Timeline of the Highlanders in Bedford
Between Sunday 16 August and Tuesday 18 August, Scottish Highland Territorial Force regiments arrive in Bedford by
train, around 17,000 soldiers and 4,000 horses, for training before leaving to fight in France (May 1915).
This timeline uses references to the Highlanders in the Bedfordshire Times and Independent newspaper.
28 August 1914
P5 (Col 1) 'Church Parades: Russell Park: A drumhead service for the four battalions of the Argyllshire and Sutherland Highlanders was held in Russell Park at 11 o'clock on Sunday morning... No more impressive sight has ever been witnessed in the town of Bedford. The singing was accompanied by the regimental band and there was a choir... '
4 September 1914
P5 (Col 3) 'Scottish Soldiers and Sunday Drinking: Letter to the Editor from "Disgusted Scottie": ...In our own dear land [Scotland] no drink can be had on Sunday... It is high time soldiers were prevented from entering drinking houses on Sunday. No more drunkenness... '
23 October 1914
P4 (Col 7) 'Early Closing of Licensed Premises': an Order has been issued by the Military authority, acting under
regulations for the Defence of the Realm, requiring all premises licensed for the sale of intoxicating liquor to be
closed to all persons at 9.30pm daily... The new Order in no way disturbs the existing order forbidding the supply
of intoxicants to soldiers after 8pm.'
P5 (Col 1) 'The King's Visit to Bedford: His Majesty Reviews the Troops' [Thursday].
30 October 1914
P1 (Col 1) The Empire cinema advertisement: 'H.M. The King reviewing the Highland Territorial Troops at Bedford, The most Popular Local Film ever produced.'
13 November 1914
P5 (Col 5) 'On Monday the Corn Exchange was opened as a Central Recreation Room for the Scottish Territorials now billeted in Bedford. There is a buffet, with a tariff of moderate charges. Scattered about the room are refreshment and recreation tables with a block of seats in the centre for concert audiences.'
4 December 1914
P11 (Col 5) 'Military Funerals: On Saturday another impressive Scottish military funeral took place in Bedford... The third military funeral in a week, and the tenth – eight of them of Scottish Territorials – in Bedford since the outbreak of the war...'
25 December 1914
P5 (Cols 1-6) 'The Return of the Native: A Christmas (1914) Episode' – a comedy verse story illustrated with cartoon
sketches of Scots and famous non-Scots, such as John Bunyan and John Howard (or rather their statues), all dressed in kilts in a wintry Bedford.
P8 (Col 4) 'Entertainment in Aid of the Hogmanay Supper': a money-raising entertainment at the Town Hall on Saturday afternoon.
1 January 1915
P5 (Cols 1-4) 'The Hogmanay Supper: A Gigantic Festival: New Year's Eve was celebrated in Bedford... by holding the most tremendous series of supper parties that has ever taken place simultaneously... to entertain... the whole of the Territorial Troops billeted in unfurnished houses in Bedford... in eighteen different halls... 400 stewards... 300 entertainers... the cost of the feast was about £1000...'
8 January 1915
P5 (Col 2) Letter to the Editor: 'Thanks for the New Year's Dinner: Will you kindly allow us to thank the many citizens of Bedford for all the help they gave in connexion with the Hogmanay Entertainment to the Troops... and beg you to print the enclosed letter of thanks we have received from Major-General Allason, Commanding the Highland Division. – Yours faithfully, Harry Browning (Mayor), President, Henry Tebbs, Chairman, William Machin, Secretary [Bedford Borough Recreation Committee]'.
15 January 1915
P5 (Cols 1-2) 'Deaths Among the Scottish Territorials: ...statistics relating to the Highland Division.T.F. [Territorial Force],
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; From Diptheria... 3; From measles... 27. In addition there have been 3 fatal cases of pneumonia,
1 of uraemia, and two of violence, making a total number of deaths from all causes... 39... The average number of troops quartered in and around Bedford during
the last five months has been about 17,500 and the total number of deaths works out at the low rate of 2.22 per 1000... The units most
seriously affected [Camerons, 14 deaths] were those drawn from isolated and sparsely populated districts where measles seldom occur.'
P6 (Cols 5-7) 'A Visitor's Impression of a Bedford Billet' [a cartoon drawing entitled 'The Highlanders Saturday Night' by F.H. Stingemore, showing '4th battalion Cameron Highlanders Bedford, January 1915'].
22 January 1915
P5 (Col 4) 'Bunyan Meeting Canteen: Since the return of the 8th Argylls from quarantine at Howbury, Bunyan Canteen
has been very merry and bright. The room is crowded each night, and the amount of porridge consumed is remarkable.
So is the amount of energy and indefatigable hard work shown by the ladies who wait on the men. The young lions do
suffer hunger, and the ladies seem untiring in their hard work. On Friday there was a good programme of music given,
which the men much appreciated.'
P6 (Cols 5-6) 'Mr Harry Lauder and His Son [Photo and caption]: Mr Harry Lauder [popular music hall artiste who was later knighted] has recently returned from a tour of America and the Colonies and his first act was to call on his only son, Lieut. Lauder, of the 8th Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.
9 January 1915
P6 (Cols 2-3) 'A Bedford Billet in an Unfurnished Room' a sketch by Private Stewart Knock, 6th Seaforth Highlanders, showing two soldiers in kilts sitting on boxes in a front room with their equipment around them, eating a meal.
5 February 1915
P5 (Cols 2-3) Line drawing by Private Stewart Knock, 6th Seaforth Highlanders, showing soldiers "Changing Billets"
(carrying their domestic belongings along the street)
P6 (Cols 3) 'H.R.H. Princess Louise Inspects Scottish Troops' [Argyll and Sutherland Brigade, Putnoe, 3 February 1915. Princess Louise was the 6th child, 4th daughter of Queen Victoria.]
12 February 1915
P6 (Cols 3-5) Collage of seven photos showing the Highland Brigade being inspected by H.R.H. Princess Louise [on 3
P6 (Cols 3-4) Sketch entitled 'Cooking under Difficulties' drawn by Private Stewart Knock, 6th Seathforth Highlanders, showing the field kitchen in Bedford Park.
19 February 1915
P5 (Cols.2-3) 'Bedfords returning to the Front': Photo showing men of the Bedford regiment who, having recovered in
hospital from wounds, heading back to 'the Front' [the battle area in France].
P5 (Cols 2-3) Sketch by Private Stewart Knock, showing 'Jock, The Potato King – knows every "Tatty" by name': boiling potatoes in an outdoor field kitchen.
26 February 1915
P5 (Cols.1-3) Photo showing the 4th Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders marching down De Parys Avenue, past the John Bunyan statue, on their way to the Front, on 5th November 1914 [previously not allowed to be published by the official Censor].
5 March 1915
P5 (Cols 2-3) Cartoon sketch 'Just Before "Lights Out"' by Private Stewart Knock, showing soldiers in an unfurnished room with their bedding placed on bare floorboards.
12 March 1915
P4 (Cols 4-5) Advertisement by Bedford Borough Recreations Committee 'Highland Games: Easter Monday, April 5, 1915,
from 11am to 6pm on the Grammar School Field, Bedford. '£50 in prizes'.
P5 (Cols 4-5) Cartoon showing a man who had appeared unshaven on parade standing, in the street, before his commanding officer. Sketch by Private A. Thorpe of the 6th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.
19 March 1915
P7 (Cols 4-6)
march of the Bedford Men': photo of Bedford Volunteer Training Corps marching along Cardington
Road to drill in a field.
(Cols 4-5) Cartoon by Private A. Thorpe entitled 'The Private who asked his Colour-Sergeant for a free pass home to Scotland'.
26 March 1915
P6 (Cols 3-4) Advertisement: 'Wanted – Men for enlistment for the Remount Squadrons of the Army Service Corps. Men
accustomed to the care and management of horses. Aged 25 to 40 years'.
P7 (Cols 4-5) Cartoon by Private Stewart Knock, entitled 'Writing Home', showing an unfurnished billet with Stewart seated on a rolled-up mattress writing a letter, with nearby a soldier cooking a fryup, another polishing his boots and a third playing the bagpipes.
2 April 1915
P5 (Cols 2-3) Cartoon by Private Stewart Knock 'On a Route March: The Eighteenth Mile', showing a soldier out on the road with a rifle and pack which seem to outweigh him.
9 April 1915
P7 (Cols 3-4) 'Pictures of the Highland Games' (6 photos plus a cartoon by Private Stewart Knock) re Sat 3 April
1915 & Mon 5 April 1915 sports competitions.
P7 (Cols 5-6) 'The 7th Gordons' Games' held on 31 March on the Bedford Modern School ground.
16 April 1915
P7 (Cols 5-6) Scottish military cartoons: 'Sick Parade' by Private A. Thorpe & 'A Caber Competitor's Nightmare' by Private Stewart Knock, in Bedford, plus one from Trooper Tom Pollock of the Bedfordshire Yeomanry Reserve, 'recently employed in making trenches'- 'The Pig and the Yeoman's Kipper'.
23 April 1915
P7 (Cols 5-6) Cartoons: 'Preparatory to Leaving Bedford: Just a little fatigue work' by Private Stewart Knock of the
6th Seaforths and 'The Route March' by Private A Thorpe of the 6th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders
P7 (Cols 5-6) 3 photographs: 'Irish Transport Company in Goldington Avenue'; Liverpool Irish of the 1/8th Battalion, King's Liverpool Regiment in area of St Peter's Church, marching through Bedford; 'Gordons Attend the Kirk' 5th Gordons at St Martin's Church, with the Battalion Band.
30 April 1915
P7 (Cols 2-3) Cartoon by Private Stewart Knock about the dilemma of a soldier 'Packing Up' who has been sent so many
items from his supporting family and friends, yet having to obey the Army Order that 'No kitbags will be allowed to
be taken' when he heads off to fight: 'Save me from my friends!'
P11 (Cols 4-5) 'Presentations at the Corn Exchange': anticipating the imminent departure of the Scottish regiments from Bedford in the coming week, there were speeches by both sides. The Mayor said that 'the whole town had come to look on the soldiers as part of their town. Friendships had been made which would last for many years, and when they went to the front the eyes of all Bedford would be upon them, feeling confident that they would give those Germans something to remember. Bedford would rejoice with them in their victories and grieve with them in their losses, hoping that they would come back to the homes they had left for the honour of the country (applause).'
7 May 1915
P7 (Cols 3-4) Photo provided by a billet-mother of five Scottish soldiers apparently in one bed 'recovering from
P7 (Cols 3-5) Photo of crowds, with individuals on bicycles, following the Scottish soldiers as they march along the Promenade [the Embankment] on the previous Saturday afternoon.
P11 (Cols 1-7) Full-page map and list of town facilities (plus adverts for eating places), entitled: 'Welcome the Coming Guests' [Large street map showing the location of facilities and the rough distance from the two main railway stations, Midland & London and North-Western]
11 February 1916
P5 (Col 2) 'Bedford Borough Recreation Committee for the Troops: Second Report: From January, 1915 to January, 1916: Summary... the opening of 47 Recreation Centres for the Troops of the Highland Division. The arrangement of over 600 entertainments by the voluntary help of 17 concert parties, 6 civilian and 2 military bands; also lectures, games, lending libraries, savings banks, hot baths in private houses, free writing facilities and materials, the washing and mending by voluntary helpers numbering over 500, also the great Hogmanay Supper for over 12,000 troops.'
14 July 1916
P5 (Col 4) Letter to the Editor from J. E. Down, 9 Waldeck Avenue, dated 11 July 1916 'The graves of the Highlanders: Sir, At present in our Cemetery may be seen 27 unnamed mounds covered with rough tufts of grass; these mark the last resting place of men of the Highland Division who died at Bedford, while in training for the front. There are, I believe, not a few people in Bedford who would wish to join in paying a tribute of respect to the memory of these gallant men, who were among the first to respond to the call of King and County, by contributing to place head-stones over the graves of those men, who lived among us, and died away from home... The Burial Board has undertaken to maintain these graves in good order and condition... On completion of this work it is proposed to have a photograph sent to the near relations of the deceased in Scotland.'
28 July 1916
P5 (Col 4) 'Local War Casualties: News was received in Bedford on Tuesday of the death of Lieut. Millar, of the 2nd Gordon Highlanders, killed in action in France, July 18. During the time he was stationed in Bedford last year, he was stationed with Mr. C. Bowery, 12 Aspley-road. The news of his death was received with much sympathy and regret by the numerous friends he had made during his stay in Bedford. He was the youngest son of Mr. & Mrs. Millar, "Glenarloch", 6 Argyle Street, Dundee.'
18 May 1917
P6 (Cols 3-4) Photo: "Soldiers' Graves in Bedford Cemetery: This quiet and secluded spot in our Cemetery is sacred to the memory of those of our brave soldiers who passed away during their sojourn in the town. There are six rows of five or six graves. A larger stone at the head of this little colony of graves bears the inscription: 'To the Glory of God. These memorial crosses were erected by Bedford and other friends and are dedicated to the memory of those men of the Highland and Welsh Divisions who died at Bedford while in training for active service, 1914-1916'."
10 January 1919
P5 (Col 6) ' "Bedford Highlander" Gains the VC: Lieut. William Davidson Bissett, 1/6th Bn., Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (T.F.) who has been awarded the V.C. [Victoria Cross] was quartered in Bedford from August 1914 to May 1915... he was a trombone player in the Argyll's band... [awarded for] most conspicuous bravery and leadership East of Maing on October 25, 1918... '
Page last updated: 22nd August 2014