One Killed : One Prisoner of War : One Twice Wounded
Two Brothers and a Cousin Wounded in Gallipoli


This is an article that appeared on page 3 of the Luton Reporter newspaper, dated September 27th, 1915. Some of the print was illegible due to the deterioration of the paper. With the help of Karen Hemmingham, this has been recovered from a copy of that page, found in the National Newspaper Archive.

        Luton has some records to be proud of in connection with the war, and the six young men whose portraits are reproduced here are associated with one of the most remarkable records of patriotic service that have been chronicled to the credit of any family in Luton - or indeed anywhere, for all five sons as well as a cousin of Mr. and Mrs Robt. Ward, of 3, East-avenue, Park-street, Luton, have not only served in the fighting line but have suffered for their King and country in the course of the present campaign. The three eldest sons have taken part in the fighting in the Western theatre of war, one having been killed in action, and another made a prisoner of war, while the eldest of the three has thrice had to be treated in hospital for either wounds or sickness - at least once for both - and yet still survives to take his place in the fighting ranks. The two younger sons and their cousin responded to the call for men in the early days of the war by enlisting in the 5th Bedfordshire Regiment and from there they recently journeyed to the Dardanelles where all three were laid low by wounds in the first fighting they were called upon to experience.
        The five brothers Ward may be described as soldier sons in more senses than one, because their father is one of the army veterans now doing his bit in the necessary work of the National guard, and they were all born during his period of service with the regulars. For twelve years Robert Ward was in the 3rd Battalion of the Buffs [Royal West Kent Regiment], and during that time he served in Ireland, China, Malta and Gibraltar, as well as at some of the English garrisons. While in Ireland he had the experience of being one of the sentries posted in Phoenix Park, Dublin, the very first night after the famous murders and it was in the Emerald Isle, too, that he met his wife. Mary Ward belongs to the North of Ireland, and comes from a farming family but she had a great deal of experience of soldiering and what it entails as she accompanied her husband on his various travels on foreign service. It is almost seventeen years since Robert Ward left the army and settled down in his native Luton. Although he is now 52 years of age, the fighting spirit has not died in him and for over twelve months he has been doing duty with the National Reserves in the Supernumerary Coy. of the Bedfordshire Regiment in this district and at other places as far away as Wellingborough.


        The eldest son, Private Arthur Ward, is currently serving with the Irish Fusiliers in France. He is 28 years of age, and his parents have not seen a deal of him, but at the age of 5 he went to live with Mrs. Ward's parents in North of Ireland, and was with them some eighteen years except for a brief period during which he was serving in the Irish Fusiliers. In that instance he was bought out of the army so that he might return to farm work but five years ago he enlisted in the Irish Fusiliers (again) and he has been in that regiment ever since. When war broke out his regiment was in India, but they were immediately sent home, and after a short stay on Salisbury Plain, during which time Pte. Ward came home to Luton on five days leave, they were drafted out to France about the end of September. In January he was home again for a few days after having been in Cambridge Hospital with frost-bitten feet, and a bullet wound in the thigh, and after getting back to the trenches he was again wounded, a bullet going through his neck and lodging in the shoulder. On this occasion he was treated in hospital in France, and he was soon back in the trenches with his regiment, but about two months ago, his parents heard that he was in hospital with the rheumatic fever, brought on as a result of his earlier attack of frost-bite. Now, however, he is back in the trenches once more and on Friday his parents had a note from him in which he said that they were now quite quiet on the part of the front on which his regiment are operating.


        The other four sons all figure on the Queen Square Roll of Honour and have all have served in the Bedfordshire Regiment. The second son, Private Fredrick Ward, 8176, 1st Bedford's is a prisoner of war at Gefangenen-Lager, Doeberite, in Germany. He is 26 years of age and completed seven years of service in the 1st Bedfordshire Regiment three years ago having served for some six years in India. He has a wife and two children living in Manor-path, and he was employed at the Corporation Electricity Works in Luton when he was called up as a reservist on the outbreak of war. Proceeding to to Mullingar in Ireland, he left for France with his regiment on the Wednesday August Bank Holiday week last year and he was taken prisoner by the Germans in the last week of September. All that was heard concerning him for a long time was that he had been posted as missing and believed killed, and it was not until four or five months later that his wife had a letter from him conveying the welcome news that he was still alive although a prisoner of war. Since that time his quarters have been shifted more than once, but he has continued to keep in touch with his family by correspondence, and as recently as September 7th he wrote acknowledging the receipt of some shoes and cigarettes sent out by his mother.


        The third son, Private Alfred Ward has been killed in action, while also serving with the 1st Beds. He was twenty four years of age and had been in the old Bedfordshire Militia, and later on in the Special Reserve since the age of fifteen or sixteen. When not up for service he worked on various farms in the neighbourhood and he was at work in the Peter's Green district when mobilised. He proceeded straightway to Felixstowe and at the end of August he was drafted to the Front. There he saw a lot of stiff fighting with the Bedfords prior to being killed in action on January 31st. His parents have never received any official news of the circumstances under which he met his death but a local comrade has supplied the information that the top of his head was blown off and he died instantaneously.

[NOTE:-- According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Alfred was a Lance Corporal at the time of his death on 31st January 1915. He has no known grave and his name is inscribed on the Ypres Menin Gate Memorial (Bay 31, Stone V)]



        The two younger sons that have been wounded at Gallipoli are Pte. James Ward, aged 21, and Pte. John Ward, aged 18. James was working at Mr. Stuart Hubbard's dye works in Regent Street and joined the 5th Bedfordshires, about the end of last September. He had the trigger finger of his right hand wounded in action on August 13th and it was a fortnight ago when his family last heard from him, saying that he had been moved from hospital to a convalescent camp at Malta, and getting on fine, and was hoping to have the good luck to get home.
        His younger brother, John, has been accustomed to farm work in the district and was so engaged when he joined the 5th Bedfordshires about the end of August last year. In the fighting in Gallipoli, he had the palm of his left hand blown out by an explosive bullet with the result that he did not expect to be able to use the hand again. After he was wounded, the fingers were only hanging on little pieces of skin and there was a hole so large that a good size egg could be put through without touching the sides. While in hospital at Malta, he had the hole filled up by the insertion of a lump of goat's flesh, and on Saturday morning, Mrs. Ward received a letter from him to say that he has been removed from Malta to Scotland where he is in a Red Cross hospital at Springburn, Glasgow. He arrived there on the 23rd, and says he is getting on fine but it is "so lonely" there as there is no one there he knows, and he is the only Englishman in the hospital. After the climate of Egypt, he feels the cold immensely, stating that although he wears his big coat, he is still cold. He adds, however, that he is nearly better and it will only be about two weeks more before he will be able to get home. He can move the fingers of his injured hand now, except the first one and that is "dead".
        Cousin Jim, who is reported by one of the Luton brothers to have been hit in the leg above the knee, before the advance, is Private James Ward, 3913, "B" Coy., of Mill View Cottage, Letchworth Road, Limbury. He is a married man of 37 years of age, with a young family, and is well know all round the district as one accustomed to well sinking and drainage works. He completed a year of service with the 5th Bedfordshires exactly a fortnight ago and although three weeks have elapsed since his wife heard from him she feels quite at ease in the knowledge gained from his last letter that he was only slightly wounded in the leg, and being well cared for and looked after in hospital in Egypt. "It's a stiff job out here, but I believe we are gradually getting the better of it." represents his view of the operations in Gallipoli.