Read below Ron Beard’s short article about his father Jim’s experiences in the First World War. If you want to actually hear Jim Beard speak about a couple of his experiences, just click on the links at the end of the article.
This is the story of five young men from Cinderford Bridge who enlisted in December 1915.
The account is based on the words of Jim Beard from a conversation in the 1970s.
The five were Jim Beard, Tom Beard, Arthur Beddis, Buller Turley and Joe Walkley. Tom and Arthur were cousins of Jim, and Buller was his best mate They were probably typical young Foresters; in the 1911 Census four of them were colliery workers and Joe worked for the Crown. Social life was largely based on gathering around the Bridge in their leisure time. Jim and Buller played rugby together – Jim at scrum half and Buller at fly half-and their ambition was to play for Cinderford. They were also ‘rough kids’ as Jim explained, who would fight anybody. In fact they were Christened Edwin and Frederick but their reputation led to their nicknames of Jim and Buller. Jim after an Irish American boxer – JimTully, and Buller after General Buller of Boer War fame.
Their enlistment came about with the formation of a Pioneer Battalion for the Worcestershire Regiment in the Autumn of 1915. The Forest of Dean MP, Colonel Sir Henry Webb had previously raised the Forest of Dean Pioneer Battalion for the Gloucestershire Regiment. He was now called upon to raise, at his own expense a Severn Valley Pioneer Battalion for the Worcester’s.The Five young men decided to enlist for this battalion even though they were under the minimum age of nineteen at the time (each pretended to be one year older). They first went to Malvern and Norton Barracks Worcestershire before being sent to Larkhill for their basic training.
Jim described the arrival at Larkhill:
Ah Salisbury Plain, … training was…terrible. We was all glad to get to France to get out of it. First
fella we met there the instructor said “Beard, Beard, bist thou any relation to Ned Beard”? I said “Oy”
“I hope thou’s a different soldier to him then… he wouldn’t do nothing at all”; he said him deserted and they never bothered about him… Come to live down at Awre, on the farm there and him stopped there until the War was over.
There were some good points however:
I was there for about six months and best about that was we used to go around Stonehenge which was about a mile…it was voluntary look… run round there and come back and have a cup a tea and a piece of cake. So I volunteered for that and I enjoyed it and all we did from around Cinderford but the townies they wouldn’t do it.
After completion of their training the Battalion was sent to Picardy where they first saw action on November 13th at the Battle of the Ancre (a tributary of the Somme). This was the final battle in the Somme Campaign and the Severn Valley.Pioneers were in support The attack was led by a Naval Battalion which quickly overwhelmed the German front line but German snipers remained and harassed the British troops:
I was lay in a shell hole there and me mess tin showing at the back,I had two or three bullet holes pumped through that’un, we dursn’t shift,that was a sniper… Our lot had overrunned him and left him behind and him was still potting our fella’s off.
There was, however, some good fortune for the Cinderford Bridge contingent:
We earned us 100 Francs for saving an Officer’s life, carrying him back from the front line and out of danger… Him had been shot in the lung and couldn’t shift… Him would a died him said, “if you don’t take me back”, him should have to perish, “because I can’t walk”, and our officer gave us permission so him gave us 100 Francs.
In the end all five survived their first action, however Arthur Beddis was shot in the elbow and was transferred to ‘Blighty’from where he was discharged from the army and granted a pension due to his injury.
Shortly afterwards Jim Beard was taken ill with suspected typhoid fever, this proved negative but he was sent back to England and after convalescence in Ireland volunteered to return to France where he was transferred to an infantry battalion. Buller Turley was awarded an MC the following February for participating in a rearguard action, holding off German attackers to allow the remainder of his battalion to escape. Unfortunately he was killed in June 1917. He was the only one of the five who lost his life during the hostilities.
Play the audio files below to hear Jim Beard talking to his son, Ron, about his WW1 experiences: