In the British Army, a private (Pte) equates to both OR-1 and OR-2 on the NATO scale, although there is no difference in rank. Privates wear no insignia. Many regiments and corps use other distinctive and descriptive names instead of private, some of these ranks have been used for centuries, others are less than 100 years old.[2] In the contemporary British Armed Forces, the army rank of private is broadly equivalent to able seaman in the Royal Navy, aircraftman, leading aircraftman and senior aircraftman in the Royal Air Force, and marine (Mne) or bandsman, as appropriate equivalent rank in the Royal Marines. The term as a military rank seems to come from the Sixteenth Century when individuals had the privilege of enlisting or making private contracts to serve as private soldiers in military units.

Private William Henry Wilson

Pte William Henry Wilson, 88025, 3rd Cavalry Division Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps, was killed in action in France on August 9th, 1918. He was aged 25 and single.

His chaplain wrote to widowed mother Lizzie Ann Wilson at 10 South Road, Luton, that on the night of the 9th a bomb was dropped on the dressing station where William was working, killing him instantly.

Private Llewelyn Cadwaller Lamb

Pte Llewelyn Cadwaller Lamb, 29669, 2nd Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment, was reported missing in France on July 1st, 1918, later assumed to have been killed in action on that date.

Born in Thornaby-on-Tees, Yorkshire, he was working at the Diamond Foundry in Luton before he joined up.

He is commemorated on the Luton Roll of Honour/War Memorial but without an address. A Luton News report at the time merely referred to his friend - a Miss Taylor residing at 2 Ivy Road, Luton - having received the report that Llewelyn was missing and seeking information about his whereabouts.

Private Percy Charles Keightley

Pte Percy Charles Keightley, 41987, 2/5th West Yorks Regiment (Prince of Wales' Own), was killed in action shortly after going over the top with comrades in the advance on the Marne in France on July 20th, 1918.

The news was first received by parents Sidney Charles and Edith Keightley at 49 Cardiff Road, Luton, in a letter from one of their son's comrades. He wrote that Percy was buried in a little cemetery on the left of the Pourcy-Marfaux road.

Private Stanley Welch

Pte Stanley Welch, 27349, 7th Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment, was killed in action in France on July 22nd, 1918. He was aged 34 and married.

His family learned the news via a letter from chum Pte Hanby to his own parents living in Old Bedford Road, Luton. He wrote: “Stanley Welch, who used to be a teacher at Wellington Street, was killed in a raid whilst dressing one of the wounded. A shell burst close to them, and both were killed instantly.”

Private Ernest William Armitage

Pte Ernest William Armitage, 20432, 2nd Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment, was killed in action in France on June 25th*, 1918. He was single, and his widowed mother lived at 26 Albert Road, Luton.

In a letter to Mrs Sarah Armitage, Capt P. J. Reiss wrote that her son's death had occurred on June 26th*. Ernest was a member of a Lewis gun team in the front line, and he had been nearby when Pte Armitage was killed instantly by a piece of trench mortar entering his head from behind. His body was carried out the same evening and he had been properly buried in an English cemetery.

Private Edwin Frederick Thompson

Pte Eddie (Edwin Frederick) Thompson, 307504, 2/7th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment, was reported missing, later presumed killed in action, near St Quentin in France, on March 22nd, 1918.

Born in Luton in 1892, the son of rate collector Mr Fred Thompson and his wife Julia, he had enlisted late in 1915 with three friends from the Union Chapel, Luton. They trained with the 3/1 Signal Co at Bedford. He transferred to the Royal Warwicks in December 1916.

Private Alexander (Alec) Hynd

Pte Alexander (Alec) Hynd, 24964, 6th Battalion The Buffs (East Kent) Regiment, died of wounds in hospital in France on July 2nd, 1918.

Born near Bognor Regis in Sussex in 1898, he had moved with parents Henry and Alice and a brother and a sister to Hexton, near Luton, by the time of the 1911 Census. He was engaged to a Luton girl, Miss E. M. Day.

A letter to his parents said Alec had been severely wounded in the leg. He was given a blood transfusion but passed away on the night of July 2nd. The hospital sister wrote that Alec had suffered no pain.

Private Ernest Sidney Hoole

Pte Sidney Ernest Hoole, 67609, 6th Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment, was killed in action on the Somme on July 1st, 1918. He was a month short of his 19th birthday.

Born in 1899, a son of Frederick and Kate Hoole, he joined up in September 1917 and had been serving abroad for only three months. Before joining the colours he had been an assistant at the Maypole food shop in Wellington Street, Luton.

Sidney is commemorated on the Luton Roll of Honour/War Memorial. His mother and three brothers were living at 80 Church Street at the time of his death.

Private Albert Ernest Bithrey

Pte Albert Ernest Bithrey, 41546, 2nd Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment, was killed in action in France on July 1st, 1918, according to military records.

However his lieutenant wrote to Albert's mother in Luton: “On the night of 29th June he was acting as platoon gunner, and sitting next to me when a shell pitched on his packs and killed him instantly. His body was brought down and buried in a cemetery behind the lines, and a proper memorial has been put up to his memory.”

Private Bertie Bleaney

Pte Bertie Bleaney, 201383, 4th Essex Regiment, was reported missing, later killed in action, in Palestine on March 27th, 1917. Confirmation of his death was not received by his family until more than a year later.

Born in Houghton Regis in 1895, he had been working on a local farm until joining up with the Beds Regiment soon after the outbreak of war. He had been transferred to the Essex Regiment before he went to Egypt and Palestine.

Private William James Wells

Pte William James Wells, 38483, 19th Field Ambulance Royal Army Medical Corps, died of wounds in France on June 9th, 1918. No further detail were given in local newspapers.

His death was recorded in the Luton News in just one paragraph, even though he had been elected secretary of the Luton Conservative and Unionist Association in 1913 and featured prominently as an election worker from 1911 until he initially joined the transport section of the Royal Engineers in 1914 at the start of the war.

Private Frederick Halsey

Pte Frederick Halsey, 2473, 2/1st West Riding Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps, was one of three stretcher-bearers who died together under enemy shell fire in France on the morning of June 21st, 1918.

In a letter to Mrs Elizabeth Halsey at 6 New Town Street, Luton, Lieut-Col Walter Lister extended his sympathy and wrote: “Your son was on duty in the forward area as stretcher-bear when the relay post at which he was stationed was blown up by a direct hit from enemy fire.”

Private Charles Barker

Pte Charles Barker, 42539, 11th Battalion Essex Regiment, was killed in action in Flanders on May 28th, 1918. He was a second son of the last James Barker and Mrs Sarah Barker, of 26 Back Street, Luton, to die on the battlefield. Pte Ernest Barker (Beds Regiment) was killed in the First Battle of Ypres in October 1914.

Charles, aged 19, had joined the Royal Field Artillery at Biscot a year before his death and later transferred to the Essex Regiment. Before joining the Army he had been a coal carter employed by Newbold & Martell in Luton.

Private John Wesley

Sapper John Wesley, 524163, 82nd Field Company Royal Engineers, was killed in action in France on June 12th, 1918. He left a widow, Lillie, whom he had married in Luton a year earlier, and had been in France for only 11 weeks.

An officer wrote to Lillie: “I have to inform you of the death of your husband, who was killed on the night of the 12th whilst proceeding to work. Death was instantaneous. I am pleased to tell you he was saved the awful pain of a lingering death... He was buried officially, and his grave is kept in Army records.”


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