The assassination in Sarajevo of Francis Ferdinand, the promised support to Austria from Germany against Serbia, the declared war on Russia, France and Belgium, brought Britain into the war against Germany on the 4th August 1914. Nations of great strength would come face to face over the next 4 years and 2014 marks 100 years since the start of the First World War. We look back at the events of the First World War, the changes it brought and hold with pride and respect the memory of the battles fought and the lives lost.
Enlisting and regiments
Britain was willing to “Kick the Hun” and conscription was aimed at single men aged 18 – 45 years old, but many who wanted to fight for King and Country lied about ages, some as young as 12. The oldest man to die was Lieutenant Henry Webber, 68. Most men were too old to enlist like Edgar Mobbs – educated at Bedford Modern School and played Rugby for Northampton and England. Edgar raised his own “sportsman’s” company of 250 sportsmen (known as Mobbs’ Own) for the Northamptonshire Regiment. He rose to command his battalion with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel but sadly was killed in action, in July 1917 at Zillebeke during the Third Battle of Ypres.
The Sharnbrook Five
This war would affect millions of lives, no more so than a family from Sharnbrook. A film was made by Stephen Spielberg “Saving Private Ryan” following the tragedy of the five Sullivan brothers – 4 of whom were killed in active service. The Sharnbrook brothers tragedy had no happy ending as all five brothers were killed. The Jarvis family lost Lewis, 38, James, 37, Cecil, 35 Hugh, 28 and Arnold, 19. Their mother Ada died shortly after the end of the war from a broken heart.
Loss & Memorial
Not all soldiers destined for the “front” were killed in action. The 51st Highland Division, made up from Gordon, Seaforth, Argyll and Sutherland and Queens Own Cameron Highlanders, were routed through Bedford for training before going onto the front line. 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. 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. Throughout Bedfordshire there are numerous reminders of the ultimate sacrifice that the men of World War 1 made by the monuments and memorial sites scattered through Towns and Villages.
Courtesy of Barry Tappenden