About 30 people braved the cold evening on January 23rd and were rewarded with two interesting presentations. Peter Applewhite started by giving us the result of his researches into the years 1917 and 1918. Last year, he told us about the Welsh soldiers, some of whom were billeted in Biddenham in 1916. After they left, we have no written record of soldiers being billeted in Biddenham, but the 62nd division and 72nd division were stationed in Bedford briefly in 1917 and 1918 before being sent to France or to do coastal defence duties on the East Anglian coast. The divisions contained soldiers from a variety of regiments such as the Lincolnshires and the Somersets. Peter had researched the local papers very thoroughly and showed how the people of Bedford made the troops very welcome, providing them with hospitality and musical entertainment. He also showed photographs of the areas of combat that the soldiers went to – the scenes of the area around Cambrai at the end of 1917 were very poignant as the frozen mud and rutted tracks in the snow showed how the time in Bedford earlier in the year had been a pleasant interlude for the soldiers before going out to the horror of the Western Front. Peter ended by showing us a table for the casualties from these divisions and the photographs of two of the young soldiers one aged 23 and one aged 20, who were killed. He accompanied the photographs with the Last Post – a moving ending to his researches. Thank you, Peter, for all that you have presented to the Biddenham History Society over the past two years.
Matt Edgeworth then reported on the square metre pit dig that he helped us with in August, 2016. A group of us dug two tests pits in the garden of Pat and Mary McKeown’s house in Church End. As Matt pointed out, there was some competition between those who were digging. Pat and Mary’s grandchildren dug to the greater depth with the energy of youth! Those of us who were older, dug less deeply, but were more fortunate in our finds. There were many shards of pottery, glass and iron – including part of an old door hinge. The star find was a clay pipe, which we managed to piece together from the bowl and stem. Most of the finds were from recent centuries: Matt thought that medieval remains had been obscured when the garden was developed or they were too deep in the ground to be found easily. Matt’s photographs of the day were a welcome tonic of warmth and sunshine in cold, grey January. As he said, those who took part had a most enjoyable day, added to which was Pat and Mary’s kind hospitality. We buried a time capsule in one of the test pits before we filled them in. We included a coin and some paper which we all signed. We would like to think that some archaeologists will find it in 100 years time, though they will have to look hard for the spot to dig as Mary and Pat assured everyone that their garden was restored immaculately when the dig was inished! Thank you once again to Matt for all his help and good advice and his patience with us amateurs.
The new programme cards for the History Society 2017 – 2018 are now available from Kathy Fricker and the programme is on the village website. The next meeting is on Monday, April 24th at 8pm in the Church Barn when David Watson will talk about his house 17, Biddenham Turn. I hope you will be able to come.