First wounded Lutonian home from Gallipoli


The first wounded Luton member of the 1/5th Bedfordshire Regiment home from Gallipoli was Pte Alfred Pollard, fifth son of Mr and Mrs Thomas Pollard, of 44 Jubilee Street. He was only 19 years of age.

"It's a very difficult matter to put into words all that a chap feels about it," Pte Pollard told the Luton Reporter newspaper. "But I am proud to belong to the 1/5th Bedfords. They have done some very good work in the little time that have been out there, and from what I saw myself and what I heard afterwards from thos who were in the fighting longer than I was, the Battalion deserve all that has been said about them."

Pte PollardPte Pollard (pictured right) joined the 6th Bedfordshires last September [1914], and did his early training with the 2/5th Battalion at Newmarket, being transferred to the 1/5th Battalion just before they moved from Bury St Edmunds to Norwich. And, as he put it, after nearly 12 months hard training he was put out of action in less than a week. Five days were all he had on the Peninsular, and during practically the whole of that time the Battalion were under shell fire.

They landed without the slightest trouble, although it was in the middle of the morning when they set foot on the Peninsular, but right from the time they accomplished the landing they came under shell fire. 'A' and 'B' Companies, which are mainly made up of Luton men, were the first of the Battalion to go up and do trench-digging, and then they had to experience rifle fire from snipers, as well as heavy shell fire, but their casualties were few. Snipers, he said, seemed to be perched everywhere, and their habit of painting themselves in colours to match their surroundings made it next to impossible to pick them out, especially at night.

Twice Pte Pollard went up trench-digging, and 'A' and 'B' Companies had not long returned from the work they set out to do on the Saturday night [August 14th] when the orders came for the famous attack of August 15th. The distance they had to advance was something like three miles, but the very moment they moved out of their camp, after having their apology for a Sunday dinner, they came under terrific shell fire.

But there was no flinching, said Pte Pollard. "We took cover whenever we possibly could, and went on steadily until we got within rifle fire. Then the battle began. My mates were falling each side of me. I also saw one of my officers (Lieut C. R. James, brother-in-law of Col Brighten) go down, and every moment I thought my time had come, but still on we went, and after a big struggle we were successful in taking the first part of the hill.

"But there was another charge to be made, and I was running up that hill when I went down with a bullet in my left hand. I didn't know exactly what happened. I only knew I was hit, and it was not until afterwards that I found a bullet had gone right through my forefinger and that the top of my finger was only just hanging on."

One of Pte Pollard's mates bandaged him up with the field dressing, and then he crawled back to the field dressing station, which he reached about dusk. About midnight the same night he was one of about a score of wounded members of the 5th Bedfords who were taken on board a hospital ship.

In four days he arrived at Malta, and there he was in hospital ten days. A fortnight ago [September 6th] he reached England, some half a dozen members of the Battalion being on the same boat, and he was taken to the General and Red Cross Hospital at Chelmsford.

On Saturday morning [September 18th] he arrived home in Luton on five days leave, expecting in due course to receive orders to report himself at his depot.

Pte Pollard said he was as fit as a fiddle, but his hand was still rather painful and he was doubtful he would have further use in his forefinger. The bullet entered the knuckle bones of the forefinger and went clean through, taking a piece out of the fleshy part of the second finger, while the knuckle bones of the forefinger were completely shattered. The wound may mean the loss of the finger.

[The Luton Reporter: Monday, September 20th, 1915]