of thousands of soldiers already in this war Lieutenant Whittemore suffers the double indignity of being killed and going unburied – his body left to decay in no man’s land(1)

Lieutenant Whittemore was nearly 40 years old, was educated at Bedford and joined as a private in the 2nd Battalion  in 1893. After serving for some time in England he was transferred to the 1st Battalion with which he served in India. Rejoining the 2nd Battalion, the deceased served in the Boer War, taking part in operations in Orange River Colony and the Transvaal for which he received the Queen’s Medal, with three clasps. Returning from South Africa he remained in England for three years and then left again with the 2nd Battalion, being ultimately stationed in Gibraltar, where he was promoted to Company Sergeant Major, Bermuda and South Africa. On his return to England he be mobilised for the present war and was through the first Battle of Ypres, where he received his commission. Being wounded he returned home and after recovering was posted to the 1st Battalion with which he saw fighting at Hill 60. For his bravery here he was mentioned in despatches, London Gazette, 1st January 1916 and was shortly afterwards awarded the Military Cross for services in the field. Here also he was gassed and again wounded. The dead lieutenant leaves a widow and four children.

Source: Bedfordshire Times, 20th April 1916

(1) Lieutenant Whittemore indeed has no known grave and is commemorated on the Arras Memorial. Sergeant Edward Quince MM from Sandy would be killed on the Somme on 27th July 1916 and likewise go unburied, being commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.

Roll of Honour - 30th March 1916

Killed in Action

1st Battalion: front line near Arras
  • 15577 Private William GAMBLE born Hemel Hempstead [Hertfordshire] resided Boxmoor [Hertfordshire] (Faubourg d'Amiens Cemetery, Arras)


Bedfordshire Yeomanry

  • 1922 Private Ephraim William MOORING, 20, son of Arthur Harry and Elizabeth Ann Mooring of 21 Regent Street, Dunstable, resided Bedford (Dunstable Cemetery)

Tuesday 29 March 2016

The Bravest Man in the Battalion?

Lieutenant Hurrell and Captain Wynne [X550/1/81] 

Wednesday 29th March 1916: the acting adjutant of the 2nd Battalion, Second Lieutenant F A Sloan, at la Houssoye told us that yesterday there was a demonstration showing how effective the new smoke helmets are against gas. Captain R O Wynne and the adjutant Lieutenant J W Hurrell were admitted to hospital, sick, it is not believed that this was from the effects of the gas demonstration or the bug which seems to be running through the battalion.

The adjutant told us that a former commander of the Battalion who is now a general – R L Curteis, forwarded to his successor as commanding officer the sum of £5. This was to be awarded to the soldier of the rank of Sergeant or below who, in the opinion of all ranks, had performed the most gallant act of offense during the war without receiving official recognition. This excellent idea was taken up with alacrity and his comrades decided that the reward should fall to Corporal Freshwater, who comes from Willesden in London.

Accordingly at 2.30 pm yesterday Brigadier Stanley DSO, commanding 89th Infantry Brigade presented the money to Corporal G.Freshwater. It was a reward for the following act of gallantry: "At Neuve-Chapelle on the 12th March 1915, Captain C C Foss VC, DSO called for volunteers to capture a trench which the enemy had taken. Corporal Freshwater (then a Private) at once volunteered and called on others to follow his example and accompany Captain Foss. The party consisting of one officer and six bombers recaptured the lost trench and took 54 German prisoners. Corporal Freshwater showed exceptional courage and was the second man to enter the German trench". All the other men received gallantry awards, including the Victoria Cross for Captain Foss. By some oversight Corporal Freshwater had received nothing.

On the arrival of the Brigadier the Battalion presented arms and formed three sides of a square. Brigadier Stanley addressed the Battalion as follows: “Officers, NCOs and Men of the 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regt. Colonel Poyntz has done me the honour of asking me to present the sum of £5 to Corporal Freshwater” and addressed him as follows: “Corporal Freshwater it affords me the greatest pleasure to present to you the sum of £5, you have been chosen by your comrades as having performed the most gallant act during the war, without receiving any award or recognition and I am assured you thoroughly deserve it. It must afford you the greatest pleasure to know that you have been unanimously chosen by your comrades to receive this award as a brave man”.

After this ceremony the Brigadier made the following address to the Battalion.
“Some 3½ months ago I had the pleasure of welcoming you into my Brigade and I felt that I should be proud of you. I find that I have had just cause to be so, and anything I required doing in the Trenches I received immediate response from the 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regt. Officers and Men carried out all duties with vigour and exactitude and I feel that I can rely on you under every circumstance. You have always shown a willingness which affords me the greatest pleasure - Colonel Poyntz I congratulate you on your fine battalion”(1).

Source: X550/3/wd

(1) Sadly Corporal George Freshwater did not have long to enjoy his reward, as he died of wounds on 8th July 1916. According to a historic inflation calculator ( £5 in 1916 was worth just over £450 by 2016 standards.

Roll of Honour - 29th March 1916

Killed in Action

1st Battalion: on patrol near Arras and his body could not be recovered from No man's Land
  • Lieutenant Frederick WHITTEMORE (Arras Memorial)

Monday 28 March 2016

Dreadful Conditions in a Prisoner-of-War Camp

Wittenberg market square by Leon Petrosyan 

Tuesday 28th March 1916: Biggleswade’s Private Albert Freeman of the 1st Bedfords is languishing in a prisoner-of-war camp in Germany at a place called Wittenberg. A recent report has made it clear that this may be the worst camp in Germany. The report tells of 15,000 prisoners being herded together in a 10½ acres confine(1). There were English, French and Russian. The latter had the seeds of typhus in them, but the ‘Germhuns’ ordered that the prisoners be mixed together and a terrible epidemic was the result.

The report in The Times states that washing facilities were very basic, one cupful of soft soap being allocated to every 120 men. When the typhus epidemic broke out all the German medical staff fled the camp. A British doctor ordered to the camp by the Germans in February says that there were no mattresses, sick men being carried on tables the men ate from which could not be washed as there was no soap. Even healthier men lost limbs to gangrene due to lack of socks.

We understand that the German Chief Medical Officer in charge of the camp, Dr. Aschenbach, routinely spoke of “English swine” and that when the dead were carried out the cultured people of Wittenberg were allowed to jeer at the coffins.

Source: Biggleswade Chronicle 21st April 1916

(1) Roughly six football pitches giving a density of 2,500 men per pitch.

Sunday 27 March 2016


Lieutenant W White [X550/1/81]

Monday 27th March 1916: Sickness is running through the 2nd Battalion at the moment. We heard yesterday how 25 men had gone sick last week. Today an officer, Lieutenant W White(1) has also had to report sick. At the end of a long, hard, snowy winter the men’s health is not likely to be at its best. Let us hope for a warm, dry Spring for them

Source: X550/3/wd

(1) He would be killed at Gird Trench on the Somme on 12th October 1916

Roll of Honour - 27th March 1916


10th Battalion
  • 25143 Private George Aubrey CHURCH, 17, son of Thomas and Eliza Church of New Street, Irchester [Northamptonshire] (Dovercourt (All Saints) Churchyard)

Saturday 26 March 2016

Football and Sickness

 Lieutenant C G Tyler [X550/1/81]

Sunday 26th March 1916: The adjutant of the 2nd Battalion tells us that football matches are still going on now they are behind the lines at la Houssoye. Yesterday the Battalion defeated the 17th Battalion, King’s (Liverpool) Regiment by one goal to nil. A new officer Lieutenant C G Tyler(1) also arrived. He also reported that during the week 25 men had gone sick; even though it is now, technically, Spring the weather remains cold.

Source: X550/3/wd

(1) He would be killed on 11th July 1916

Roll of Honour - 26th March 1916

Died of Wounds

1st/5th Battalion
  • 4083 Corporal Sydney Francis WARING, 31, husband of Mary of 26 Elizabeth Street, Luton (Luton General Cemetery, Rothesay Road)

Friday 25 March 2016

Bedfordshire Regiment Losses Since July 1915

Saturday 25th March 1916: readers will remember that the three service battalions of the Bedfordshire Regiment (6th, 7th and 8th) have reported the numbers of men killed or died of wounds so far in their time in France as: 14 for 6th Battalion; 35 for 7th Battalion and 78 for 8th Battalion.

The 1st Battalion has lost a comparable number of comrades – 53. They have not been involved in any major battles. The remaining two Battalions have lost, sadly, many more. The adjutant of 1st/5th Battalion, which lost significantly in Gallipoli reports fatalities as 95. The 2nd Battalion, which was heavily engaged at Loos is the unlucky “winner” of this grisly contest having lost 136.

Thursday 24 March 2016

Accidents, Arrivals and Games

2nd Lieutenants L A L Fink and L H Fox [X550/1/81]

Friday 24th March 1916: The 2nd Battalion have been on the assault course at la Houssoye and the adjutant told us that one man was wounded whilst training. Two officers have just joined - Second Lieutenants L A L Fink and L H Fox(1); and the officers beat the sergeants in a football match by 4 goals to 3. Even when out of the front line and at rest life can be pretty busy.

Source: X550/3/wd

(1) Second Lieutenant Fox was killed on 11th July 1916 and Captain Fink on 5th October 1917

Wednesday 23 March 2016


Thursday 23rd March 1916: The figures quoted in the last few days for losses incurred by the 6th and 8th Battalions have made us wonder about other battalions of the Regiment. Upon making enquiries we have learned that 35 men of the 7th Battalion have lost their lives since arriving in France last July. The Bedfordshire Yeomanry have lost six up to this point. The 1st, 2nd and 1st/5th Battalions, of course, have seen hard fighting and it will take some time to assess their casualties in the same period.

Tuesday 22 March 2016

On the Beach

Wednesday 22nd March 1916: The 8th Battalion are on the beach at Calais. They are not, however, taking in the sun from a deck chair or making sand castles. They are training on the firm sand as they expect to go back into the line near Ypres some time next month.

Source: X550/9/1

Roll of Honour - 22nd March 1916

Killed in Action

10th Battalion
  • Temporary Second Lieutenant Charles Walter Fyfe WOOLNOUGH, attached 69th Company, Machine Gun Corps, aged 20 (Tranchée de Mecknes Cemetery, Aix-Noulette)


6th Battalion
  • 17731 Private Reginald Sidney WILDMAN, 22, born and resided Riseley, son of Samuel Wildman of Ringstead Road, Denford [Northamptonshire] (Sainte-Marie Cemetery, le Havre)

Monday 21 March 2016

A Warm Route March

Tuesday 21st March 1916: We have heard that the 1st/5th Battalion, stationed at Mena Camp in the shadow of the Pyramids, went on a route march yesterday towards Cairo and back. On a pleasant spring day in England that would be no chore, but they were on a road that is not far from the desert on either side. The temperature is often around 75 degrees and had get as high as 100 on exceptional occasions. Yesterday was in the low 70s, quite enough to raise a sweat in full kit.

Sources: X550/6/8

Roll of Honour - 21st March 1916

Died of Wounds

7th Battalion
  • 16549 Private Edgar HARRIS, 23, D Company, son of Alfred and Sarah Harris of Flint Cottage, Flamstead [Hertfordshire] (Corbie Communal Cemetery)

Sunday 20 March 2016

Complete Rest

Monday 20th March 1916: The 6th Battalion have been given a complete rest for the next three days at the village of Humbercamps. They have had a tour of seven months in the trenches and the men are enjoying bathing and generally cleaning up.

Since they first went into the trenches last year the Battalion has lost fourteen comrades. This is a remarkably low number, especially compared to the 8th Battalion mentioned yesterday, but every death is a cause of someone’s grief.

Source: X550/7/1

Roll of Honour - 20th March 1916


3rd Battalion
  • 22082 Private Heber BRIGHTMAN, 37, born Berkhamstead [Hertfordshire], resided Watford [Hertfordshire], husband of Florence of 65 Vale Road, Bushey [Hertfordshire] (Watford Cemetery)

Saturday 19 March 2016

In Calais

Sunday 19th March 1916: The 8th Battalion are currently in Calais. They left the line near Ypres at 10 pm on 16th and arrived at Calais at 2.30 yesterday morning. They are sleeping under canvas.

Since they arrived in France in September last year the Battalion has lost 78 of its number killed in action or died of wounds. This is nearly 8% of their total strength.

Source: X550/9/1

Roll of Honour - 19th March 1916

Killed in Action

4th Battalion
  • Temporary Lieutenant Antrobus Taft HARRIS, attached 1st Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment (Cité Bonjean Military Cemetery, Armentières)

Friday 18 March 2016

What are Trench Stores?

Saturday 18th March 1916: The adjutant of the 7th Battalion mentioned casually to us that he had just been checking the trench stores in preparation for handing them over to another unit when the battalion was relieved in the front line. Intrigued as to what they are we asked him and he gave us a list. They are things which stay in the trench for the benefit of the unit manning it, they notionally belong to one unit or another but are used in common by all.

The stores are as follows:
  • 8 trench stretchers;
  • 4 1½ inch Verey pistols belonging to 7th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment;
  • Periscopes;
  • 4 visual signalling lamps belonging to the Bedfords;
  • 4 stands for the visual signalling lamps belonging to the Bedfords;
  • 2 telescopes belonging to the Bedfords;
  • 2 stands for the telescopes belonging to the Bedfords;
  • 12 discs belonging to the Bedfords
  • 1 twelve way commutator belonging to the 6th Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment(1);
  • 324 ammunition magazines (216 belonging to the Northamptons and 108 to the Bedfords)(2);
  • 4 tripods (2 belonging to the Bedfords and 2 to the Northamptons);
  • 16 panniers belonging to the Northamptons;
  • 8 boilers per company for a total of 32;
  • 2 camp kettles per company for a total of 8;
  • 10 camp kettles for Battalion Headquarters;
  • 4 fryers per company for a total of 16
Source: X550/8/1

(1) A device for altering the course of electrical current
(2) Probably Lewis Gun magazines

Thursday 17 March 2016

Flamethrower Exhibition

German flamethrowers

Friday 17th March 1916: the adjutant of the 6th Battalion tells us that yesterday the battalion attended a demonstration of a German flamethrower. This monstrous weapon unleashes a jet of fire in the same way a hose discharges water. This barbaric thing was first adopted by the Germans as long ago as 1911 and was first used by them in war against the French at Verdun in February last year. Readers may remember their infamous use against our men at Hooge near Ypres on 30th July last year. It is to be hoped that the demonstration discovered weak points which can be targeted by efficient snipers.

Source: X550/7/1

Roll of Honour - 17th March 1916


2nd Battalion
  • 3/7719 Private F WEST husband of Eliza of High Street, Henlow, he served in the 2nd Boer War (Arlesey (Saint Peter) Churchyard)

Wednesday 16 March 2016

6th Battalion News

Lieutenant Prickett

Thursday 16th March 1916: The adjutant of the 6th Battalion tells us that although they are in support near the town of Bienvillers-au-Bois, 300 men, about a third of the Battalion, are working in the front line repairing barbed wire, parapets, communication trenches and other vital things for defending the line. Lieutenant R Prickett arrived on 14th along with a returning Captain Blake meaning that the quota of officers is at full strength.

Source: X550/7/1

Roll of Honour - 16th March 1916

Killed in Action

7th Battalion: front line trenches near Carnoy
  • 13891 Corporal Albert JORDAN, 33, born Birmingham [Warwickshire], husband of Phyllis Mary Ann Hoare (ex-Jordan) of Mytrle Hill, Pill [Somerset] (Carnoy Military Cemetery)

8th Battalion: relieved from front line trenches near Ypres
  • 20785 Private Albert CHILDERLEY born Fenstanton [Huntingdonshire] resided Great Stukeley [Huntingdonshire] (Menin Road South Military Cemetery)
  • 8316 Company Sergeant Major Claude Richard COAN born and resided North Heigham [Norfolk] (Menin Road South Military Cemetery)
  • 17459 Corporal Ernest DEVEREUX born and resided Campton (Menin Road South Military Cemetery)
  • 19922 Private Frederick Thomas UNDERWOOD born and resided Ickleford [Hertfordshire] (Menin Road South Military Cemetery)

Tuesday 15 March 2016

Killed in a Cellar

Wednesday 15th March 1916: Last night Corporal Lewis Hill, 2nd Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment, one of three soldier sons of Mrs Hill of 12 New Town-street, Luton and formerly of 17 Cobden-street has been killed in France, fragments of a shell entering a cellar in which he and other men were taking shelter and killing two while the others escaped unhurt(1). Corporal Hill, who was 24 years of age, joined the Bedfords four years ago and was with the 2nd Battalion in South Africa when war was declared. He had been in France since October 1914.

Private H Bacchus(2) broke the bad news to Mrs Hill: “We were in defence billets and were shelled out. One shell burst into the place where we were lying and killed poor Lewis straight out. He died very peacefully and never spoke. We buried him respectfully this afternoon in a little cemetery just behind the firing line”(3).

The chaplain of 30th Division has sent a photograph of the cemetery to the grieving mother explaining: “When the war is over the cemetery will become the property of the British Government, who will arrange for its preservation and erect a permanent memorial over those buried in it”(4).

Source: Luton News 30th March 1916

(1) The war diary of the Battalion says one man was wounded in addition to the two killed – the other being Sergeant Walter Smith of Sandon [Hertfordshire]. They are buried beside one another.

(2) Himself killed on 29th June 1916.

(3) Cérisy-Gailly Military Cemetery.

(4) The Graves Registration Commission, which became the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, was established by Sir Fabian Ware (1869-1949), later a Major-General, whilst commanding a Red Cross mobile ambulance unit  in 1915, becoming the Imperial War Graves Commission in 1917.

Roll of Honour - 15th March 1916


3rd Battalion
  • 26111 Private George Edward SAVAGE, son of Firman and Catherine Savage of Glatton [Huntingdonshire] (Glatton (Saint Nicholas) Churchyard)

Monday 14 March 2016

Soldier’s Opinion of the Conscientious Objector

Tuesday 14th March 1916: Now that men are being conscripted into the armed forces some of those called up are refusing to serve, siting a conscientious objection to taking human life. Lance Corporal William Arthur Barker of 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment has sent us his opinion of such a stance(1).

“May I say a few words about conscientious objectors. I have just returned from the Front for seven days’ leave, after fighting out there all the time with the 1st Bedfordshire Regiment. We have a paper to read in the trenches now and then and we are disgusted to see columns about men who refuse to fight. Do these people realise we are fighting to protect the women and children of this country against the outrage and ill-treatment received by the people of France and Belgium? What do the conscientious objectors think when they read of the terrible German poison gas and the liquid fire they use against us? I am speaking for my comrades and myself, and we say that the conscientious objector who would see our fair country overrun by Germans without raising a hand to help it should not live another minute under the protection of the British Flag. Other nations look upon us as a great and powerful nation, fighting for the rights of the smaller peoples, and yet we have men afraid to fight. I say with a chorus of approval from my brother Tommies in the trenches that we are fighting for the right, that God is with us, and that victory will come to us, although it appears to come but slowly. I feel angry about these reports of conscientious objectors and I am glad I am fighting for my country. I would not leave the boys in the trenches for long if I could”. “

Just one more word – single men first and married men after. Why tear the married man from home and children whilst the single man remains behind?”(2)

Source: 20th April 1916

(1) Lance Corporal Barker, from Toddington, would be killed in action on 25th September 1916 during the Battle of the Somme. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.

(2) This is, indeed, how conscription worked, with single men and childless widowers between 18 and 41 the first to be called up, in March, though in May the call was extended to married men. The upper limit was raised to 50 and even 56 in 1918. The measure was not popular. By July 1916 about 30% of those called up had failed to show. Around 2% of those refusing to serve were conscientious objectors, of whom 7,000 were allowed non-combatant duties, 3,000 were sent to work camps and 6,000 were imprisoned.

Roll of Honour - 14th March 1916

Killed in Action

2nd Battalion: shelled in Maricourt Defences
  • 10092 Corporal Lewis HILL, born and resided Luton (Cérisy-Gailly Military Cemetery)
  • 10207 Private Charles James SIMMS, 20, son of Alfred and Laura Simms of Bedford (Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez)
  • 6507 Sergeant Walter SMITH born Sandon [Hertfordshire] resided Hitchin [Hertfordshire] (Cérisy-Gailly Military Cemetery)

Died of Wounds

8th Battalion
  • 19607 Private George WILSON born and resided Southwark [London] (Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery)

Sunday 13 March 2016

An Engineer in Egypt Part II

10 Piastre coin of 1916 

Monday 13th March 1916: Sapper W H James of the Royal Engineers is the son of Company Sergeant Major James of the 1st Field Company East Anglian Royal Engineers. The son is now in Egypt at Sidi Bishr Camp just outside Alexandria. He has been telling us of his experiences and giving us his observations.

“By dint of tram and route march we arrived at Sidi Bishr. The camp is a fine one, right on the sea-shore, so we get the chance of a dip in the sea two or three times a day if we feel inclined. Of course it is very hot here. After only two days I am a picture. My nose is a nice brick red colour  while my neck, so my pals say, is black. It is a glorious life here , I have been walking about all day in a pair of white sand shoes and in my shirt sleeves. It seems funny to think of you all at home enjoying (perhaps) the capricious moods of an English March, while we out here are divesting ourselves of every rag that we can, of course consistent with decency”.

“It is curious to notice how the women here undertake all sorts of work, while the men sit about and drink cooling drinks. Of course if a man has half a dozen wives and they all work there should be no necessity for him to do so”.

“The money here causes some consternation among the new-comers and they regard with great suspicion the change given them. The piastre is the chief coin here, but Tommy is not a bit particular and “pianos” and “disasters” are alternatives in the current use. One fellow in the same tent as myself bought a cake at the canteen, for which he was charged ½ a piastre and in payment for which he presented a florin and was paid the change in nickel piastres and ¼ piastres. He shot back to the tent like a thunderbolt and nearly exploded with the information that he’d got a pocketful of shillings and six pence change out of two shillings!”

Source: Bedfordshire Times 14th April 1916

Roll of Honour - 13th March 1916

Killed in Action

8th Battalion: front line trenches near Ypres

  • 17353 Lance Corporal Arthur AKERS born Little Amwell [Hertfordshire], resided Hertford Heath [Hertfordshire] (Menin Road South Military Cemetery)

Saturday 12 March 2016

An Engineer in Egypt Part I

Sunday 12th March 1916: Sapper W H James of the Royal Engineers is the son of Company Sergeant Major James of the 1st Field Company East Anglian Royal Engineers. The son is now in Egypt at Sidi Bishr Camp just outside Alexandria. He has been telling us of his experiences and giving us his observations.

“At first I was not struck with the beauty of Alexandria. It may have a history that goes back something like 3,000 years or more(1), but history will not cover the fact that near the docks the place is filthy. Nevertheless, it is interesting. Imagine row after row of ancient Eastern temples with their fronts knocked out and turned into rag shops; refreshment house, outside which sit men of all colours of the rainbow, drinking extremely suspicious concoctions; factories working at high pressure, but having no roof to them, and a great number of shops having apparently nothing  for sale, but outside which, serenely smoking in comfortable easy-chairs, sit the proprietors, their faces an object lesson in contentment, and you have some idea of Alexandria, or the parts of it nearer to the docks. Of course there are some fine streets and buildings in the main part of the town. As to its inhabitants – well, of course, the place is extremely Cosmopolitan, in other words the inhabitants are all the colours of the rainbow, or very nearly so. Coal black faces, brown faces, and faces even whiter than my own is at the present time, are to be seen at every turning. There are a tremendous number of Jews here, too, principally, I think, of Russian extraction besides, of course, Egyptians, Arabs and Europeans of every possible nationality. What excited a good deal of interest were Moslem women wearing Yash-maks, those veils covering the lower parts of the face. We could not have chosen a better time to arrive. The whole population of Alexandria, more or less, had turned out to see a fire, and we had the pleasure of inspecting the fire brigade. Some brigade. Then we passed a Moslem temple, or praying house, where in full view of passers-by, devout Alexandrians were bowing and scraping. It seemed peculiar to see the worshippers taking off their boots on the doorstep before venturing within”.

Source: Bedfordshire Times 14th April 1916

(1) It was founded by Alexander the Great, whose name it bears, about 331 BC.

Roll of Honour - 12th March 1916

Killed in Action

8th Battalion: front line trenches near Ypres
  • 16744 Private Frank Herbert KEMP, born Clerkenwell [London], resided Barnsbury [London] (Menin Road South Military Cemetery)
  • 16844 Private William George MILTON, 23, son of David and Edith Milton of Mill House, Great Gransden [Huntingdonshire] (Menin Road South Military Cemetery)


3rd Battalion
  • 26094 Private William RICHARDSON, 19, born and resided Warboys [Huntingdonshire], son of Mary Richardson of Mill Farm, Alconbury [Huntingdonshire] (Warboys Church Cemetery)

Friday 11 March 2016

Settling In Eventful

Saturday 11th March 1916: The 1st Battalion’s first few days in their new home near Arras have been eventful. The night before last Second Lieutenant Beale and one of his men were wounded when out on patrol in no man’s land when a German patrol threw a bomb at them. Then yesterday Second Lieutenant Cook was shot through the head by a sniper and killed instantly.

Source: X550/2/5

Roll of Honour - 11th March 1916

Killed in Action

1st Battalion: shot through the head by a sniper in front line near Saint-Laurent Blangy
  • Temporary Second Lieutenant Charles Adam COOK, 24, son of W H Cook of Hertford (Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez)

2nd Battalion: shelling in front line near Maricourt
  • 4/6575 Private Henry BEACH, born and resided Old Southgate [Middlesex] (Cérisy-Gailly Military Cemetery)
  • 16396 Private Charles CHAPMAN, born and resided Shingay [Hertfordshire] (Menin Road South Military Cemetery)

Died of Wounds

8th Battalion
  • 16792 Private Frederick William SUTHERLAND, 37, born Penkhull [Staffordshire] son of W Sutherland of 40 Darnley Street Shelton [Staffordshire] (Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery)

Thursday 10 March 2016

First Man from Stevington to Join Up Dies

Lance Corporal Aspley

Friday 10th March 1916: The parents of Lance Corporal Henry George Aspley of 7th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, have just learned that he has died while a prisoner-of-war near Fricourt, Germany, from wounds received in action. The news caused quite a gloom in the village of Stevington, where the deceased was popular amongst his many friends and was held in much esteem. He was a good cricketer, a member of the Parish Church Choir and a general favourite. He was the first to enlist from Stevington after the outbreak of war joining the Colours on 1st September 1914(1).

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 10th March 1916

(1) This account is quite puzzling as Lance Corporal Aspley is stated to have been killed in action on 8th January 1916 rather than dying of wounds. Fricourt is on the Somme, rather than Germany as stated in the article, and the 7th Bedfords were in the line at the time opposite the village. The likeliest explanation seems to be that Lance Corporal was wounded on a patrol or in a raid, captured and died almost immediately. The 7th Battalion diary is very thorough and mentions no raids or men being captured but there is a cryptic entry for 7th January which reads: “Ever endeavour is being made to reclaim Matterhorn Trench” so perhaps it was here that Aspley was wounded and captured.

Roll of Honour - 10th March 1916

Died of Wounds

7th Battalion
  • 18176 Private Alexander GOLLIN born Saint Pancras [London] resided Leigh-on-Sea [Essex] (Carnoy Military Cemetery)

Wednesday 9 March 2016

1st Battalion near Arras

Thursday 9th March 1916: We understand that the 1st Battalion has moved from the Somme area to the Arras area to the north and are now in the front line near the village of Saint-Laurent-Blangy. Their advanced posts are in the ruins of houses in the village and are just ten yards from the German advanced posts. The adjutant commented that: “The front line trenches are pretty good, but there is no supporting line and communications are bad. A good deal of work is required in the sector, improving communication trenches and draining chiefly”. Their first night in their new home was quiet but there was a considerable fall of snow.

Source: X550/2/5

Tuesday 8 March 2016

Médaille Militaire

Médaille Militaire by F du Til 

Wednesday 8th March 1916: We heard from Regimental Sergeant Major Alick Milton of the 1st/5th Bedfords on 3rd March. Now we hear that the Bedford native, from 16 Sandhurst Road, has received the Médaille Militaire from the French government. It is the custom of allied governments to make a certain number of their own decorations available to their allies, to be given to worthy recipients. RSM Milton was promoted to his current post when RSM Munton was invalided home from Gallipoli last year. He is very popular with his officers and men and his many friends in Bedford are pleased to learn of his deserved award for gallantry in the field, having taken a prominent part in the Battalion’s heroic charge at Suvla Bay in August last year.

Source: Bedfordshire Times 7th April 1916

Monday 7 March 2016

DCM by Post

Tuesday 7th March 1916: A supplement to the London Gazette for 14th January briefly announced that His Majesty had approved the awarding of a Distinguished Conduct Medal to Private Arthur Webb of 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, in recognition of services on the Western Front. Nothing further was heard in the Biggleswade district until last week, when Private Webb’s wife, who resides at Ickwell-road, Upper Caldecote, received the following letter from the 9th District Infantry Record Office, Warley. It was dated 1st March and was as follows – “Madam – In accordance with the request of 8411 Private A Webb, 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, I am forwarding you herewith his Distinguished Conduct Medal – Yours faithfully G Fitzgerald, Captain, for Officer Commanding Records, 9th District”. Private Webb is well-known in the Biggleswade district and is the son of Mr and Mrs Webb of Common Gate Cottage and his many friends are pleased to know that his services in the field have been recognised. He was in the Reserve when war was declared and was formerly employed by Messrs Wells and Winch Limited at the brewery(1). He went to France with the first Expeditionary Force and fought at Mons and in practically all the big engagements. He went through all of these unharmed and when he came home on a week’s leave with a comrade, Private C Butcher, who also went to France in August 1914, both men looked in perfect trim. The Biggleswade DCM has a brother on active service, Lance Corporal Webb of the Norfolk Regiment. The latter went from India to the Persian Gulf Expeditionary Force and was wounded some time ago. He had a very narrow escape then of being killed, for a bullet pierced the front of his tunic and but for a book which he had in his pocket, he must have been killed. Lance Corporal Webb has had his tunic, book and the bullet photographed, and only last week he sent home a copy from India where he has been recuperating after his injury.

The act that won Private Webb the DCM was for his conveyance of rations to the trenches. We are informed that owing to the fierce bombardment by the enemy of the British trenches and the district round it was almost impossible for two days to get through with food transport. On the day in question the officer thought it impossible to get through, but Webb undertook the task and set off with his van across the shell swept zone. It was a most perilous journey but Webb accomplished it safely and reached the given point with the food supply for his comrades of the “Brave Bedfords”. It was, however, a journey fraught with grave danger and some idea of it may be gathered when we state that one of Webb’s horses was hit by shrapnel bullets eighteen times. For the accomplishment of this task he won the coveted honour and we heartily congratulate him in gaining this well merited reward.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 17th March 1916

(1) The brewery was in Biggleswade and the firm was taken over by Suffolk brewers Greene King in 1961.