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Co-operative Wholesale Society’s
Men in Kitchener’s Army

Rushden Argus, 18th September 1914

Rushden Contingent for Kitchener’s Army

Over forty members of the staff of the Co-operative Wholesale Society at Rushden have volunteered to military service. The society have generously promised to pay the men full wages (less what they receive in Army pay) so long as they are serving the colours and also guarantee them work upon their return.

Photo by E Bandey

The Rushden Echo, 28th May, 1915, transcribed by Jim Hollis

Thrilling Story of Battle - Rushden Soldier’s Startling Experiences
A Thousand Guns firing at one Time - Hundreds of Men Killed or Wounded
Crawling Amongst the Dead and Injured
Headless Bodies and Bodies with The Limbs Off

In last week’s “Rushden Echo” we reported the fact that Pte. Charles H. Jeeves, 16671, D. Company, 1st Northamptons, an employee at the C.W.S. boot factory at Rushden, had been wounded in the great fight on Sunday, May 9th. Mr. Tysoe, the manager at the works, has received from Pte. Jeeves a thrilling account of the battle, as follows:-

Dear Sir, - I was pleased to get your letter of the 17th inst., which was delivered to the hospital this morning. As I have been fortunate enough to get a willing friend to write for me I will try and give you a few details. You have, of course, heard what a terrible battle it was we went through on Sunday, May 9th. We had orders to take the two lines of the enemy’s trenches and to advance to a certain point about a thousand yards ahead and there dig ourselves in to wait for reinforcements. Our artillery commenced to heavily bombard the German trenches about 4.30 a.m., and considering there were about a thousand guns firing at a time you can imagine the terrible noise they made; we could feel the earth shaking beneath us. After bombarding for about half an hour we had orders to climb the parapet and make for the German trenches, and my company was in the first line. Soon as we started to advance the enemy’s shrapnel was bursting over our heads like hailstones, and we hadn’t got above half-a-dozen yards before dozens of our men were knocked over.

Pte. Charles H. Jeeves
The first one I saw fall (a fellow I knew well) had the top of his head taken clean away. However, we could not stay behind to assist the wounded, we had to push on, but before we had gone far all our company with the exception of about a dozen had been knocked over. They were peppering away at us with their machine guns, and it was impossible to make any headway under such heavy fire. When I got hit I wasn’t very far off the German’s trench. A bullet went in my hand at the knuckle of the thumb and came out just below the little finger. On receiving this wound I stopped down, only to get one in the back. The grass was fairly long and I managed, by lying down, to hide myself from view.

By this time hundreds of our men were lying around me, either killed or wounded, and they were firing on those that lay there to make sure of finishing them off. I laid through this for fifteen hours, during which time our people bombarded again, and another regiment attempted to take the same trenches and lost, if possible, heavier than we. They were sending over shells during the whole of the time I was laying there, and they were bursting all around me, and I could hear the wounded shout as they were continually being hit, and I expected to be struck again at any minute, but was one of the fortunate.

When it got dark I thought I would take the opportunity to crawl back to our own lines. In doing so I had to crawl amongst dead bodies and wounded. Some of them were riddled with bullets and had frightful wounds, one could see headless bodies, also bodies with limbs off. I heard one fellow calling for water as I passed, and crawling up to him found he had a broken arm and leg and also wounds in the body. I gave him a drink of water and asked him if I could do anything more for him, but he said “No! You have got enough to do to look after yourself.” I don’t suppose he would live long. I soon found the dressing station after I got away from the firing line, and that same night was sent well down the country on a motor ambulance.

I arrived at Oxford last Friday and can assure you am not sorry to be in England once again. I have had an experience I shall not forget in a hurry. I hear that Clayton got through without a scratch. I thought that I was lucky but he was luckier still. Although his battalion was a mile or two off us I suppose the fighting was equally as hot as where we were.

Well, I am pleased to tell you I am fairly comfortable, the wounds in my back are a bit painful, and the bone of my thumb is smashed, otherwise I feel all right. I am looking forward to getting out of here very quickly, although I don’t suppose it will be for a week or so. Kindly remember me to all friends at the C.W.S. and tell them I soon hope to have another look at them. In closing I must thank you very much for writing to the Oxford Boot Buyer requesting them to come and see me.

With kindest regards,
Yours faithfully,
C. Jeeves

The Rushden Echo, 8th October, 1915, transcribed by Gill Hollis

Rushden C.W.S. Employees - Wounded Soldiers
The 7th Northants in The Great Advance

Mrs. W. Clayton, Queen-street, Rushden, has received a postcard from her son, Pte. J. Sanders, 9th Royal Sussex Regiment, to say that he is in the 2nd Western General Hospital, Hollywood Park, Stockport, having been wounded in the left arm on Rushden Feast Sunday, during the recent British advance. He enlisted in Kitchener’s Army twelve months ago and was drafted to the 9th Royal Sussex Regiment five weeks ago. Another son, Harry Clayton, enlisted on Monday and still another son, Frank Clayton, an interview with whom we published some time ago, is in France. Sam Clayton, the eldest son, was killed in the battle of Mons as reported in the “Rushden Echo” at the time.

Mrs. T. Boyson has received a field-card from her husband, Sergt. Thomas G. Boyson, 7th Northants, to say that he has been wounded in the recent great advance. Sergt. Boyson, who served through the Indian Mutiny and the Boer War, rejoined the colours twelve months last September.

Mrs. C. Groom, 2, Woburn-place, Rushden, has received a letter from her son, Pte. R. C. Groom, 7th Northants Regiment, to say that he is wounded in the right arm and is in hospital at Bristol. In a later communication, he says that the fun was only just beginning in France when he came away. He was wounded on Rushden Feast Sunday.

Mrs. A. King, 3, Woburn-place, Rushden, has received news that her son, Pte. A. E. King, 7th Northants, has been gassed in the recent British advance.

Mrs. G. T. Watts, 8, Pemberton-street, Rushden, has received a letter from her husband, 15136, 7th Northants, who is in Salford Royal Hospital, Manchester, to say that he has been wounded in the recent fighting. He says that a big shell burst behind him and blew him out of the trench killing or wounding all that were near him. He sustained a twisted back and injured knee but is now fairly comfortable. He said that he was so badly shaken that he could not relish any food that was given him.

All the wounded soldiers were employees at the C.W.S. factory at Rushden.

The Rushden Echo, 31st March 1916, transcribed by Gill Hollis

Rushden Soldier Hopeful - Good News Before Long
“Home Again For The Peas And Broad Beans!”

Pte. J. W. Hinde (Rushden), 1001, No. 8, Veterinary Hospital, B.E.F., France, who formerly worked in the finishing department at the C.W.S. boot factory, Rushden, has sent the following letter to Mr. C. Lingard, of the same factory:-

I thought I would drop a line to let you know that I have not forgotten my shop mates. I received a nice parcel of cigarettes, through the thoughtfulness of all the shop mates, I suppose, and I might add that I enjoyed them.

Well, to get to business, how are you all getting on in the finishing department? I wish I was with you. Never grumble about working in a shoe factory – it’s a king of a job after this “turn out.” I hope you are all enjoying the best of health, as it leaves me at present. We have had a big fall of snow again yesterday and to-day, so you can guess what a state we are in again.

I think you will be hearing some good news before so long (that’s as much as I can tell you).

I expect a lot more have left or about to join up, so it will only leave the old fogies. I hope it will soon be over, so that we can get back to our dear wives and children and sweethearts, and live in peace for the rest of our lives. Kind regards to all the shop mates, not forgetting yourself.

P.S. – Get on with the gardening. We expect to be home for the peas and broad beans?
[Pte. Hinde is not in the photo below?]

Rushden Echo, 19th May 1916, transcribed by Kay Collins

Rushden C.W.S. Worker – Wounded by Shrapnel
Mrs. Shipman, of 13 Glassborok-road, Rushden, has received news that her husband, Lance-Corpl. J. H. Shipman, of the Northants Regiment, was wounded by shrapnel in the left knee on April 25th.

He enlisted on April 17th 1915, and proceeded to the depot on April 25th last year, exactly 12 months prior to the date on which he received his wound. He went to the front at the end of July last year. Prior to enlistment he was employed at the C.W.S. boot factory at Rushden. He returned to this country last Monday week and is now in a Red Cross Hospital, Salisbury, where, we are pleased to report, he is making satisfactory progress.

At the time Lance-Corpl. Shipman was wounded he was having six days’ rest at the rear of the firing line. An enemy shell exploded near his section and practically every man received a wound of some description or other.

The Rushden Echo, 15th September, 1916, transcribed by Gill Hollis

Rushden Soldier Wounded - Pte. F. W. George
A Former C.W.S. Employee - Injured in the Chest by Shrapnel

Mr. and Mrs. Q. George, of 33, Little-street, Rushden, have received news that their son, 15306 Private F. W. George, Northants Regiment, is wounded in the right side of the chest by shrapnel, and is in No. 12 General Hospital, Rouen. The first news that Mr. and Mrs. George received was from Canon Adderley, chaplain to the forces, who wrote that Pte. George was seriously wounded in the chest, but that every attention was being given to him.

Shortly afterwards Mr. and Mrs. George received a field card from their son in his own handwriting, but there followed a telegram from the Record Office, Warley Common, as follows:- “Regret to inform you that 15306 Pte. Frank W. George, - Northants Regt., is dangerously ill in 12th General Hospital, Rouen. Regret that permission to visit him cannot be granted.”

This wire sent out from Warley Common on Sept. 9th has naturally caused Mr. and Mrs. George much anxiety, but we consider that their fears may be allayed by the following letter written by their son himself, also under date Sept. 9th:-

“Just a few lines to let you know I am a little better at present. No doubt you would think me a long time in writing but you see I can’t write much. I suppose you would hear I was wounded as the chaplain took the address and said he would write. I came down from the line on Wednesday and I am getting on a bit now. I am wounded in the chest on the right side by shrapnel, and I have been X-rayed, and they have found it, so I expect to go under an operation before so very long. I am still hoping to get to England, as they keep going away all the time.”

Private George enlisted on Sept. 8th, 1914, just after the outbreak of war. He went to France just before Christmas last year, and up to the time of receiving his wound had come through quite safely. Prior to enlistment he was employed by the C.W.S.

The Rushden Echo, 20th April 1917, transcribed by Kay Collins

Gunshot Wounds in the Head - Rushden Man Seriously Injured - Private Norman Britten
Official news has been received that Pte. Norman Britten, Inniskilling Fusiliers, fourth son of Mrs Arthur Britten, 12, Windmill-road, Rushden, is seriously ill in Rouen Hospital, France, as a result of gunshot wounds received in action.

Pte. Norman Britten, who is 28 years old, went out to France at the end of January this year, having joined the army only eight weeks previously. He was formerly employed at the Rushden C.W.S. Boot Works.

His youngest brother, Horace, is a prisoner of war in Germany having been captured in the Battle of Loos.

Rushden Echo, 19th April 1918, transcribed by Kay Collins

Pte Charles Smith, Machine Gun Battery, of 6 Ealing-terrace, Washbrook-road, Rushden, has been wounded, and is now in hospital in Leeds. Mrs. Smith received a letter from her husband stating that he had been wounded in the ankle. On Monday he underwent an operation, and is now getting on nicely. Mrs. Smith arranged to visit her husband yesterday. Bedfore joining the Colours, Pte. Smith, who is a native of Kettering, worked at the C.W.S. boot factory at Rushden.


Kettering Leader, 14th June 1918, transcribed by Kay Collins

Nearly four years ago, all the men in this group enlisted from the Co-operative Wholesale Society, Rushden, in Kitchener’s Army. A careful record has been kept of their careers, and from the following particulars it will be seen that no fewer than eight have made the great sacrifice, and the same number wounded.

From Back left-right: A King; F Leech, killed in action Sept 27th 1915; R Groom, wounded; E R Esson;
W Bridgeford; C H Bunning, killed in action Sept 27th 1915; W Parrott, wounded, discharged, and back at work with the C.W.S.; R Cooper; H Gilbert, killed in action Oct 14th 1915; C Braines, killed in action Sept 27th 1915; G T Watts, wounded and prisoner of war; J Sawford, wounded, discharged, and back at work with the C.W.S.;
A Burton, wounded and discharged; C Perkins; T Boyson; R Lack; R Robinson, killed in action Sept 27th 1915; F George, wounded, H Weekley, killed in action March 1st 1918; J T Sanders, wounded; E George, killed in action Sept 27th 1915; C Jackson, killed in action July 6th 1916; W Smith, rejected; J Percival, wounded and discharged.


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