The Rushden Echo, 18th September, 1914, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Rushden Soldier's Evidence of the Atrocities of the German Forces
Dead Man Stabbed Ninteen Times - Private Pope’s Thrilling Experiences
“How near did you get to the Germans?”
“Well, we got within a few yards that was near enough! The Frenchmen would have pulled them to bits if they could have had their way with them!”
Private Pope, of Spencer-road, Rushden, who has just come home, wounded, related a few of his exiting experiences to a “Rushden Echo” representative this week. He told our representative that he was under strict orders not to divulge any secrets relative to the strategy of the fighting. Private Pope is attached to the 1st Northamptonshires.
“The field ambulance to which I was attached had a narrow escape of being captured on one occasion, and at Maubenge we were amongst the last to clear out. Our regiment was very lucky although one or two may be reported ‘missing’ they are all right. You get put on the field ambulance, perhaps away from your own men, and are reported ‘missing,’ but you get through in the end.”
“How many Germans did you pot?” our representative asked. “I don’t know,” replied Private Pope, with a smile, “there are a few left yet!”
“You must not take too much notice of the reports of the soldiers in the trenches singing as if they had not a care in the world! I heard more talk of religion and from men from whom you would least expect it than any popular songs! On the other hand we are kept too busy during the time of fighting to think about personal danger. The idea of what may happen to oneself scarcely enters one’s head. But, with all that, it would take a very vivid imagination to picture all the scenes in a war like this which is nothing less than legalised murder! Some of the sights are simply shocking you could not talk about them. The Germans were not satisfied with killing our men they would even spit on them as they leaped over their dead bodies. One man, after having been killed with a wound in the head, was stabbed in 19 different places! This shows that there is some truth in the reports of the atrocious deeds of the enemy.
“But the heroism of the French is just as noble as the Germans are brutal. One little French chap carried his pal for two days on his back and was successful in getting through the lines to the ambulance. It was a staggering piece of work, as the poor wounded man must have weighed at least 14st., and the one who carried him was only a little fellow.
“We English had to get used to carrying heavy loads. Our baggage, including rifle, etc. weighed over 80 lbs., and each man had to march with that dragging on him all the time. There was no stopping to change the kit about to get a little relief, either! It made it all the worse that the weather was so terribly hot, too. After marching long like that, we don’t trouble about a blanket or waterproof rug to lie down on. As soon as we were allowed to settle down for the night we rolled straight on to the ground and went off to sleep without the slightest difficulty.
“We might be sleeping peacefully like that when, in the dead of night, we should have a call to be ready, and in a few moments we should be in the thick of the fight. On these occasions there was such a fearful din and mix up that little real slaughter could take place Germans, French, and English would be close to each other in the darkness, and none dared to fire for fear of killing his own comrades. It was on such a night as this that we saw six villages on fire all at the same time. The Germans seem to know France as well as the French know it. They cleverly evaded our strong points and pegged away at our weakest places.
“It is no use saying the Germans cannot fight. They were the picked men of the German Army who so nearly reached Paris. We got a view of them one Sunday, right in the distance, hopping in and out of cover like a lot of rabbits.”
“How did you manage to get injured?” asked the “Rushden Echo” representative.
“I was in the hottest part of a stampede and was knocked down by a wagon. For a time there was utter confusion; horses galloped madly about, the firing of guns and the yells of the enemy making the scene anything but pleasant. It was every man for himself. The wagon was fortunately not loaded or I should have been killed outright. One man made a frantic endeavour to either steady the horses or board the vehicle I could not tell which. He met his death in the attempt. I shall never forget the sight of him he was a splendidly built chap. I saw him a little later on, his head crushed in. He had been caught between the hubs of two vehicles which came together in the mad rush. It was mere good luck that I didn’t meet with a similar fate. We should have gone back if possible to give him, with others, a decent burial after the battle, but the Germans got possession of the place.
“It was with difficulty that I could let my friends know of my condition. They could not tell whether I was alive or not. However, the chaplain in one of the hospitals I was sent to insisted on writing to my home. That, I told him, would lead them to think that I should come home with a leg under my arm or something equally horrible. I wanted to write myself, if only one line, just to satisfy them I was at least well enough for that. However, I had a lucky escape and I am thankful to say I am now about right again.”
Pte. Pope told an amusing story of how he “set the back up” of a doctor. The doctor went to the bedside and started questioning Pte. Pope, who, not knowing his visitor refused to admit that he knew anything about the war worth speaking of. The doctor went off in a “huff,” but returned with an officer of the army. This time he was more successful with his cross-examination!
Asked what was the spirit prevailing among the French and English, Pte. Pope said they were on the friendliest of terms and would do almost anything for each other. He managed to pick up a few words of French, but says he was better able to ask for what he wanted than to pay for it. The price of food stuffs was very high.
|The Rushden Echo, 16th October 1914, transcribed by Gill Hollis.
Rushden Officer at the Front - Germans Glad to be taken Prisoners
“Germans are Awful Cubs” - “Up to all sorts of Mean Tricks”
They Won’t Face Our Infantry - “Our Men Are Well Fed”
Major Browning, of the Queen’s Bays son of Mr. E.C. Browning, J.P., of Rushden House, sends home a most interesting letter from the front, from which we make the following extracts:-
Sept. 4th. We went by train from Havre to Maubeuge on the Belgian frontier, and stayed there about a day ; we were not in touch with the Germans at once. During the battles of Le Mons and Le Catteau the four days fighting we were on the flank, and I saw a good deal of the fighting, only we were not actively engaged, lozing only a few men by shell fire. Poor Bushell who disappeared, we hoped that he was taken prisoner in a night attack after Le Catteau, in which the 11th Hussars had a few casualties. The charge of the second brigade at Mons was a ghastly mistake, and a useless sacrifice of life. They got into some wire and were enfiladed by maxims and every kind of thing, and did practically no good at all.
Sept. 4th The Germans leave everything in a most awful state of filth and dirt, and smash everything. Two or three days ago we billeted in a most beautiful chateau, and all the lovely things in it had been smashed.
Sept. 20th I have seen a good many German prisoners. They are as a rule very pleased to be captured. To-night we are in a clean house with the prospect of a clean bed and good dinner, tomorrow night it will probably be a ditch full of water.
Sept. 24th It was during the retirement that the affair of Nery occurred and that we took eight guns from the Germans. We had just got in in the dark, and put outposts. The order in the morning was to have one squadron saddles up, and the others standing to, at 5 a.m., it was a misty morning, and I had just gone down about 5 a.m. to look at my horses, when a most tremendous outburst of shell fire and maxims burst on my astonished ears. I was in a farm with the regimental head quarters, and the Battery (L Battery) were picketed about round the villages. I rushed out into the field, and for a moment could see nobody. The horses had stampeded. However, in a second or two I met Captain Springfield and Major Ing, and a few others, and together with about 100 men we proceeded to ride in the direction from which the firing came. There we saw our (L) Battery still firing but in a terrible condition. The road and Battery were simply plastered by shrapnel and bullets. It was some little time before we could see the enemy, and then at last we saw their guns about six or seven hundred yards off. Mr. Lamb with his maxims did most excellent work, getting into them in fine form, and together with our fire from the road drove them away from the guns. In the meantime the General (General Briggs) had come up, and standing up in the road, amidst a perfect hail of bullets, took in the situation, and sent the 5th Dragoon Guards round the other side of the village to threaten their flank. It was in this movement that Colonel Ansell was killed. Our artillery in the meantime had stopped, all the officers being killed or wounded. The last man to leave the battery was the Sergeant Major; he served one gun until the ammunition had gone. I personally saw and spoke to him in the road, and he then collected some of his drivers, with rifles, and helped us with rifle fire; I believe he has been recommended for the ‘V.C.’ The situation remained like this for some time. The Germans kept on trying to get their guns away, and we kept plastering them for I should say about two hours. Then the 4th Cavalry Brigade and also some infantry appeared, at which the Germans bunked, leaving their guns, and a considerable amount of dead and wounded, and about 100 prisoners. We heard afterwards that it was just as much a surprise to them, as to us, only unfortunately they saw us first. After that we retired in peace to Paris, and rested for one day, then we started off again, this time I am glad to say in the direction of the Germans, and not away from them.
This is a beautiful place, the valley of the Aisne, where we had been for about ten days taking our turn at the trenches and dodging German shells. The Germans are awful cubs, and up to all sorts of mean tricks. I personally saw them put some prisoners they had taken in front of one of their maxims, to prevent them being fired on themselves. They came on with bands playing and tootling horns; you never heard such a din, but they won’t in the majority of cases face our infantry who have supreme contempt for them, but we all have a wholesome respect for their artillery.
Our supply arrangements are wonderful, men being awfully well fed even right up in the trenches. This is just as well, as the country, having had the French and English Armies through it, is about played out as regards local supplies.
Sept. 27th. We are very pleased at Lamb getting the D.S.O.; he thoroughly deserved it; he and his maxim saved the day at Nery.
We have seen a good deal of the French Algerian Troops. They are funny looking beggars and the Spahis ride small ponies about fourteen hands high, and wear brilliant scarlet coats, most picturesque looking people.
My charger (Brune) had stampeded at Nery, due to my servant, but I found him next day with a man on his back, whom I quickly removed.
Sept. 28th. We have seen a good deal of the Foot Guards. They are magnificent, and I should say no regiment have done better than they in this campaign. We were with them yesterday, and they had just captured two Germans whom they had found in the middle of a haystack behind our lines. They had been left behind by the Germans to send information and had been in the haystack for fourteen days. They were only found by chance as some man went to fetch some hay, and found them comfortably ensconced in the middle.
I saw poor Springfield’s death in the papers to-day; he was a gallant soul, and the respect I always had for him was enormously increased by what I saw of him out here. He is a great loss, not only to the regiment but to the British Army.
The French Infantry, or a portion of them, go about in motor ‘buses. The other day during a battle, I saw a motor ‘bus arrive and wait round the corner whilst the battle waged, and then proceed on.
The Rushden Echo, 6th November 1914, transcribed by Gill Hollis.
Rushden Man and the Wounded
Busy With Ambulance Work - “A Sight I Shall Never Forget”
Dum-Dum Bullet Fired By Germans - Clear Evidence
Batch of Casualties
A well-known Rushden Ambulance worker, Corporal G. Ambridge, who is now at the Royal Naval Hospital at Gosport, near Portsmouth, writing to his son Bert, says:-
Just a few lines to let you know that I am going on all right. I was pleased to hear from you to-day. We are still very busy, just finished for the night. The Belgians are getting better. There are six going out of Z 7 to-morrow, and quite a lot out of the main hospital. I do not know where they are going. Some were in England for a rest before they go back to the front. It is not so hard here now as it was the first week, as after we had been riding all day we got here about 3.30, and the chief told us to get some tea and get back as quick as possible, as he expected about 300 wounded at 6.30, so we all had to fall in with stretchers and bath chairs; we waited until 7.30, and then they sent us for supper and back at 8.0.
The train did not come until 11.0 and then they had to be unloaded and brought across the harbour in boats, so it was 12.0 before we got them in, and then we had to undress them and get them some supper. We did not do anything to the wounds that night. It was 4 a.m. when we were ready for bed. We had to get up at 6 a.m., and they all had a bath. It was a job, I can tell you. I had 15 to bath on my own. They were a poor lot when they came in it was a sight I shall never forget. Some were
and arms, and some through the legs. One has had his leg off he was only 21 years old, but the others are getting on fine. The worst job is to know what they want. I have had to take three to the X-rays to-day, and it was very interesting to see it at work. There is one man in our ward with a bullet in his leg, and you can see it.
It is very nice down here. We can see right across the harbour. It was my day out yesterday, but it was wet. It has been grand to-day, like summer; the sun is quite hot. We have to go across the harbour when we go out. It is a half-penny ride in a ferry boat, so we get our rides every other day.
Portsmouth is all darkness at night, but the searchlights are grand across the harbour; there are three ports just in front of the hospital. I can lay in bed and see the lights. I have not been on
yet, but I go close to it when I go out. The sea was very rough yesterday it came over the sea front on to the road. I am glad they have not all forgotten me across the shop. I often think about you all and wonder how you are getting on. Remember me to them all, and tell them I shall be glad to get a card from them. I cannot write to them all ; it takes a lot of time, and we do not get much, as on the days we are in, we have to stop in the ward, except meal times, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and I am on special watch from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. If they want anybody I am liable to be called.
I do not know how long I shall be here. They keep bringing a few in every day, most mariners. I have sent you a book of views of Haslar, so you will see what a large place it is, but it does not show the part that I am in, as this is new. There are four blocks and eight wards, 23 beds in each, beside a kitchen, and where I sleep.
|The Rushden Echo, 13th November 1914, transcribed by Gill Hollis.
DumDum Bullet In The Thigh - Rushden Ambulance Officer’s Evidence
Germans Use Explosive Missiles
In our last issue we published a letter which Corporal G. Ambridge, of the Rushden St. John Ambulance Division, now on duty at Gosport, had written to his son Bert at Rushden.
In a further letter, written on Oct. 31st, to his wife, Corpl. Ambridge says :-
Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Institute,
Just a few more lines to let you know that I got the parcel this morning, and was very pleased to hear from you again. The boots are all right, and I have got them on this afternoon. It is my half-day out to-day, and we have been for a long walk and I have come in here for a rest and some tea. It is a very nice day, and it is all right to get out a little while. We hear that they have sent out for forty more ambulance men. I wonder if they have sent to Rushden for any more? We have not got any more wounded in yet, but there were four Red Cross boats went by here this morning from France, so I expect we shall not be long before we are full again. We cleared our ward last night, and we got all the beds ready this morning; all linen sheets and pillow slips, and I had to take them to the laundry. It is a sight to see the washing there. The place is half as big as our factory, and the room where they keep the clean clothes is as long as our garden; the clothes are quite warm when we get them out.
I have sent a parcel home to-day, I have sent
One of the Belgians gave it to me for a keep-sake when he went away, and I thought Bert would like it. I have got three buttons off their coats, they pulled them off as they were going as they had got nothing else to give me. In the ward that I have been in this week they were all officers. I have been moved again to-day, and I have got to start in Z1 tomorrow morning, but I shall sleep in the same place next to Ben. You need not worry about me not having enough to eat, as we have plenty. I had a good basin of milk last night for supper, and the night before when I was in, I had the leg of a fowl and a piece off the breast.
It is nice to hear from anyone at Rushden and I do look forward to letters. We have to get up at 6 a.m. but we have it a bit easy in the middle of the day now we have got used to the work. I want to tell you just how I am getting on, so that you will not worry about me so much. It is all right here if you try to do your bit. There are some very good sisters here, and we have got
and one French nurse; they are very nice with us if we try to help them.
I had to help the doctor and sister dress a Belgian lad’s leg the other night. He had been shot right through the leg, and they poured about a quart of water right through the hole. Poor thing, he has suffered. We had two operations; one man had a dum-dum bullet in his thigh, and one had a piece of shell in his shoulder. It took an hour to get it out. It was right behind the shoulder blade, so you can tell we see some sights. I hear there were three died last night. Remember me to all friends.
The Rushden Echo, 13th November 1914, transcribed by Gill Hollis.
Some Narrow Escapes - Rushden Soldier and German Bullets - Private Bass Manages To Pull Through
It is with pleasure that we are able, officially, to contradict the rumour that Private Fred Bass (Rushden) has received any injury worse than a superficial wound. With the fighting force at the front, he has had a very rough time of it, but is fortunately well. It is also untrue that he fought in the battle of Mons. He was several miles distant, but has nevertheless been within range of the enemy’s fire. On one occasion a German bullet struck his bayonet, and, later on, his rifle was struck by another bullet. It is understood that a glancing shot made blood flow from his neck, but it was not serious. He has been knee-deep in water whilst fighting in trenches, so he knows a bit about modern warfare. He says he fears he cannot place much reliance on the statements of many soldiers who say they “hope to be home by Christmas.” He says his friends need not worry, as he is getting on all right in his “tin-pot way”. Private Bass is of the opinion that many of the soldiers “know how to tell fairy tales”.
Note: Sadly Private Fred Bass did not survive the war
|The Rushden Echo, 13th November 1914, transcribed by Jim Hollis.
Savagery of the Germans - What a Rushden Refugee Witnessed - Children Bayonetted
Terrible Tale of Suffering - By One of Our Belgian Guests
One of the Belgian refugees now safely housed at Rushden by our local Relief Committee (M. Devries) has written (in French) a touching account of the sorrows of the Belgians. The following is a translation:-
How many years seem to have passed since we used to talk of civilization! Surely the 20th century should have allowed us to think that the people of the different nations had means of reconciliation better than we find. But, alas, what a disillusion is ours; we find that men to whom all our kindly feelings have been given are really inhuman beings whose unnameable barbarities sow most harrowing distress in every place, who inflict without pity horrible atrocities on thousands upon thousands of harmless people.
My heart is broken when I think of the kindly households I used to know, who now, without shelter, find themselves separated, without news, tortured by anxiety, ignorant of each others’ fate.
What suffering must it be for husband and wife, father and mother, to see snatched away from them those who were so dear, with no hope of seeing them again! How is it possible that these sorely tried families can be gathered together again, and with what mourning?
I myself have seen in the country round Malines, where the cosy villages had been ravaged by fire and shell, German brutes who forked up on their bayonets children who fled in misery before them. They threw them on the homesteads they had turned to bonfires, they sacrificed the kneeling mothers in horrible tortures, they bound the fathers together to be carried to unknown countries, to what fate I know not.
I can affirm that the bloody faces of old men, and bodies covered with wounds, were not enough to satiate the rage of those human beasts without hearts; they finished them off with their stocks, and they did the same to numbers of brave and valiant soldiers left wounded on the battlefield.
And all this happened in a furious, deafening cannonade which lasted from nine in the morning till five.
It was after a battle that I and three men were passing with a hand ambulance over a dreary plain, devastated by the conflict. Our ambulance was filled with wounded, and we were about to finish our dreadful task by burying one of our brave soldiers who had been mortally wounded, when suddenly we heard a strange noise a few yards off. We saw three wounded men crawl from a heap of wreckage. They had hidden themselves till our friendly voices re-assured them.
But at that very moment a squad of Uhlans appeared, and we could do nothing but save our ambulance and the six wounded men in it. We could not take the three, they had to return to their poor shelter, and what became of them?
My heart, dear readers, is full as I write of all these horrors, for it is among them that those who were separated from us are left.
If I could speak of the troubles of the mind, they would be as grievous, but it is impossible to tell the tale of the disaster, the ruin, and the overthrow in which we are plunged.
The Belgian country-side, formerly so flourishing, smiling, and full of life, is now nothing but a vast desert, given over to death, filled by the German hordes with rotting and stinking corpses. As for the bombarded towns, they are for us but immense catacombs full of tragic memories.
But there still remains for us this comfort, that the brave and tireless forces of the Belgians and Allies continue to defend the cause that is so dear, Independence and Liberty.
In trenches, in woods, and on the plains, they wait with smiling lips, full of heroism, braving shot and shell; on the defensive till the definite and victorious moment of advance shall give them all that they desire.
|The Rushden Echo, 13th November 1914, transcribed by Jim Hollis.
The Germans A Dirty Lot - What a Rushden Soldier Has Seen - Thousands of People Without Homes - A Kind Old Couple
Private H. Patenall (Rushden), No. 4580, A Squadron, 19th Hussars, who is with the British Expeditionary Force, writing home to his parents, Mr. and Mrs. W. Patenall, of Rushden, under date Oct. 28th, says : “Just a few more lines, letting you know I am quite all right and in the pink of condition. I hope all is well at home. I expect things are pretty quiet, and so they ought to be, for it is very noisy out here. I hope you have got some of my letters. I expect you will have quite a lot at once. You see, they get delayed, as there are so many to go through. I have plenty of cigarettes at present, but you can send a few thousand (!) if you like, as I can smoke them some time. The captain is very good to me. He has given me a lot of things. I have a nice jersey and scarf from him, and plenty of socks, and we get a lot of things sent out to us. I cannot stop to write more just now. It is so nice to get letters. That is one great comfort to us all.”
In a further letter, dated Nov. 3rd, Private Patenall who up to the outbreak of war was chauffeur to Capt. Platt, of the same regiment writes :- “My dear Parents, - Just a few more lines letting you know I am in the best of health and spirits. I dare say you will be surprised to get a letter in ink. It was like this. We stayed at a small village called………………and I stayed at a cottage with the captain’s horse in the cottager’s stable. They were an old couple and they treated me like one of their sons. We had had a long march and we looked a bit rough. The dear old girl would not let me cook my bit of food. She would cook it for me. She was
The people are very good to all our troops, in fact. I started writing this letter with pencil but the old lady fetched out pen and ink, and she even wanted to make me a bed in the house, but I had not the cheek to let her, and slept in the stable with the Captain’s horse, and had a good night’s rest. If only the people of England could see how the people here have been treated by the Germans they would weep. I should think the Germans are a beastly dirty lot, but I think they will get their desserts in the end. Thousands of people without homes. I wish I could tell you more, but you know I cannot, but I expect you read about it. I got another letter from you, which was posted Oct. 24th. I expect there is a great demand for Army boots now. Well, we can do with them. It is getting very cold out here now, but it is nice in the daytime. By the way, I have got plenty of socks, and two nice warm scarves and gloves that the captain bought for me. So do not trouble to send any, because the more one has the more you have to carry about. You can send cigarettes any time, or chocolate, because chocolate is nourishing. I told you in my last letter I received all the parcels that were sent to me, and I have answered them all. Well, I must close this letter now. Picture me writing this letter with the old couple watching me in the cottage. Your loving son, Harry.”
The Rushden Echo, 13th November 1914, transcribed by Jim Hollis.
Private H Norman
Dr. Greenfield Attends Rushden Soldier - Rushden People Meet At The Front
Not willing to let his mother know of his illness, Private H. J. Norman (Rushden), lately a motor-bus driver in this district writes from Rouen, France, to say he has “seen Dr. Greenfield.” But we are given to understand that Private Norman is under the doctor’s care, and has been in hospital for ten days. The letter is as follows:- “I am glad to hear that everything is going on satisfactorily in Rushden. I have seen Frank Sugars, and he is quite well. I have also seen Dr. Greenfield and he was very pleased to see me. Albert Lawman is in No. 12 hospital here. I was going to see him yesterday but could not get there. I will go to-day if I can. I am all right myself. The weather is very cold now but I have got plenty of good warm clothes. I had a letter from Mr. Newberry the other day; the first letter I got since I left England, and he told me you were fairly well. Remember me to Harry. I hope he is well. Tell him I will teach him the French language when I get back!”
|The Rushden Echo, 13th November 1914, transcribed by Jim Hollis.
The German Iron Cross - To Be Picked Up In Lucky Bags!
Interesting Interview with a Rushden Soldier
An Eye-Opener for The Germans - Their Lordly Swagger Taken Out Of Them.
More Evidence of Prussian Barbarities - Private Sharpe Has Three Horses Shot Under Him
Private C. Sharpe, of Rushden, a gallant soldier in the 15th Hussars, who has been invalided home wounded, has given a “Rushden Echo” representative some vivid impressions of active service at the front.
“There is one thing,” he says, “which the enemy can teach us, and that is not to reveal the officers by a distinguishing uniform. You can never pick out a German officer for two reasons. The dress, even if of better quality, looks exactly the same as that of the private, and then he is always at the back, driving the men into the fight. English officers, unfortunately, wear conspicuous marks across their chests and are always in the point of greatest danger in an action.
“It is perfectly hair-raising to see the danger into which some of our officers will voluntarily throw themselves. There are many of these recklessly brave attempts to gain the V.C. They don’t realise at all the awful risks they run. But the V.C. is won only by very conspicuous service. On the other hand the German iron cross is being scattered broadcast. You can pick them up in lucky bags !
“The Germans do not take much care of their horses, and it is a wonder that the poor animals could carry anything at all. They were mere bags of bones. The Belgian and French were not much better, but with the British things are different. Our horses are fed before our cavalrymen themselves. The result is that the English cavalry soldier is the best mounted of any. Of course, no elaborate preparations can be made for veterinary treatment and if a horse is too badly injured to get well quickly it is shot.”
“What is your opinion of the rifle fire of the Germans?” asked our representative.
Private Sharpe laughed. “They are practically harmless in the use of it,” he said. “I have seen
using it in a very funny way. He stoops down, places the butt on his knee, aims by guess-work, and then lets fly! Quite a number of them follow this practice. Their machine guns are not half so rapid in firing as ours. You can always tell a German from an English machine gun by the pace it is firing. We can fire two shots to their one. But it is only to be expected that some of their shots find a mark. You might be riding full pelt at them when down go the horses. The men are pretty sure to get injured. But if we ride across the line of fire it is surprising how we manage to escape. It is very difficult to hit a horse going at a stretch gallop unless it is coming ‘head on.’ You might get a bullet right through your arm or leg and not know for a few minutes if the bone was not touched. Quite a lot of chaps will say ‘I believe I am wounded, but I am not sure !’ A mate will look round him and see blood pouring down his back. ‘Oh yes, you are wounded right enough !’ he would reply.
“As you published in the ‘Rushden Echo’ a week or so ago, I got lost while on patrol. And if that is getting ‘lost’ I am sorry I was found again!”
“Why, surely it is not so pleasant to be lost in a strange country when you might lose your life at any moment!” commented our representative.
“Well I had a ripping time of it. Every house my pal and I called in was like ‘home, sweet home.’ They would not take any money from us but simply loaded us up with all sorts of good things and gave us far more food than we could eat. We stayed two days with an old French lady, who treated us like her own sons. They are wonderfully kind-hearted people, and if you cannot understand their language they will keep waving and signing until you know by their actions. You can’t help laughing sometimes.
“I was in the
Four Greatest Battles Mons, the Aisne, Lilie, and Ypres
The Aisne and Ypres are wonderful strongholds. As may be fairly well known, the great retirement completely astonished British soldiers. It was no use trying to ‘kid’ us that we could not hold our own against the enemy. There was a great deal of resentment amongst our forces at the continual retreat we wanted to have a go at them. But there was nothing in the way of a blunder at all in that piece of strategy. On the contrary nothing could have thrown dust in the eyes of the Germans better. They could hardly believe their own ‘success,’ and thought we were going to be wiped out of existence in a few days. But what an eye-opener for the Germans was the advance of the Allies. All their bombastic and lordly swagger was taken out of them then! We sent them back much faster than we had retired, and it was not until they had got back as far as their almost impregnable trenches that we had to slacken speed. It certainly has required some time, energy, ammunition, etc., to shift them since they have got into their concrete trenches. You can quite understand, too, that there is nothing to see, and the work of our observers is made all the harder. We can do little with the rifle and can only fire ‘by faith,’ so to speak, with the artillery.
“The French have means whereby they poison them out. They fire shells that do not kill by explosion and scattering of bullets but contain a receptacle that holds a chemical giving off poisonous fumes that mean certain death to anyone within reach of them. We have come across some of the enemy’s trenches which were fired on with these shells. The dead men look as if they must have been
It has a sort of suffocating effect, as they are found in life-like postures, as though they were taking aim with their rifles!
“To give the Prussians credit for their cleverness, they have a very effective method of finding our entrenched men by night. They often use rockets which, when high up in the air, burst and give out a very brilliant light. This, just over us, gives the game away, and their artillery, thus aided, is able to deal with us. Their Zeppelins and aeroplanes, hovering over our heads, are a continual source of danger.”
“What about the report of the barbarous acts of the Germans?” asked our representative.
“You can take it from me,” said Pte. Sharpe, “that there has been on exaggeration of that kind of thing. I have seen and heard far more than I care to talk about. You have only to ask the homeless women and children, so many of whom we saw, and you will hear quite enough! Germans, entering a house, at once start to wreck the whole place for sheer spite, I suppose. When they got to a house for ‘hospitality,’ woe betide the poor peasants who offer the slightest resistance! ‘Murder’ is not the word for the dastardly treatment meted out to them. And then as they leave the house, nothing that could be smashed would be left whole, and all the bedding would be thrown out into the street.
“Dead men are often found with bayonet wounds all over them, especially in the hands. It is the way of the enemy of finding out whether apparently dead soldiers are really dead. They will plunge a bayonet into them to make quite sure. And as for taking prisoners, if one or two stragglers from the Allied forces are found by the Germans, they are not likely to see home again ! ‘Shoot them’ is the German’s idea of getting rid of them.”
Private Sharpe spoke of the difficulty that the British, French, and Belgians had of recognising each other’s regiments at the outset of the war. He said that once his own party met a French troop and for a time neither recognised the other. The Frenchmen spread out as if to open fire. Fortunately, the mistake was noticed in time, or at least before anyone was killed.
Private Sharpe lost three horses, which were shot under him. As one went down he fell on his head and received a nasty scalp wound. He eventually received a bullet wound in the right knee from a shrapnel shell. This necessitated his removal to hospital and has resulted in his coming home.
The following appeared in a portion of our edition last week:-
“The Germans have started using dum-dum bullets again!” said Private C. Sharpe (Rushden), of the 15th Hussars, who is wounded, and came home yesterday unexpectedly.
A “Rushden Echo” representative saw Private Sharpe to-day, and in an extremely interesting interview, some extraordinary events were related.
“A chap came into hospital at the same time that I did and the wound in his arm showed that the dreaded dum-dum had been responsible. At the point of entry was an ordinary mark but on the opposite side was a huge puffed up lump of flesh where the bullet had spread and forced its way out. I also saw at the same time a thigh wound of an English soldier, horrible to look upon. Those bullets are terribly effective, and if you get one in the body your number’s up!
“So treacherous have been the Germans in firing under the protection of the truce that orders have now been issued that we are not to take any notice of the enemy showing the white flag. They literally murdered one of our regiments recently. Showing the flag of truce to our soldiers, they pretended to offer themselves as prisoners. The English naturally advanced to take them, and savages mowed down our brave soldiers by the score.
“The Germans will stoop to any mean trick to gain their own end. They seem to take a delight in anything but legitimate warfare. Hospitals and ambulance wagons seem to be the sort of target that they would rather aim at than anything else. I saw one hospital, in which I had only just placed a wounded soldier, smashed completely by a German shell.
“There is no denying the fact that the big guns of the Germans are machines of destruction that the world has never had to contend with before. Once they can get them ‘housed’ and trained on a particular spot that place is no more habitable than the mouth of an active volcano! But, fortunately, we have been successful in a great many cases in preventing them getting their guns bedded. It takes some time for the concrete beds to set, and on many occasions they have had to clear out very hastily before getting the big guns placed.
“You never saw such cowards for fighting anywhere ! The Kaiser has often wanted to bring his Bavarians against the English and he did so a short time ago. To look at, these ‘chosen’ men were big, powerful, awe inspiring chaps, certainly calculated to strike terror into the heart of anyone who judged by appearances, but when our men tried to fight them they were like a lot of kids! They had rifles and either could not or dare not use them! The Germans cannot face our bayonets, but the Bavarians would face neither rifle nor bayonet.
“Our soldiers could not get at the cowards. If they hoped to frighten us by appearances they were sadly mistaken. There is nothing short of hard fighting likely to drive back an English soldier.”
|The Rushden Echo, 27th November 1914, transcribed by Jim Hollis.
Edited article - For the full article please see Pte. G. Cave
... who actually saw him killed. In this engagement we are told that the Germans spared none of the wounded, such of the British wounded as were alive when the Germans came past being run through with the lance as they lay.
... have not received official confirmation of their son’s death is because the British were compelled to retire from……………..in this particular engagement, and such of the British as were killed were subsequently buried by the Germans, who did not take the trouble to remove the identification disks.
The Rushden Echo, 27th November 1914, transcribed by Jim Hollis.
Germans Rush To Death - No Earthly Chance of Escape
Belgium A Dead-House - Thrilling Story by A Rushden Soldier
How Private Ayres Was Wounded - Four Days in Hiding
Shells Falling Like Hail-Stones - Are the Germans Short of Ammunition
“The Germans meant to smash everything before them, Red Cross camps, ambulance wagons, and the quiet homes of peaceful citizens. They left nothing to chance, and would always finish off a wounded man with a brutal plunge of the lance or bayonet.” This is the statement of facts as Pte. A. Ayres (Rushden) related them to a “Rushden Echo” representative, and not merely an abstract of his opinion. He said he would not commit himself to saying anything about things he did not know or had not seen.
“I believe we had been fighting the Germans for some time before they knew they were opposed to English, and when they did find out by coming across wounded British soldiers their bitter hatred knew no bounds. Since then we have always had to meet the picked men of the Prussian army. People may sometimes say that the German soldier cannot fight or that he is no use with the rifle, but I noticed that they were equal to anything we could produce in the way of physique. Perhaps their rifle fire was not so accurate as ours, but to say it was harmless is an exaggeration. In a great many of the engagements we had very little need to take deliberate aim, as they came on like a human wall. As you fired you could see your man go down. Of course, we were bound to hit them as they were so thick, but it was always best to make sure of settling one individual rather than fire haphazard. Our maxims could always play Old Harry with them when they were so close to each other. The gunners had nothing to do but turn the handle and bring down line after line. It was slaughter that no one can possibly believe and understand without actually seeing it.
Pte. A. Ayres
“The Germans were always well supplied with machine guns, and although theirs fired slower than ours they would have, sometimes, four or five to our one. But we never allowed them to slaughter us to the extent to which we killed them, as we were not so thickly placed. In their
to try and take our trenches I have seen Germans come within 50 yards of ourselves. They have rushed the last few yards without even a rifle or hat. With heads bent down and arms raised up to shield their faces, they will leap along to their death, as they could not stand an earthly chance in such an exposed position. Head first they go, dozens of them at a time, victims to our deadly rifle and machine gun fire.
“I have stood in a trench, firing away for all I was worth; pals all round me mortally wounded or killed out right, and knowing that at any moment mine might be a similar fate. But, although it may seem strange, you don’t want to leave off even to get shelter; you set your teeth and try to kill as many of the savage beasts as you can.
“Aeroplanes were always at work. Sometimes we recognised them as of German make and then we blazed away at them with our firearms, but there were many that we did not recognise. They could come over our positions, reconnoitre, and be off by a circuitous route, and we had no means of knowing that they had not been friendly aviators. We discovered it to our great sorrow before the aircraft had been gone long, by the manner in which shells dropped amongst us.
“To give the enemy credit their artillery fire was amazingly accurate. On one occasion they fired on our artillery-men from a distance of several miles, and so terrific was it that the guns had to be left for the rest of the day. Our men returned at a quieter time to take possession of the guns.
“While I think there has been a tendency to overdraw the scenes of barbarity by the Germans,
there have been to my knowledge, deeds done by them that would make your blood boil! Even now I cannot sleep for it. My nerves are so unstrung with sights I have seen that I dream of it at night. If any English soldier had done what some of the German soldiers do, they would be
How any human being could treat poor innocent women and children as the Belgians were treated is a mystery.
“I remember one place, where we came across a farm. Two young men, farm labourers, I suppose, had been strapped to trees and shot quite dead. We were sometimes within an hour of the Germans on the march, so what we saw was a pretty fair indication of their work. It seemed an article of faith with them never to leave a household undisturbed. Everything of value that could be carried away they would take with them and the rest would be smashed, burnt, or otherwise destroyed. The peasants, some of them old and careworn, were driven out into the road, crying and sobbing pitifully. We often saw sights like this, but could never stay to help them.
“One remarkable thing is the tremendous number of very old people in these villages. Some of them looked nearly 150 years old! And the places they lived in were very different from the houses of Rushden. They were more like big barns - one roomed tenements with plaster and huge beams adorning the inside, and nothing very attractive about the outside. The country is rich and fertile, and in some parts the forests extend for miles and miles. We sometimes marched for days together through this kind of country.
“Do you think the war is going in our favour?” asked our representative.
“Most decidedly,” said Private Ayres in a very reassuring tone of voice. “We are bound to win even if it takes years!”
“But you would not place the
Length of The War
in numbers of years would you?”
“Well, it is difficult to estimate how long the war will last. The first decisive factor will be the shortage of materials for shells, brought about by the stoppage of imports. You see, the Germans are depending to such a great extent on their artillery, and as soon as the shells are used up - no one knows when - they ought then to be beaten. They have wasted such large quantities of ammunition in the battles I have been in that one might think their stock is inexhaustible. Innumerable shells and bullets have been fired, all to no purpose, whereas with our party the rule has been to find a human target for our ammunition.
“There has been a great deal of talking about the use of dum-dum bullets. I have not actually known them to be used near me, but in a hospital I saw a wound that might have been caused by a dum-dum bullet.
“Speaking generally, you can never draw a comparison between this war and any previous one. The bloodshed in places like Mons, the Aisne, etc. has been simply shocking. In fact, Belgium is like a huge dead-house.
“I have had the task of burying dead soldiers, and when they have been lying above the ground for a few days their condition is repulsive in the extreme! I did not fight in the South African War, but I have heard soldiers who did, and they say they wished they were there now rather than be in this present war, so that gives a little idea of its horror.
“Is it correct that the Germans are experts in the manufacture of explosives?” our representative inquired.
“I don’t think they are more expert than the French, but their most powerful shells are certainly dangerous missiles. One might explode within twenty yards and even if you escaped injury from the shot a ‘whiff’ of the fumes would instantly poison you. It is said that the victim’s heart stops beating almost immediately. These gases that the
give off are as black as ink. Anyone thus poisoned looks natural and life-like. If the victims don’t happen to be standing their position is maintained, so you might think they were alive. Sometimes a soldier will not be killed but may be blinded or even paralysed. I have seen cases of both paralysis and blindness caused by shells.
“How did you manage to escape when you got hit?” our representative asked.
“That will always be a mystery to me,” replied Pte. Ayres. “For four days I was in hiding, placed in a cave with scores of other wounded soldiers of all sorts, English French and German. Shells were falling like hailstones all the time. I had been hit very badly, a bullet going right through my jaw, shattering the bone and taking away all my teeth. The Germans had got within almost a few yards of our trenches. I was firing as quickly as ever I could and my mates were falling like ninepins from the enemy’s fire. A party of Germans got round a slight hillock on our right and commanded a view of our trench from the end. They could very soon have murdered the lot of us. I quite thought my number was up, but I dared not turn my attention on those at the end of the trench as the Germans on the front were getting nearer and nearer every moment.
“Then I got it! I saw the chap who shot me. How I got into safety I don’t know. A good many soldiers bleed to death by not getting attention as soon as they are hit. Of course, if they tried to walk away they would be riddled with bullets at once. I was
Unconscious For About Five Hours
And when I recovered consciousness evening had fallen. Just a bandage round my wound was all the attention that could be given me, as I have said, for four days. And even when the R.A.M.C. did attempt to move us in motor vans the Germans tried to blow us all to pieces with shells. I expected any minute would be our last, because it only required one of those shrapnel shells to settle a wagon load of soldiers.
“By good luck the Germans missed their target the field hospital at least that part of it where I was, and I eventually reached the base, and then Exeter, and finally good old Rushden!”
Replying to several other queries, Pte. Ayres said the soldiers now fighting are being treated far better than were the first batch of the British Expeditionary Force. There was then no possible chance of relieving a soldier if he could fight at all, whereas now fresh troops in turn fight and relieve each other. Even if a man is not hit, he badly needs rest and recreation, owing to exposure in the trenches. The trenches, he said, have to be made shell proof. Pte. Ayres explained how this was done. He said it was not possible to make them proof against shell fumes. Fortunately, the Allies could give back as much as they received of those poisonous shells.
Referring to the loss of life by the Germans, Pte. Ayres said that when the great retirement ended close to Paris and the tide began to turn in our favour, the Germans lost a tremendous number of lives.
“He is an exceedingly lucky man who gets away with a wound that has not crippled him for life,” concluded Pte. Ayres, “and I am afraid that none of the Expeditionary Force will get back unharmed and far more will be killed than people seem to think.”
Brother of William Ayres, HoraceAyres & Victor Ayres.
|The Rushden Echo, 4th December, 1914, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Rushden Seaman’s Story - Watching For German Submarines
The Heligoland Fight - Will The German Navy Come Out?
Wear and tear of the torpedo boat destroyer “Lucifer” has accounted for a brief respite granted to the crew, one of whom is Signalman J. W. Robinson, of Rushden. He spent the last week-end at home and, in an interview, gave a “Rushden Echo” representative an interesting account of the exciting life on board a vessel of this description.
It will be remembered that, as reported in the “Rushden Echo” a few weeks ago, Signalman Robinson helped to pick up some survivors from the “Cressy,” “Hogue,” and “Aboukir,” the last-named being the ship on which he had only a short time previously been serving.
“It is all very well for stay-at-homes to say we ought to keep a better watch for German submarines,” he said, “but it is worse than looking for a needle in a haystack. Just fancy having to watch for them in an expanse of sea stretching for miles. With calm water they can sail along with the periscope only a few inches out of water and this instrument is no thicker than a broom handle. But we have stopped one of their little games. They have been coming across the North Sea under the protection of Flushing steamboats. That won’t happen again as we have put a stop to the steamboats crossing the water without escort.
“One of the warmest times we have had was in the Heligoland fight. Nothing but our high speed saved us then. As we dashed into the harbour we baffled the gunners in the forts by going at full speed in a zig-zag direction. The range could not be kept and, providing we could miss all the mines, we might have gone almost any distance, but not with absolute safety.
“One shell fired at us hit the water just ahead of our boat and we shot through the spray caused by the shell! Another one carried off a man’s hat but missed his head. The “Lucifer” has three 4.7 guns and two 21 inch torpedo tubes. She can travel at a speed of 36 knots an hour, and this is faster than any German boat can go. The best work done in that fight was by the “Fearless” and the “Arethusa.” Their shells accounted for a fair share of the enemy’s ships.
“We had orders to chase the German cruisers, get round the other side of them and drive them out, but we could not get far enough before the fog lifted. Some of them came along after the fight had finished, but even then they kept at a good distance.
“In a straight and open fight our ships and crews are a match for any Germans of the same size and strength, or even larger. We would beat them at gun firing easily.”
Asked whether he thought the German navy would come out into the open, Signalman Robinson said he expected they would be forced to when the land fighting got on to German territory. In the meantime there was nothing for it but to be on the watch, patrolling in order to keep a free passage for England’s supplies from foreign countries.
“We never know,” he concluded, “whether we shall get back again when we start out on a cruise round. But I would not change from the “Lucifer” to another ship of slower speed, as speed is one of the best safeguards from the enemy.”
|The Wellingborough News Friday 4 December 1914, transcribed by Nicky Bates
Bayoneting the Germans - How a Rushden Man Found his Pluck
Private Fred Bass, of the 1st Northamptons, who is now in hospital in Cosham, Hampshire, writes to his wife at 10, Pemberton-street, Rushden that he has been wounded in the left thigh by a shrapnel shell which cut his leg about two inches. "When it hit me," he says, "I thought I had lost my leg, but when I looked round and saw what was done I started to laugh. But I knew what I got three days afterwards in the train. But it is going on lovely now, and doesn't give me any pain at all. It does seem lovely to have a nice warm bed again. It has been 14 weeks since I saw one, and now I've got one it ain't much trouble to keep me in it. But I am not allowed to put my foot on the ground since I got it at Ypres. But, I would rather have what I have than to be in the place I got it at. Our troops call it 'Coal Box Corner', or 'The Gates of Hell'; that will tell you what it's like. Some of those who are now here never fired a shot. I am not going to say I fired a lot; but I have fired 100 rounds in twenty minutes. They have only wounded me, and I think I can account for eight or nine of them. I never thought I had got the pluck to stick my bayonet into anyone, but when I saw some of the Belgian women, I believe I could have cut the Germans to pieces."
Note: Sadly Private Fred Bass did not survive the war
|The Rushden Echo Friday 25 December 1914, transcribed by Nicky Bates
Freezing All Day - Rushden Soldier Speaks of Intense Cold
In a letter sent from the front, Private George Line (Rushden) writes: "I am all right but have never been warm. Ever since I got here it has been freezing all day. I cannot feel my feet, and my hands are worse. I have never been so cold in my life. We have to get up at 6 in the morning and are starved until we go to bed at night. I sleep with Tom Field's son 'Dada'. I have not heard anything of 'Tay,' (his brother Pte Fred Line, who is at the front), but he is probably at the front again. Don't worry about us. Remember me to all I know."
A letter from "Tay" states that he is still well. He went out at the same time that the late Private H. S. Robinson went to the front.
|The Rushden Echo Friday 25 December 1914, transcribed by Nicky Bates
Local Soldier's Diary - Rushden Steelback's Interesting Account
Further Evidence of German Trickery - White Flag Shown to Northamptons
Private Fred Bass in 'Coal Box Corner'
Pte Fred Bass, a Rushden Steelback, sends an excellent account of the war from its beginning. By the kind permission of Mrs Bass we are permitted to make the following extracts:
"Through the town of Havre, which we entered on Aug. 11 we were cheered to the echo every inch of the way. By route marches and train rides, we eventually arrived at the village of, where at 7 p.m. we heard the report of five guns. However, we proceeded to the French and Belgian frontier and next morning marched to about five miles from Mons. We were called out and marched in the direction of that place and, when trying to advance nearer, were shelled out by the Germans and had to retire the same way back.
"It was here that I witnessed one of the finest sights I have ever seen, viz., the 113th and 114th Batteries of the Royal Field Artillery fetching their guns out of the action under heavy fire. I asked one of the drivers what damage was done. He said he did not think a man or a horse had been hit. That evidently doesn't speak very well of the German marksmanship.
"Retiring from Mons, we had some heavy marching to do. We left our overcoats on a transporter which was burnt so the Germans could not have them, as our transport could not get away quietly enough. Although the village was packed with British and French troops they all got away all right with the exception of a few. This retirement lasted until Sept., and when we began to advance we came into contact with the enemy on the 11th. We drove them back as far as the Aisne and there we entrenched ourselves during the night of the 13th, preparing at the same time for a big battle. Things went off fairly well but the rain poured into the trenches so that the water was over our boot tops.
"On Sept. 15th Capt. R. E. Gordon was shot and the next day Capt. Ward Hunt was wounded. On the morning of the 17th I was hit in the neck with a very small piece of a common shell, better known as a 'coal-box', but it only knocked the skin off. Later in the day the Germans advanced, showing the white flag. We ceased firing and when they got close to us they opened fire on us, and I had a bullet through my haverssck into my left pocket and another one took the top of my bayonet off, while a third split the butt of my rifle. The Queen's turned their machine gun on and fetched the Germans down like skittles. Lieut. Boulter was wounded in the shoulder on the same day. It was a very hard blow to the Company to lose two good officers who feared nothing.
"We were in the trenches about a week and were them relieved by some of our troops. One soldier asked me if he would be allowed out; I told him he would not want to go far! As soon as it was daylight we retired about seven miles to a little place where we had an issue of new overcoats, etc.
"After a rest of about six days we went back to the trenches for 48 hours and had a rest of 48 hours, following this course until Oct. 15, when we were relieved by French troops. I should think my regiment suffered in losses about 450 or 500.
"After train riding and a great amount of marching towards the Belgian frontier we at last reached the town of Ypres. Here we rested for several hours and then marched to another village to fill up a space between English and French troops. Our regiment had to make two bayonet charges to take the position. Of course, we lost a fair number of men but got through very well. We then started to entrench ourselves. Things went very well with the exception of a sniper or two firing from a window. Some of us could see them but could not fire at them. That evening as we were changing trenches the enemy charged us and a good many of my Company got cut off from the regiment. Some went one way and some another. I attached myself to the Royal North Lancs Regiment and there gained information of my own regiment. I joined them the next night when we were relieved by the French troops. It was reported that we had killed, wounded, and captured 1,500 Germans. We marched to Ypres and stayed there two days.
"On the morning of Nov. 14 I was going out with the stretcher bearers when we got under the Germans' artillery fire. Six of us went down. When the firing was going well over I got up and looked round. I laughed to think I had got off so lightly and made my way to the dressing station. I had a spent bullet through my right sleeve and it dropped on the ground just in front of me. But when I had my clothes taken off it was no laughing matter. My thigh was smashed open the size of my left hand. I was placed on a stretcher and carried at night by the R.A.M.C. ambulance waggon to Ypres. In the middle of the night a motor ambulance waggon took four of us to the hospital at Poperinghe and the next evening we entrained for Le Harve base hospital. For two days we were kept there and them embarked for good old England. I was taken to Cosham hospital and am very pleased to say that I am enjoying the best of health and my leg is progressing favourably. Hope to be back in good old Rushden early in the New Year."
Note: Sadly Private Fred Bass did not survive the war