The Bedfordshire Regiment in the Great War
Officers' Photographs and Biographies from the Herts Regiment
Colonel Eric Charles Malcolm PHILLIPS, C.B., D.S.O., T.D., D.L., J.P.
Eric Charles Malcom Phillips was born in Royston on the 7th October 1883, the son of John Phillips from Earlshill House in Royston, Hertfordshire. His family had owned the Royston brewery since 1725 and continued to do so until the sale of the business to Green's of Luton in 1949.
He was educated at Eton and the Brasenose College, Oxford, where he as the Captain of the College boats. Eric joined the Hertfordshire Territorials as an Officer in Royston's E Company, becoming the Company commander after several years. Although he retired from the regiment, when war broke out he rejoined immediately, being posted to F Company. Lieutenant Phillips was promoted to Captain in September 1914, when he was moved back to E Company, having been in command of the Berkhampstead and Hemel F Company beforehand.
After two short months of training, Captain Phillips went to the front lines with the battalion and a few days in the trenches wrote his first letter home. "We have got up here at last and you never heard such a terrific row. There's shrapnel and all sorts of shells bursting around here. It goes on most of the night too, but one soon gets used to it and sleeps fairly well." He went on to remark that the people back home knew more about what was going on than they did in their trenches as no news reached them at all.
By the end of the month, he was had settled into the daily lifestyle, including going out hunting a German sniper who had accounted for a few of his Company. Borrowing one of his men's greatcoats and rifle, he returned some hours later, casually remarking that he had bagged one of them. The Private, noticing his coat was holed and rifle sling had been torn off, asked what had happened. With few words, he apologised and explained how a shell had nearly killed him, damaging the equipment in the process but miraculously it had not so much as scratched him.
Days later he enjoyed a few short days leave before returning to his Company but was wounded later that month and sent to an Officers hospital in London to recover. From 28th September 1915 Eric was promoted to a Temporary Major whilst attached to an entrenching battalion as he completed his recovery, rejoining the battalion on the 1st November 1915.
Major Phillips was present during the battalion's involvement in the Somme and Ancre battles of 1916 and became second in command of the battalion. In 1917, he found himself in charge of the remnants of the unit following the death of Lt-Colonel Frank Page, DSO and Bar during their disastrous assault on St. Julien on the 31st July 1917, being one of only a handful of officers left in the entire battalion. He survived further fighting that autumn but was slightly wounded on 11th January 1918, returning to duties after a few days as the battalion prepared their positions in readiness for the anticipated German offensive.
On the 23rd March 1918 Lieutenant-Colonel Phillips was posted as missing in action following a heavy day's fighting during the German onslaught that was Operation Michael.
Around three weeks later it was finally confirmed that he had been taken prisoner that day and was finally released on Christmas Day 1918. He arrived home from the Danholm POW camp in the Baltic region on Boxing Day, where he had been a POW along with Captain Douglas Warren of the 2nd Bedfords, who was a fellow Royston resident.
After the war Lieutenant-Colonel Phillips continued serving in the regiment alongside running his family's brewery and spirits business. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal in 1919 and promoted to Brevet Colonel in 1931. Serving as an ADC to the King between 1931 and 1941, the Colonel finally retired from the forces in 1940 and was awarded the C.B. in 1942. He later became the Honorary Colonel of the Hertfordshire Regiment between 1947 and 1952.
Eric died in hospital on the 7th January 1957, aged 73, having remained a bachelor throughout his life and still living in Earlshill House in Royston.
He can be seen in the 1914 Herts group photograph here.
Henry George Killington, Private 1786 Bedfordshire Regiment to Captain & QM Hertfordshire Regiment
Mark McKibbin in Australia is Henry's Great Grandson and got in to both ask for any information and kindly offer the photographs you see here.
Between us we uncovered a history that showed Henry served in both the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment across four decades and maybe into a fifth, reflecting both a fascinating and an ultimately sad story. Henry was also called Harry and his original enlistment papers give his middle name as Edward, although in later service papers changed to George. This, as we will see, was probably to enable his underage enlistment into the army. His service record was at Kew and made fascinating reading.
It appears that in 1871 Henry was a toddler and in a poor house with his mother and baby brother, George, who was under a year old. His mother, Ellen Killington, was born around 1847, died in 1878, leaving Henry and his bother George (if George still survived) as orphans. In 1881 he was in an "Industrial School" effectively a ward of the state and his brother George is not apparent so Henry may well have been all alone in the world and at the mercy of the 'Industrial School' from a very early age.
We can only guess at his motives being connected to wanting to get away from the life he was leading, but Henry enlisted into the Bedfordshire Regiment on the 11th December 1885 and was given the rank of 'Boy'. His duplicated service record shows he was 14 years and 9 months old and his trade was a 'Musician', bit it may be that he claimed to be older at the time, as we will see later. He was posted as Private 1786 in the Bedfordshire Regiment. Postcards from around 1910 show him called 'Kil' by his comrades, which was a given considering his name and profession!
The young Bandsman served with the 1st battalion, and was recorded as being at Colchester in December 1885, Bradford in October 1886, Enniskillen in July 1887, Fernoy in January 1888, and Aldershot in October 1888. On the 11th March 1889, he reached 18 years and attained the rank of Private. However, something appears to have happened at his regular medical at Bedford in June 1890.
After a court martial in July 1890 Henry served 56 days imprisonment for fraudulent enlistment and all prior pensionable service was wiped off his record. He returned to duty in August and, incredibly, rejoined the battalion to continue with his service. He was posted to 2nd battalion February 1892 but returned to the 1st battalion the following year, serving between the 8th December 1893 and the 3rd April 1902 in India.
He was engaged in the Chitral Relief Force, and received a Gunshot wound to his foot on the 3rd April 1895, as his battalion stormed mountainous defences at the Malakand Pass. His wound was not serious and he was promoted to Corporal in June 1895. Henry is shown at Umbala in December 1895, and was promoted to Sergeant in August 1896. He married Susan Cannon on the 2nd December 1896 in Bombay, India and was at Solon in June 1897, Meean Meer in November 1897, and Mooltan in November 1898. In January 1899, he was appointed Sergeant Drummer. In September 1902 Henry had another medical and was transferred to the 3rd Battalion.
June 1903 saw him posted as a Colour Sergeant in the 4th battalion and in October 1904 he was transferred to permanent staff of the 2nd Hertfords as an Instructor. A further posting to the 1st Hertfords on the 1st April 1908 saw him serve the next six years on the permanent staff of the Territorial battalion, at which time war broke out. It was during this era that the photographs here were taken.
After training the Territorial soldiers of the 1st Hertfords in readiness for their posting to the Western Front, on the 4th September 1914 Henry was posted to the newly raised 2nd/1st battalion of the Hertfordshire Regiment and on the 23rd February 1915 he became the Acting R.S.M. of the 3rd/1st Hertfords. New Year's Day 1916 saw a further move to the 4th/1st battalion and following 26 years and 2 days in the ranks, Henry he was commissioned as a Territorial Force Quartermaster on the 28th January 1916. At the time he was serving at Halton Park Camp near Tring as a CSM and acting RSM, and was aged 44. His residence was 4 Bury Road Hemel Hempstead and his superb references recorded 'Exemplary conduct, earned the highest references and gained a well earned promotion'.
During Henry and Susan's marriage they had several children. Their eldest was Eva Ellen, who was born in 1897 in Umballa, India. John (perhaps also called Henry) was born around 1904 in Hertfordshire and Winifred was born in 1911 in Hemel Hempstead.
Henry Killington died from Pulmonary TB on the 4th June 1922 at 3 Great Sutton Street in Finsbury, whilst working as a Clerk in the Ministry of Pensions. Irony mixes with sadness many times in biographies from this era and Henry's is no exception. His son Henry died aged 18 on the 17th October that year and on the 30th October his wife Susan also died from Asthma. The surviving family went to live in Australia in 1923 and in 1926 his 15 year old daughter Winifred tragically died from TB as well.
Mark's Great Grandmother was the eldest daughter, Eva Ellen Killington, and passed away in Melbourne, Australia in 1975. She had been the only surviving member of the family for fifty years by that time.
The photos shown here are all from postcards Henry sent between 1910 and 1912 according to the postmarks on them. One of them is addressed to Master H. Killington and signed dad, remarking that 'these are some of my Bhoys' [sic]. Given that Henry was an Acting R.S.M. at the time, the only picture he may be in is the group of Sergeants as no other uniforms bear a relevant insignia to be him. He would have been in his early 40's at the time, thus narrowing down the possibilities to a handful of the Sergeants.
Site built by Steven Fuller, 2003 to 2023