Tuesday 31 May 2016

More Trench Poetry

Wednesday 31st May 1916: Sergeant J Curran back in Blighty with the 3rd Bedfordshire Regiment(1) sends us the following verses composed by one of the men of his late Regiment, 8th Bedfords:

“When you’re sleeping on the fire-step in a blanket soakin’ wet;
When the mud is in your eyes and mouth, and in your ‘air you bet;
When the rain comes through your dug-out roof and drops upon your nose;
When your feet are blinkin’ ice-bergs and you ‘aven’t got no toes;
When the “neighbours” in your shirt are dancin’ horn-pipes on your chest;
When you’ve dug for fourteen days on end and haven’t ‘ad no rest;
When the Corp’ral’s pinched your rations and the Serg’nt’s pinched your rum”
“Never curse or swear, my Lad – Remember Belgi-um”

“When the “Alleman” blows off your ‘at or ‘elmet with a “crump”;
When the aerial torpedoes scarcely give you time to jump;
When you’re always in the ‘ottest part and never ‘ave no luck;
When the “whiz-bangs” come so thick, you ‘aven’t got a chance to duck;
When trench-mortars, bombs, and shrapnel seem to ‘ave a love for you;
When in trying to retaliate your own guns shell you too;
When you ‘ear the bullets singing and your ‘ead they nearly ‘it;
Never mind, but just remember you’re a-doing of you “Bit””

“When your billets in a low shed and the bloomin’ roof all leaks;
When you’re only paid five francs for pretty near a dozen weeks;
When, if “sick” the doctor gives you M and D and sends you back;
When you’ve lost your iron rations, your smoke ‘elmet and your pack;
When your rifle’s choked with mud and you get “F.P.” number two(2);
When your pals all go to Blighty – every bloomin’ one but you;
When you’ve got to “Pop the Parapet” and courage is at zero –
Just remember who you are, my boy, a Bloomin’ British ‘Ero!”(3)

Source: Bedfordshire Times 9th June 1916

(1) Almost certainly recovering from wounds or disease.
(2) Field Punishment No. 2 – the prisoner was bound at the wrists in chains or placed in handcuffs for up to two hours per day for up to 28 days

(3) This splendid poem seems to be modelled in style on Rudyard Kipling’s “Barrack Room Ballads”

Monday 30 May 2016

Mentioned in Despatches

Tuesday 30th May 1916: the adjutant of the 7th Battalion reports that the Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force, Sir Douglas Haig, has, in his first despatch published in the London Gazette Supplement, singled out around one hundred units for praise, including the 7th Battalion. His words are: “While many other units have done excellent work during the period under review, the following have been specially brought to my notice for good work in carrying out or repelling local attacks and raids”. No doubt Sir Douglas had the battalion’s raid on 26th/27th April in mind.

Source: X550/8/1

Roll of Honour - 30th May 1916

Killed in Action

6th Battalion: front line at Monchy-au-Bouis, bombardment
  • 20672 Private Thomas BALDWIN, son of A Baldwin of Walnut Tree Cottage, Farnham [Essex] (Bienvillers Military Cemetery)
  • 12430 Private Arthur Percy TILLEY, born Swindon [Wiltshire], resided Marylebone [London] (Bienvillers Military Cemetery)

8th Battalion: front line at Yser Canal bank
  • 17476 Private Douglas ENTICKNAP, 19, born Pagham [Sussex], resided Essendon [Hertfordshire], son of Alfred and Ellen Enticknap of Glenirsk, London Colney [Hertfordshire] (Essex Farm Cemetery, Ypres)
  • 15651 Lance Corporal George KIME, 21, son of John and Elizabeth Kime, born and resided Cheshunt [Hertfordshire] (Essex Farm Cemetery, Ypres)

Sunday 29 May 2016

Congratulations for Digging

30th Division badge

Monday 29th May 1916: The Bedfordshire Regiment have a special reputation for being good workers and have won praise whenever they have had to do a hard job in the way of digging trenches and constructing fortifications. A formidable task of this nature was allotted to the 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire two nights ago when, together with the Wiltshire Regiment they were called upon to dig 1,500 yards of new trench to as to bring the line 100 yards nearer to the enemy at Maricourt on the Somme. This work had to be done at night, of course and required most elaborate previous organisation, so that every man should know exactly where he had to go and what he had to do and in order that the work might proceed noiselessly. So successful was this organisation and so skilfully and vigorously was the work carried out in spite of machine gun and rifle fire not a single casualty occurred. The men had dug themselves in sufficiently to be under cover about half an hour before the enemy discovered the operations. The following congratulatory messages provide ample evidence of the meritorious nature of the achievement which has added to the high reputation of our County Regiment.

The General commanding the Division(1) wrote to the Brigadier(2): “I congratulate you on the result of your very thorough preparation. Please thank all ranks of the Bedfords and Wilts for the good work of last night”.

Source: Bedfordshire Times 9th June 1916; X550/3/wd

(1) Major-General Sir John Stuart Mackenzie Shea

(2) Frederick Charles Stanley, who was 4th son of the 16th Earl of Derby and brother of the 17th Earl of Derby who implemented the Derby Scheme which preceded conscription, becoming Secretary of State for war in December 1916. The crest of 30th Division was the Stanley family crest.

Saturday 28 May 2016

Percy the Prisoner from Potton

Sunday 28th May 1916: Writing home from Munster Camp, Germany, to his parents at Potton, Private Percy Richardson, a Bedfordshire Regiment man who is now a prisoner-of-war says: “Just a line to let you know I received parcel and cannot thank you enough for what you are doing for me since I have been a prisoner of war(1) but what I can’t do here I can do when I get home. I shall be more thought of when I get home than I was before. I am pleased to tell you my chum is taking over the organ as the other one is going to Switzerland"(2)

Source: Biggleswade Chronicle 9th June 1916

(1) The Biggleswade Chronicle sent comfort parcels to local men who were prisoners of war, bought with subscriptions from readers
(2) Possibly he was ill and being exchanged fro German prisoners, something which happened sporadically

Friday 27 May 2016

Best in Show

Saturday 27th May 1916: The adjutant of the 1st Battalion, now out of the line at Agnez-les-Duisans reports that the Battalion Transport took first place in the 15th Brigade Horse Show, which entitles it to compete in the 5th Division Horse Show. The Battalion also beat the 124th Battery, Royal Field Artillery in the 5th Division Football Competition.

Source: X550/2/5

Roll of Honour - 27th May 1916


1st Garrison Battalion
  • 24263 Private John Edward JAMES, 53, born Saint Pancras [London], husband of Emily of 4 Bulstrode Road, Hounslow [Middlesex] (Delhi War Cemetery)

Bedfordshire Yeomanry

  • 1821 Private Percy SHOTBOLT, 22, son of Walter and Elizabeth Shotbolt of 15 Arthur Street, Ampthill (Ampthill (Saint Andrew) Churchyard)

Thursday 26 May 2016

A Corporal Writes of Lieutenant Green

Lieutenant Green [X550/1/82]

Friday 26th May 1916: A letter has been received by the parents of Corporal A Sharpe whose home is at 13 Union Street, Dunstable in which reference is made to the death of Lieutenant Reginald Green. After stating that they have had to do extra duty in the trenches and that the weather has been pretty warm, he writes: “We had an officer killed last night, I am sorry to say, and perhaps you might know him as he is the son of Mr J W Green of the Brewery, Luton. He went out into No Man’s Land and unfortunately received a shot in the right thigh which proved fatal, death taking place a few hours afterwards. He was a very good officer indeed and he was in charge of my platoon. We are all very sorry at his death”.

Corporal Sharpe, it may be mentioned, has been at the Front since the early days of the war and has been twice wounded – once in the back with a dum-dum bullet, which was taken out of his side in five pieces, and later he lost the forefinger of his left hand, while he has also been in hospital twice since with fever and colic. But he writes in a cheerful strain and says he is “in the pink”. At the outbreak of war he was serving in South Africa with the 2nd Bedfords, but after convalescing from his first wounds, he was transferred to the 1st Bedfords, since when he has seen much active service.

Sources: Luton News 25th May 1916

(1) The dum-dum was a hollow point or soft point bullet, designed to expand on impact, causing a worse wound. It was designed in 1896 by Neville Bertie-Clay at the Dum Dum Arsenal near Calcutta in India. The bullet was banned by the Hague Convention three years later

Wednesday 25 May 2016

Soldiers Assault a Constable

Thursday 25th May 1916: Two soldiers concluded Empire Day celebrations by assaulting a policeman in Luton last night. They were William Olney, 2nd/5th Beds and Eli Mynott of the same regiment and these two privates were this morning charged at a special Borough Police-court, Olney with drunken and disorderly conduct, assault on police and wilful damage  and Mynott, who was not drunk  with also striking the constable and tripping him up with his stick. They pleaded guilty.

PC Odell (who has only just returned to duty after a bad attack of rheumatism and who looked very sick and bruised) said he encountered the two prisoners near the Old English Gentleman in Hitchin-road, about 9.45 pm and asked them to produce their passes. Olney at once became abusive and struck him on the mouth and chest and he had the greatest difficulty in handcuffing him. Nor was this accomplished before Olney had torn his tunic and the top off his helmet. Olney was very drunk but Mynott was not drunk. The latter, however, said: “Let’s make a fight of it” and struck witness several times over the head with his stick and also tripped him up more than once by catching him round the leg with the stick. A woman named Mrs Leach blew his whistle. There was a big crowd, some hundreds, he should think.

Mrs Leach of 47 Hitchin-road said she saw the two soldiers on the top of the constable and succeeded in getting hold of the policeman’s whistle and blowing it for assistance, being kicked on the leg in the struggle.

Sergeant Janes said he was called to the spot by telephone and arrested Mynott. Olney was got to the station with assistance. He was very drunk and using obscene language all the time. It was a very large and hostile crowd.

Chief Constable Teale said whilst out driving he saw the two men in Gipsy-lane and thought they looked like mischief then. They both appeared the worst for drink, he estimated the damage to the constable’s uniform and helmet at 10 shillings. Olney had previously been before the court for fighting before joining the Army. In fact he had been charged with unlawfully wounding a man on one occasion, but the charge was afterwards reduced to one of assault. He had also been bound over to keep the peace.

The Chairman (Mr H Cumberland) said they (M A B Attwood JP was also present) were sorry to see Olney again before the Court. Drink was evidently his downfall and it was bad for him. He had much better give it up. He would never efficiently defend his country if he continued to take it. For the drunkenness he would be fined 15 shillings or ten days’ imprisonment, for the assault on the constable £2 or 21 days and for the damage 15 shillings or ten days. The two ten days would run concurrently, so that he would have to go to prison for 31 days actually, and the hoped it would be a warning to him, although the previous convictions did not appear to have been so.

The Chief Constable, I should like to publicly thank Mrs Leach for the part she took in this little drama and would respectfully ask your Worship to hand her this 5 shillings. I think her conduct was most exemplary where so many cowardly men were standing by.

The Chairman: the justices appreciate very much what you did, Mrs Leach, and hope you example will be an incentive to others in similar circumstances.

Joseph Tearle said he saw Mynott strike the constable several times with a stick and did what he could to assist the constable and Sergeant Janes deposed to seeing the man trip the constable up with it.

The Chairman said Mynott was even worse than Olney, as it appeared he was not drunk at the time he assaulted the constable. He did not known whether he recognised the seriousness of his offence, but he would be fined £2 including costs or 21 days’ imprisonment. He should like to say they also appreciated the efforts the last witness had put forth to assist the police. These two witnesses had set and excellent example and had apparently been the only two to help the assaulted policeman in the execution of his duty, which was a disgrace to the rest of the crowd.

The Chief Constable said he should like to associate himself with the remarks of the Chairman.

Source: Luton News 25th May 1916

Tuesday 24 May 2016

More Uncertainty for Parents of 8th Bedfordshire Regiment Soldiers

Wednesday 24th May 1916: Following on from yesterday’s article about John Marlow we hear today about Mr and Mrs George Burr of Holwell [Hertfordshire] who are naturally very anxious as to the fate of two of their sons – Private Stanley Thomas Burr, aged 20 and Hedley Burr, aged 19, both of the Bedfordshire Regiment – whom the War Office have reported as missing since the gallant charge on 19th April by the Bedfords. A noble record of sacrifice is that of the Burr family. There are six sons in the Army, and in addition to the two who are missing, two others are at the Front – Sidney, Army Veterinary Corps, aged 21 and Alfred William, aged 17, who is also in the Bedfordshire Regiment. Two other sons are in England – Sergeant Herbert Burr, aged 26, who is married and an instructor at Ramsey and Arthur, aged 23, who is in the Herts Yeomanry. The sons worked for Mr Henry Gurney, farmer, the father still being in Mr Gurney’s employ(1)

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 19th May 1916

(1) Stanley Thomas was killed in action on 20th April 1916, presumably as the fighting after the German attack on the evening of 19th was coming to an end. Hedley seems to have been taken prisoner as he died on 14th November 1918 (three days after the Armistice) and is buried at Cologne Southern Cemetery. Their army numbers were, respectively, 22017 and 22013.

Roll of Honour - 24th May 1916


1st Garrison Battalion
  • 24884 Acting Corporal Percy Reginald RUDDOCK, 20, son of Thomas Alfred and Hannah Ruddock of The Heath, Norton [Suffolk] (Meerut Cantonment Cemetery)

Monday 23 May 2016

A Missing Son and a Crippled Daughter

Tuesday 23rd May 1916: The ordeal of the 8th Bedfords on 19th April still has repercussions. Dame Rumour has been bust with the name of Private J Marlow of 30 Spring Place, Luton and in order to remove the impression that he has been killed in action (whereas he has only been reported as missing) and in the hope that possibly his photo may be recognised and his mother’s anxiety appeased we reproduce it above.

This young Luton soldier – he is only eighteen years of age – commenced work at the early age of nine as an errand boy in the service of straw hat manufacturers H Rosson and Company of 90-92 Collingdon Street afterwards passing into the factory. He heard the call to arms and enlisted in the 8th Bedfords. He was trained at Shoreham and Blackdown and went to France last August. He was at the Battle of Loos and was gassed at Christmas but he otherwise escaped injury. His mother heard twice a week from him and with great punctuality sent him a weekly parcel until recently, when she decided to send a bigger parcel once a fortnight. His birthday was on May 9th and she had prepared a special parcel for that occasion when she received news that he was missing so the good things are awaiting news of his whereabouts.

The Luton News man was particularly interested in his little crippled sister. Miss Minnie is an
intelligent child of twelve years and cleverly manufactures penny gollywogs which she sells and takes the proceeds to Mr H W Covington in Cheapside who promptly smokes to the soldiers for the money. Miss Minnie has no objection to her philanthropic efforts ending in smoke, so long as her brother’s pals get a little enjoyment out of the fuminations and her mother showed our representative receipt from Mr Covington to little Miss Minnie’s order for 12s. 9d. for which he had forwarded 1,250 Woodbines, 3 packets of Player’s and a dozen boxes of matches to the Officer Commanding the 8th Beds, her brother’s regiment. She had several receipts for similar amounts, which spoke eloquently of Miss Minnie’s industry and goodness of heart.

Second Lieutenant Harry C Wealen wrote Mrs Marlow as follows: “Dear Madam: I expect by this time you have heard the news that your son is missing and I wish to convey my deep regret. As his whereabouts is uncertain it may be that he has been taken prisoner and I can only hope that in a few days’ time we may hear some definite news of him. Needless to say I am deeply grieved at losing the services of such a good soldier, but I can only add that I am immensely proud of those gallant few who held the trench on April 19th against such fearful odds”.

Company Sergeant Major W J Ward of the 8th Beds who is “out there” wrote: “To Miss Marlow. Just a line in answer to yours of the 9th inst re your brother No. 19944 Private J Marlow. I am sorry to tell you that I do not know much about what happened to D Company on 19th April, as I was transferred to B Company some time ago, but I was in the line the same day and we had a very bad time, but when we got out of the line I made enquiries in D Company about what had become of my old Platoon, and I was only too sorry to hear that your brother was missing. I have not heard any more of him since, but if I should I will let you know at once as he was one of the best boys I had in my platoon during the time I was platoon sergeant. He was always willing and always steady and brave. Although so young he was a good boy and no one is more sorry than I at your loss and you take my deepest feelings with you at losing such a fine and ever-so-brave a brother and I must sympathise with you and close my small note. Should I hear any more I will immediately let you know”.

We trust Mrs Marlow may soon hear some good news of her boy(1)

Source: Luton News 19th May 1916

(1) He was killed in action on 19th April and has no known grave.

Sunday 22 May 2016

1st Battalion in Tears

Monday 22nd May 1916: The adjutant of the 1st Battalion, in the front line near Arras tells us that yesterday the Germans attacked Vimy Ridge, some way to the south, using lachrymatory shells, which cause irritation to the eyes with resultant streaming from the tear ducts(1). The wind was blowing in such a way that the Battalion was also affected, particularly those close to the River Scarpe(2).

Source: X550/2/5

(1) Today known as tear gas
(2) On 21st May 1916 the Germans shelled the British positions on Vimy Ridge with eight batteries of guns. The German infantry then attacked along a 2,000 yard front, capturing several British tunnels and mine craters but failing to take the British trenches. Nevertheless the two front lines were now very close to one another on the ridge.

Roll of Honour - 22nd May 1916

Killed in Action

8th Battalion: front line at Yser Canal bank
  • 13498 Private Samuel BURTON, born Ramsey Hollow [Huntingdonshire], resided Buckden [Huntingdonshire] (Essex Farm Cemetery, Ypres)

Saturday 21 May 2016

Unionist Killed in a Trench Raid

Sunday 21st May 1916: Readers will remember that on 4th May the 6th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, suffered a raid by the enemy which resulted in 66 casualties, 16 of them killed. One of those who paid the ultimate price was Sergeant Harry Clarke. Letters of sympathy have been received by the widow from friends and deceased’s officer now at the front. The latter wrote: “May I express my deepest sympathy with you in the loss of your husband. I, his platoon commander, had only known him for a fortnight, but I should never wish for a better sergeant. His loss has been much felt especially by his own men, who were very fond of him. He was killed at his post while encouraging the men of No. 10 platoon to stand up against a heavy bombardment sustained in the early morning of Thursday. I am thankful to say that death was instantaneous. With sincere sympathy, yours truly, R E COLES. PS – A photograph of himself and his family was picked up the next day. His friend, Lance Corporal Knight is writing to you as to whether he can retain it”(1)

The late Sergeant Clarke was employed at the Britannia Iron Works at Bedford and was 41 years of age. He was an energetic worker for the Unionist party in Bedford and was a street list man since the formation of the Saint Mary’s and Saint John’s Ward of which Mr C H Woodford is the secretary. The deceased leaves a widow and two children, for whom much sympathy is felt.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 19th May 1916

(1) This may be Corporal George Knight, killed in action on 16th November 1916.

Roll of Honour - 21st May 1916


7th Battalion: drowned whilst bathing near Bray-sur-Somme
  • 15653 Private Frederick Edmund James GROVES, 21, son of Arthur and Dora Annie Groves of 12 Epirns Road, Fulham [London] (Bray Military Cemetery)

Friday 20 May 2016

Lieutenant Green Buried

Reginald Cumberland Green [X550/1/82]

Saturday 20th May 1916: It is somewhat singular that the last sad rites for Lieutenant Green yesterday should have been performed by a clergyman known locally. The chaplain who officiated at the simple burial was Rev A R K Wells, who succeeded Rev G H C Shorting of Stopsley in the Vicarage of Kimpton, Hertfordshire.

Source: Luton News 25th May 1916

Roll of Honour - 20th May 1916

Killed in Action

8th Battalion: front line at Yser Canal bank
  • 20239 Private Charles LEE, born Spalding [Lincolnshire], resided Marston Moretaine (Essex Farm Cemetery, Ypres)

Thursday 19 May 2016

Killed Examining Barbed Wire

Reginald Cumberland Green [X550/1/82]

Friday 19th May 1916: We have heard today of the death of Lieutenant Reginald Cumberland Green, youngest son of Luton brewer J W Green. From all classes in the town the deepest sympathy has been aroused by the sad event and, while the sorrow and pain of the loss can only be known and experienced by those who have lost their loved one, the sympathy expressed on all hands cannot fail to be a solace and to some small extent an alleviation of the poignancy of the grief occasioned by the blow.

The sympathy of the townspeople has not stood alone, for from the Colonel and Company Commander of the late lieutenant’s battalion sympathetic and sterling appreciations were received. The Colonel(1) writes: “It grieves me most intensely to have to write and confirm the bad news which has doubtless been communicated to you by the War Office regarding your son Rex. He took his risks with the best and was always so cheery and a general favourite; besides, he was doing uncommonly well as a soldier. I shall miss personally a really useful and hard-working officer and a personal friend and all the officers a very popular comrade and friend. Allow me to send you my sincerest condolences from myself and from all the officers of the battalion. He died as a gallant Englishman, doing his duty. When he was shot he was examining a wire entanglement and was hit in the thigh. One would think, and I hoped when I heard of it, that it was a slight enough wound, but apparently some blood vessel was cut and he had bled most copiously, dying just as they got him to the field ambulance, within two hours of being wounded. I saw him at 4 am on his way down. He seemed to be in a certain amount of pain but we hoped for the best and wished him luck and tried to cheer him up. You will think I am making a number of matter of fact statements, but my heart is very sore at losing him from our family and in having to write and give you all this information. Please accept my most sincere condolences”.

The letter from Lieutenant Green’s Company commander was as follows: “He was shot through the right thigh about 2.30 this (Thursday) morning while out in front of our trenches looking at the wire and died almost as soon as he reached the field ambulance. I went to him directly I heard that he was hit. He had been bandaged by our stretcher bearers and they had for the time being stopped the bleeding. Rex said: “I’m all right but I feel awful”. I don’t think he was in much pain, but he felt weak from loss of blood. I cannot speak too highly of his good qualities as an officer. He was my right hand in the company – brave, gentle and ready for everything. He was also a universal favourite with the men. We loved him and our hearts go out to his mother and you in your terrible loss. We do not realise it yet and it seems as if Rex might come in now, keeping us all cheery by some remark. He will be buried tomorrow along with the other brave fellows whom we have lost here in the Military Cemetery(2)”.

The loyalty and self-sacrifice of the family of Mr and Mrs J W Green has, since the outbreak of war, found full scope and expression in ready active service and also in attending those who have suffered in the stern experiences of the battle zone. Major Sidney and Major Harold Green have for many years taken a great interest in military matters and displayed much energy in furthering the successful development of the Volunteer and Territorial movements. Mrs Green is the Commandant of the VAD Hospital at Wardown(3), a work in which she is actively assisted by her daughters, while her son in law Lieutenant Tabor is also on war service and some months ago was wounded in France(4). Major Sidney Green is at the moment on active service with the Bedfordshire Yeomanry having been in France for some months past with the Regiment.

The late Lieutenant Green, previous to the outbreak of war, had had no military experience and in deed he had displayed no bent for taking a pronounced part in Army work. The call of the country, however, came to him as it has come to so many and he was not slow to respond. On the declaration of hostilities he at once took steps to obtain a commission, joining the 3rd Bedfords at Landguard near Felixstowe in which Regiment his brother Harold was serving. Here, under Lord Ampthill’s command, he remained in training until drafted out to France in October of last year. In December he joined up with the 1st Battalion of the Regiment at the Front. For some weeks past the late lieutenant had been in temporary command of a company, and although his temporary captaincy had not been gazetted there is little doubt that, had his life been spared, his promotion would have quickly followed.

Lieutenant Reginald Green, who had attained the age of 31, was a young man of great charm of manner, and was a favourite of all with whom he came in contact. Educated at Bedford Grammar School, he proceeded in due course to Exeter College, Oxford, where he took his BA degree. He then became a law student in the chambers of Mr George Elliott, KC (a very old friend of his father’s) in the Temple. About four years ago he was called to the Bar. It was not, however, his settled intention to practise as a barrister, although on one occasion at Luton County Court, he appeared in wig and gown before His Honour Judge Wheeler. When the war broke out he was looking forward to an active commercial career, being just about to enter the business of Messrs J W Green Limited.

Major Harold Green, who has seen strenuous service with the Bedfordshires, was filling the important position of Camp Commandant at the time he was invalided home with pneumonia. He is now practically well again and is due to return to duty early next month. His presence at home during their heavy trial has been a great comfort to the bereaved parents.

Source: X550/2/5; Luton News 25th May 1916

(1) Lieutenant-Colonel C C Onslow
(2) He is now in Faubourg d’Amiens Cemetery, Arras
(3) The Voluntary Aid Detachment Hospital was at the building which is now Wardown Park Museum
(4) Like his brother-in-law he was in the 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, later transferring to the 7th Battalion. 

Roll of Honour - 19th May 1916

Killed in Action

8th Battalion: front line around Yser Canal bank
  • 23112 Private Samuel CLARK, 35, son of James and Ann Clark of Sandon [Hertfordshire] (Essex Farm Cemetery, Ypres)
  • 17468 Private John HANLON, born and resided Widnes [Lancashire] (Essex Farm Cemetery, Ypres)

Died of Wounds

8th Battalion
  • 18827 Private Joseph SUMMERFIELD, 36, A Company, born Northill, son of Alfred and Sarah Summerfield of Warden Lane, Ickwell Green (Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery)

Wednesday 18 May 2016

Decorations for the 7th Battalion

Thursday 18th May 1916: The adjutant of the 7th Battalion, currently undertaking fatigues behind the line as well as training in very warm weather, tells us that Second Lieutenant Harry Driver has been awarded the Distinguished Service Order whilst Lance Sergeant Mills Cox has been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and Corporal A H S Joyce and Lance Corporal Lancaster the Military Medal

Source: X550/8/1

Roll of Honour - 18th May 1916

Died of Wounds

1st Battalion
  • Lieutenant Reginald Cumberland GREEN, 31, son of brewer John W and Mary A Green of The Larches, Luton (Faubourg d'Amiens Cemetery, Arras)

Tuesday 17 May 2016

Arlesey Boys Behind Barbed Wire

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

Wednesday 17th May 1916: We have had postcards from two Arlesey boys held as prisoners-of-war in Germany. Private Percy Papworth of the Bedfordshire Regiment is at Schneidmühl in Prussia(1). Albatross aircraft are made for the German air force in the town and the camp is largely made up of Russian prisoners. He is receiving parcels “quite safe weekly” and seems to be held in reasonable conditions as he says of the parcels: “Pleased to say everything is safe and in good condition and just we things we require” so evidently the guards are not resorting to theft.

Private Bowskill, also in the Bedfords, is being held at Neuhammer, also in Prussia(2). Again the camp is largely full of Russians. He, too, reports that the parcels are “very good and coming in good condition”.

Source: Biggleswade Chronicle 26th May 1916

(1) Today called Piła and part of Poland.

(2) Today another Polish town, called Świętoszów

Roll of Honour - 17th May 1916

Died of Wounds

8th Battalion
  • 19909 Private Thomas Richard COAKLEY, 26, born and resided Peckham [London] (Wimereux Communal Cemetery)

Monday 16 May 2016

I am Lucky to be Alive

Shortmead Street, Biggleswade [Z1306/16/18/1]

Tuesday 16th May 1916: In the above terms of Private Dick Bryant of the 8th Beds, writes to his chum, Mr G Boness, at Biggleswade, from Herne Bay Hospital. Bryant was formerly an Ampthill Camp recruit and in the big scrap on April 19th he sustained 13 wounds and narrowly escaped with his life, a Bible and a tobacco box in his breast pocket being much damaged. He says: “I am lucky to be alive. Sometimes out there you wish anything, but I have wished ever so many times they had not hit me, for I have been very queer two or three days. I began to think my leg was going the wrong way, but I am going on alright today. It is lovely weather here and I long to get out in the air. I asked the doctor if I could go out and they are going to wheel me out this afternoon. I have got to be operated on, a bit of bone has to come out. He said if he did not do it I shall be six or seven months and then not right. I am glad F C Wells is not killed. His brother Herbert, poor chap, would be with me(1), he claimed me for a mate the first night I joined them. I had got no rent (money) so he said “Come on, I have plenty”. He took me out every night until we went into the trenches. He was a bomber in the same lot as Brown of Hitchin and I see he is missing”(2).

Source: Biggleswade Chronicle 26th May 1916

(1) See 13th May.

(2) 17027 Private Francis Frank Brown of B Company was killed in action and is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres.

Roll of Honour - 16th May 1916

Died of Wounds

2nd Battalion
  • 9449 Private Charles Percy FLINT, 24, son of James and Sarah of 25 Burritt Road, Norbiton [Surrey] (Corbie Communal Cemetery Extension)


Unknown Battalion
  • 4288 Private W TOTTINGHAM (Luton Church Burial Ground, Crawley Green Road)

Sunday 15 May 2016

Devotion to Duty

Monday 15th May 1916: The 8th Battalion are back behind the lines. At a church parade yesterday their commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel W. R. H. Dann presented cards received from the Divisional Commander acknowledging acts of gallantry and devotion to duty when the Battalion was so sorely tried on 19th April. Those singled out for this honour were: Company Quarter Master Sergeant Croxford; Lance Sergeant Russell; Private N. C. H. M. Johnson; Private H. Enticknap; Private A. Symonds; Private S. Brown and  Private P. West(1)

Source: X550/9/1

(1) Sergeant Frederick George Russell MM would die of wounds on 11th February 1917 and Private Douglas Enticknap would be killed in action on 30th May 1916.

Roll of Honour - 15th May 1916


9th Battalion
  • 28853 Private William Richard KNIGHTS, 26, born Martham [Norfolk], son of Richard and Frances of West Somerton [Norfolk] (Fort Pitt Military Cemetery, Kent)

Saturday 14 May 2016

Presentation to Sergeant Major Hutchinson DCM

Potton School [Z1306/91/24/1]

Sunday 14th May 1916: For some time the children of the Potton Mixed School have been contributing to a fund opened by the headmaster (Mr W Bartle) in order that some suitable gift might be presented to Sergeant Major Hutchinson who was brought up at the school and who was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for conspicuous bravery at the Battle of Loos. As the Sergeant Major was home during last week, he was invited to the school on Friday afternoon to receive the gift. In making the presentation Mr Bartle said it was thought only fitting that something should be done to mark the pride felt in the gallantry of the Potton man who had brought such honour to their ancient town and to the Beds Regiment. The terms of the certificate given to the Sergeant Major needed no comment; he has done his duty as a brave and loyal soldier and his bravery had received the proper recognition and their thanks were due to him, especially as he was a Pottonian. Army orders which confer distinctions upon soldiers tersely and formally express the deeds by which the distinctions are won, but no great gift of imagination was required to compensate for official baldness. The Sergeant Major won his Distinguished Service Medal on the 25th-29th September at Loos when the British made such a gallant effort to break the German lines Actions like those he displayed speak of unusual determination and of a remarkable degree of cool, reasoned courage. Potton might well be proud of its many men serving the country; seven have already laid down their lives – three bearing the name of Hutchinson, R Surtees, W Gates, W Richardson and F Whitfield(1) – all died nobly doing their duty. Self-sacrificing bravery all men appreciate, for were it not for such valiant characters, they would not be where they now were, and when the war is over the men who had done “their bit” must be treated fairly and not as some of those who had returned from the Crimea – retreat to the Workhouse. The school master further said he hoped as time improved, the bag the children and teachers had bought for the Sergeant Major would, on many occasions, be a useful reminder of the deep appreciation and gratitude for the part he so gallantly played in helping to stave off the great German offensive. On behalf of the children and teachers he presented that gift, with a list of subscribers, and he wished Sergeant Major Hutchinson long life and good health and the necessary prosperity to enable him to enjoy the usefulness that the cowhide bag seemed capable of affording (cheers)”.

In accepting the bag the Sergeant Major said: - “Mr Bartle, teachers and children, I have great pleasure in accepting it, especially as it comes from Potton School. As you know I first landed in Belgium and I saw children sitting by the roadside with no one to teach them and that made me determined to fight hard”. He went on to say that it gave him great pleasure knowing that the gift was from the schoolchildren, and the school where he was brought up. He thanked them all most heartily.

Several patriotic songs were sung and three cheers were given for Sergeant Major Hutchinson DCM before dispersing.

Source: Biggleswade Chronicle, 12th May 1916
(1)  Details on these men are as follows:

  • 9271 Private Herbert Hutchinson, 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, died of wounds 24th October 1914 and buried in Ypres Town Cemetery.
  • 8196 Private Charles Nicholas Hutchinson, 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, killed in action 13th October 1914, commemorated on the le Touret Memorial
  • G/8320 Private George Hutchinson, 9th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment, died of wounds 5th March 1916, buried in Boulogne Eastern Cemetery
  • 2720 Private Richard Barron Surtees, 2nd Battalion, East Surrey Regiment, killed in action 28th April 1915, commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial
  • 2654 Private William Henry Gates, 2nd Battalion, East Surrey Regiment, killed in action 26th April 1915, commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial
  • 2711 Private Wilfred Ernest Richardson, 2nd Battalion, East Surrey Regiment, died 24th April 1915, commemorated on the le Touret Memorial
  • 141584 Private Frederick Whitfield, 21st Battalion, Canadian Infantry (East Ontario Regiment), died 22nd April 1916, commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial

Roll of Honour - 14th May 1916

Killed in Action

2nd Battalion: front line near Maricourt
  • 18754 Private Frederick George KING, born and resided Turvey (Cérisy-Gailly Military Cemetery)

Friday 13 May 2016

Two Missing Sons

Shortmead Street [Z1306/16/8/6]

Saturday 13th May 1916: Mr and Mrs George Cartwright Wells of West’s Yard, Shortmead Street, Biggleswade last Saturday received notification from the Regimental Office, Warley that their two sons, Private Herbert A C Wells and Private Frederick C Wells, of the 8th Bedfordshire Regiment, had been reported as missing, place not stated(1). A week previously a comrade, who also hails from Biggleswade, wrote home saying they were missing. The brothers Wells are widely known in the Biggleswade district and their many friends hope that the worst fears will not be realised. The younger brother, Fred, was formerly in the employ of Mr William Jackson and came home a few weeks ago on leave. The elder brother has been gassed since being at the front. He was formerly engaged on the golf links, was a keen angler, and figures on the cricket club’s Roll of Honour. The brothers enlisted together in the 8th Beds and after training at Shoreham etc they went to the Continent together and fought at Loos etc. Much sympathy is felt for the parents and brothers and sisters

Source: Bedfordshire Times 12th May 1916

(1) Presumably at Ypres on 19th/20th April. 

Thursday 12 May 2016

Royal Engineer Loses an Eye

Friday 12th May 1916: We regret to announce that Corporal Travers of the 1st Field Company East Anglian Royal Engineers, who before the outbreak of war was for several years engaged on the clerical staff of the Bedford Borough Electricity Works, has been seriously wounded in France, and is at present lying in hospital. It appears that a German rifle grenade burst beside him, causing serious injuries; his left eye has been removed but it is hoped that the other eye will be saved; one of his legs and knee were also fractured.

Soon after the war broke out Travers was one of the first Corporation employees to join the Colours and went to France with the first batch of the EAREs. He was always held in high esteem by his fellow employees and was a member of the Bedford Conservative Club. Corporal Travers is the only son of a widowed mother, for whom much sympathy is felt in her trouble.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 12th May 1916

Roll of Honour - 12th May 1916

Killed in Action

2nd Battalion: front line near Maricourt, bombardment
  • 10438 Private Albert George FARNHAM, born and resided Battersea [London] (Cérisy-Gailly Military Cemetery)

Died of Wounds

9th Battalion
  • Temporary Second Lieutenant Leslie Croom TELFER, 22, son of Henry John and Emily Telfer of 5 Elgin Court, Maida Vale [London], a native of Saint Albans [Hertfordshire] (Boulogne Eastern Cemetery)

Wednesday 11 May 2016

Military Cross for Conspicuous Bravery

Thursday 11th May 1916: The Old Boys of the Bedford Elementary Schools will be delighted to learn that one of their number, Regiment-Sergeant-Major Frederick Thurley, of the 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, was yesterday at Buckingham Palace, decorated by the King with the Military Cross, for good and conspicuous work during the First Battle of Ypres from October 18th to November 7th 1914. Sergeant-Major Thurley is a son of Sergeant F Thurley and Mrs Thurley of 18 Ampthill Street, Bedford and belongs to a very old Bedford Volunteer family. He was educated at the Ampthill Road Boys Elementary Schools, at Bedford, during the present headmastership of Mr J Baldwin and was for some time under the tuition of Mr Dan Price. Between fourteen and fifteen years ago, Thurley enlisted in the 2nd Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment and after the outbreak of war he went with his Regiment to France on October 4th 1914, where he was remained ever since. Sergeant-Major Thurley, who is of an unassuming nature, has always been a popular man with his comrades in the regiment and when it became known that he had been recommended for the Military Cross, he received the hearty congratulations of his many friends. Special leave was granted to Sergeant-Major Thurley this week and no one felt more proud of his visit to Buckingham Palace than his father and mother, both of whom accompanied him to the Palace gate and awaited his return after the decoration by His Majesty.

In order to avoid the small army of photographers outside the Palace, Thurley left by a side gate, where he rejoined his parents. They quickly returned to Saint Pancras Station and arrived at Bedford at 3.50 pm, when they were met by Mr Baldwin and several of Thurley’s old schoolmates and, needless to say, he received very warm congratulations.

As stated above, Sergeant-Major Thurley has several other members of his family serving their King and Country at the present time. His father, Sergeant F Thurley, is at present at Lowestoft acting as a Cook-Sergeant; he joined the Bedfordshire Rifles 34 years ago and has never left the Corps, which is now known as the 5th Bedfordshire Regiment (TF). Two of the latter’s sons are Private A Thurley and Stretcher-Bearer C Thurley, both of whom are in Egypt serving with the 1st/5th Beds Regiment.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 12th May 1916

Roll of Honour - 11th May 1916

Died of Wounds

1st Battalion
  • 15476 Private Christopher BYE, 23, born Anstey [Hertfordshire], son of David and Mary Bye of Cave Hall, Wydial [Hertfordshire] (Harbacq Communal Cemetery Extension)

Tuesday 10 May 2016

Patriotism and Pluck

Wednesday 10th May 1916: The patriotism and pluck of Eli Loveridge of Biggleswade would, we think, take some beating. Formerly he belonged to the 2nd Bedfords and came from Africa in the Autumn of 1914 proceeding later to Belgium. He fought at Ypres etc. and eventually was badly wounded in the ankle. After a lengthy spell in hospital he was discharged from the Army as medically unfit and was granted a pension. During recent months the injured foot has got much better and at the end of April Loveridge surrendered his claim to pension and joined the 3rd Bedfords. He is now at Landguard

Source: Bedfordshire Times 12th May 1916