Diary: Three captives escape from Germans

Stories from The Luton News, December 3rd, 1914

Three unnamed privates of the Bedfordshire Regiment told a special correspondent of The Times how they had been captured by the Germans but had managed to escape.

With 12 others they were captured after an engagement on the outskirts of a hamlet near Ypres. They were taken to the German lines and for 15 days were made to dig trenches under heavy shell fire. At night they were roped together in bands of five and were guarded by two sentries.

A week ago they managed to get free during the night and, after knocking down and stunning their guards, they fled for the open country. They were fired upon when running away in the darkness by German snipers, but after feigning to have been shot they succeeded in reaching the main road to Furnes.

Their troubles, however, were not ended when they had cleared the German lines. They had been stripped of portions of their and all the badges had been torn off by the enemy. The Belgian peasants not unnaturally took them to be spies. It was not, indeed, until after the three men had spent a night in the lock-up at Furnes that they were able to establish their identity and the truth of their story.

  • The Luton Guardians on Monday agreed to the request of the officer commanding the troops in the district to allow the military to use a number of cells in the Union House as a military prison. The Master said there were 50 soldiers quartered at the Institution, and there were seven prisoners.

  • A number of Lutonians have enlisted in the West Anglian Royal Engineers Cable and Wireless Section. They are Driver William Worboys, 17 Windmill Street, Luton; Driver William Day, 36 Ramridge Road, Round Green; Driver Eric Humphris, Tarasoon, 25 Claremont Road, Luton; Driver Herbert Jeffs, 99 Ash Road, Luton; Driver A. Wright, 91 High Street South, Dunstable; Driver Harold Catlin, 68 Malvern Road, Luton; Sapper H. Catherall, 119 Russell Street, Luton; Driver L. Dean and Driver W. Dean, 12 Aspley Road, Hemel Hempstead; Sapper Ralph Mantz, 22 Belmont Road, Luton; Sapper John Holdstock, 22 South Road, Luton; Sapper W. Joy, Malvern Road, Luton; Sapper F. Clark, Leagrave Road, Luton; Sapper W. H. Wood, 29 St Saviour's Crescent, Luton.

  • Probably the record for Luton as far as the service of a family in the Army is concerned is that held by Mr Robert Ward, of East Avenue, Park Street, Luton, and his eight relatives. Mr Ward, who has worked for several years at the Gas House, served in the 3rd Buffs (the East Kent Regiment) and is at present a member of the National Reserve, guarding a railway bridge in the vicinity of Luton. His five sons are Pte F. Ward, 1st Beds, taken prisoner while fighting and now in the hands of the Germans; Pte Arthur Ward, Royal Irish Fusiliers; Pte A. Ward, 3rd Beds; Pte John Ward and Pte James Ward, both 5th Beds. Two nephews are in Bedfordshire regiments and a third, Percy Ticock, is in the East Anglian Engineers.

  • With the impending withdrawal of the North Midland Territorial Force from Luton, the Council's Watch Committee wanted to know who would be guarding the Post Office, Waterworks, Gas works and Electric light works. A letter from Major-General Codrington said another division would probably replace the North Midlands, in which case the guards on the vulnerable points mentioned might remain in that division's charge.

  • It was decided at the meeting of the Town Council on Tuesday evening that the Borough Engineer take the requisite steps to re-number the houses on the west side of Havelock Road, from Frederic Street to the People's Park.

  • A military request to set aside Luton's public baths for an afternoon each week for use by 100 soldiers was "unable to be acceded to". But four slipper baths were available for the military at the refuse destructor works.

  • Col Murray, Assistant Director of Medical Services, Colchester District, was told there were no beds available at Spittlesea Hospital for soldiers suffering from infectious diseases.

  • The announcement that Belgian Flag Day in Luton on Saturday realised over £205 was greeted with applause in the Council Chamber on Monday afternoon. Few of the workers involved had anticipated, after the dreadfully wet weather on the day, that anything over £150 could possible be obtained. Other donations to the refugee fund over the week totalled £42 4s 6d, more than double the £19 6s 8d donated to the Prince of Wales' National Relief Fund.

  • Mrs Alec Lacey, who was selling flags for the Belgian Orphan Fund, also collected for cigarettes for the Bedfordshires at the front, and on Monday arranged with Mr J. Dow to forward, through Players, 2,000 cigarettes to the 1st Bedfords. On the same day colleague Miss Gould collected 810 cigarettes and a few cigars which Quarter-Master Sgt Horne, of the 2nd Bedfords, will take with him to the front.

  • The Town Working Party meeting at Messrs Lambie and Cain's warehouse, Guildford Street, wish to thank all those who have so kindly contributed by sending in socks, mittens, handkerchiefs, pieces of material and subscriptions. Up to date they have sent in 583 articles, including six kitbags. The bulk of the stuff has gone to Lady Wernher's Depot, and small parcels to the Bute Hospital and to the Mayor's Depot in Bute Street.

  • The great response to the appeal for recruits for the new Army has made it very necessary for the War Office to have a large number of officers and non-commissioned officers for training them. Although many ex-NCOs have come forward and re-enlisted for the duration of the war there are still many of them, according to a letter from the War Office to the Luton Board of Guardians, who have so far made no response to the appeal. Some of the reasons included that employers would not let them go or would not guaranteed to reinstate them afterwards, ot that wives, children and dependants would not be provided for.

  • "Luton's trams are simply getting out of order, and really and truly I sometimes think they are not safe for people to ride in," Councillor Attwood said at a meeting of Luton Town Council on Monday evening. And calling attention to the times trams were running, he said if a person caught one he was lucky. Alderman Wilkinson explained that the trams could not keep to any timetable owing to the passing of troops through the town.

  • The Great Northern Railway had been approached for permission to erect a public urinal on land adjoining the company's bridge in Dunstable Road. The company were prepared to give permission on payment by the Corporation of £15 a year. Luton Town Council's Sanitary Committee offered a rent of £1 a year.

  • Four hundred and fifty friends braved the unpleasant conditions on Saturday to take advantage of the Great Northern Railway excursion to Bury St Edmunds. Eager Tommies swarmed the exit of the station and, as the excursionists filed through singly, little difficulty was experienced in the selection of friends.

  • All the scholars and teachers of the Norton Road New Mixed School, Leagrave, assembled in the central hall on Friday afternoon and gave a hearty send-off to popular teacher Mr Frank Odell, who commenced military training in the Honourable Artillery Company the following Monday.

  • Some of the Bedfords take a lot of knocking out. A bullet went through the cheek of one of the officers, then through a colour-sergeant's ear, performing the hat trick by going through a corporal's head, but none was mortally wounded [no further details provided].


Pte Sidney Whittemore, of the 3rd Battalion, Beds Regt, was killed in action in the neighbourhood of Ypres on November 7th. Pte Whittemore, whose home address was 10 Park Way, Luton, leaves a widow and three little children. His parents, Mr and Mrs G. Whittemore, live at Stopsley. He was a reservist who prior to the war was working in the employ of Messrs T. Balmforth and Co, boilermakers, Pondwicks Road. Two nights before he was killed, Pte Whittemore's brother, George, was taken from the trenches severely wounded and is now in the 4th London General Hospital, having lost one eye.

Three soldier-friends have all now been reported killed with notification of the death of Private Lewis Dyer, of the 1st Battalion, Beds Regt, who until called up resided with his sister, Mrs Hughes, of 143 Wellington Street, Luton. The other two were Pte Hankin, of Ivy Road, Luton, and Pte H. Fensome, formerly of Maple Road. Pte Dyer's younger brother, Sid Dyer, left Luton last Saturday with the 5th Beds in which he enlisted about nine weeks ago. Private Dyer was born at Eaton Bray 31 years ago and lived for a time in Totternhoe with his grandmother, and later at Dunstable. After serving with the 1st Battalion abroad he came out on the Reserve about 16 months ago. He worked at Mr Frenay-Pirotte's dye works, Leagrave Road.