Tuesday, 27 October 2009

'The Bedford Highlanders'
A relatively little known part of Bedford's recent history is the friendly invasion of the town early in the First World War, by thousands of Scottish part time soldiers of the Territorial Force, the forerunner of today’s Territorial Army.

The "invaders" were the men of the Highland Division (later to become the 51st Highland Division) whose infantry units carried famous and evocative names such as Gordon, Seaforth, Argyll and Sutherland and Queens Own Cameron Highlanders. The Scottish troops became a familiar and welcome sight in the town and surrounding countryside as they trained and prepared for war.



A novelty postcard sent from Bedford by soldier Jack Watling to his mother who lived in Romford, Essex. The humourous image is actually not too far off the reality of life in unfurnished billets in Bedford! (author's collection)

During the period from August 1914 to May 1915, Bedford’s population doubled with the influx of the Highland Division's infantry battalions, cavalry, artillery, medical and support units. The number of men varies from anywhere between 16,000 and 20,000 depending on which source one refers to. However, it is reasonable to conclude that around 17,000 men arrived in the initial wave with this number rising to 22,000 as a result of recruitment undertaken during the autumn and winter of 1914, followed by the arrival of additional battalions in April 1915, the month before the Division left Bedford for France.
The reinforcing battalions were drawn from the Black Watch, the King's Own, the King's (Liverpool Regiment), the Lancashire Fusiliers and the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.

It is sobering to reflect that many of the men who were in Bedford with the Highland Division would become casualties by the autumn of 1916. At the War's end, the Division had earned a reputation for being one of the hardest fighting in the British Army, but in the process it sustained nearly 45,000 casualties – killed, wounded and missing.

Why the Highlanders came to Bedford

At the outbreak of war, the Territorial Force's (TF) role was Home Defence, this being further divided into "Coastal" and "Central" protection. War stations were assigned prior to the outbreak of hostilities and the Highland Division (part of the "Central Force") was allocated to Bedford. Other war stations for Territorial Force Divisions comprising the "Central Force" were clustered in central & south-eastern England, most close to Bedford (e.g. Northampton, Luton and St Albans).


The reasoning behind this was based on the premise that any enemy invasion would be most likely to take place on the South, South-Eastern or East coasts of England. "Central Force" divisions were deployed in such a way as to permit their rapid and easy movement to areas where the enemy had landed and where the coastal protection force required reinforcement. Bedford is ideally placed, from the point of view of its geographical location and its transport infrastructure, to cover a number of possible situations.

The Highland Division's regular Staff had reconnoitered Bedford in early 1914 and had drawn up transport and billeting plans in conjunction with the Borough Corporation, railway companies and local Constabulary. These plans were put into immediate effect when war was declared and this helps to explain why, in such a relatively short space of time, just under 20,000 Highlanders were brought south and put into permanent, or tented accommodation with what can only be described as the minimum of fuss. The process was greatly assisted by the fact that many of the Territorial Force units were either in the middle of, or coming to the end of, their annual training camps when war broke out.

Some of the 500 men of the 1/4th Gordon Highlanders returning to Kittybrewster Station, Aberdeen, having been hurriedly recalled from summer camp at Tain. (photo: author's collection)

This major movement of men to Bedford, with their associated equipment and transport, was facilitated by the pre-war construction of temporary wooden platforms erected in the railway sidings which ran parallel to Ampthill Road, in the South End district of the town.


During the winter of '1914 – '15, the remit of the first line Territorial battalions changed as it became apparent that this ready resource would be needed to bolster the British Expeditionary Force struggling against vastly superior numbers on the other side of the English Channel. The Territorial Force's focus shifted from defence to offence and training was adjusted accordingly. Bedford's prime central location and transport links meant that the large numbers of men could be transported quickly and efficiently to the south coast ports, direct by train, prior to being shipped to France.

The Highlanders arrive in Bedford

"During August, 1914, the all-kilted Highland Division streamed into Bedford in trainload after trainload, and the skirl of bagpipes was heard throughout the land. From the wild straths and glens we irrupted overnight into a Cowperesque landscape where the sluggish Ouse lazed through flat meadows bounded by thick hedgerows. Age-old churches, with square Saxon towers or graceful spires, dotted the countryside, and around them nestled thatched cottages with white-washed walls. We came, we saw, and we took possession. We found it good."
'Students Under Arms', Alex Rule*, MC, MA; Aberdeen University Press 1934

*Alex Rule was a member of 'U' Company, 1/4th Gordon Highlanders. 'U' Company originally comprised mainly students and staff of Aberdeen University.

Men of the 1/4th Gordon Highlanders march to Aberdeen railway station where they will board a train to Bedford (photo: author's collection)

Following mobilisation of the Territorial Force on 4th August 1914, the first of sixty seven troop trains began arriving at Bedford, from Scotland, early on Saturday 15 August and within forty-eight hours around 17,000 men had descended on the town.

In Bedford, rumour had it that the Russians were coming. One of the troop trains had stopped at a station up the line. A lady serving refreshments to the soldiers on board asked where they were from - "Rooshar" came the reply, which due to the lady's unfamiliarity with the heavy Ross-shire accent was translated as Russia!


The 1/4th Gordon Highlanders entrain at Aberdeen for the journey to Bedford (photo: author's collection)

"The quiet old county town was shaken to its foundations. We doubled the population; sheer weight of numbers alone made us a disturbing factor in its civic life. Then, in addition to our 12,000 infantry, we had no fewer than twelve pipe bands … Our invasion was a peaceful penetration – from the military point of view – but we shattered the calm of 700 years."
'Students Under Arms', Alex Rule, MC, MA; Aberdeen University Press 1934

On arrival at the station, after a journey of around eighteen hours, the troops were led to their billets by the local constabulary assisted by boys scouts.

Whilst the Division made use of all uninhabited dwellings, the sheer number of men requiring accommodation meant that many were housed in the homes of Bedford folk.

"The Officer Commanding publicly expressed to the people of Bedford his grateful acknowledgement of the many acts of kindness bestowed on the men. There was no trouble in billeting them. People who had never been known to take in lodgers gladly threw open their doors, and took the strangers in. Every empty house was commandeered and filled before householders were called upon."
'The Highland Division at Bedford – An Illustrated Souvenir': Beds Times 1915

The Seaforth Highlanders march from de Parys Avenue into the High Street – late summer 1914 (photo: author's collection)

Each of the Division's infantry Battalions and its support units was allocated specific billeting areas within the Town boundary and each Battalion was placed in its own block of streets:

Divisional Headquarters were in St Mary's.

The Seaforth and Cameron Infantry Brigade (1/4th, 1/5th and 1/6th Seaforth and 1/4th Queens Own Cameron Highlanders) was in the district between Kimbolton Road and Bromham Road, including the Grammar (now Bedford School) and High Schools, 'Black Tom' and 'Saints' areas.

The Gordon Infantry Brigade (1/4th, 1/5th, 1/6th and 1/7th Gordon Highlanders) was initially in Queens Park before moving closer to the town centre in the area known as 'Poet's Corner', bordered by Bromham Road and Shakespeare Road, extending into Lansdowne Road, Warwick Avenue and Conduit Street.

The Argyll and Sutherland Infantry Brigade (1/6th, 1/7th, 1/8th and 1/9th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders) was in the area within the roughly defined perimeter of Castle Road, Newnham Avenue, Goldington Road and The Embankment

South of the river, in an area extending out to Elstow and across to Kempston were quartered the Division's artillery units, Royal Engineers (TF) and the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Highland Field Ambulance, with the Transport and Supply Column residing in Ashburnham Road through to an area bounded by Midland Road and Commercial Road.

"Neat rows of larger dwellings houses behind shady pavements greeted the Highlander on his arrival in Bedford. Here and there in every avenue a galaxy of notice boards hung over railings of curtainless houses announcing that this most desirable residence was 'To be Let or Sold'. Opposite such, fifty men and upwards were halted and told to make themselves at home"
'Behind the Lines'; Col W.N. Nicholson, CMG, DSO – Jonathan Cape Ltd 1939


The modern houses-cum-billets offered creature comforts that many of the soldiers had never experienced before; hot and cold running water and gas to burn.

"There were many men of most excellent character who came with us from Scotland, who had rarely seen a house like any one of these Bedford residential properties and who had certainly never been inside one. One such soldier after a long day in the country was washing his socks in that small compartment described by the House Agent as a 'Gent's Cloak'. "What do I do when I want any more water, Jock?" he shouted to his companion in the room outside. "Pull the Plug" [chain]. "Christ!" he exclaimed as he watched their departure."
'Behind the Lines'; Col W.N. Nicholson, CMG, DSO – Jonathan Cape Ltd 1939


Such was the speed at which the Territorial Force was mobilised, many of the troops arrived in Bedford with a mixture of uniform and kit due to demand outstripping supply at that time. Some men had to put up with wearing a mixture of civilian dress and army uniform depending on what was available for issue. There is an account of one group of soldiers visiting a photographer's studio in Bedford to have their portraits made. With only one full set of uniform available to them (kilts, spats and glengarries were in particularly short supply), they had to swap and change between shots!

"Like all other units at this time, the Battalion was hard put to it for clothing and equipment. The regimental tailors could not turn out kilts quickly enough to clothe the new drafts... Indeed the unit when paraded at full strength must have been a curious looking collection of men in every stage of clothing and equipment."
'History of the Fourth Battalion The Seaforth Highlanders', Lt. Col. M.M. Haldane, 1927


Men of the 1/5th Seaforth pass in front of Bedford (Grammar)School's cricket pavilion, shortly after the Battalion's arrival in Bedford, August 1914. Note the mixture of civilian and military dress. (photo: John Wainwright collection, via the author)
Machine Gun Section of the 2/4th Seaforth Highlanders – Foster Hill Road boundary of Bedford Park c. early 1915. One man wears tartan trews, but all the others are dressed in the standard Service Dress trousers. Also note the mixture of diced and undiced Glengarries, not all with unit badges; indicative of the lack of kit and equipment during the early days of the Division's time in Bedford, particularly as 2/4th was a reserve battalion that came to Bedford to replace 1/4th battalion which had left the Division for France in November 1914. Some of these Territorials wear the 'Imperial Service' badge above their right breast pocket, indicating that they had volunteered for service abroad in war time. (photo: author's collection) This portrait of an unnamed soldier of the 1/5th Seaforth was taken by photographer J.T. Welch of 6, Midland Road, Bedford. The man's attire suggests that the only pieces of uniform he possessed at the time the photograph was taken were great coat, shoes, spats and Glengarry (although one suspects that this may have been borrowed for the purposes of the photograph) (photo: author's collection)

Highlander Meets Bedfordian

English Colonel to the Highlander sentry, "Who are you?"
Sentry to the Colonel, "Fine Sir, and hoo's yersel?"

The kilted troops were something of a curiosity with their Highland dress and, in many cases, strong regional dialects. A large number of the soldiers, particularly those of the Cameron Highlanders, spoke Gaelic as their first language. It is probably not too surprising that the Highlanders were perceived as being somewhat wild and uncouth by some of the more genteel members of local society.

"U Company … found temporary billets in the suburb of "'Oney'ill," and our first week there almost convinced the artisan residents that we were semi-savages. They stood in their doorways and gaped at us when we danced an eightsome reel in the street to an accompaniment of "hoochs" and 'varsity yells.
"We revelled in our barbarian role and solemnly assured our hosts that the kilt was our normal civilian garb. "But don't you wear longer kilts in winter?" The question came from a woman spectator and she was promptly enlightened on the point."

'Students Under Arms', Alex Rule, MC, MA; Aberdeen University Press 1934

Inevitably, the local girls were also an attraction.

"In the evenings we punted on the Ouse, or when feeling romantic – for the harvest moon was full – played the part of kilted Romeos to the Bedford Juliets".
'Students Under Arms', Alex Rule, MC, MA; Aberdeen University Press 1934

Military weddings became common place during the Division's time in the town, with Scottish lassies travelling south to marry, before their fiancés went to war. However, several Bedford girls also married men from the division before its departure. "The short stretch of river by the Embankment Hotel was like a seaside esplanade, where every kilted visitor had seemingly found his local girl; and paraded with her, oblivious of the sidelong glances of the gallant woman's league, who occasionally, from mistaken motives, endeavoured to discourage exhibitions of affection between man and wife. For among our 17,000 many were married"
'Behind the Lines'; Col W.N. Nicholson, CMG, DSO – Jonathan Cape Ltd 1939

Despite the size of the contingent, the speed with which it arrived in town, the dispersal of billets throughout the Borough and the cultural differences between hosts and guests, there is little evidence of any major trouble being caused. Indeed, strong and lasting bonds were forged between the Town and its Scottish visitors.

"What a lot the division owed to Bedfordians – and to the women particularly. We thrived on their kindness. Seventeen thousand men on full pay bring a lot of money into a town; and while our thoughts were engrossed on training for war every big and little shop blossomed into a canteen, and every public house took thought how it could increase its stature. But all of the natives of Bedford were not shopkeepers and publicans, and a least half of the inhabitants were making no wealth from billeting. We can have brought neither pleasure nor profit to a goodly proportion – to the old gentlemen who made us welcome at their clubs; to the middle-aged ladies whose peace of mind we shattered. Yet we received from all the greatest kindness."
'Behind the Lines'; Col W.N. Nicholson, CMG, DSO – Jonathan Cape Ltd 1939
Men of the 1/5th Seaforth, with landlady and child, outside a billet in Beaconsfield Road.
(photo: Bedford and Luton Archives Service, via the author)

Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders outside their billets with landladies and children in the Castle Road / Russell Park area of Bedford. (photo: John Wainwright collection, via the author. Digital colouring by Chris Foster)

Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders outside their billet, 37 Dudley Street, with householders and child (photo: Bedford and Luton Archives Service, via the author)



Argyll and Sutherland NCOs outside 63 Dudley Street (photo: Bedford and Luton Archives Service, via the author)


Seaforth Highlanders outside a billet, thought to be in De Parys Avenue (photo: Chris McDonald collection, via author. Digital colouring by Chris Foster)

Two 1/5th Seaforth Highlanders outside their billet in the 'Black Tom' area of Bedford. One wears tartan trews, whilst the other wears a canvas kilt apron to protect the woollen kilt worn underneath. The 1/5 Seaforth wore different patterns of glengarry dicing, cap badge, sporran, hose tops and tartan to the other Seaforth battalions (photo: author's collection)

"We travelled back to Bedford on the 14th ... We found Ada waiting with the news that a soldier was to be billeted in our house, a Seaforth Highlander. The soldier came in the early hours of the morning, a small, nineteen-year-old Scot from Wick, called Robertson. On the 18th Ada writes: 'I called Robertson at 4 a.m. No quiet. Bagpipes, voices, drilling, etc.'"
'Can You Find Me - A family history'; Christopher Fry - Oxford University Press 1978

A member of either the 1/4th or 1/6th Seaforth Highlanders outside his billet in Bedford (photo: author's collection)

Original improvised 'billet ticket' for 8 Wellington Street, Bedford. Accommodation to be found for one man of the 1/4th Seaforth Highlanders dated 3 September 1914 (author's collection)
Original 'billet ticket' for 8 Wellington Street, Bedford. Accommodation to be found for two men of the 1/4th Seaforth Highlanders dated 21 September 1914 – it seems that by now, supplies of official Army Forms had caught up with the administrators! (author's collection) Reverse of the Army Form B.55 shown above (author's collection)

Original copy of instructions to landladies in Foster Hill Road area of Bedford regarding arrangements for payment of Billeting Money (author's collection)

The 2/4th Seaforth Highlanders was a reserve battalion which moved to Bedford after the 1/4th Seaforth left the town for active service in France and Belgium in November 1914. At this early stage of the war, a Territorial Force man could be exempt from front line duty because of his age, physical fitness and / or because he had not agreed to serve overseas when originally signing-on. The reserve, or home service, Battalions would take responsibility for recruiting and training men who would then be sent to the first line Battalion to replace casualties.

Training and Preparation
 
 
In his 'History of the Fifty First (Highland) Division 1914 - 1918', Major F.W Brewsher states of the Division in the early days of the war,
"The "barrack " discipline was excellent, but the field discipline left much to be desired. It was sometime before some C.O.'s even could be made to understand that an order in the field did not admit of heated argument before execution; and the rank and file had to learn that training was not a recreation to stop when they got tired.

But all this gradually wore off, and in less than three months units began to assume a workmanlike and even serviceable appearance on parade."

Generally, the training regime comprised a regular cycle of drill, route marches, field exercises, musketry practice and learning the finer points of trench work and fighting. Specialist trades, for example signallers, would undertake proficiency courses. In the case of signallers this meant learning about the relatively new communication methods of telephony and telegraphy.

"16 February 1915: Another magnificent day - the sun is getting quite warm. 'C' marched out to Bromham Bridge and then took up an outpost position to cover it. Had charge of a picket and got on quite well. Willie and Black were the only officers out. We lay down for a couple of hours and then marched round by Stevington and the Stagsden road. The pace was a little hot and even Willie was a little pegged. He doesn't seem to remember we carry more than he does. No one fell out but Addie had blistered feet and no doubt there are others. Got in at 3.30. Most enjoyable and healthy day.
Down town in the evening for a few necessaries and spent the rest of the time getting my kit packed ... Jim cooked some haggis and it's lying heavy on my stomach now."

The personal diary of John Bruce Cairnie, 1/5th Seaforth Highlanders


Bedford's church halls, school rooms, public spaces and parks were made freely available in order to help accommodate the Division's training needs, but it was often necessary for soldiers to be sent away for training elsewhere. Shooting ranges were established at a number of sites in the countryside around the town; Cotton End and Harrowden being two of these. Practice trenches were prepared and used for training in, for example, the fields above Cemetery Hill, in Clapham Park and further out of town in Stagsden.

"The park was full of soldiers, horses and mules ... Within a month the military had taken over the corner of the field where the cricket-nets had been, over the hedge at the bottom of our backyard and built a brick rifle range ... there was no getting away from the war with the soldiers in the streets, banging away in the field at the back, digging trenches in the Cemetery Hill fields"
'Can You Find Me - a family history'; Christopher Fry* - Oxford University Press 1978
* The young Christopher Fry lived at 120 Gladstone Street and Seaforth Highlanders were billeted with the family between August 1914 and May 1915. The house backed onto Bedford Modern School's playing fields which were sometimes referred to as 'a park'.

"January 26th: Same programme of training as yesterday in Clapham Park. Had a new Sigs. Lieutenant today, G.C. Rogers. He said the discipline among the signallers was shocking in the extreme. He told us a lot of things we already knew and also some things he was not very sure of himself"
The personal diary of Hugh McArthur, Signaller, 1/8th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders

In the villages surrounding Bedford, local folk would have been used to the regular sight of columns of Highland troops passing through on route marches, or moving across the open fields on cross country exercises.

Clicking on the following link provides access to the National Library of Scotland's screen archive website and a short clip from an unissued Gaumont newsreel showing the 1/4th Camerons on a route march in the Kempston area, winter 1914/15. Although the description of the footage states that it was 'probably' filmed during training at Bedford, this is definitely the case as the full version clearly shows the troops marching up St. John's Street, Kempston.

Borough Recreation Committee for the Troops

The busy and highly effective 'Borough Recreation Committee for the Troops' came into being the day after the Highland Division arrived in town. The Committee organised recreational facilities and entertainment for the troops, much of this being provided by the local population, reinforced by talent sourced from the ranks of the Division itself. One of these was a Private E. Smith who was said to be able to extract charming music from a bicycle pump.


The local theatres and cinemas provided additional options for off duty soldiers and a number of canteens, reading and recreation rooms were established by the YMCA.

"By the end of August 1914, fifteen recreation rooms were opened, and in the subsequent four months there were no fewer than forty-seven centres in Bedford.
During the first three months seventeen concert parties were organised to visit Canteens in Bedford and neighbourhood, including the camps at Haynes and Howbury Parks"

'A Record of Four and Half Years Voluntary Work'; J.Hamson – pub. by Bedford Borough Recreation Committee for the Troops May 1919

In April 1915, the Committee established the War Working Party in order to help deal with the emergency requirement of 20,000 gas masks to equip the Highland Division. The town's population set to, willingly.


"In the day-time the Corn Exchange resembled a huge dress making establishment … Ladies lent their sewing machines … Other people worked at home and scholars in the day schools assisted." 'A Record of Four and Half Years Voluntary Work'; J.Hamson – pub. by Bedford Borough Recreation Committee for the Troops May 1919

In the space of ten days the task was completed, with the full consignment of War Office pattern respirators being despatched to France.


Hogmanay 1914-15


With the Highland Division being well settled in the town by the end of the year, Hogmanay 1914-15 proved to be one the main social events of its time in Bedford.


The New Year celebrations were approached with a degree of nervousness on the part of the local population who did not know quite what to expect from their Scottish guests.

"The word Hogmanay had been secretly whispered from House to House by the citizens of the town, and had, I fancy, got somewhat confused with the tales of the St. Bartholomew Massacre.

"My friend the chief constable consulted me … He told me of lurid rumours that the men returning from leave in Scotland were bringing whisky with them – potent Scotch whisky, there being nothing with sufficient body in it in Bedford. How they intended to put a kilt on John Bunyan's statue and paint John Howard red. I suggested that the arrival of a posse of police to keep the peace would be a splendid draw for the Highlander, to add to the rest of his programme; and he agreed to entrust the safety of the town to me and my picquets."

'Behind the Lines'; Col W.N. Nicholson, CMG, DSO – Jonathan Cape Ltd 1939

The Borough Recreation Committee was determined to mark the occasion well and raised £900 towards the total cost of £1048 in contributions from the main Scottish towns to which the Division was most closely connected. Over two evenings each man in the Division was treated to a Hogmanay Supper which was provided simultaneously in eighteen venues around the town.


On New Years Eve, priority was given to those men who were billeted in unfurnished accommodation, with the remainder being entertained the following evening. 1000 suppers were sent to Howbury Park where the 1/8th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders were in quarantine, under canvas. The suppers were presided over by Bedford's civic dignitaries and the Lord Provost of Aberdeen and the Editor of the 'Aberdeen Journal' were also in attendance.

The evenings were a triumph of planning and organisation, being hailed a great success. Much to the relief of the towns folk there were no major problems reported regarding the discipline of the soldiers in the town.


"John Bunyan escaped being kilted; and if John Howard in the Market Square had been brought to life he would have seen no more than a few wild Highlanders dancing reels, shaking hands, shouting and singing."
'Behind the Lines'; Col W.N. Nicholson, CMG, DSO – Jonathan Cape Ltd 1939
An original programme for the Hogmanay Supper and Entertainment provided in St. Martin's Church Hall on New Year's Eve 1914 (author's collection)

The Divisional Highland Games

The second major event organised by the Recreation Committee for the Troops was the Highland Games which were held on Easter Monday 1915 on Bedford School's (then Bedford Grammar School) playing field.

The full range of Highland Games activities were on offer from tossing the caber to piping and dancing competitions. Over 1,400 entries were received and more than 9,000 soldiers and 5,000 civilians were spectators.

"Tossing the Caber" - one of a series of images of the Highland Games as captured by local photographic studio Blake & Edgar. Taken looking towards Pemberley Avenue (photo: author's collection)
The "Victoria Cross" Race – looking towards Pemberley Avenue with Bedford School chapel visible on the extreme right (photo: author's collection)
The Military Firing Race – looking towards Park Avenue with the Head Master's house and other buildings in the background (photo: author's collection)
"Single Stick" (fencing) competition – looking towards Pemberley Avenue and the School chapel (photo: author's collection)

Solo piping competition - looking towards Burnaby Road (Photo: Bedford and Luton Archives Service, via the author)


Bedfordians in the kilted ranks

Bedford's contribution to the Highlanders' preparations was not confined to the purely material. A number of local men were recruited by the Highlanders during the Division's time in the town. This was not unusual given that most of the Division's battalions needed to recruit locally in order to reach their wartime complement. Some men were drawn to the Highland Battalions because of their Scottish ancestry, others simply because they liked the uniform and the uniqueness of the kilt.

The Seaforth Highlanders were particularly successful at recruiting a large number of London men who were unable to join the oversubscribed ranks of the London Scottish, but who wished to serve in a Scottish unit.

The message on the back of the postcard shown in the 'Then and Now' section, below, reads:

"24 de Parys Avenue 1251 H Coy 4th Seaforth Highlanders Bedford
12.9.14
Mr. R. Welsh, 28 Grafton Street, Glasgow Dear Bob, Getting here A1, no word of shifting yet. We are having inoculations against typhoid fever today. Kind of vaccination business. This photo is taken outside the empty house we stayed in. Each Co. (this is some of them) is about 100 strong now. Piles of recruits have joined us from London and Bedford. Bn. is 30 men over strength now. How is Jock getting on? He will be starting shortly. Good luck, Walter."

Disease strikes

Although the division's time in Bedford was largely trouble free in terms of disciplinary matters, tragedy came in the form of disease. Scarlet Fever, diphtheria and measles ran through the ranks of men who had never been exposed to these diseases in the more remote areas of Scotland. The majority of men who contracted these illnesses survived, but some fatally succumbed, their bodies either being returned to Scotland for burial, or interred in the military section of Bedford's Foster Hill Road cemetery.
At the time, the numbers of deaths became grossly exaggerated and it was rumoured that numbers of men were dying in large measure as a result of incompetence and lack of concern on the part the Authorities.

From the 'Bedfordshire Times', January 1st 1915,
"Sir,
It is most depressing to hear on all sides the number of deaths among our Scottish Territorials. Pneumonia following upon measles! That is what we are told. Is it surprising if measles are neglected in the early stages of the disease that by the time the men are sent to hospital pneumonia has already set in and there is very little chance of their recovery? Is this state of things to be allowed to go on in our midst and no one raise a voice against it?
Your obedient servant
A Bedford Householder
[We have received many enquiries on the subject and there is little question as to the strong feeling about it in Bedford. The difficulty is for private individuals to take any step which will not do as much harm as good. Many are helping as the find opportunity by giving warmth, food and garments to the sick, but it is surely not impossible so to organise the resources, public and private, which are available to give our gallant Scottish guests the care and attention that civilians would receive in similar cases of illness. Ed.]"

Given the potential for civilian and military morale to be seriously impaired by such stories, the Authorities were keen to present the true picture through the pages of the 'Bedfordshire Times' later in January 1915:

"OFFICIAL FIGURES
So many rumours have been prevalent of late, many of them grossly exaggerated, as to the number of deaths of Scottish Territorials, that it seems desirable to give the actual figures.
This we ('The Bedfordshire Times') are enabled to do, having before us, by the courtesy of Major Keble, D.A.D.M.S., H.D. (T.F.), the vital statistics relating to the Highland Division T.F., in Bedford from August 17, 1914 to January 9, 1915.
The deaths during that period from acute infectious diseases number 33, viz.- From Scarlet Fever 3, Diphtheria 3 and Measles 27
In addition, there have been 3 fatal cases of pneumonia, 1 of uraemia, and 2 of violence, making the total number of deaths from all causes up to January 9, 1915, 39.
These figures should at once and definitely put a stop to all the talk of 'hundreds of deaths.' The average number of troops quartered in and around Bedford during the past five months has been about 17,500, and the total number of deaths works out at the low rate of 2.2 per 1,000 men.
The largest number of deaths, it will be seen, is due to measles, and it may be said at once that this danger was foreseen. The real difficulty as to measles, and some other infectious diseases, arises in the case of men like the Camerons, who come from the Western Highlands and Isles, where such diseases are unknown.
They have no such resisting power as is built up in town-bred populations which for generations have been subject to the disease. When they get measles it goes very hard with them, and the disease is utterly unlike that which we know in the case of our children. This is unavoidable, according to the official military medical authorities. All that can be done is done.
The men who have been in contact with measles and are susceptible are removed to the Huts at Howbury. Then, if they are attacked, they are removed to the Measles Hospitals at Goldington Road and Ampthill Road.
The official medical view is that the number of deaths, deeply regrettable as it is, is not large under the circumstances; and all the evidence goes to show they are right. The statistics, brought up to January 9th, 1915, show that the first case of measles occurred on October 13 and from this till January 9 there were 416 cases - 8 in October, 72 in November, and 336 in December and the early days of January. The cases and deaths were thus distributed:
Unit / Cases / Deaths
4th Camerons / 141 / 14
8th Argylls / 101 / 4
4th Brigade R.G.A. / 51 / 4
6th Gordons / 33 / 3
5th Seaforths / 30 / 1
4th Seaforths / 26 / 1
6th Seaforths / 19 / 0
4th, 5th, & 7th Gordons/ 12 / 0
Field Ambulance and Lovat's Scouts/416 / 27"

The Camerons were affected more severely than any other unit in the Highland Division, with the disease ultimately claiming the lives of 28 of its men and the same number, at least, being discharged as unfit for further military service.

By the time the measles epidemic showed signs of abating in late January 1915, the total of reported cases within the Division was 529, with 65 deaths, although fatalities continued well in to 1915.

It is reckoned that between August 1914 and May 1915, the Division suffered a total of 135 fatalities due to illness and other causes. The remains of the majority of men who died were returned to Scotland for burial in home towns and villages. However, thirty-three men of the Highland Division who died of disease are buried in the military plot of Foster Hill Road cemetery.

In his summary of the events of 1914 on the opening page of his 1915 diary, Private Hugh McArthur of the 1/8th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders noted,

"We had been in Bedford about a month when Scarlet Fever broke out in my Company (G) among the Jura section. We were at once isolated in Kerr's field on the outskirts of town for about 4 weeks. When we got back to the town we were billeted in Rothsay Road.
.. After being in Rothsay Road for about 5 weeks, fever again broke out in the Jura section and this time G Company were isolated at Howbury, 3 miles from Bedford ... At the end of 6 weeks we again got into town and this time we were billeted in Castle Lodge (Castle Road). ... After being there about 2 weeks, measles broke out among the machine gun men and the signallers and machine gun men were isolated at Howbury. The Sigs. had quite a fine time out there. We went to Cople range to fire the trained men's course every day, but unfortunately I managed to catch the measles. After spending 2 days of torture in the tent I was sent to Clapham Hospital ... and was there 3 weeks. Meanwhile most of the other companies in the 1/8th Battalion had caught the measles too and the Battalion was isolated at Howbury (under canvas) with Howbury Hall as Head Quarters."
The personal diary of Private Hugh McArthur, Signaller, 1/8th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders

The Highland Division leaves Bedford

Although the original intention had been to allow six months of training and working-up time before the Territorials were sent on active service, such was the British Expeditionary Force’s desperate need for reinforcement several of the units which had arrived in Bedford in August 1914 found themselves reassigned for active service with other Divisions between November 1914 and May 1915. The first to go was 1/4th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders which left Bedford on 5th November 1914.
November 5th 1914, the 1/4th Seaforth Highlanders march from De Parys Avenue into the High Street on their way to active service in France (photo: author's collection)

The 1/6th Gordons were next to leave on 9th November and between end of that month and mid-February 1915, the 1/7th and the 1/9th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, the 1/4th Gordons and the 1/4th Camerons all left the Division for active service overseas, their places being taken in Bedford by their respective reserve battalions.
On 29th April, the Highland Division, reinforced by two Black Watch and four Lancashire Battalions received orders to proceed to France and by 5th May the journey had been completed successfully and without incident.
May 1st 1915 – the 1/6th Seaforth Highlanders march along Bedford High Street as they head towards the temporary railway station off Ampthill Road where they will embark on their journey to France. Of note are the 'Ghillie hats', khaki canvas covers for the Glengarries which were a short-lived item of dress particular to the 1/5th and 1/6th Seaforth in the weeks prior to their leaving Bedford. (photo: author's collection)

May 2nd 1915 – watched by local people, men of the Black Watch check their kit outside billets in Beverley Crescent, before forming up to march to the railway station where they will start their journey to France and the front line. Two Territorial battalions of the Black Watch arrived in Bedford in late April 1915 to help bring the Highland Division up to its fighting strength (photo: Bedford and Luton Archives Service, via author)

The following letter was sent by the Divisional Commander Major-General Allason to the Mayor of Bedford on the eve of the Division's departure to France.

"Bedford, April 1915

Dear Mr Mayor,

On the Highland Division leaving Bedford, I write to you as civic head of the Borough to say this. The Highland Division owes much to the Town for the manner they received and have treated us during the nine months invasion of this peaceful place. This we cannot adequately repay, but we shall be grateful if you will make known these sentiments to those concerned … Under the circumstances of the last nine months, mistakes and inconveniences are unavoidable; we acknowledge our share of the mistakes, and trust that they may be forgiven. To you, personally, I am much indebted for advice and assistance of all sorts and I trust the good people of your town will understand we wish them all good luck and fortune, and hope that they will "to our faults be blind."

Believe me,

Yours very truly,

(Signed) R. B. Allason, Major-General,
Commanding 1/1st Highland Division"


One of the thousands: Private Hugh McArthur - 1/8th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders

Several years ago, one of my father's pupils presented him with a Collins Ruby pocket diary, for the year 1915. When he opened the little book, my father found a sepia passport photograph of the diary's owner, a young Scottish soldier
Private Hugh McArthur, born 6th March 1896

The soldier’s name was Hugh McArthur, a native of Kildalton, Argyll and a member of ‘C’ Company, 1/8th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. According to the diary’s Personal Memoranda page he was 5 feet 8½ inches tall, took size 8 boots, a 14½ inch collar, size 6⅞ in hats and had been issued with watch No.4296E.

Hugh’s writings provide a fascinating insight into his day-to-day life during 1915, training in Bedford and the surrounding countryside, before arriving in the Somme trenches.


He arrived at Bedford on Sunday 22 August 1914, having travelled by troop train from Stirling. His first billet was the Public School, Goldington Road where he stayed for several weeks before scarlet fever broke out in the Company and they were sent to a tented isolation camp on the outskirts of town.

Returning from isolation, four weeks later, he was billeted in Rothsay Road and volunteered to train as a Battalion signaller. The Fever broke out once again and he and the rest of his Company were sent to an isolation camp in the grounds of Howbury Hall, near Renhold. It was at this time that the measles epidemic also struck and in his summary of 1914, Hugh records that having contracted the disease he spent “two days of torture in the tent” before being transferred to Clapham Hospital where he eventually recovered.

On discharge from hospital he was billeted with Mrs. Finedon at 70, George Street, Bedford.

Having survived scarlet fever and measles, Hugh spent the first five months of 1915 mastering the signaller’s trade, route-marching the lanes of Bedfordshire and when off duty, indulging in the relatively innocent pleasures offered by establishments such as the Picturedrome cinema, Empire and County Theatres and the troops’ own self-made entertainment.
Machine gun section of the 1/8th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. This photograph was probably taken in the area of Russell Park, Bedford, sometime in early 1915. As a Signaller, Hugh McArthur shared billets with the 1/8th's machine-gun men, in the Howard Dancing Academy.
(photo: Chris McDonald collection, via the author. Digital colouring by Chris Foster)


Early in April 1915 Hugh was granted one week’s leave and he took the opportunity to return to his home on Islay, where he had been employed by the Ardbeg distillery prior to his mobilisation on the outbreak of war. With the travelling times involved, he actually only had 3 days on the island before leaving Port Askaig to journey back to Bedford. On 30 April he and the rest of the Battalion entrained at Bedford station and travelled to Portsmouth where they boarded troopships bound for France, arriving at Le Havre the next day.

On Thursday 20 May, Hugh entered the trenches for the first time at Richebourg St Vaast, near Albert. The diary entries for the periods of duty in the front line are remarkably restrained and understated, particularly when one considers that life’s daily routines often had to be conducted under shellfire and always with regard to enemy snipers.

The trenches were perilous places to be at any time; but signallers, such as Hugh, faced even greater danger as they were usually required to work in open ground, without the benefit of cover, when repairing telephone lines and telegraph wires cut by gunfire, or when running messages between units.

When in the Line, his days were taken up with fixing communications, mundane chores, avoiding enemy fire and generally trying to make life as bearable as possible in the extreme conditions. Out of the line his time was filled with routine duties, daily inspections, training exercises and when off duty , enjoying the beer, bread and omelettes served by the local estaminet.

So what happened to this young man from Islay, who spent New Year’s Eve, 1915, just behind the lines, having rifle and kit inspected before receiving, “a sip of RUM” and with “everything pointing to a very quiet Hogmanay”?

At my father’s suggestion his pupil’s parents sent the diary to the Imperial War Museum in London, for safe keeping within the Department of Documents. The Museum wrote to thank the family for the kind donation and also provided a poignant postscript to close the story.

Hugh was wounded in early August 1916, when the 51st Highland Division was involved in the long and bloody fight for High Wood, during the battle of the Somme. He died of his wounds at the casualty clearing station, just behind the front line at Mericourt L’Abbé, Somme, on the 9 August. He is buried in Heilly Station Cemetery, Mericourt, about 5 miles from Albert.

Hugh McArthur's grave - Heilly Station Cemetery, Mericourt, Plot III, Row A, Grave 21 (photo:the author)


Pipes, parades and portraits - a small gallery



On October 22nd 1914, the King visited Bedford and reviewed the Highland Division, the Bedford Yeomanry and other local detachments. The troops paraded in the fields off Bromham Road, opposite the Biddenham turn (photos: author's collection)



 

Pipes and drums of the 3rd Highland Field Ambulance RAMC, photographed by Bedford photographers, Blake & Edgar (photo: author's collection)


'The Skirl o' the Pipes of the 1st Highland Field Ambulance RAMC' a poem written in honour of Pipe-Major Gilbert by George Stephen during the Division's time in Bedford (author's collection)
Pipes and Drums of the 1/6th Seaforth Highlanders on Bedford School's playing fields with the cricket pavilion in the background (photo: author's collection)


Seaforth Highlander Pipes and Drums lead a procession over the Town bridge towards Divisional HQ in St. Mary's. This picture is courtesy of Mrs Beryl Blythe whose father, Arthur D Sadler, took the photograph.

Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders' church service in Russell Park (photo: author's collection)

Seaforth Highlanders' church service on Bedford School's playing field in front of the cricket pavilion, late summer 1914 (photo: author's collection)

Seaforth Highlanders' Church Parade on the western side of Bedford Park (photo: author's collection)













Argyll and Sutherland Pipes and Drums march into Mill Street from Newnham Street, past the junction with St Cuthbert's Street. In the background, 'Whiteman family butcher' is now 'Lingers butcher'. St Cuthbert's church is just out of shot on the right hand side (photo: Bedford and Luton Archives Service, via the author)










An unnamed Sergeant of the Gordon Highlanders, photographed by Solomons of Bedford (photo: author's collection)








An unnamed Corporal of the Black Watch photographed by Solomons of Bedford (photo: author's collection)


Private Louis Holiday, 1/4th Seaforth Highlanders, photographed by Solomons of Bedford. Holiday was later commissioned into the Machine Gun Corps and survived the war (photo: author's collection)










Company Quartermaster Sergeant (CQMS) James Hood,'B' Company, 1/6th Seaforth Highlanders. Photographed by Donald Lindley of 99, Tavistock Street Bedford. Note the Imperial Service badge above his breast pocket.
The message on the back of the photo reads, "Leaving today to join Expeditionary Force, James Hood, Bedford 1 May 1915" (photo: author's collection)



An Argyll and Sutherland Highland Sergeant in Russell Park. The message of back of photo reads, "To Kate with brotherly love. From Fred. 31/3/15" (photo: author's collection)



Sergeant A. Brownson (later awarded the DCM) of the 1/4th Camerons. Photographed outside billets by A.W. Pierce of Nottingham who captured many images of the Highlanders in Bedford (photo: author's collection)








An unnamed Private of the Seaforth Highlanders, by Donald Lindley (photo: author's collection)









An unnamed Private of the 1/4th Camerons in ceremonial uniform, by Donald Lindley (photo: author's collection)










An unnamed member of the 1/6th Gordon Highlanders, by J.T. Welch of 6, Midland Road, August 1914 (photo: author's collection)


Bedford Then and Now

Although Bedford has undergone significant change in the last 95 years, much remains from the time the Highlanders made it their temporary home. There follows a series of comparison photographs showing Bedford as the Highlanders saw it and as we see it today.

Above: F Company, 1/4th Seaforth on parade in front of Bedford School's cricket pavilion. The School's Chapel and Pemberley Avenue are in the far distance, while a game of rugby is taking place in the immediate background. This photograph was taken from the upper tier of the pavilion terracing, probably just before the Battalion left Bedford for France in early November 1914. (photo: author's collection)
Below: The same location, early summer 2008. (photo: the author)
Above: Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders outside a house on the corner of Dudley Street and Castle Road
(photo: Bedford and Luton Archives Service, via the author)

Below: The same house today (photo: the author)


Above: H Coy 1/4th Seaforth in front of billets, 24 de Parys Avenue, Bedford.
The image is by A.W. Pierce, Nottingham, one of a number of photographers who came to town to record the Highlanders' stay. The man standing third from the right is a piper, identified by his plain (undiced) Glengarry, McKenzie tartan hose tops and the pattern of sporran cantle. (photo: Bedford and Luton Archives Service, via the author)


Below: 24 De Parys Avenue today (photo: the author)



Men of the 1/4th Camerons drawn up on the Town Bridge with the Swan Hotel in the background (photo: author' collection)

Below: The same view today (photo: the author)

Above: May 2nd 1915 – the 1/5th Gordon Highlanders march along Prebend Street, past the Corporation electricity works, towards the river bridge, heading to the temporary railway station where they will entrain for one of the Channel ports and the crossing to France. In addition to their webbing packs, long barrelled Lee-Enfield rifles and the other standard accoutrements of the infantryman, each man has a white muslin food bag hanging from his right shoulder strap. (photo: Bedford and Luton Archives Service, via the author)

Below: The same stretch of Prebend Street today (photo: the author)



Above: Gordon Highlanders (thought to be members of the 1/4th Battalion) in Lansdowne Road (photo: Bedford and Luton Archives Service, via the author)

Below: The same location today (photo: the author)

Above: The 1/6th Seaforth Highlanders leave the western gate of Bedford Park following Church Parade (photo: author's collection)

Below: The Park gates today (photo: the author)




Above: No.10 Platoon, 1/6th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders outside billets in Rothsay Road, 1915. (photo: John Wainwright collection, via the author)

Below: The same location today (photo: the author)


Above: The 1/4th Seaforth Highlanders used Bedford School as its Head Quarters and also for billeting. Here, some of the troops are seen on the northern side of the main school building, with Burnaby Road entrance in the distance. Bedford School dropped 'Grammar' from its title in late 1918 (photo: Bedford and Luton Archive Service, via the author)

Below: The northern side of the main school building today, with the addition of the Memorial Hall on its western flank, built in the 1920s to commemorate the Old Bedfordians who died during the Great War (photo: the author)



Above: 1/6th Gordon Highlanders in what is now Harpur Square. According to the caption, the troops have just left the Weslyan Chapel which stood where the Central Library is now located. The photograph was taken from the steps of the Harpur Suite, known as the Assembly Rooms at the time of the Highland Division's stay in the town (photo: Bedford and Luton Archive Service, via the author)

Below: As it is today, looking past the Central Library towards Marks and Spencer (photo: the author)


Above: Photo taken by D. Lindley (99 Tavistock Street Bedford) of a platoon of 1/4th Cameron Highlanders, taken at the western end of Bedford High School for Girls on Bromham Road. The School was HQ for the 1/4 Cameron Highlanders during the Highland Division's time in Bedford and this photo was probably taken shortly after their arrival, given that the horse chestnut trees are in full leaf. (photo: Author's collection)

Below: The same location today (photo: the author)

During his time in Bedford with the 1/5th Seaforth Highlanders, soldier-poet Lt E. A. Mackintosh was inspired to write the following in honour of the 1/4th Camerons,

CHA TIL MACCRUIMEIN
(Departure of the 4th Camerons)
The pipes in the street were playing bravely,
The marching lads went by,
With merry hearts and voices singing
My friends marched out to die;
But I was hearing a lonely pibroch
Out of an older war,
'Farewell, farewell, farewell, MacCrimmon,
MacCrimmon comes no more.'


And every lad in his heart was dreaming
Of honour and wealth to come,
And honour and noble pride were calling
To the tune of the pipes and the drum;
But I was hearing a woman singing
On dark Dunvegan shore,
'In battle or peace, with wealth or honour,
MacCrimmon comes no more.'

And there in front of the men were marching,
With feet that made no mark,
The grey old ghosts of the ancient fighters
Come back again from the dark;
And in front of them all MacCrimmon piping
A weary tune and sore,
'On the gathering day, for ever and ever,
MacCrimmon comes no more.'

Lt E.A. Mackintosh, 1/5th Seaforth Highlanders, Bedford, 1915.

This is a particularly poignant poem given that by the autumn of 1915, the 1/4th Cameron Highlanders had effectively ceased to exist as a fighting unit, the survivors being absorbed into 1st Cameron Highlanders
Ewart Alan Mackintosh went on to win the Military Cross before being killed in action at Cantaing Mill in November 1917. He is buried in Orival Wood Cemetery.

Bedford Remembers

Although the Highland Division was only in Bedford for eight months, its presence left a long-lasting impression on the town. There were some in the local population who felt that the Highlanders had been treated almost too well, but these critics must have been in a small minority. The majority of towns folk warmly welcomed the visitors into their homes and hearts. Other troops came and went in large numbers during the course of the war, but none seem to have made anywhere near the mark made by the Highlanders.
Parallels can be drawn with the arrival in town of US service men during the Second World War. Smart uniforms, unusual accents, respect for the local population and an overwhelming aura of the exotic.
Bedford still takes time to remember the Highlanders and the sacrifices they made. On the Sunday before Remembrance Sunday, Bedford's Scots' Society of St Andrew conducts a service of remembrance in Foster Hill Road cemetery in honour of the men of the Highland Division who are buried there. The service is supported by the Royal British Legion, local cadet forces, Bedford Pipe Band, Bedford Borough Council and members of the general public.


I cannot claim Scottish ancestry (being a Bedford boy through-and -through), but I do have a long held interest in the Highlanders' relatively short stay in the Town, the impact it had on the local population and the soldiers' subsequent experiences in France and Flanders. I am currently in the process of conducting more detailed research into this overlooked part of Bedford's recent history. So, if anyone has any information that they would like to share with me, please do get in touch.

Richard Galley


[copyright Richard Galley 2014]








10 comments:

  1. What a fascinating account! Absolutely fascinating. I have arrived here via your wife Chrissie who saw the photo of my kilted uncle on my blog post. I am pretty sure he was a Seaforth Highlander. He is the one in the middle of the photo (the one with the family ears!!!). Unfortunately I don't know if he is still alive as my father has been dead a good twenty years and all information died with him. They were a family that went their different ways!

    Your blog was so informative, I hadn't a clue about the sheer scale of movement of these men, and having attended several Highland Games at Braemar as a child, it was fascinating to see that they held one in Bedford!!!

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  2. An excellent piece! Both my Grandfathers were in Bedford in 1914/15. Donald Manson was a Captain, later Major, commanding "D" (Dunnet) Company of the 5th (Caithness and Sutherland Battalion) Seaforth Highlanders and my other grandfather, Private George Grant, was in the 6th (Morayshire) Battalion. Donald Manson returned to Bedford as Adjutant of the Reserve Battalion at Bedford after being wounded at Festubert soon after his arrival in France. I have several photographs of the 5th Seaforths in Bedford which are not in your collection and I would be happy to send you copies if you are interested.


    Thanks a gain for an excellent site.

    George Manson

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  3. Dear George

    Thank you very much for your comments. I'd like to correspond more with you. Please would you email me at:

    richard@galley9944.fsnet.co.uk

    Kind regards

    Richard

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  4. Hi Richard,

    what a great site, thanks for putting it together. As a resident of Bedford with West Coast ancestry, I've been interested in the Highlanders' brief stay in Bedford ever since I first heard about it a few years ago.

    So it feels a bit churlish to question which end of Dudley Street a photo was taken. I've checked Google Maps Streetview and the Dudley Street junction with Castle Road looks a closer match than the attributed junction with Russell Avenue. What do you think?

    Regards,

    Duncan

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  5. Hi Duncan,
    Thanks for contacting me and for the feedback on the blog.

    I reckon you're spot-on with the location. Well done. I was at the wrong end of Dudley Street and am happy to stand corrected!

    I'll update the blog in due course.

    Thanks and regards
    Richard.

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  6. Hi Richard

    Thank you so much for putting this together. For many years my family have wondered why my widowed grandfather left Alva in Scotland and moved to Bedford!
    He was in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, so he must have had friends in Bedford from the war when he moved down in 1922.
    He married my grandmother who was from Cardington. Do you by any chance have any information regarding a Cardington link to his regiment?
    Thank you

    Su Langstaff

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    Replies
    1. Sue,

      Thanks, I've only just picked up your comment, so I apologise for the delay in replying. Quite a few ex-Highland Division men came back to Bedford in the inter-war years. Most probably this was to do with coming south to find work during the time of economic depression and, already knowing Bedford headed this way where a warm welcome was assured. I don't know of any specific link between the A&SH and Cardington. I know that elements of the Scottish Horse (Territorial cavalry) were billeted in the village at the time the Highland Divison was also in the locality,
      Best regards
      Richard

      Delete
  7. Hi Richard, hope you receive this. About 30 years ago my father bought me an old photo album as i am a military collector. In the album is some photo's of highlanders in Bedford along with a family history of a chap who lived in Spencer road Bedford during the war. Would you be interested in seeing it? shows some highlanders and where they were billeted...best wishes steve m stevemurts@gmail.com

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  8. The album has never been seen before best wishes steve m

    ReplyDelete