The page about each regiment includes the dates when battalions arrived at and departed from Bedford, where they came from and where they went when they left Bedford. There is also a summary timeline, by month/year and by division/regiment.
But as with all aspects of the war, local papers added the detail that would interest their readers then, and we hope our readers today, such as soldiers’ impressions of the Gallipoli campaign in which many of the soldiers who had spent time in Bedford fought, and their journeys thereafter. We include details, including training activities in Bedford, from battalion war diaries where that has been revealed during research. The reports are listed chronologically:
The Bedfordshire Times and Independent of 7 May 1915 reported that ‘peaceful and forlorn have been the streets of Bedford’ in the early part of the week following the departure of Highland regiments. The 4th Royal Sussex were the first of the new arrivals to enter the town as a unit, and they were immediately followed by three battalions of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, one of which had a goat. This brigade came in along the Goldington-road, and there was some fine singing among the Fusiliers. One machine gun section in particular was harmonising in Welsh, and there were some grand bass runs.’
‘It was fine to a Sussex man to hear that splendid marching song, “Sussex by the sea” sung as the hot and dusty column trudged up Kimbolton-road on Wednesday. It was not a good day for marching. The sun glared as if through ground glass. It was thundery, and dusty and the packs seemed very heavy. Most of the men turned up the sleeves of their tunics and bared their throats, and many had handkerchiefs over the napes of their necks. They had marched in from St Neots, and slept there the night before, after a good march from Cambridge. Most of them were very glad to get to Bedford, and their eyes sparkled at the hint of open-air baths. Till they went to Cambridge their training was done in huts at Newhaven.’
Two battalions of the Welsh Regiment had come up from Royston on Wednesday, one with a fine band and the other with a grand male voice choir. ‘One battalion claims the late Captain Haggard, whose dying words were, “Stick it, Welsh,”* as its own. They are proud of that memorable speech, and it bids fair to become a battalion motto.’
‘It was strange to hear “Sing us a song of bonnie Scotland” from Welsh lips, but some of the men in Bedford have been in Scotland two or three months. It may interest the Bedford ladies to know that they have a high opinion of the women of Scotland, and appreciate their treatment there.’
‘A Welsh Company pushed rather wearily up Clapham-road, and came to a halt opposite some big empty houses. An officer said they would be divided amongst the houses. He was sorry to say they were very dirty, and every man would have to set to to get them cleaned up. Welsh lightning flashed from every eye, and they invoked blessings on the head of the departed Scots. In the end we believe those men managed to get quartered elsewhere.’
‘Efforts are being made to avoid using the empty houses by the officers of some of the regiments, who know how hard it is for men to keep them clean, and doubly hard when they find them in a filthy condition to start with. It is a pity arrangements were not made to get all the empty houses well scoured out before using them again. There was a squad of men going through the streets near the Saints’ quarter on Wednesday with pails and brooms but what is one squad amongst so many empty houses.’
‘In the long line of soldiers passing along Union-street was one bronze-faced man whose pack was surmounted by a little fox terrier.’
‘The horses of the Welsh troops, especially the officers’ mounts, were spoken of by good judges of horse-flesh as some of the best Bedford has seen.’
(With horses comes manure, and in the same edition of the paper there was a notice headed “Purchase of Manure” indicating that “Applications for tenders and information in regard to the removal and purchase of Manure should be made to the Officer Commanding, Army Service Corps, 1/1st Welsh Division, T.F., Murketts Garage, High Street, Bedford.”)
‘Wednesday’s march was a real test of the men’s endurance. One battalion is stated to have marched fifty miles from Monday to Wednesday.’
‘The men of one of the Cheshire battalions who arrived on Wednesday evening, marched from Royston through Baldock, Arlesey, and Shefford, a distance of 27 or 28 miles. They found it a rather punishing task, and for many of them, there was only the bare and empty inhospitable hotel de empty at the end of it. There was still some of the proverbial grin left, however. One man said they took it as rather a compliment that they were asked to make such a march. Another was anxious to know if it was a disgrace to limp a bit! They are obviously made of the right stuff.’
‘The Herefordshire Company of the ASC, pride themselves upon their horses, than which they claim there are none better in the British Army. They are certainly magnificent animals, and were brought by the Company off their own farms.’
In its 14 May edition, the paper included two photographs of the Welsh Artillery – ‘A few of the 2nd Mon Battery’ and ‘Ammunition Column horses at dinner’:
and in its 28 May edition, two photographs of ‘The Welsh ASC with their horses in the Bedford cattle market grounds’:
* The words “Stick it, Welsh” were, it is said, spoken by Captain Mark Haggard, nephew of the author Rider Haggard. Badly wounded he was rescued under fire but still cheered on his men with those words. He died of his wounds the next day .
The 2nd Battalion, the Welsh Regiment, was mobilised on 4 August 1914 and Captain Haggard of B Company left for France with the Battalion on 12 August. On 12 September the Battle of the Aisne began, with the Welsh as the advance guard of the 1st Division. The previously hot weather had changed by the time they reached Longueval, it was bitterly cold and the rain was torrential. No one had time to wash or shave, and officers and men were dirty and bearded, but they pushed on with determination.
Orders for 14 September required that the ‘Army will continue the pursuit tomorrow at 6.00 am and act vigorously against the retreating enemy”. They were to fight for possession of a strong position towards the Chemin des Dames, and the Welsh, along with the South Wales Borderers, pushed north-west from Moulins, and established themselves on the slopes of Beaulne Spur.
Captain Haggard, finding his company held up by a German machine gun, took three men and charged it, outrunning his men by 30 yards. One of his men having been killed and another badly wounded, Captain Haggard managed to shoot several Germans before falling wounded himself. He called back to Lance-Corporal William Fuller “I’m done, get back”, an order Lance-Corporal Fuller at first obeyed but then risked his own life as he returned to Captain Haggard and carried him back to the lines, a distance of some 100 yards.
Although badly wounded, it is said Captain Haggard cheered his men on , shouting the words “Stick it, Welsh!” Captain Haggard asked Lance-Corporal Fuller to fetch his rifle from where he had fallen as he did not wish it to fall into the hands of the enemy, and Lance-Corporal Fuller managed to fulfill his request despite the grave risk to his own life. With the help of two others Lance-Corporal Fuller managed to get Captain Haggard to the safety of a barn that was being used as a dressing station.
He remained with Captain Haggard until he died. He attended to two other officers who had been wounded. The barn came under heavy fire and the wounded were evacuated. Later the barn was razed to the ground by German shell fire. On 29 October, Lance-Corporal Fuller was himself seriously wounded and was sent to Swansea Hospital for an operation and treatment. After his recovery he was given a home posting as a recruiting sergeant in Wales.
For his heroism in rescuing Captain Haggard, Lance-Corporal Fuller was awarded the Victoria Cross.
Later, he served in the Home Guard during the Second World War and was awarded the Royal Humane Society Medal for life saving. He died aged 90 in 1974.
May 1915 In the Barmouth and County Advertiser of 13 May 1915, ‘RHR’ contributes a long and evocative article entitled ‘With the Barmouth Territorials at Bedford: the removal from Cambridge’ After short notice, an early breakfast, and with the band playing, the troops* started their march. The people in their hundreds waved them goodbye. After 18 miles, they were billeted for the night in St Neots. Next day, with a further 12 miles to go, they set off for Bedford. Bands strike a tune as they draw near, and the crowd cheers them. The soldiers sing out a favourite song, but their weariness was not conducive to lusty singing. Marching on they pass under John Bunyan’s statue and continue to the other end of town and their comfortable billets. They find everyone with a ready welcome having heard from Northampton how the soldiers had behaved themselves there.
* probably soldiers from the 1/7th (Merioneth and Montgomery) Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers
May 1915 The Cambrian News and Merionethshire Standard of 21 May 1915 reported that the Aberdovey Territorials were now at Bedford and had marched from Cambridge, doing the distance of thirty-three miles in part of two days.
May 1915 The Herefordshire Light Infantry Museum website includes month by month bulletins of what the Herefordshire Regiment was doing that month 100 years before in the Great War. The Regiment’s War Diaries exist from July 1915 and these form the basis of the bulletins from that date. The bulletins also include details of the ‘bigger picture’, what was happening in the war at large. The bulletin for May 1915 reports:
The Battalion moved from Newmarket to Bedford, via St Neots, and moves to Rushden and Newton Ferrers soon followed. Private Bauser’s diary records:
4 May Marched to Cambridge en route to Bedford
5 May Marched on to St Neots – 19 and a half miles, very hot, close and thundery – making it a hard days work
6 May Tramped to Bedford – 12 miles. Billeted at 46 Marlboro Rd with Billie
11 May Promoted to LCpl
13 May Moved by Route March to Irchester. Billeted with Billie, Doug, Frank and Eddie Fletcher at Melbourne School Rd
15 May Received letter dated 12 from War Office gazetting me as 2Lt in 9 KSLI. Travelled to Birmingham stayed in Queens Hotel
16 May Arrived Hereford 2.30pm. Changed into plain clothes
18 May Travelled to Bedford Reported to Lt Col St Aulyn at ‘dancing’ academy*
19 May Commenced training course
22 May Married at Bedford by special licence to Gwendoline Kate Morgan of Hereford
* This is most likely to be ‘Madame Demery’s’, the dance academy at 2 Grafton Road/145 Midland Road, which was taken over by the military for the duration of the Great War. In 1942, the building, then the Assembly Rooms, was badly damaged during a daylight bombing by a lone German bomber during the morning of 23 July.
May 1915 The battalion (1/4th Welsh) recently left Scoveston for Royston, and from there to Bedford, the Herald of Wales of 22 May 1915 reported. In its next, 29 May, edition the paper reported a draft of 200 of the 2/4th Welsh arrived during the weekend at Bedford to strengthen the 1/4th Welsh Battalion. The Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph of 26 May 1915 reported under the heading ‘Section of 4th Welsh leave for Bedford’ that about 200 of the 4th Welsh Reserves had left Neyland to join the 4th Welsh to bring it up to full strength. A certain number of the 4th Welsh had failed to pass the doctor and were returning to Scoveston.
May 1915 The Corwen Territorials are now stationed at Bedford, Adsain of 18 May 1915 reported.
The Bedfordshire Times and Independent of Friday, 4 June 1915, in ‘Queen’s Park News’, reported that meat and desert in the form of sausages and bananas were being distributed from the same truck on Saturday night (1 June) to the Middlesex Regiment. It is likely therefore that the 2/10th Battalion of the Regiment which had arrived in May, was billeted in Queen’s Park.
The Aberdare Leader of 10 July 1915 reported under the heading ‘The 5th Welsh and the Dardanelles’ that the 5th Welsh Battalion, the Welsh Regiment had been greatly strengthened. Some of the older members, who were not medically fit for foreign service or who had not signed for foreign service, had returned to Pembrokeshire, while a large draft of the 5th Welsh Reserve had been transferred to Bedford. The men home on leave at that time stated that all the 5th Welsh then stationed at Bedford were going out to the Dardanelles in a few weeks time.
July 1915 The Herald of Wales of 17 July 1915 reported that the 1/4th Welsh Regiment, billeted at Bedford, would shortly be leaving for active service. There were, it said, in the battalion many Llandovery and Llandilo boys, who, despite the rivalry which had existed between them in the past had now formed friendships which were likely to endure while life lasts.
July 1915 the Bedfordshire Times and Independen of 23 July 1915 reported that Bedford had not long been left in doubt as to the new troops she would have to entertain as a Welsh Division began to move into town on Tuesday afternoon (20 July). It noted that in another week, it would be close on the anniversary of the declaration of war ‘There were not many’ it said, ‘who a year ago thought we would be fighting as we are today … we believe that no German attack can succeed anywhere along the line from Belgium to Switzerland … We are bound to win this war. We will fight to the end …’
July 1915 The Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph of 21 July 1915 printed a long letter from ‘Eye Witness’ beginning ‘Being interested in the 4th Battalion of the Welsh Regiment*, and in some individual members of it in particular, my wife, my daughter and I took train on a recent day and went to Bedford to witness the departure of the Battalion for foreign service, and as there are a great many Haverfordwest people interested like myself in the 4th Welsh, I am troubling you with a few motes of my journey.’
‘Eye Witness’ met some of the Haverfordwest boys, and the day after his arrival in Bedford witnessed a parade of the Battalion in Bedford Park. There were however very few people looking on. The Battalion moved in two halves in the afternoon for Ampthill Road station to take trains for a southern port on their way to somewhere in the Mediterranean.
He gathered whilst in Bedford that the Haverfordwest men left a good impression on the people with whom they were billeted. One lady who had taken in six told him they were all excellent young fellows and she shed tears on parting with them.
* the 1/4th had come under orders of the 159th Brigade in the 53rd (Welsh) Division and moved to Bedford. The Battalion left Bedford in July to sail from the south coast to Gallipoli.
July 1915 The Herefordshire Light Infantry Museum records that the 2nd Battalion of the Herefordshire Regiment moved from Northampton to Bedford towards the end of the month. The move was made on foot in the ‘pouring rain’, but the ‘Battalion remained in high spirits, singing lustily as they passed through villages’. The soldiers were generally billeted in large empty houses. On account of their wet condition and to ward off illness a ration of rum was authorised (and enjoyed by many) at the end of the march.
July 1915 In the Items and Episodes column the Bedfordshire Times and Independent of Friday, 30 July 1915 reported:
‘Mascots seem plentiful among the Welsh Battalions now in Bedford. The transport in Bedford Park have the wonderful little monkey, which is very fond of children. Needless to add the children reciprocate these kindly sentiments, and the monkey gets on well for sweetmeats. One Battalion of the RWF brought in with it on Saturday a goat, and another a dog, and on the wall of a house in Gladstone-street, in which the dog has been billeted, appears the notification to the ration dispenser. “Dog and two men.”
Another large influx of Territorials is expected this weekend, and then Bedford will entertain more soldiers than it has ever done; even when the Scottish occupation was at its height.’
The Bedfordshire Times and Independent of 6 August 1915 included a photograph ‘The 3rd Monmouths’ showing the 3rd Battalion, Monmouthshire Regiment, marching to their quarters in Queen’s Park, preceded by their band.
In its 13 August edition , the paper included an extract from “The Peripatetic Peregrinations of the 2nd WFA ,” which contained ‘the following none too kindly reference to their Highland predecessors:-
To Bedford next, all bright and gay,
On our flat feet we tramped next day
But there, alas, we had no ease,
By reason of the Highland fleas.
So on to Rushden next we strayed
The place where lots of boots are made.’
August 1915 In a letter printed in the 25 December 1915 edition of the Aberdare Leader, 2615 Private J A Jones, of the 1/5th Battalion, Welsh Regiment, (writing from Records 53rd Division, 3rd Echelon, Base Egypt, MEF) who was wounded in the left arm and thigh during fighting on 10 August in the Dardanelles, describes the battle and how Private Frank Jones, whom he met when stationed in Bedford, exposed himself to fire to rescue him. He wrote to the paper, not knowing Frank Jones’ people’s address, so that it will let all it can know of his actions. ‘Frank Jones is one of the best, and Cwmaman should be proud of him. I can truly say I owe him my life.’
August 1915 Gilbert Davies, of the Royal Engineers, Surveyor of Cwmamman Urban Council, wrote to H Herbert JP from ‘Somewhere in Gallipoli’ on 17 August 1915. His regiment had left Bedford on 18 July, and his long and colourful description of the arrival, the fighting, the engineers’ work, the enemy and every day life in the trenches was printed in full in The Amman Valley Chronicle and East Carmarthen News of 21 October 1915. ‘We have had no mail since we left Bedford, so have no idea how things are moving at home or in the country or, as a matter of fact, anywhere but this little rustic spot. ‘ … ‘I never felt better in my life than now, and hope to go through all right.’
August 1915 The Camarthen Journal and South Wales Weekly Advertiser of 27 August 1915 reported, at the bottom of the third column of its War Jottings, on the 4th Welsh Battalion which had ‘only left Bedford with the Welsh Territorial Division a few weeks ago, and the casualties amongst officers within the last couple of days seem to lend colour to the assumption that it was called upon for service immediately upon landing.’ It commented on the action and listed officers gazetted as injured.
August 1915 The Herefordshire Light Infantry Museum records that the first reinforcement draft of 47 men left the 2nd Battalion of the Herefordshire Regiment for Gallipoli, commanded by Lieutenant F H L Evelyn, with Second-Lieutenants R J Boulton and A Wilson, 8035 Lance-Corporal T Pritchard and 43 Privates.
In a later edition of 10 September 1915, the Carmarthen Journal and South Wales Weekly Advertiser included a long article entitled ‘Tales of the 4th Welsh’ which included a number of letters from soldiers serving in the Dardanelles, including Private J Elwyn Davies who subsequently died in Alexandria on 13 August of wounds received in the fighting. There were a number of references in the letters to the death of Captain Howard, which is also mentioned in articles detailed below.
Some of the sub-headings in the article convey something of the soldiers’ experiences:
‘Gallant deeds at the Dardanelles’ ‘Local boys at close grips with the enemy’ ‘Wounded but not downhearted’ Death of Private Elwyn Davies of Carmarthen’ The gallant soldier’s letter’ ‘Turkish snipers clever’ ‘A rough time’ ‘A 99 to 1 chance’ ‘Worthy of the VC’ ‘The fearless Colonel’ ‘Turks disguised as Indians’ ‘Afraid of cold steel’ Captain Howard’s fate’ Llandilo marksman hit’ ‘Promoted on the field’ ‘Local battalions in four days’ battle’
September 1915 The Cambrian Daily leader of 18 September 1915 printed an article headed ‘How 4th Welsh sailed – story of the voyage and baptism of fire – shells for breakfast’ including a long letter noted as having been ‘Passed by Censor’ from Gunner R Frederick Thomas, of the Machine Gun Section, 1/4th Welsh, attached to the Cheshire Regiment, from Llandovery, describing the journey from Bedford – which they left on 6 July, via Malta, Alexandria, Port Said and Lemnos eventually to reach the Dardanelles, landing on 9 August – and the hard reality of battle and life under fire.
On leaving Bedford, the soldiers were handed a leaflet bearing ‘what most of us at the time regarded as an insignificant headline. It ran: ‘Are you prepared to die?’ … I can safely say that few of the men of the gallant 4th then even dimly realised what the future held in store for them.’
September 1915 Lieutenant George Adams, from Haverfordwest also gave his impressions of the campaign in the Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Advertiser of 24 November 1915. He described an occasion when the Turks had disguised themselves as Gurkhas. An officer spotted them and shouted ‘they are Turks, there are no Gurkhas near here’. Instantly the enemy heard this, they shot and killed Lieutenant Adams’ friend and turned and fled back towards their trenches. But not one reached them, all being shot dead before they had gone many yards.
He too commented, as had Gunner R Frederick Thomas, on the death in battle of Captain Howard, from Haverfordwest, whose solicitude and anxiety for the welfare of his men could not possibly be exaggerated.
September 1915 Under the heading ‘Shots whizz past us’ the Haverfordwest Journal and Milford Haven Telegraph of 29 September 1915 carried extracts from letters from the Dardanelles sent by Private J Oliver to his friends at home. He was then in trenches not far from the Turks and ‘shots whizz past us very often but they mostly go over our heads. …. but some chaps got hit yesterday. One had his leg broken by a bullet about 20 yards from us.’ He also comments on the risky business of acting as orderly to a listening post about 200 yards in front of the lines. He received copies of the Telegraph every week and had been interested to read an account of ‘our send off from Bedford.’
September 1915 Extracts from the diary of Private George Rogers, of the 1/3rd Welsh Field Ambulance, Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, were published in a full column of the Cambrian Daily Leader of 12 May 1916 under the heading ‘At Suvla Bay – vivid record of Swansea boy’s work’.
Private Rogers wrote about his time in Bedford, the voyage through the Mediterranean, the arrival at Suvla Bay in August, the fighting that took place and the work of the Field Ambulance team. Suffering with bad health, he was sent eventually by October to hospital in Egypt, and the column concludes with his entry for 2 November ‘The Lieutenant-Colonel saw me and to my delight marked me up for England’.
September 1915 On 29 September, the 1st Battalion of the Herefordshire Regiment, fighting in Gallipoli, was required to find 439 men for fatigue duties. Only 433 were available. 750 men had landed on 8 August and some 350 reinforcements had been received, which meant that some 660 men had become ‘casualties’.
September 1915 Back in Bedford, the Bedfordshire Times and Independent of 10 September 1915 included this picture of the men of D Company, 2/1st Herefordshire Regiment assembled for dinner at the newspaper’s printing works in Sidney Road.
The 2nd Battalion’s War Diary for September records amongst the activities that month, a divine service in St Martin’s Church on 5 September; Battalion scheme on line Vicarage Farm, Milton House on 6 September; Battalion in attack Wilhampstead Herrings Green on 7 September; Battalion in defence Stevington Point 218 on 8 September; divine service at St Martin’s Church on 12 September; B, C and D companies in defence at Oakley, and A Company night trench digging at Queen’s Park on 13 September; A, C and D companies in defence at Brigade Stagsden Road, and B Company night trench digging at Queen’s Park on 14 September; divine service at St Martin’s Church on 19 September; B, C and D companies night operations at Biddenham on 20 September; A, C and D companies scheme at Clapham on 21 September; Lt F S Phillips detailed as assistant instructor in bomb throwing course at Bedford on 25 September, 2Lt Clifton, LSgt Smith and Cpl Taysom detailed to attend this course; divine service at St Martin’s Church on 26 September; Battalion proceeded on bivouac A, C and D companies to Lavendon and C Company to Yardley Hastings on 27 September, returning to Bedford the next day; and two companies instruction under Commandant of School Honey Hill Drill Field on 30 September.
The 1st Battalion of the Herefordshire Regiment found themselves this month in a stalemate in Gallipoli. In many areas tactical initiative had been lost, life had settled to the dull routine of trench and rest, and the Battalion was not involved in any specific offensives. The Museum’s bulletin for October includes details from the war diary and a long and descriptive poem by two members of the Regiment, Bugler W Clarke and Private C Wood, written to raise awareness and welfare support for the Regiment and to assist with recruiting.
The 2nd Battalion remained in Bedford for the whole month. Among the activities was a football match against the 2/1st Welsh Field Ambulance which the Herefords won 3 – 0, with two goals scored by Sergeant T Evans and one by Private Sayce; and the Regimental Band, under the direction of W H Wheeler, gave a concert at the Royal County Theatre. The programme included ‘Land of Hope and Glory’, ‘When the Boys come Home’, and the national anthems of Serbia and the United Kingdom. The Hereford Times printed a list of soldiers serving with the Battalion at Bedford.
The eastern end of the town was awake nearly all Tuesday night, reported the Bedfordshire Times and Independent of Friday, 5 November 1915, awaiting the arrival of troops, or attending to the wants of those who had arrived. By Wednesday afternoon that portion of the town was full of artillerymen, and now the sound of the trumpet is heard in the land. (The 2/2nd Welsh Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, moved to Bedford in November 1915.)
November 1915 On Wednesday, 17 November 1915, at the Bedford Borough Petty Sessions, before Mr E Ransom (in the chair) and Mr H Bacchus, Mr J Adams, of the Embankment Hotel, applied for an extension from 9.30 pm to 11 pm on Wednesday and Thursday, the extensions of farewell dinners for the Welsh Division, Royal Field Artillery, officers. The application was refused. However, the report in the Bedfordshire Times and Independent of Friday, 19 November continues, in the afternoon a Special Court was held with the same magistrates, when Mr Adams renewed his application, and produced further evidence, and the application was granted.
The Brecon and Radnor Express Carmarthen and Swansea Valley Gazette and Brynmawr District Advertiser of 2 December 1915 reported that men of the Brecknocks (stationed at Neyland and Milford Haven) had not been drafted to India as originally intended, but had been divided into two sections, some having been sent to Bedford and the rest remaining on garrison duty in Milford with the newly-joined 3rd battalion.
December 1915 The Denbighshire Free Press of 18 December 1915 reported that the ‘Home Service’ men from the Welsh Division stationed at Bedford have, we hear, gone to Norwich to join the Home Service portion there.
December 1915 About seven men who had elected to join forthwith were taken from Aberayron to Bedford on 28 December by Major David Evans, of the Royal Field Artillery.
Losses on The Somme were being made up from trained soldiers back home. The 2nd/1st Herefords sent a draft to France in July 1916 and the following account was given in The Hereford Times:
The Battalion was also warned to send another draft.
In its 19 August edition the newspaper printed an account of the draft in France in a letter sent by a Herefords Saddler in the base Remount depot at Rouen. The writer was a native of Hereford and formerly a boy at the Bluecoat school but did not want his name to appear.
The writer recorded how, on 12 July, the Battalion paraded at Bedford and ‘was asked for 150 volunteers for France. The order was for volunteers to take two paces forward. On the last sound of the word “march” the whole battalion moved like one man. This made it necessary for selection. There was bitter lamentation amongst the men who have to wait longer for the opportunity of doing their bit. The lucky ones were sent home on leave, but you will know all about that. On the 27th we left Bedford for Southampton, leaving the parade ground and marching to the station, headed by the bugle band and accompanied by the C.O. The adjutant wished us good luck and a safe return.
‘The journey was uneventful. The time was whiled away with “ha’penny nap” and talk of what we were going to do to the Huns when we met. We arrived at Southampton at 11 a.m. kept hanging around until 4 p.m. when embarkation started, and we left Port at 5.30 p.m. Got hung up in the channel and outside Havre due to fog. Then travelled up the beautiful Seine. We were greeted with shouts of “vive l’Anglaise” by the people of the villages, also “are we downhearted”, you should have heard the answer. We arrived in Rouen at 5 p.m. on the Saturday, jolly glad to touch terra firm, after being packed like sardines in a barrel for two days. Disembarkation proceded smartly and we were on our way to camp, a 3 1/2 mile march. After drawing blankets and other things we were dismissed.’
The letter continues with details of their first few days work: ‘On Monday the work starts in earnest. We are examined in musketry, Tuesday wire, Wednesday bayonet fighting and extended order, Thursday bomb tunnel filled with gas, stronger than anything the Germans are likely to use, also the ordeal of tear shells. We pass everything with flying colours. Saturday morning we got the order to stand to, later in the day the Sgt and half our number are warned to parade next day, for proceeding somewhere up the line, attached to the 5th Cheshires. At first there is some grumbling, we had hoped to join the Shropshires. At 1 p.m. on Sunday the draft falls in. A smart, business like looking lot. We see them march off and wonder how many will return.’
The Bedfordshire Times and Independent of 18 August 1916 reported that at the beginning of the previous week it became known that the officers and men of the Welsh Horse, who had been in camp in Turvey for the past few months, were about to be removed to another station. The Recreation Committee at once made arrangements for a farewell social, which was held on 10 August in the large schoolroom, and took the form of a concert and dance. A party of about 150 being present.
Refreshments were again served under the direction of Mrs Fulford, assisted by the Misses Argenti: Sergeant McInnes acted as MC. The Misses Finch of Brayfield were the pianists. Songs were sung by Mrs Fulford and Private D R Jones, the well-known Welsh professional. Sergeant-Major Ayling, on behalf of the officers and men of the Welsh Horse, said he wished to thank the Rector, as Chairman of the Committee, and Mrs Fulford for the great interest she had taken, and the people of Turvey for the very great kindness shown to the men during their stay in the village, which had been a very pleasant one. Three hearty cheers were given by the men, and the whole company joined in singing Auld Lang Syne.
At the Bedford Town Council meeting on Wednesday, 22 November 1916, it was reported that Major-General R Reade, Commanding Officer of the 68th Welsh Division had written to the Mayor on 24 October stating: ‘As the Division is now leaving Bedford, I take this opportunity of expressing to you on behalf of myself, and the officers and men of the 68th Division, our thanks for the courtesy and ready help you have always shown to us. Our thanks are also due to the Entertainment Committee and its kind and able Secretary, Mr Machin, who have organised so much to add to our comfort and recreation. Further, we appreciate the way in which the police under Chief Constable Timbrell, have worked with us and maintained cordial relations between the soldiers and the townspeople.’ The Mayor said: ‘We are very glad to hear that from General Reade’. To which councillors responded: ‘hear, hear’.
It is the turn of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force this week to baste the Turks, said the Bedfordshire Times and Independent of 30 March 1917. They have done it very thoroughly too. The battle on Monday and Tuesday five miles south of Gaza, the old Philistine city and fortress about three miles from the coast, seems to have pretty well accounted for the 53rd Turkish Division. The General in command and his staff, including four Austrian officers and 32 Germans and Austrians of other ranks, were captured, and two 4.2 howitzers. We are glad to see that the Military Authorities made an exception in this case, and gave the names of the troops which have done so well – Welsh, Kent, Sussex, Hereford, Middlesex and Surrey Regiments with Anzacs and Yeomanry. We look for rapid progress up through Palestine now, and the mastery of the railway from Hedjaz to Damascus and Aleppo, where the Bagdad line comes in from the east.
A Bedford man goes home – Mr Henry G Hall, a porter at the Midland Railway station in Ystalfera, where he had resided for nearly three years and was very popular in the district, was leaving the town that week for Bedford to join the forces, reported Llais Lafur of 22 September 1917. His wife and children would take up residence at Bedford, the town of which Mr Hall was a native.