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Sapper E. Darnell

Rushden Echo, 26th September 1914, transcribed by Kay Collins

Rushden Soldier’s Pluck
“Keep a Smiling Face” — “Back for Christmas”

In many intensely interesting letters written home from the actual scenes of battle, a Rushden soldier, Pte. E. Darnell, 1858, of the 15th “The King’s” Hussars, 1st Signal Squadron, 1st Cavalry Division of the British Expeditionary Force, one can almost hear the roar of the cannon and the yells of the infuriated Germans. The following are extracts from the letters:- “Just a line to let you know I am all right so far. The only thing I have lost is my horse and that was done in a skirmish. I have got another, however. The English troops are doing well in some places and in others remarkably so. I am living in hopes of getting home for Christmas.

“It is a dreadful thing to watch the women and children leaving their houses. All the villages are being burnt down by the Germans as they advance.

“We had a splendid victory over the Germans on - - - - . We lost very few men and not many horses. We are getting treated very well by the French and Belgian people. Everything that we want we can get. I cannot tell you where I am, but we are near to Paris.

“I cannot tell you too much but will tell more when I get home, if I manage to get back.

“Don’t worry, but cheer up and keep a smiling face, as I am all right up to the present.”

Private Darnell, who stands well over six feet in height, is one of the smartest looking soldiers who can claim Rushden for home. The town will feel proud of this noble son of the Army. He is pitting himself might and main against an atrocious enemy and deserves to win through. If the whole of the English Army was composed of such fine specimens of intellectual manhood things would go very badly with the Germans. We wish Pte. Darnell a safe arrival home, and may he be responsible for checking the career of more than one of the enemy.

Rushden Echo, 28th January 1916, transcribed by Gill Hollis

Rushden Sapper at Work
How Signalling is Done
The Whole Service Like A Machine
The Finest Organised Army Service in the World
Listening Posts

In our issue of last week we had the pleasure of reporting the marriage of Sapper E. Darnell, 32748, British Signals Cavalry Corps, son of Mr. and Mrs. J. Darnell, of Newton-road, Rushden, to Miss B. E. Pettitt, of Victoria-road, Rushden.

Sergt. Darnell Sapper Darnell has seen 17 months’ fighting and came home on Monday last week for the marriage. He was formerly in the 15th Hussars, and it will be remembered that more than 12 months ago he afforded us an interesting account of his experiences.

Last week a representative of the “Rushden Echo” had a further chat with him. He seemed in the best of health, despite the strenuous months he had passed through. Sapper Darnell said that he went out to France on Aug. 13th, 1914, and that he had taken part in all the cavalry actions since then.

Although he has been engaged in running communications practically all the time, he answered emphatically in the negative when asked if he was tired of it.

“The work,” he said, “is too exciting and fascinating to be monotonous.

“In running communications we work from a base. The whole Signal Service is like a machine, everything being systematically arranged.

“The lines are put on from divisions to brigades and from brigades to regiments, so that there are ‘divisional’ communications and ‘regimental’ communications. Every man has a certain ‘bit’ to do, and he does the same thing day after day. There are pole communications, or ‘air-lines’ as we call them, and cable communications. The cable communications are not so good as air-lines; they are quick communications and they are only run out when it is impossible to establish pole communications. In the case of the latter, each man, as usual has a certain piece of work to do. For instance, some dig the holes for the poles; others carry the poles to the holes ready to fix them in, while others run out the wires and connect them with insulating ‘cups.’ When the connectors are established the poles, which are about 14 feet high, are fixed, and so the work of laying pole communications progresses.

“When these communications get blown down we have to go out in the open to repair them. This is rather risky work as we are exposed to stray shells and the fire of German Snipers. But we do not notice that. Each man has his bit to do and he does it cheerfully. We never know when we are going under, so what good does it do us to worry about it? Many soldiers make much of the narrow escapes they have had, such as a bullet missing the ear by the twentieth of an inch or something like that, but narrow escapes are a common thing. We are always taking risks.

“The Signal Service in the British Army, in my opinion, is the finest organised army service in the world. It includes cable sections, motor air-line sections, trench wireless, 80 feet wireless stations (steel mast), despatch riders, visual signallers (electric flashes, flags, heliograph – Morse semaphore, etc.), and listening posts. By the use of the last-named men behind the trenches can hear the communications of the Germans. It is really a marvellous invention and works on the system of induction (sound vibration through the earth). I don’t know whether it is an English invention or not. At any rate, I do know that it is used by the Germans as well as the English. We often have members of the French signal service with us in order that they may learn the English style of communication.

“I think the French regulars are a smart lot of soldiers, but as to the French population – well, I think they are making a good living out of the English soldiers, for they charge us double prices for everything. Lately, however, the Y.M.C.A. has been coming to the rescue with their canteens, etc., and from them we get our requirements at the same prices as at home.”

Sapper Darnell also mentioned that, in visual signalling, flags were not used because they were so conspicuous. He smiled visibly when our representative mentioned the Gurkhas. The Gurkhas are good fighters,” he said, “but they don’t like the weather!”

Sapper Darnell, prior to the war, had been away from home eight years and during that time he did extensive travelling. He returned to the front to continue “doing his bit” on Saturday night.

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