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The Men Involved

The Keep May 2012
The Keep May 2012

On 6th October 1922 there was a tragic episode at Kempston Barracks when a soldier, Arthur Baldwin killed one of his comrades, Wilfred Pickford. We are able to find out quite a lot about the men involved in this drama from attestation books [Z910] describing the men’s background and enlistment details, deposited with Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service by the Ministry of Defence and from The Wasp the magazine of the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment’s old comrades association.

6190382 Lance-Corporal Arthur William Baldwin – the perpetrator of the crime. He was attested on 3rd March 1919 at Dunkirk, aged 19½ when he joined 4th Middlesex from Northumberland Fusiliers [Z910/12/]. He was obviously re-enlisting at the conclusion of the First World War. He joined the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment 19th July 1922. He was a motor mechanic in civilian life. He had been born in Leighton Buzzard and his mother Sarah Baldwin, living at 47 Saint Kilda Road, Harrow [Middlesex] in 1922. Baldwin was discharged on 11th November 1922 at Warley [Essex] “having been convicted of a civil felony”. His conduct whilst with the regiment was, surprisingly, described as “good”.

4962009 Private Lionel Charles Bentley was one of the witnesses. He was attested on 23rd June 1922 when 22 years, 364 days at Bedford [Z910/12/]. His former number was 305702, having served in the Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire Regiment. He had served from 13th October 1914 until 17th January 1919. Clearly he was amongst the first to enlist after the outbreak of war. His regiment was renamed the Sherwood Foresters on 18th January 1919 and he served until 8th June 1922 and shortly afterwards joined the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment.. He had been born at Balderston [Nottinghamshire]. He married his wife Kate Eva Langly at Dover Registry Office on 22 January 1927, a child, Henry, being born at Helena Hospital, Shorncliffe [Kent] on 16th August 1927. Private Bentley was entitled to the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal and was discharged on 22nd November 1938 at Warwick as a sergeant. His conduct is described as “exemplary”.

Lieutenant J. T. Coe was the adjutant at Kempston Barracks at the time of the attack He had joined 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment on active service on 6th October 1915 [X5503WD/1510]. On 21st February 1916 he took over command of B Company [X550/3/WD1602]. He was wounded on 30th July 1916 during the attack on Guillemont [X550/3/WD1607], rejoining almost exactly a year later on 16th July 1917 [X550/3/WD1707]. On 26th May 1918 he was transferred to 7th Battalion, now reduced to cadre strength to train units of the arriving American Expeditionary Force in France, being adjutant of the cadre [X550/3/WD1805]. He was mentioned in despatches 31st December 1918 when attached to 2/23rd London Regiment [X550/3/WD1812]. The Wasp Volume 5 page 211 states that he was granted the temporary rank of Major on 31st December 1930. The Wasp Volume 11, page 438 states that Captain J. T. Coe was posted to the Armament and Electrical Trades School, Martinique Barracks, Borden and page 631 Temporary Major J. T. Coe awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal (Military) without gratuity on 18th June 1948.

George Diprose was a pensioned soldier employed as a civilian labourer at Kempston Barracks and one of the witnesses to the assault. The Wasp Volume 8, page 444 states his death: “- On 10th September 1937, at Colchester, Mr. George Diprose, served for 20 years in Barrack Department at Depot, Bedford”.

Captain Eric Gerard Fanning MC was Wilfred Pickford’s company commander. The Wasp Volume 1, page 34 states “Captain E. G. Fanning, MC, joined the Depot from the 2nd Battalion on January 28th, 1922”; The Wasp Volume 3, page 240 states that he was placed on the half-pay list on account of ill health on 25th October 1926; page 464 stating that on 11th November 1927 a son was born to him and his wife Aurelie at 36 Kimbolton Road. The Wasp Volume 5 page 78 states that he rejoined from the half-pay list “this time we hope his health will permit him to stay” on 24th May 1930. The Wasp Volume 7 page 43 states that he had been promoted to Major on 7th December 1934. The Wasp Volume 8, page 473 stated: “All ranks of the 1st battalion were sorry to see the departure last October [1937] of Major E. G. Fanning, MC, after some 24 years’ service. Eric Fanning joined the 2nd Battalion in South Africa from Sandhurst in February 1913, and in October the following year was a Subaltern with it when it landed at Zeebrugge as part of the famous 7th Division. Like most all of his contemporaries at the time, he soon became a casualty, being wounded at the First Battle of Ypres on 31st October. When once again fit for active service, he started specialising in trench mortars, where, through his marked ability, he remained employed until the Armistice. After the War he rejoined the 2nd Battalion and, except for a tour of duty at the Depot in 1922-24 was with them during their tour in India and Iraq. An unlucky period of ill-health in Iraq was the forerunner of four years on half-pay, and it was not until 1930 that Fanning was once more passed fit. Rejoining the 2nd Battalion in June 1930, he remained with them until posted to the 1st Battalion in India in 1934. Fanning’s retirement will be a great loss to the Regiment, in which all his interests were centred, but particularly to the 1st Battalion, where so many of all ranks will miss his humour, enthusiasm and good comradeship. We wish him all good luck in the sure knowledge that in spite of retirement his interest and love for the Regiment will remain unchanged”. The Wasp Volume 12, page 95 stated: “Major E. G. Fanning MC, having exceeded the age limit of liability to recall, ceased to belong to the Reserve of Officers, December 28th, 1948”. The Wasp Volume 13, page 127 stated: “Major E. G. Fanning was appointed Curator of the Regimental Museum at the Depot on June 25th, 1951”. Finally The Wasp Volume 14 page 421 stated that Fanning had been Gazetted a Deputy Lieutenant for the County in 1955.

5944845 Private Victor Arthur Thomas Lambert was attested on 7th July 1921, aged 21 and was re-attested 17th July 1922, aged 21 years 351 days at Bedford [Z910/11/3]. He was a former able seaman and had been born at Pankworth [Norfolk]. His father was T. A. Lambert of Church Lane, Shottisham [Norfolk]. Lambert was discharged on 10th July 1934 at Warley as a private, with exemplary conduct. He was discharged to Pay Sergeant Lambert of Ossitt Villa, Vandyke Road, Leighton Buzzard; ex 5th Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire Regiment.

5942085 Sergeant William Lionel Newham who witnessed the aftermath of the attack served with D Company, 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire regiment in 1918, rejoining it on 14th July that year [X550/3/WD1807]. He had attested on 14th June 1907 aged 19 and so was a regular soldier before the war [Z910/11/1]. He enlisted in London but was an electrician from Melton Mowbray [Leicestershire]. His father Frank, however, lived at 27 Warrier Street, Walthamstow [Essex]. Newham served as 9068 from 27th December 1914 to 9th June 1919, receiving a slight wound in July 1917. He received the Meritorious Service Medal and was discharged on 22nd February 1924 at Aldershot [Hampshire] as unfit for any form of military service but fit for employment in civil life. His conduct whilst enlisted had been very good and he was unmarried.

5945194 Private Arthur Pickford was the victim’s brother. He was attested at Bedford on 18th September 1922 aged 18 years, 278 days [Z910/11/4]. He was a baker’s assistant and had been born in Leeds [Yorkshire]. His father George was of no fixed abode. Arthur was discharged on 17th September 1934 at Warley as a private. His conduct was described as very good. He then re-enlisted and was transferred to Royal Artillery (Heavy Anti-Aircraft) on 17th December 1942.

393877 Private Wilfred Thomas Pickford was the victim of the assault. He was attested on 19th September 1922 aged 20 years, 260 days at Bedford, the day after his brother [Z910/12/1]. He was a stoker and had been born in Leicester. He was discharged 6th October 1922, at Bedford, “died”. His conduct had been exemplary. Young though he was he had formerly served in the army, with 7th Dragoon Guards.

5987427 Private George Stanley Walters was attested at Bedford on 10th January 1921 aged 18 years, 2 months [Z910/12/1]. In civilian life he had been a papermaker and had been born at Bushey [Hertfordshire]. His mother Milicent lived at 5 Prescotts End, Hemel Hempstead. He was discharged on 4th July 1925 “at his own request”. His conduct was described as very good.