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Bedford Highlanders

Saying Farewell

Places > Bedford > First World War > Regiments | Bedford Highlanders Home

"Our good-byes were parched up on our lips, for Bedford had mothered us, and we had grown up as her own children." Captain Robert B. Ross, Gordon Highlanders, in 'The Fifty-first in France'.

4th Seaforth leaving Bedford

The original intention had been for Territorial units to spend at least 6 months working-up for active service.
However, by November 1914, the need for reinforcements at the Front was so desperate that the Territorials were called on to provide a number of battalions which could be sent to France to reinforce the British Expeditionary Force.
The 4th Seaforth were the first to leave Bedford. They had performed well in training, but more importantly they were up to fighting strength following a particularly successful recruiting drive in the early weeks of the War.
Here they are pictured marching down De Parys Avenue, past St Peter’s Church and John Bunyan’s statue , where they will cross over Dame Alice Street into the High Street. They are heading for the military railway sidings off Ampthill Road where troop trains wait to take them to the south coast ports and the next stage of the journey across the Channel.
They are led by the pipes and drums of the 5th Seaforth Highlanders and the local population have turned out to see them on their way and to wish them well.
(photo: courtesy of Richard Galley)

Saying goodbye

Along with the 4th Seaforth Highlanders, the 6th Gordon Highlanders and 7th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders were the other infantry battalions detached from the Highland Division in late 1914 and sent to reinforce the British Expeditionary Force in France and Belgium.
This photograph was taken on Friday December 11th 1914 as the entraining soldiers of the 7th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders say their final goodbyes to friends and relatives, some of whom will have travelled from Scotland to see their menfolk off.
The troop train is standing at one of the two long wooden platforms that had been erected by the War Office just prior to the outbreak of war, on derelict railway land just off Ampthill Road, in order to facilitate the quick loading and unloading of military trains.
(photo: Bedford and Luton Archives and Records Service)

Highlanders Leaving Bedford

The 6th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders left Bedford on Saturday 1 May 1915 and in this photo they are on their way to board the troop trains which will take them to the South coast ports for the onward journey to France.
They will have marched down The Embankment alongside the river and are turning onto the Town Bridge to cross the river. The Embankment runs down from here to Russell Park. The Embankment and the roads leading off it formed the Argyll & Sutherland's billeting area. The Divisional HQ was also on The Embankment. In the background is the Swan Hotel with the Boer War memorial standing in front of it. Change the styles of dress, remove the rifles from the soldiers' shoulders and you have the present day scene on Remembrance Sunday as the parade moves from the Town's War Memorial half way along The Embankment towards St Paul's church and the Market Square.
From the Barrhead Times, May 1915:
"Departure of Local Territorials from Bedford
A week ago a detachment of the local [6th] battalion Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, who have been training in Bedford, left that Town for active service. The Rev J Marr of Thread Street United Free Church of Scotland Paisley, says
"Officers and the men where all in good spirits, and looked splendid as they passed through the crowded streets. They made very many friends in Bedford and have left a good name behind them. I am sure they will give a good account of themselves where-ever they go""
(photo: courtesy of Richard Galley)

Leaving Bedford on the High Street

Saturday 1 May 1915 and for the final time the 6th Seaforth's pipes and drums lead the battalion along Bedford High Street. The Bedfordians turned out in their thousands to bid farewell to the Highlanders who in the space of one weekend left as quickly as they had arrived nine months before. (Photograph: courtesy of Richard Galley)

"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"

Black Watch Leaving Bedford

Sunday May 2nd 1915. The Black Watch prepares to leave Bedford for France. They are photographed in Beverley Crescent where they have been billeted since joining the Highland Division in April. The local residents mingle with the soldiers, no doubt exchanging friendly banter with the Scotsmen and wishing them well.
The civilian man in the foreground carries an early Kodak 'Box Brownie' camera to make his own record of the occasion, highlighting the fact that photography was fast becoming a mass medium.
(photo: Bedford and Luton Archives and Records Service)

Black Watch Leaving Beverly Crescent

Led by the pipers, the Black Watch make their way along Beverley Crescent to the junction with Bromham Road where they will cross into Hurst Grove before turning onto Ford End Road. Once they’ve crossed the railway bridge next to W. H. Allens they will turn into Prebend Street and make their way to the military sidings on Ampthill Road where the troop trains wait to take them to the south coast ports.
Behind the fence is the ground on which houses will be built in the 1920s, completing the crescent. In the distance are the backs of houses which stand in Spenser Road and the telegraph poles mark the main LMS railway line which runs north from St Pancras station in London.
(photo: Bedford and Luton Archives and Records Service)

Gordon Higlanders leaving on Prebend Street

May 2nd 1915 – the 5th Gordon Highlanders march along Prebend Street, past the Corporation electricity works, towards the river bridge, before heading to the temporary War Office railway platforms in Ampthill Road where they will entrain for one of the Channel ports from where they will make 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 and Records Service)

Page last updated: 15th July 2014