Bedford, its surrounding villages and their citizens were diligent in ensuring and caring for the welfare of the troops billeted in and around the town.
There was a Highland Games for the Scottish troops, an Eisteddfod for the Welsh troops, and Christmas treats; and daily recreation was well provided for in a series of huts and other premises around the town and in the villages.
The Bedfordshire Times and Independent of 18 June 1915 reported on some of the facilities provided in the town:
‘The Recreation Huts which the War Office built in Bedford when the Highland Division were here are now being run, under the Bedford Borough Recreation Committee, by the YMCA, and the canteen profits go to carry on the YMCA’s excellent work among the troops. The Recreation Committee supply the entertainments, and arrange the noble army of voluntary lady helpers, who have done so splendidly in Bedford since the war broke out. When the Scotsmen were here two of the huts were run by the Scottish Guild and one only by the YMCA, but now the YMCA run them all.
‘At the YMCA hut at the corner of Hurst Grove and Bromham-road, everything is going on as usual for the entertainment of the soldiers billeted in that locality. Though the weather does not encourage men to spend the evenings indoors, a keen interest is taken in the impromptu boxing tournaments held every Wednesday evening. Three two-minute rounds are allowed for each bout, and many avail themselves of the opportunity of becoming proficient in the noble art. There is also a billiard table provided which is at the disposal of khaki billiard players.
‘The Bedford Park Recreation Hall is under the supervision of the Rev F Coram, recently Congregational Minister at Birmingham. Mr Coram left the ministry for the time being in order to take up this work, and is most enthusiastic as to the possibilities in his new sphere. The interior of the Hall has been brightened up by numerous streamers of flags of all the Allied nations, with the exception of Italy, and Mr Coram would welcome the gift of a few small Italian flags, so that the latest of our Allies should be represented. A bagatelle table would also be most welcome. Though the troops are billeted some distance from the hall, it is well attended, especially by the 1/4th Welsh, and there are sing-songs most evenings.
‘Looking in on the Bunyan Meeting canteen on Wednesday evening, we found the tables crowded with soldiers, who were quietly playing games, reading the papers, writing letters, taking refreshments, and enjoying the charming songs the ladies were singing on the platform. The tables were garnished with flowers, and the scene was one of cheerful association. Several ladies were waiting upon their guests with light refreshments, or conversing with them. The soldiers evidently belong to a very respectable class, and showed every appreciation of the homely comfort and refinement of the Bunyan Canteen.
‘The Sergeants’ Mess of the 1/7th Cheshire Regiment is pleasantly situated in Russell Park. Near the entrance the title and badge of the Regiment are set out on a large cement tablet, which is quite a work of art. Within the Star of India appear the acorn and oak leaves, which form the regimental badge, and around it is the intimation that it is the Sergeants’ Mess of the 1/7th Cheshires, the lettering and device being worked in small white stones.’