Sunday, 22 October 2017

Luton Man to Train American Soldiers

American troops passing Buckingham Palace, 1917
[Imperial War Museum Q30005 reproduced under IWM Non Commercial Licence]

Monday 22nd October 1917: Percy “Punch” Lovell of Luton has been chosen as one of around 100 soldiers who are being sent to the United States to train American soldiers in the methods of warfare used in France. He was well-known in the town before the war as the centre-forward for the Clarence football team. He served for two-and-a-half year in Flanders and France, gaining promotion to the rank of sergeant. Despite being in the thick of the fighting he escaped without a scratch, and for several months has been a machine gun instructor in England. Sadly his parents’ pride in their son’s achievements has been tempered by the news that their other son, Gerald, has been killed in action. Gerald Lovell enlisted in the Bedfordshire Regiment last November, was drafted to the Front in April, and died when a shell burst, killing him instantly and wounding two others. He leaves a young wife, who lives at 12 Langley Road.

Source: Luton News, 25th October 1917 

Friday, 20 October 2017

Red Cross Day at Bedford

S. H. Whitbread Esq. inspecting munition workers
[Bedfordshire Standard 26th October 1917]

Saturday 20th October 1917: Today Bedford is holding a fundraising day in aid of the Red Cross Society. House-to –house collections have already been made, and are said to have gone well. The Lord Lieutenant of Bedfordshire, Mr. S. H. Whitbread, will be visiting all the Red Cross Depots in the town, beginning with the Shire Hall Depot at 10 a.m. At the various depots he will also inspect guards of honour from the following organisations: No.3 Bedford Detachment of the Red Cross Society; the 1st Volunteer Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment; the Bedford Boy Scout Troop; the Church Lads’ Brigade; the wounded from the Ampthill Road School Hospital; munition girls from the Queen’s Engineering Works; and the County Special Constabulary. The Band of the Royal Engineers will play during the morning at St. Peter’s and in the afternoon on the Embankmant. A grand concert is also to be given on Thursday 22nd November in aid of the Red Cross Day fund. The weather this morning is perfect, and a successful day is predicted.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 19th and 26th October 1917

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Luton Woman Abuses Stallholder at Bedford Station

Bedford Midland Road Station c.1905 [Z1306/10/41/22]

Wednesday 17th October 1917: Agnes Hitchens of Albion Road, Luton, has appeared at the Bedford Police Court, where she was summoned by Archie Kaufman, a Jew of British nationality who carried on business selling hats in the Arcade, Bedford. On September 3rd he was in the refreshment room at Bedford Station when Mrs. Hitchens dropped a book. As she picked it up she said, “I always drop my book in front of a German”. A few minutes later she came up to him and struck him on the shoulder, announcing several times that he was a German and ought to be strung up. He went out and spoke to a policeman but Mrs. Hitchens continued her complaints.

Mr. Kaufman told the court that he and Mrs. Hitchens had held adjacent stalls in a number of markets. When questioned he said that she had never complained that he showed indecent literature to young women in railway carriages, and he had not insinuated in the waiting room that she was a low, common woman. Another gentleman – a complete stranger to him - had thrown whiskey and soda over her after she spat in his face and called him a “dirty German” too. He denied that he himself had thrown the whiskey over her. A waitress at the restaurant agreed that the whiskey had been thrown by an unknown gentleman, who she believed to be an American, and not by Mr. Kaufman, who had ignored the woman until she followed him down the room, struck him lightly on the shoulder and charged him with being a German.

Although Mrs. Hitchens’ solicitor argued that she was in fact the injured party, and that having whiskey thrown in her face and over her clothes was much more serious than a tap on the shoulder, the Bench considered that a technical offence had been proved. Mrs. Hitchens was fined ten shillings, and the Chairman pointed out that the use of such language in a public place might have led to a serious outcome.

Source: Luton News, 18th October 1917

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Edgar Mobbs

Edgar Mobbs [Image source: Wikimedia]

Monday 15th October 1917: Donations of £1,800 have so far been received from subscribers to the memorial fund set up following the death of former England Rugby international player Lieutenant-Colonel Edgar Mobbs on 31st July. An in memoriam souvenir booklet published for the benefit of the fund includes the following interesting letter written by a fellow old boy of Bedford Modern School, 2nd Lieutenant N. Spencer, with the heading “How he charged to certain death”:
“I was F.O.O. in the stunt, and went over the top and saw Mobbs. Perhaps I was one of the last officers he spoke to. Anyway, my last sight of him is something that will be worth remembering of him in the old Bedford Modern School. We had waited three hours for the time to come, and the rain, mud, etc., well, the papers tell you all this. Then the minute came – forward through seas of mud and terrific shelling … I was right behind Mobbs, introduced myself to him just before the hour as an old B.M.S. boy, and talked about Rugger and R. C. Stafford. In the tornado of hostile shelling he got ahead, and, seeing a number of his men cut down by an undiscovered machine gun strong point, he charged it to bomb it – certain death under such a terrific hail of shell – and he went down. I have seen men, and good men, but for a man of his standing and his rank it was magnificent. I sat down afterwards in a captured dugout, and instead of that picture, I saw the old three-quarter in his own “25” get the ball from a crumpled up scrum and go clean through scrum and on. The same man, the same determination, a born leader.”
Source: Bedfordshire Standard 12th October 1917

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Young Flying Corps Officers Wounded and Missing

Leighton Buzzard gas works, Grovebury Road c.1930 [Z1432/3/4/5/1]

Friday 12th October 1917: A 18 year old officer in the Royal Flying Corps is  recovering in King’s College Hospital, Denmark Hill, after a lucky escape. Second Lieutenant Edward A. R. Hills, the only son of the Vicar of Leighton Buzzard, was leading a patrol over the German lines when he was struck in the leg and his aircraft damaged. He started to return but a second shot broke off part of the propeller which struck him on the forehead. He stayed conscious just long enough to shut off his engine and land in a wood before passing out. He came round to find soldiers extricating him from the wrecked machine. Less than a week ago the under carriage of his aeroplane was shot away, and he was using a replacement aircraft.

The relatives of another young Leighton Buzzard flier, Lieutenant Fred Brasington, have been told that he is missing. He set out for the enemy lines with a pilot on Tuesday morning and has not been heard of since. Before the war Lieutenant Brasington was a pupil at the Leighton Buzzard Gas Works. He had served with the Royal Fusiliers since the early days of the war, but only recently took up a commission in the Royal Flying Corps. He had been in France for just a fortnight.[1]

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 16th October 1917

[1] The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records the death of Frederick Thomas Brasington on Tuesday 9th October 1917. He is remembered on the Arras Flying Services Memorial.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Blackberry Collection by Bedfordshire Schools

Blackberries [Image source: Wikimedia]

Tuesday 9th October 1917: About 120 Bedfordshire schools are taking part in  a scheme to collect blackberries which will be used to make jam for soldiers and sailors. Both children and teachers have been gathering blackberries enthusiastically, regardless of the weather. By the end of last week the county had collected nearly 25 tons of the fruit. The most successful schools last week were Eaton Socon and Cranfield, which each sent in over 7 hundredweight, Wootton with nearly 6 hundredweight, Toddington Voluntary and Council Schools with over 7 hundredweight between them, and Sharnbrook and Marston Moretaine with 5½  and 5 hundredweight respectively. Three small schools, at Pulloxhill, Pertenhall and Lidlington, deserve particular mention for sending over 2 hundredweight each.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 12th October 1917

Friday, 6 October 2017

Luton Hat Trade Working Hours

The largest straw hat in the world, c.1905 [Z1306/75/17/45]

Saturday 6th October 1917: A meeting of the Luton Chamber of Commerce was held last night at which a report was made on a proposal to introduce common working hours throughout the Luton hat trade. The suggested hours would begin earlier, have a fixed dinner hour, miss out the tea hour, and close earlier in the evening. The proposal was favourably received, but it was decided to refer it to separate committees for detailed consideration. The general principle of shorter hours was supported, but there was some concern that fixed hours would cause problems for companies with very few employees, where considerable overtime was often worked during busy seasons. Limiting hours might put some of these firms in a difficult position, and the loss of extra wages would be unpopular with their staff. In response to this concern it was pointed out that it was not right for any man to work from 4 a.m. until as late as 10 p.m., doing a fortnight’s work in a week.

Source: Luton News, 11th October 1917