In the second week of January 1916 thousands of soldiers of the 68th (2nd Welsh) Division were given a Christmas treat by the town of Bedford where the Division was stationed.
Over four nights, Tuesday, 11 January to Friday, 14 January, some 2,000 men were entertained each night in the Bedford Castle Rink and some 600 men each night in the Corn Exchange, with other troops from the Division being entertained in Kempston on the Thursday and Friday nights, and in St Neots on the Wednesday night.
The treat was organised by the Bedford Borough Recreation Committee which, Bedford being only a small community, had appealed to the troops’ home communities in Wales and elsewhere for funds to help provide the treat. All the labour was voluntary with between 300 and 400 townspeople helping out with what was a substantial undertaking for the town. Each entertainment began at 6.45 pm and finished at 9.30 pm, and on the Tuesday evening at the Castle Rink the ‘ladies were still making sandwiches at 6.30 pm.’
Refreshments and entertainment were provided each night, including ‘a first-class variety concert with artistes engaged from London, and a fresh programme each evening’.
Mr Herbert Trustram Eve in proposing a toast to the Division in the Corn Exchange on the Tuesday evening said that this was the third division that had been in Bedford. Bedford wanted them to stop as long as they ought to, but when they went they wanted another division and another division. They never wanted to be without troops in Bedford during the war, because they liked to entertain them and make them as happy as they could.
There is a full report of the treat, including descriptions of the entertainment, the rousing speeches, the appeal for funds, and the units present at each venue.