Stories have come to hand of how young Lutonians have won fame in a great charge. But there are sad tidings for some homes, one or two names being among the list of killed and others wounded.
All of the young fellows enlisted last September in the 24th County of London Regiment ("The Queen's"). On their departure the above picture appeared in The Luton News.
Whilst the regiment was in the trenches [north of Givenchy] there was an order to charge. Out of the trenches leapt out Luton boys, and while their brave dash has won fame for the regiment to which they belonged, yet Luton is proud to know that a very considerable portion of its young manhood led the way in as fine display of courage as will ever be read of. But at what cost were the German trenches taken!
The young Lutonians suffered badly, but those left rejoice in the fact that they unflinchingly stuck to it and gained the objective aimed at.
On May 26th, 1915, Sir John French sent the following despatch: "A Territorial Division carried last night a group of German trenches, capturing 35 prisoners, and this morning it captured one officer, 21 men and a machine gun.
"Since May 16th the First Army has pierced the enemy's line on a total front of over three miles. Of this the entire hostile front line system of trenches has been captured on a front of 3,200 yards, and of the remaining portion the first and second line of trenches are in our possession.
"The total number of prisoners taken is eight officers and 777 other ranks. Ten machine guns in all have fallen into out possession, as well as a considerable quantity of material and equipment, particulars of which are not yet available."
Another reported stated that the "Queen's" stormed a German trench which had been attacked three times previously and unsuccessfully. The battalion of the old "Queen's" not only took it but held it, despite repeated attacks made by the Germans to regain it.
The heavy list of Lutonians and men with Luton connections on the casualty lists included:
- Pte Percy Darby, of Biscot Road, Luton, killed in action. He was aged 19.
- Cpl W. F. Martin, who had worked at the British Electric Calibrated Fuse Co in Langley Street, Luton, was killed instantly by a bullet to the head while tending Pte Cook, of High Town, who had been wounded in the leg. Pte Cook was pulled to safety by Pte Percy Smith, also from Luton.
- Cpl Douglas Blake Brodie, of Rathfarlam, Dunstable Road, Luton, wounded but no further information. (Douglas Blake Brodie, 2433, was in fact killed in action on May 26th, 1915).
- Lutonian L-Cpl Fred Raines, who had recently received his first stripe on the field, wounded and brought to Dover after treatment in a base hospital.
- Pte A. P. Cook, Duke Street, Luton, in a hospital near Bury St Edmunds with a bullet wound in the right thigh.
- Pte A. J. Painter, Avondale Road, Luton, in a hospital at Pendleton, Manchester, with a leg wound. A member of Union Chapel Choir, Luton.
- Pte Chalkley, of Dallow Road, Luton, in hospital at Aldershot with an unspecified wound.
- Pte A. Odell, formerly with Messrs Hubbard's, Guildford Street, Luton, lying wounded in hospital at Bury St Edmunds.
- Lance-Sgt Harold Charles Squires, son of Mr and Mrs C. Squires, of 83 Havelock Road, Luton, received a bullet wound in the shoulder at Givenchy on May 26th. He had enlisted with other members of Luton Amateurs FC, for whom he had played full back.
- Pte J. Webb, of Rothesay Road, Luton, in hospital with a slight wound.
- Although not wounded himself, Pte Harold Vincent Aylott wrote to his parents in Luton that Cpl Stanley Booth, of Old Bedford Road, Luton, had been badly wounded in the right knee and slightly wounded in the left foot. He had lived opposite Miss Hobbs, who was now a nurse at the hospital in Aldershot where he was being treated.
- L-Cpl R. N. Butcher, son of Bute Street pawnbroker and jeweller Mr W. J. Butcher, was in hospital in Boulogne suffering from a shrapnel wound in the back, under the right shoulder.
- Pte H. Sharpe, of Biscot Road, Luton, was hoping to be home shortly after being wounded in the ankle.
- Pte Percy Byfield, invalided home at 33 Ash Road, Luton, after having been in nine different hospitals in France and then four days in Portsmouth Hospital. Due to report himself at his depot.
- Pte Harry Black, of Harpenden and a former employee of the London County and Westminster Bank, Luton, in hospital with serious injuries, including a bad wound in the back and a broken arm.
- Pte T. H. Weekes, a Kentish man who lodged in High Street South, Dunstable, and worked at Messrs J. C. Kershaw in Luton, in a French hospital with a head wound.
- Pte Jack Blair, a North country man who lodged in Russell Rise and also worked at Kershaw's, believed to be in an English hospital.
- Pte Leslie J. Godfrey, 19, nephew of Mr and Mrs Davey, of Biscot Road, Luton, in a Lincoln hospital with wounds to the back and an arm.
- Pte S. T. Linger, 6 Lyndhurst Road, Luton, stated to be wounded and missing.
- Pte Harry Webb, of 70 Princess Street, Luton, in an undisclosed hospital following an accident that prevented him taking part in the great charge.
- Pte Frank Gilder, who was not himself a casualty, wrote to his parents in Moor Street, Luton, with the names of men he knew had been wounded, including most of those listed above. The others were Chapman, Evans, Ewington, Booth, George Smith, Sharp, Young, Holdstock and Cannon. Men he knew to be unharmed: Bat Woods, T. Coupees, Lovell, Mead, Wells, Whitworth, Summerfield, West, Stimson, Brewer, Wheeler, Aylott, Emery, Harold Smith, Grace, Ward, Bailey and Lawrence. He had also heard that Eddie Fisher was safe and that Frank Small, of the Sugar Loaf, King Street, was wounded.
[The Luton News, June 3rd, 1915]