Thanks to Tony M, I have now reached a tremendous milestone in my continuing search for images of Bedfordshire Yeoman. I can now say that I can positively identify 200 of the men that served from 1899 to 1919. A very good figure for what was a very small unit. Tony was able to supply a photograph of Pte John Sandifer who, I'm pleased to say, survived WW1. My inventory includes images in original and copy photographs, postcards, newspapers, albums and so on. It's quite amazing how they continue to crop up.
As most of us will know, 1st July 2016 will mark the 100th anniversary of the first day of the battle of the Somme. Allied forces lost over 57,000 men by way of casualties. In an age when when little seems to shock or amaze us, it's perhaps difficult to make some sense of that figure.
I used to go to watch the Arsenal quite regularly and the Emirates is a huge, expansive stadium. When it's full, it takes over 60,000 people. It's only when you look around at the rows and rows of spectators that you can begin to appreciate what 60,000 people looks like. It's an enormous body of people but that's pretty much what was lost on that fateful day by way of death and injury.
Fortunately, the Bedfordshire Yeomanry was in reserve on that day, waiting patiently for the breakthrough which never occurred.
I've decided to raise funds for the Royal British Legion by pedalling around 80 kilometres of the north Bedfordshire countryside on 19th June. It will be my small contribution to the nation's remembrance of those that perished on the Somme and all other battlefields during the Great War, and my own efforts to keep alive the memory of the Bedfordshire Yeomanry. I've set up a page on the Just Giving page - if you can spare a few pence to support a very worthy cause, please do.
Just go to: www.justgiving.com/David-Doorne.
Regrettably, I have felt it necessary to close the response facility to these updates. For some reason best known to the persons concerned, it appears that there is some enjoyment to be had by posting meaningless garbage as a comment. Perhaps it's a response to the meaningless garbage that I put out, but I think not. I spend the best part of an hour deleting this nonsense each time I edit the website and it's just not worth the aggravation. If you do have any comments or queries, please use the response form.
On a similarly depressing note, I thought it worthwhile to report that there are a number of fake military crosses doing the rounds. Fakes of this decoration are not unusual and quite commonly appear on well-known internet auctions. What makes the current batch unusual is that they are engraved singles i.e. they are engraved to record the individual recipient and have no accompanying medals. I hear you saying that an engraved MC is not an uncommon beast ? This is true but the current batch are (a) almost certainly fake crosses and (b) engraved in more or less the same style, despite covering the period from WW1 to WW2. Difficult to think that all those MC recipients went to the same jewellers over a long period of time ! Seemingly, a lot of buyers are not doing their homework and are paying large sums to acquire fakes. The items all come from the same seller. I've always steered clear of engraved medals unless they were issued that way; after all, who's to say when any engraving was done and by whom ? As was said in a certain American police drama - "Be careful out there !". If you want to see a longer discussion about this, do go to the British Medals Forum.
On a happier note, I'm pleased to be able to report that I have been offered a small collection of Bedfordshire Yeomanry items. These will be added to the inventory. Eventually, I will be arranging to place a note of all the archived and inventory items on the website so everybody will be able to see what is known to survive......and I hope to put a lot of on display next year. If you have anything that you wish to to offer, please let me know - I will beat any price you are likely to get from a dealer or auction.
Private 1442 Harold Clarke Fletcher, from Chatteris, enlisted into the Bedfordshire Yeomanry in the second week of September 1914 in response to the creation of a 2nd battalion. Evidently, he wasn't in good health and his period of service lasted only 10 months as he died aged 27 carrying out clerical work for the unit on 28th July 1915 at Turvey, Bedfordshire. His body was removed to Chatteris and he was buried with full military honours. His story and photograph may be found on the Cambridgeshire Community Archives Network; well done to them and those who researched the material.
Harold served his country and is remembered
By the end of 1914, the 1/1st Bedfordshire Yeomanry were encamped at Hatfield Peverel, near Chelmsford in Essex. On 1st January 1915, the first of their number to die in the Great War, Private 1112 Thomas Adamson, succumbed to asthmatic bronchitis and I decided to put his story to paper as a permanent record of a life given to a country. His details are not recorded elsewhere, other than to indicate that he is buried at St Andrews Church in Hatfield Peverel, that he was 39 years of age, born in Whitby, Yorkshire, and that he is commemorated on the war memorial at Woburn, Bedfordshire. That nobody has yet put forward any further details indicates that he is a bit of a mystery - and rightly so. Even now I can't be certain about him.
39 years old and born in Whitby ? There is no record of any such birth in about 1875 or anything even close. Suffice it to say that I have trawled births, deaths, marriages, baptisms, censuses and every other such record that I can find, and there is no reasonable match between 1861 and 1911, save that mentioned below. There is one clue that assists, however. A Thomas Adamson enlisted into the Imerial Yeomanry in January 1901, giving his age as 26 years and 5 months and indicating that he didn't have any relatives. He gave his birthplace as Whitby and his then address as Canterbury, Kent. He served until the end of the Boer War in South Africa and was discharged as being unfit for further service, having suffered a bout of enteric fever. If the details given are correct, he was born in about August 1874. Still no match for any of the usual sources.
The Bedfordshire Times confirms that Thomas was buried on 3rd January and his body carried to the church on a gun carriage belonging to the Royal Artillery. He is recorded as being a groom in the service of the Duke of Bedford. The Thomas who enlisted in 1901 was also a groom. One sad event occurred after his death when the room that he was occupying in a cottage in the High Street, belonging to Mr Henry Wright, a milkman of Hatfield Peverel, caught fire. Mr Wright and his wife had decided to fumigate the room after the soldier's death by lighting a sulphur candle; they had then left the property to stay with relatives for a few days. Unfortunately, the candle appears to have fallen over and the resultant fire was reported by Mrs Griggs, the next-door neighbour. The room and contents were lost.
The nearest match that I can make is that Thomas was the son of Rebecca Adamson, the wife of David Adamson, a seafarer. In 1871, the family is shown at 11 Andersons Yard, Whitby with Clara Isles and her husband George. In 1881, Rebecca has moved to Lofthouse(Loftus), just up the road from Whitby and her birth county is shown as Kent. Clara Isles now becomes Clara Linklater. They are all living with others in lodgings and are shown as tinkers and hawkers. Thomas Adamson is recorded as aged 9 and born in Whitby. My guess is that Thomas came from an itinerant family where births, deaths and marriages were loosely recorded, if at all (since none of the persons recorded can be traced further) and that his connections were lost at a fairly early age, certainly by the time that he enlisted in 1901.
Whoever he was, Thomas Adamson served his country and is remembered.
This Monday, 13th October, marks the 83rd anniversary of the death of George Crane at his home in Conduit Road, Bedford. George had obtained a commission in the Bedfordshire Yeomanry at the outbreak of the Great War but had not been able to get a posting abroad. It may have been his age (he was 41 in 1914) or he may not have been fit enough. Whatever the reason, he transferred to the Royal Defence Corps in 1917 and saw out his war at home. He was certainly suffering from some form of sickness, as he received a silver war badge after leaving the RDC in 1919. We know little of his life after the war, but it was terminated by his own hand as he shot himself with a revolver in 1931. His poor housekeeper found him dead. George wasn't the only man who served in the Bedfordshire Yeomanry to have committed suicide.
Percy Griffiths of Bedford had joined the regiment in 1915 at the age of 21. He had married the previous year. He failed to turn up for parade in Bedford on 4th April 1916 and it was soon discovered that he had thrown himself under a train at Cow Bridge, Kempston earlier that day. He suffered multiple injuries and died at Bedford Hospital. At the subsequent inquest, the coroner considered it a case of a man lacking the necessary backbone to serve as a soldier. Percy is buried in Bedford Cemetery.
David Warnes had served with Compton's Horse in South Africa during the Boer War. At the outbreak of war in 1914, he was given a commission in the Royal Field Artillery and was soon sent to the East African theatre of war. In June 1917, he was attached to a transport column that made its way to Kirongo, just north of Lake Victoria. Described as a tense and nervous man, he shot himself through the head with his rifle, to be discovered by his man servant. His body would have been buried locally, but is now in the Dar Es Salaam War Cemetery, Tanzania. I have a photograph of David and will post it to the website shortly.
Sidney Green was a well-known resident of Luton, taking a senior role in the JW Green brewing company. He had been a territorial soldier with the Bedfordshire Yeomanry for many years, and earned a Territorial Decoration in 1916 before being seconded to the Scots Guards as a Major. His bravery with that famous Scottish regiment earned him a Military Cross in 1918 and he was also mentioned in despatches. Post-war, he resumed his love of horse racing and was the joint owner of the winner of the 1924 Grand National, Master Robert, a rank outsider. Sadly, he was found near to his home one morning in 1930 having shot himself through the head with his revolver. He was aged 54. He was buried in the family plot at Crawley Green Road Cemetery, Luton.
May they and all others who served their country rest in peace.
Silly, really, but it had never yet occurred to me that some physical connection with the Bedfordshire Yeomanry of the early 20th century would exist within the vaults of its 21st century incarnation, the mouthful that is 201(Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire)Parachute Battery, R.A.(V). Or was, for 201 Battery entered into suspended animation on 31st March 2014.
I received a call in March from Major Jon Searle of 201 Battery and he enquired if I would like to look through whatever they possessed that related to the Bedfordshire Yeomanry before it was all packed up and sent to some repository, yet to be determined. I was rather surprised as I couldn't imagine how or why they would have had anything of any historical note. As I say, a silly notion really, as it's almost inevitable that a successor regiment will have something that relates to its predecessors, however distant in connection or time. To cut a long story short, I agreed to meet Jon at the TA Centre in Marsh Road, Luton. I took my daughter with me as I thought she could take photographs whilst I made notes.
It was clear when I got there that I'd arrived fairly late in the process. Stuff was literally packed in boxes, a lot of it not related to the BY. Some items had already gone - including the side drum that would have accompanied the bass drum that I described in a previous post. We managed to narrow down the items of real interest to just 3. But what lovely items they were. I've put a photograph of one of the items on the home page and the other two are shown below.
My grateful thanks to Major Searle for making contact.
This is the first post for over a year. During that time, work has become tougher and I've got more involved in the carriage driving, to the degree that I have very little time for much else apart from work and horses. Nevertheless, I've decided to keep the website going and to do as much as I can in the small amount of time available.
Many apologies if you did try to contact me over the past year or so and didn't get a response.
The centenary of the carnage that was the Great War hasn't helped my situation. Any number of people have decided to have a go at researching the men on their local war memorial and enquiries have risen many times the previous levels. And there was I thinking that the Bedfordshire Yeomanry wouldn't stir up much interest !
One item that did get my attention recently was the fact that Findmypast has the Royal Artillery attestation papers 1883-1942 online. As some of you know, finding a soldier's service details after WW1 (for any regiment) means a request to the Ministry of Defence, but the attestation papers are sometimes just as valuable. The post-WW1 papers for the different regiments and corps are scattered about the country in various museums and archives but those for the Royal Artillery are now available to all those with a subscription to FMP. It attracted my attention because the Bedfordshire Yeomanry became a Royal Artillery regiment after WW1 and I just wondered if some of my WW1 chaps appeared in the records ? I have taken advantage of a 14 day free trial with FMP and have started to search some of the more obvious candidates. Unfortunately, it appears that those that did serve in WW1 must have decided that they'd had enough or were perhaps too old to continue. So far, I've found 3 of the old warhorses who decided to re-enlist in the newly mechanised unit - I was already aware of 2 of them, so not much of a boost to the data. But at least it's all free !
Joseph Henry Newman was born in Leicester in the winter of 1890/1. By the time of the 1911 census he was still there, making a living in the print trade. In September 1914, he enlisted into the Bedfordshire Yeomanry at Bedford as Private 1075, just a few men up the line from Arthur Brown (see last month's update). He made his way to France with the unit in June 1915. And that's all we know until 15th January 1918, when Joseph died in that foreign field. According to the medal roll and his medal index card, he died of pneumonia. According to Southern's book, he was one of the members of 'A' squadron that was on parade on 15th January 1918 at Vadencourt Chateau when a German shell landed in their midst, causing death and injury. The balance of evidence favours a death by illness, given that Joseph is buried at St Pierre Cemetery, Amiens, when all the others of 'A' squadron were buried at Tincourt New Cemetery. 42nd Stationary Hospital was stationed at Amiens at the time, so the likelihood is that Joseph met his end there.
So how did a Leicester boy come to enlist in a yeomanry regiment far away from his home ? Did he succumb to pneumonia or was he a shell victim ? A trip to Leicester archives is required in the hope that a local newspaper might shed some light on the matter.
Joseph earned a 1914-15 star, British War Medal and Victory Medal. That last medal turned up on ebay a few weeks ago in Leicester. Battered and dull, it is unremarkable (that's the medal, not Leicester) but is nevertheless a vital reminder of a life given in a higher cause.
The medals to Arthur George Brown made an appearance towards the end of last year. AG was born in Dunstable in 1887 and his father ran a grocery store in High Street South. His number, 1079, indicated that he enlisted in September 1914; he went out to France with his fellow yeomen in June 1915 and, according to his medal index card, he was commissioned to the Bedfordshire Regiment in 1917. Steve Fuller's excellent website on the Bedfordshire Regiment, very usefully containing the regimental war diaries, revealed that AG joined up with the 2nd battalion on 8th July 1918 but was packed off to the 1st Hertfords just 3 weeks later. There are no entries for his time with the Hertfords so his commissioned war service remains a bit of a mystery.
Although born in Dunstable, it appears that he moved to the Potton/Eyeworth area of Bedfordshire and became a farm bailiff. In about 1915, he inherited a small farming estate from a deceased relative in that area and continued to farm at Eyeworth until his death in 1930. His obituary confirms that he died from an undisclosed illness and that he was buried at Eyeworth church. A bit of business took me out to the Potton area during December and I spent half an hour looking round the pleasant church and churchyard; alas, no AG or any other Brown but I did find the headstone of Sidney Peel and his wife Delia. Sidney was the commanding officer of the Bedfordshire Yeomanry during the Great War, so quite a find. A very plain headstone and no mention of his military or other connections.
The only other avenue left open to me to complete the initial story of AG was to try and find some officer papers. That necessitated a trip to the National Archives. Brown is a very common surname and officer papers don't always reveal a second initial, especially the WO339 series, so the tip here is to consult the online index under WO338 and enter the former reference number into the catalogue; this beats slogging through the A Browns any day ! Happily I found AG's papers which showed that he applied to become an officer in September 1916. He had served previously in the Bedfordshire Yeomanry from about 1907 until 1912, reached the rank of Sergeant, but resigned due to the death of a cousin in a shooting accident. He also stated in his application that he had attended Dunstable Grammar School and I noted that his application was supported by L C R Thring, his old headmaster. AG would have attended DGS from about 1898 to 1904, over 60 years before I went through the same gates. Thring was head of the school from when it opened in 1888 until 1921 and his own son, Ashton, died as an officer in the Royal Field Artillery in 1917.
My name is David Doorne. I'm a solicitor, Arsenal and Luton Town supporter, military researcher, member of the Royal British Legion, carriage driving supporter and passionate Bedfordshire Yeomanry buff. Not always in that order !