|The Rushden Echo, 1st January, 1915, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Rushden Sniper at Work - The Charge of the Prussian Guard
The “White Flag Business” of the Germans
Prussians Hiding Behind Civilians For Protection - Enemy Afraid of British Bayonets
An old adage says that “fortune favours the brave,” and, as the Irishman says, “a stitch in time gathers no moss.” Certainly fortune both good and bad has been the lot of Pte. E. G. Edwards, a Rushden Steelback, who has pluckily faced death from the beginning of the war until the middle of November. And, from the way he helped to make the Germans get a move on, he has not gathered much moss! He has been a sniper and has often been sniped at; has narrowly escaped death from ‘Jack Johnsons’; lived for days together on nothing but turnips, and, further, has known what it is to have a hand-to-hand tussle with the picked soldiers of the German Army, namely, the Prussian Guard.
Interviewed this week by a “Rushden Echo” representative, Pte. Edwards gave his opinion of the retirement by saying he would rather be left behind to be taken prisoner than attempt such prolonged marches on so little food again.
“There was some fighting,” he said, “at Mons, but not a great deal. It was on the Aisne, after we had been to Paris and back, where we started in real earnest. We captured two maxims from the Germans, and from that time have never been defeated nor lost any appreciable amount of ground. In straight, open fighting, the result is always in our favour, but it is so rarely that we have such a chance. One of the few was the charge of the Prussian Guard. It lasted about a quarter-of-an-hour, and everybody knows the result of that!”
“Did you bayonet anybody on that occasion?” asked our representative.
“Possibly,” answered Private Edwards with some reserve, “but in the back, as the British had to run after them to do the fighting. Germans, as far as I know, have never yet faced out a bayonet charge, not even when they have started one themselves. I was in that “white flag business” of theirs when the Germans advanced protected by the white flag and then, without warning, fired on us. They are prepared to do anything like that, and will keep civilians in front of their lines for shelter while they advance. We have been forced to fire on them under these circumstances, even though we killed the peasants. The advance was too menacing.
“Their aeroplanes, too, can do the return journey very quickly when an English aviator puts in an appearance. It is a common sight to see a German ‘Taube’ come over us and be chased off by an English aeroplane. We always seemed to have as many as they did.
“snipers are accounting for more lives than the ordinary German infantryman. They get into their positions by night, and, if in an advanced trench, cannot easily be located or fired on, although they get their rifles trained on our trenches. As soon as a man shows his head above the trench, a bullet goes through it.”
“The Germans are really good shots, then?” our representative inquired.
“Not on the whole,” Pte. Edwards replied, “but the snipers are sure in their aim. As for the German rifle fire generally, it is very poor indeed. You are safer in the so-called ‘firing line’ than you would be at a distance of half-a-mile behind the trenches! This is where you are more likely to get hit, as the bullets fly high. Of course, we have our own snipers, but men are never compelled to so act. I once volunteered to act as a sniper. My pal and I crept from a valley part way up a hill, just over the top of which were some German snipers, and on the other side were the German trenches. I thought we had got high enough and might very well dig ourselves in. He was just a few yards away when a rifle let fly. Instinct made me drop flat so far so good but my mate only stooped, with his head between his knees. I shouted to him no reply. I called out a second time still silence. As he kept in the stooping posture I went to him to see what was up. He had been shot straight through the skull! No more sniping for me, thanks! I got back into the trench, and thought myself lucky to be alive.”
“Can the French soldiers fight well?” queried our representative.
“Well, they will fight, but they cannot play the waiting game like an Englishman,” Pte. Edwards answered. “If they see the Germans coming on in large numbers from a long distance they want to rush out at them. This is only throwing life away, as the enemy can mow them down easily. But the English know how to stick in the trenches out of sight and mow down the Germans while they are advancing. And sometimes we do not even fire on them but wait until they are close up and then charge with the bayonet. Nothing is more likely to make them turn and run than that!
“At Ypres I got wounded in the left hand, about 4 a.m. one day. I made the best of my way into the town. A large building, used as a reformatory school in ordinary times, had been turned into a hospital. As I was in this, being attended to, shells dropped thick and fast all round it, and it has since been smashed, although the Germans are 12 miles away from it!
“I waited only for the first ambulance vehicle and leaped into it before it had stopped. I was jolly glad when we got out of that place!”
Pte. Edwards refused to commit himself to an expression of opinion as to how long the war will last, but said it will not be “years.”
Amongst other things, Pte. Edwards gave our representative an idea of the effect of a “Jack Johnson.” He once saw a hole in the ground measuring 36 feet across and 18 feet deep which had been caused by one of these shells. And all the soil had been completely removed so that it looked like a natural pit, and not just thrown in heaps close to. British wire entanglements proved veritable death-traps. During one night raid by the Germans the British were ordered not to leave the trenches but to fire through the barbed wire “traps” in front. In the morning a number of Germans were found caught in the wire, quite dead, and in attitudes of firing or charging. He once saw a German sitting and holding a piece of bread and jam to his mouth just as if he were alive, but he had been instantly killed in that position.
|The Rushden Echo Friday 1 January 1915, transcribed by Nicky Bates
A Dirty Lot of Fighters - Rushden Soldier's Opinion of the Germans - More Evidence of Explosive Bullets and Firing on the Red Cross - Prussian Guards Knocked Down Like Skittles - Pioneer Spencer Sustains Frostbitten Feet
"The Germans are a dirty lots of fighters, they do not hesitate to fire on the Red Cross, and furthermore they are using explosive bullets, similar to a small shell. You see a fellow get hit and subsequently find that all the flesh has been blown off his forearm". So said Pioneer John Spencer (Rushden), of the Sherwood Foresters, who has been invalided home with frostbitten feet sustained in the trenches at Ypres.
For the full article see Lance-Corporal John Spencer
|The Rushden Echo Friday 1 January 1915, transcribed by Nicky Bates
The Gurka's Kukri and How He Uses It - Rushden Soldier's Promotion - Exciting Voyage From India - India's Loyalty
"The terrible kukris of the Gurkhas will not miss their mark once in ten times", Sergt. J. E. Joyce (Rushden) told a "Rushden Echo" representative this week. He has just returned home from India and will be in England for a few days.
For the full article see Sergt. J.E. Joyce
|The Rushden Echo, 8th January, 1915, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Germans Tired Of The War - Rushden Soldier’s Views
“We are Sure to Beat Them” - A Christmas Truce
News of the celebration of Christmas at the front comes to hand in letters received by Mr. J. Buckby, of Newton-road, Rushden, from his son, Company Quarter-Master-Sergt. W. Buckby, of 2nd Northants Regiment. In a letter written on Christmas Day he says :-
“I hope you drank my health at Christmas, I had some tea and drank yours in the trenches. We had a shock the other day; we thought peace had been proclaimed. The Germans in front of our trenches suddenly starting cheering, and got on top of their trenches, waving their hats, and, would you believe me, they came over and met our men and shook hands, and exchanged Christmas greetings. They gave us cigars and cigarettes and bread. They speak English well. They went back to their trenches and did not fire at us for about 24 hours, and we did not fire at them. Such a sight with one’s enemy is surely without precedence. We are now enjoying a rest in the old barns of a farm, and go back to the trenches to-night. The Germans are ‘fed up’ and so are we, I suppose, but it is of no use, someone must stop their advance. I spent my birthday in the trenches, a bitterly cold and frosty day, quite a healthy Christmas.”
In a second letter he says: “I hope that trade which was in German hands in 1914 will have been transferred to yours. Well, we got over Christmas all right. If we hadn’t had any Christmas pudding we could easily make mud pies. Talk about mud, you wouldn’t recognise me when I left the trenches. We are now enjoying a rest in a farmhouse, and it is quite a treat. Leave is being granted to us for seven days, so you need not be surprised, if I am spared, to see me walk in the house at any time. I suppose you are expecting some German bombs every day. I don’t fancy their chance trying to get to the Midlands, so keep cool all of you. We are sure to beat them.”
|The Rushden Echo, 15th January, 1915, transcribed by Jim Hollis
A Rushden “Eye-Witness” - “Present At Headquarters”
Interesting Account of the War - Peasants illtreated by the Germans
“Pulled About By Their Ears” - “Would Not Like To Tell All”
A long and interesting report of his experiences, comes from Bombadier Harry Newell (Rushden), of the Royal Field Artillery. Writing from the front to his parents, he says :
“I can now tell you a little of what has happened during the period of our stay out here. After landing we proceeded by train up country. The journey took 16 hours. The railways are not so up-to-date here as they are at home and they have different methods of conveying horses. After the train journey we went on the march with everything ready for action in case we came in contact with the enemy. However, we did nothing that day, so we bivouacked in a field close to the village of……………. Early next morning we were ready to move, and our infantry was taken by surprise. We came into action and remained so for the rest of the day. We had a splendid position, but the enemy’s guns were pouring shells on us for all they were worth, and yet we suffered very little. It was here that we lost Major England and few others wounded. It was a big battle and came very hard on us as we had not done any before. Late in the afternoon the enemy’s guns were still firing hard and we had to retire. The retirement was continued for about a week, and all we saw were a few of the enemy’s scouts.
“It was most pitiful to see the inhabitants of the villages fleeing before us; the roads were lined with them. They were of all ages, and as they left their homes no doubt they wondered if they would ever see them again or whether they would be destroyed by the Germans. I believe during this retirement we experienced our most trying time, for we lost so much rest and could not help falling asleep on our horses, which would wander all over the roads.
“After a few days’ march we stayed a day or two not far from Paris, where we were able to rest and have a swim and change our underclothes. That was very nice, as you can imagine. We now felt fit to turn and meet the enemy and this was done, never to retreat again, I hope.
“After marching again for two or three days we came into contact with the enemy at the battle of the Marne. Our battery formed part of the advance guard and the Germans’ shells were falling amongst our infantry in front of us. The officer in charge of the battery reconnoitred a position for action. Before we had been in action long we had three casualties, two men and one officer wounded. We came out of this position at night and moved to another one.
“After a few days’ battle the enemy retired, and an advance was made, so that we were able to see a little of the damage we had one. We passed through the village that the Germans had occupied. Most of the houses had been destroyed; some by our gunfire but mostly by the Germans. Beds and furniture were thrown into the streets, and several of the enemy’s horses lay in the street where they had been killed. There were a few dead Germans also, but I believe the Germans take all the dead they can with them, as I feel sure we do more damage amongst them than we see sometimes. We were in this village awhile as our advance was checked by the Germans having blown up the bridge which crossed the river and our Royal Engineers had to build a pontoon. We all got across safely and the advance was continued. Some of the peasants told us how they had been ill-treated by the Germans. They had been pulled about by their ears, and other things they had suffered I would not care to mention.
“As we advanced along the road things were in an awful state, the Germans having left dead horses along the roadside, and they smelt awful. We came across a German camp where a tremendous lot of ammunition and stores had been left giving every appearance of them having been driven out in a hurry.
“It was not long before we came into touch with the Germans again at the battle of the Aisne, where we had another difficulty owing to the bridge being damaged. It was unsafe for heavy traffic, and we had to cross the best we could until a pontoon bridge was erected by the Royal Engineers.
“As soon as we crossed, the enemy’s guns fired at us, so we had to take cover until the evening, when we moved forward, and our troops succeeded in gaining the heights in front and driving the Germans back. Later, at night, we went into a position on the heights and were very close to the enemy. We had not been in this position long when we were fired on by the large guns of the Germans and had to withdraw our gunners for shelter. As soon as this was done, and the gunners had left the guns, a shell came and destroyed one gun and an ammunition wagon. Our position was altered a little by separating the guns. We held this position for three weeks and had a few wounded and one killed.
“As the end of September or the beginning of October the battle of the Aisne finished and we moved on. Part of it was done by marching and part by rail a journey something like the other one. After this journey we soon met the enemy again, and I believe it was a bit of a surprise for them, as we did a lot of damage. We were in this position for one or two days, and then advanced and again saw a lot of dead Germans, and our infantry were very busy in burying them. Our infantry did much fighting during the night and drove the enemy out of the village at the point of the bayonet. The following day we were not wanted, but had everything ready. We did not do much fighting for a few days, but were in reserve until we came into our present position, which has been held some time.
“Things seem favourable according to General French’s reports. When I have written before I have told you only of my health; this letter will give you some details, but many more things could be mentioned. I would like to write to the Editor of the ‘Rushden Echo’ but haven’t time. I am quite well, and hope you are all the same.”
|The Rushden Echo, 29th January, 1915, transcribed by Jim Hollis
German Smash Coming - Rushden Soldier’s Prophecy - “Towards The End of The War”
Co-operative Employees Wages
Pte. Tom Packwood, an employee of the Rushden Co-operative Society Ltd., writes from the front as follows :-
“We are now having a better time as we are getting more troops here. We do not have to stay so long in the trenches as we did at first. The weather is very bad, with rain every day, and mud and water up to our knees, which is enough to kill horses. I don’t know how the Germans like trench work, but it is very trying for us. We have some good times along with the bad, but roll on the time when it is all over and the world is at peace again. Once the weather picks up I think there will be a big smash towards the end of the war.
“We get more rest now and are taken back to town for a few days and get paid out. Well, we make the best of our time. Things are very dear here, but I expect they are the same at home.
“We lie quite close to the Germans, as near as 50 yards sometimes, while in other cases the distance is 700 or 800 yards, so you can guess we need a good watch at night. I have not been out of sound of the guns since I have been here.”
At the quarterly meeting of the Rushden Co-operative Society on Tuesday Mr. Cure read to the members Pte. Packwood’s letter.
The Chairman said that the committee had kept in touch with Pte Packwood, and his fellow workers had been good enough to send him parcels of good things. (Applause).
It was resolved to send to Pte. Packwood from that meeting a letter expressing the good wishes of the members.
Mr. L. Perkins moved that in the case of employees going to the front, the Army pay be augmented from the Society’s funds to the amount of the wage that the employees had been receiving. He said he should not like to take any dividend if men whom they had formerly employed were in need. There would have been no dividend at all if Englishmen had not fought well for their country. (Hear, hear.) The co-operative movement professed to give an example of the model employer and he thought they ought at least to ensure their employees who might be at the front against want. (Applause).
Mr. W. H. Marriott moved as an amendment that the committee deal with cases on their merits. The amendment was carried.
|The Rushden Echo, 5th February 1915, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Germans Misuse White Flag
British Guards Cut Up by Enemy’s Despicable Act - Rushden Soldier’s Remarkable Experiences
Hair Parted by a Bullet - Seventeen Germans Laidout by Three Tommies
Private E. J. G. Brown (3rd Northamptonshire Regiment), son of Mr. and Mrs. J. Brown, of High-street South, Rushden, is now at home, having been wounded in the skull by shrapnel. He has been in hospital three months altogether, and has undergone two operations, a piece of his skull, some three to four inches square, having been removed, partly by the original wound and partly by operations.
Interviewed by a representative of the “Rushden Echo,” he said:-
“On Nov. 7 we were called out to reinforce the Camerons, this regiment having been surprised and severely cut up. They had lost a lot in killed and captured. In advancing to their relief across open ground we captured a houseful of Germans for a start, and on finally reaching the trenches taken by the Germans from the Camerons, collared about 200 more. Some of them were asleep when we arrived and others were gorging themselves off bully beef and biscuits which the Camerons had left. It was a fair cop, and we got the lot without much trouble as they were too surprised to show much fight and glad enough to get captured.
“We came up with what was left of the Camerons on the same day, and on the following day my company had orders to attack a house on our left, and this we captured about one hour afterwards after a hard fight, in which engagement I am sorry to say we lost a good officer, Major Norman, who was absolutely shattered by dum-dums and rendered quite unrecognisable. He was a very popular officer and greatly respected by all his men, so that his loss was keenly felt by all of us.
“On Nov. 9 there was no hard fighting but the German snipers were very busy and accounted for a lot of my comrades. On Nov. 10 three of us were sent out on a sniping expedition in which we bagged about 17 of the Allemandes. One of the devils very nearly had me, as I got a bullet clean through my hat, but it did me no damage beyond parting my hair in the middle and making me look a nice boy. My pals thought it funny, but I didn’t at the time, although I had a laugh about it afterwards. I have brought a couple of souvenirs from this ‘shoot,’ in the shape of a German’s purse and a small revolver. I had some more mementos of this memorable occasion, but when I got wounded they were left in the trench.
“On the next day there was very little doing, but on the 12th the artillery had been very busy all day and at about 7 p.m. we had orders to fix bayonets in preparation for a charge. While we were waiting a shell dropped on each side of where I was standing in the trenches, and a couple of pals on either side of me were buried alive. We managed to dig a couple of them out and found them alive but injured, having sustained broken limbs. We then had the order to crawl as far as possible and then to charge. I had only crawled about three yards when I, in company with several of my pals, had the misfortune to share a shrapnel shell between us. It burst about 50 or 60 yards in front of us and I got my bit through the top of my skull, and was at once stunned.
“I quite thought my number was up, but after a time I regained consciousness and found my eyes bunged up with blood. I put my hand up to my head and my fingers slipped into a big wound in the front part of my skull, but strange to say I felt no pain at the time. I at once applied both my emergency bandages, but could not stop the bleeding. I then crawled 70 or 80 yards to a barn where a few wounded Scotch soldiers were lying, and there my injury was dressed by a surgeon. He managed to stop the bleeding.
“After about two hours in the barn I was assisted to the field hospital some three miles distant, and here I lay for two days on straw, which was luxury after what I had previously gone through. After two days in the field hospital, I was removed to the base. I can remember getting into the motor but must have lost consciousness again as I have no recollection of being put into the train. The journey to the base occupied two days, during which time my head was dressed four times. I think it was on a Sunday that I entered the hospital in Le Havre and I was operated on almost immediately. A piece of shrapnel was removed from the wound, and my agony commenced when I came round after the operation.
“This continued for a fortnight, but it is fortunate that I was able to sleep. All I had in the way of nourishment was milk for the first fortnight, but afterwards I was allowed the yolk of two eggs for breakfast and the yolk of one for my tea with a little bread and butter. I had beef tea for dinner.
“After a month at Le Havre I was sent across the Channel and entered the hospital at Manchester. There I remained for a week, and was then removed to a convalescent home at Macclesfield, and I had a ‘cushy’ time there for seven weeks. We were taken for motor drives nearly every day and I lived on chicken all the time.
“In spite of my wound I had the brightest Christmas I have ever spent. Most of the other chaps there hung their stockings up on Christmas Eve, but I had a pillow case, and in the morning I found my presents included a nice load of cinders. But in addition I had a scarf, pair of socks, cigarettes, chocolate and biscuits.
“I arrived home last Monday and have got three weeks leave, and I think myself lucky to have got off so lightly.
Private Brown further informed our representative that the Allies artillery is vastly superior to that of the Germans, and he is confident that the enemy are going to get it in the neck pretty thick before very long. He thinks the war will be practically over by about next September or October. He says that the Germans provisions must be getting short, as the prisoners taken seem to be half starved. One German to whom he gave a 4lb. loaf hardly waited to cut it but swallowed it in lumps.
Most of the German prisoners seem to be heartily sick of the war, he says, judging by the way they surrender. The Germans have wilfully misused the white flag, and it was due to such despicable action that a regiment of the Guards got so badly cut up at the Aisne. They will perpetrate any dirty trick in order to gain an advantage.
“On one occasion,” said Pte. Brown, “our trenches were only 25 yards away from the Germans, and one of them shouted ‘don’t shoot me! I am a Bond-street barber,” but we gave him a 'close shave' with our bullets. I meet a lot of Rushden chaps whilst I was out there and was constantly in the company of Pte. Rowthorne, of Rushden. Up to the time I left he was all right and is now, I believe.
“it is impossible to describe the fighting except to say that it is nothing less than cold blooded murder. I would rather be in the firing line than in the reserve trenches as the Germans always fire high and are more likely to hit the reserves than them in the front line.
|The Rushden Echo, 12th February 1915, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Germans Cannot Last Long - Rushden Seaman’s Opinion
Famous Submarine B11 - “Watching and Waiting”
Seaman J. E. Buckle (Rushden), of Submarine B11, writes as follows to Mr. and Mrs. S. L. Hunt, of Rushden:-
“We are not doing anything particular just now, only the same old thing watching and waiting, but no signs. Our Captain has been awarded the V.C., and he deserves it, because you know, he is the only man that can see; all the remainder of us are blind, as you may say, and so all depends on the Captain.
“We spent our Christmas pretty fair under the conditions; we spent it at sea, but we had a good time, and the weather on Christmas Day was beautiful, the best we had had for weeks. I shall be glad when this lot is over, as it is not very nice for us never to put a foot on shore for six months, and our boats are only small. Sometimes we are able to get aboard our parent ship and stretch our legs a little, but it is more often that we are away from her now because of the weather, for we have no harbour to go into. We just go alongside the ship and get our provisions and shove off again.
“I think myself the Germans can’t last much longer, but my one wish is to see their fleet come out and I should like to be amongst them. As it is we have to stop them here, but if they come out they won’t get far away.
|The Rushden Echo, 12th February 1915, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Cooking With a Candle - Interesting Letter Received At Rushden
Miss Violet Minney, of Grove-street, Rushden, has received the following letter from one of the A. and S.H. Scotch soldiers in France:-
“We left for the trenches on Friday afternoon, and we don’t come out until Tuesday night. We are in for four days, up to the knees in mud and water, but we try to make the most of it. We are on two hours’ guard and four off all day long. It is a long four days, I may tell you. When we want to cook our food we have no fire. We do all our cooking with a candle, for if a fire is lighted and the Germans see us make any smoke they will have that place shelled before we know where we are. I can tell you it is terrible to hear the shots and shells flying over our heads, but we don’t care much for that. We go about singing all day long, as if there was no danger at all. We are all right if we get out and in, for that is the time the German snipers start their work. If we are either coming out of the trenches or going in and see a star-shell go up we have to stand quite still till that light goes out again. If we make a move that is the time the German sniper sees us. They have a grand shot they meet you on the forehead every time. Those lights only go up at night and they make the place brighter than day-light. Through the day we watch the Germans bailing out the water from the trench. You would hardly believe it that the Germans are only 180 yards from us. I was down for the ration last night, along with another six men, and the machine gun played on us for nearly half an hour and we had to drop to the ground, but we got back all safe.”
|Rushden Echo, 19th February, 1915, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Machine-Like Germans - Enemy Soldiers Break Through British Lines Then Wonder What To Do Next
Rushden Soldier Describes Remarkable Incident
Pte. Ray Gilbert (Rushden), of the R.O.Y.L.I., now with the British Expeditionary Force, sends us the following interesting letter:-
“Of course, you are aware that we are not allowed to give the names of any town or village we happen to come to. For myself, I have nothing to grumble at, as I have kept quite well all the time, and that is a great deal, especially when you think of the mud and water we had to wade through sometimes, and the very large pieces of solid bad heath that we also have to dodge, for although the papers say that the Germans have no ammunition much, they always seem to have a little to spare for us.
“But the conditions in the trenches are a lot better now, as the engineers are doing great work in building and draining, and we are not so particular now as regards water, as we have high jack-boots issued out to us, also we have more rest, in fact we are having eight days now. Just now we seem at a standstill, neither of us doing much advancing, but, of course, the weather has a lot to do with that, both sides seemingly being contented with holding positions. Perhaps we shall have more excitement when the better weather comes, and of course, it will be the Allies who will advance.
“It is terrible, every place we go to; if the Germans have been near there are nothing but ruins, and the poor people had to leave home and everything to save their lives. What a blessing it is not England that is being wrecked. But there will be a day of reckoning when the French and Belgians set foot in Germany, which is sure to happen before long.
“I suppose you would like to know one or two little incidents. I haven’t many, but the outstanding one happened three or four months ago, to show what a machine-like article the German soldier is. We were holding a position, being very weak at the time, when after a lot of struggles the Germans eventually broke through, which seemed to be the extent of their orders, for when they got there they just stood looking at each other, wondering what to do next; so we sent them just a few rounds, and the others seemed quite willing to have a rest until such a time as the war finished.
“Wishing the ‘Rushden Echo’ the best of luck and hoping to see Rushden myself soon.”
|Rushden Echo, 19th February 1915, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Treachery by Germans - Rushden Soldiers Evidence - The Abuse of the White Flag
How the Snipers Hide Themselves - Soldiers Serious Enough When in the Trenches
“Come Out and Fight”
Private Ernest Clark (Rushden), of the 1st Northants, must have been born under a lucky star, for he has “weathered through” some of the most dangerously tight corners whilst at the front. Soldiers who are placed in bayonet charges time after time, and manage to stick a German or two without getting hit or stuck, are certainly very fortunate. Pte. Clark considers himself lucky.
Interviewed by an old schoolmate, a representative of the “Rushden Echo,” Pte. Clark spoke modestly and quietly of the incidents through which his party had gone.
“When we got to the firing line,” he said, “we were ordered to make a charge to regain lost trenches. We had to take a farm house, near which was a haystack alight. With fixed bayonets we crept in ‘files’ alongside a hedge near where were some Indians. As soon as we got over one line of empty trenches we opened out in each direction as far as possible and made a series of short sharp rushes. We had orders not to get into the trenches, as they were mined. The officers pointed out where we could get over with safety. It was in such a charge in the dark that I got hurt. I could not see where I was going, and fell headlong into a trench, spraining my ankle. I had to lie there until 2 a.m. before it was safe to move, and then I had to be helped to walk to the field ambulance.
“On this occasion, a number of machine guns were continually firing to make us keep our heads under cover. Some time after, the Germans were seen approaching, holding up the white flag, and apparently unarmed. No sooner did they get to our trenches than they threw at us some hand grenades which will kill by the dozen. The trenches being full of water, we had great difficulty in getting out. We retired about 50 yards to where there were some Indians.
“In some of these scrambles we are often no further off than five yards from the Germans. We went into a little house one night to try and get some rest. At the door, seated in a chair as if asleep. Was a Gurkha, quite dead. The Germans had taken off his boots for their own use. As soon as we got in, ‘cling, cling, cling,’ went the bullets of the German snipers.
“After a while, volunteers were wanted to fetch rations. My pal and I offered to go down for bread, etc. As we were carrying it to the reserve trenches, snipers were firing at us all the time. Mine was a heavy load, and as soon as I got within reach, I threw it to another chap and so got relieved of the weight. We also got a sack of apples that went down all right.
“Within 30 yards of us the Germans had got their ‘dixies’ placed on fires, making tea or something, and we could hear them ‘hollering’ and shouting. We sometimes had to make charges over ground until we had covered a mile or more. Every now and then you would hear chaps all along the line shouting out ‘I am hit’ ‘I am hit.’ One chap said to me ‘What use is your money now?’ I replied that it might not be much use to me then, but we ought to look on the bright side of things and think that it would be some good after the war! We did another rush and I kept asking my pal whether he had been hit but he did not seem to answer. Chaps had been falling down all round me and this pal had taken the place of one of them. After a time, he appeared. I said to him ‘You are a lucky man not to have been killed!’
“The snipers kept bashing away at the farm house behind us. We were told that their artillery were going to smash it. As the shells burst around about it, you could see, by the light of the burning farm, arms and legs going up into the air! Not very far away, some Gurkhas had a machine gun pinging away at the Germans, who were using a search-light trying to find the gun. If they had found it they would have dropped a ‘coal-box’ over and put it out of existence! You can often hear chaps cursing because their rifles have jammed. The best thing to do is to get a rifle from the nearest dead man. We are supposed to do that and also to take the ammunition.
“Two of us once got lost as we were being relieved. This is always done in pitch dark. We found ourselves against a farm building and by mere luck came across some of our party and so got back to the regiment. Sometimes, while we are lying in the trenches, fighting for all we are worth, we can hear fellows moaning and calling for help, but it would never do to expose ourselves while the fighting is in progress. If we did it would be no use to the wounded and might get killed ourselves.
“People still live in their cottages within four miles of the firing line. We once saw a man ploughing a field and all the time ‘coal boxes’ were dropping in the field from our artillery. It was believed the man was a spy. One house had had the roof blown off and this place was used for concealing anti-aircraft guns. I saw a good many aeroplanes brought down in this way. The aviator who could pass over that house was a lucky man.
“As we lay in the trenches we could sometimes hear the Germans shouting from their trenches ‘Come out, you Eenglish, and fight!’
“A sergeant named Prigmore bought a watch off me and one night he said ‘I will wind this watch up, perhaps for the last time, to-night.’ Strange to say, that night he was shot through the head and killed instantly.
“The worst time for the soldiers is when they are relieving or being relieved. You have practically to run to where you are going. It is far more risky than stopping in the firing line. The Germans always tried to set fire to any haystack that would give light enough to show our movements when we left the trenches. And as you ran along, you could never know that you were safe. Wounded Germans would often turn and raise their rifles to fire at you as you passed.
“But the queer places that snipers got into was remarkable. One of their favourite hiding places would be in the hollow trunk of a willow tree. They would get right down and have with them enough food for several days. When this ran short they would come out at night. It was no unusual thing to hear them whistling signals to each other.
“A Rushden Lance-Corporal asked me to keep with him for company as we went into action at one place. Afterwards it was said that he got hit in the legs. When there was a chance I went along to where he was and found he had crawled into safety from a spot about 50 yards distant. He was soon carried off to hospital.”
“How did you spend Christmas?” asked our representative.
“Oh there was plenty of singing on Christmas Day as we waited for the plum pudding to come along,” replied Pte. Clark. “I did not see any of the hand-shaking and other friendliness between our men and the Germans, but I know there was a little of this kind of thing from what others have told me. But as far as we were concerned, there was nothing in the way of an armistice to show that it was Christmas.
“As a rule, soldiers may sing ‘It’s a long way to Tipperary,’ but only when marching. They are serious enough when in the trenches.
“Once a soldier is sent home wounded he gets the best of treatment,” concluded Pte. Clark. “If he is going to England he will be there in less than a week.”
Pte. Clark was put out of action on Boxing Day, and was sent at once to the home country. He spent some time at Shrewsbury, where a large number of wounded soldiers are being accommodated in a big manor. He says that all the soldiers are given the best of everything and looked after in splendid style.
He would not say much about his own deeds, but, in reply to a question by our representative, he said he had caught one German with his bayonet. He said that if he is required to go back again, he will do so with a good heart.
|Rushden Echo, 19th February 1915, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Thrilling Work at Sea - Rushden Sailor on H.M.S. Lion - The Great Naval Fight
A Stupendous Conflict - The Sinking of The Bluecher - German Zeppelin Wrecked
Commander in the Danger Zone All The Time - The “Lion” Shaking Like a Jelly
With but eleven months service in His Majesty’s Navy, Seaman William Longland, son of Mr. and Mrs. A. Longland, of Rushden, has passed through an experience that will be stamped on his memory for as long as he lives.
It has surely been the lot of but few youths of his age (17 years) to pass through all the appalling horrors of modern naval warfare directly after leaving the training ship, and yet this is the thrilling experience that has been afforded Seaman Longland. Formerly in the employ of the Standard Rotary Machine Co., Rushden, Seaman Longland relinquished mechanics early in 1914 for a naval career, with a view to benefiting his health, and, in his own words, “I have been a lot better in health since I joined.”
After six months training on H.M.S. Impregnable, he was transferred to H.M.S. Lion (the Admiral’s flagship) on Sept. 1st, 1914, which vessel so distinguished herself during the recent great naval battle in the North Sea, in which the enemy’s ship “Bluecher” was sunk. According to Seaman Longland, the German navy have made a special mark of H.M.S. Lion right from the commencement of the war, and on more than one occasion prior to the North Sea battle she was subjected to torpedo attack by enemy submarines, but managed to escape damage by skilful manoeuvres. During the North Sea battle also the whole German squadron consistently concentrated their fire on the flag ship, the other vessels engaged only being occasionally treated to a salvo, so it is little to be wondered at that the Lion suffered rather severely.
Home on ten days’ leave, Seaman Longland gave a “Rushden Echo” representative a lucid description of the terrible grandeur of the naval engagement in which he participated.
“On Jan. 23rd.” he said, “we were engaged in patrol duty and received information that the enemy’s fleet were on the move. On the following morning, Sunday, Jan. 24th, the enemy was sighted about 6.30 a.m., but all we could see with the naked eye was a smoke on the horizon. At that time we were all at leisure on the upper deck smoking and discussing what we should give the Germans when we got the opportunity to get at ‘em. Suddenly ‘Action’ was sounded, and at once we all ran to our stations, and the excitement of the moment made one forget personal danger. My appointed work consisted of acting as the Commander’s messenger, and my duties were to convey messages from him to any part of the ship to which he might desire to send them. I accompanied the Commander to the conning tower, where the range-finders are situated, and from which point all messges are sent and received.
“The Captain, who was on the bridge, sent through to the Commander to tell him to instruct the gunnery lieutenant to fire one shot from B turret to see where it fell.
“This shot was directed at the Bluecher, and fell 100 yards short, but it took effect in another way, as the enemy turned tail and bolted as fast as they could for Heligoland.
“It was great sport to watch them scuttle off, although we were all anxious to get at ‘em. At that time the Lion was travelling at 22 knots, and the Commander rang down to the engine room to tell them to get more speed out of her.
“In about half an hour we were tearing along at 29½ knots, and rapidly overhauling the enemy, keeping our guns going all the time. Our guns must be of longer range than those of the enemy, as it was 25 minutes before they attempted to make any sort of a reply to our attack. Until they started dropping their shells around us I didn’t realise what being in action meant, but then I began to look and feel serious.
“Shortly after this I accompanied the Commander to the lower conning tower, his proper station, and by this time we could see the enemy’s ships quite plainly. We were then firing the guns of A and B turrets, the 4-inch batteries having retired through being of insufficient range.
“A few minutes after we had been in the lower conning tower, a message came through from the Captain informing the Commander that the left gun of B turret had been struck and put out of action. The Commander asked how long it would take to get it going again, and received the reply ‘Ten minutes.’ Shortly after this another message came through to the effect that A magazine was on fire, and we then began to think that it was all up with us. We inflated our swimming bladders ready to take to the water, as we expected the ship to be blown up. However, the Commander ordered every available length of hose to be got out, and we started pumping water into the magazine, and eventually managed to get the fire under. During these operations we could see nothing because of the thick smoke all along the mess deck. About this time another message came to the Commander telling him that the submerged flat was flooded. It transpired that we had been holed just above the water line, and owing to the speed at which we were travelling the seas were breaking in. The ship’s carpenters were ordered down, and managed to stop the inrush of water by plugging it with hammocks. Just after this incident the Captain informed us that three of the enemy’s ships were on fire, and the good news bucked us up a lot, although by this time the Lion was shaking like a jelly owing to the enemy’s shells continually pounding our sides.
“You can imagine the awful crashing sound, what with the thunder of the guns, and the explosions and flashes as the shots took effect, moreover, the massive tongues of fire shooting up, and columns of water of tremendous height raised by the falling 12-inch shells made a scene of terrible grandeur. We then noticed a great list to port, and thought we were sinking fast, and it was discovered that our ship had been hit below the water line, but collision mats were got out and an attempt made to stop the hole.
“After a struggle we succeeded in arresting the inrush of water, and the Captain reported that in his opinion we could be safely taken in tow. Just before this we had fallen out of the line, the Tiger, the Princess Royal, and the New Zealand having gone ahead. We went up on deck and our eyes met a scene beyond description. The Lion was terribly battered, almost beyond recognition, holes in her side and funnels, through her gun screens, in fact, almost riddles like a sieve.
“On deck we could see nothing else but splinters, and, as a matter of fact, it looked to me as if the good old Lion would never be fit for sea again, but now I have reason to think otherwise, as when I left she was beginning to look her old self again, and she will be able to have her revenge yet.
“After we had succeeded in stopping the hole in our side, the ‘Indomitable’ came up alongside and we got up wire hawsers and attached them to the cable in preparation for being towed. About the same time a destroyer came alongside and took the Admiral off and conveyed him to the Princess Royal. He had been on the bridge, one of the most exposed parts of the ship, right throughout the action, and before leaving the Lion he congratulated us on the part we had played in the fight, expressed regret at having to leave us, and said he hoped to return to the Lion at some future date, and again take her into action. Our band played ‘For he’s a jolly good fellow’ and so he is, and a brave one too.
“After the Admiral had gone the Indomitable picked up our cable and took us in tow en route for home.
“I did not see the Bluecher go down, but she was in her death agony when we were towed away. The last I saw of her, she was a mass of flames and just about to topple over. Her crew were lined up on deck and awaiting the final plunge, but I didn’t actually see them take to the water.
“I believe a torpedo from the Arethusa finally put paid to the Bleucher’s account. When the Indomitable first commenced to tow the Lion, she still had a list to port, and I never expected we should reach home; however, thanks to our water-tight compartments, we arrived in port quite safely on the morning of Tuesday, Jan. 26th.
“When we arrived all the rest of our squadron was coaling, and they gave us a good cheer as we made our way to our anchorage.”
In reply to questions from our representative Seaman Longland said :
“I did not see so much of the fight as I should have liked as I was in the conning-tower practically the whole of the time, but I saw the ruinous effect of shell fire when I got on deck. It isn’t until you see the results of hits by modern guns that you realise what destructive weapons they really are, but if the Lion was badly damaged the Germans got more in return than they gave us. Thank goodness, we managed to account for two of their ships, namely the Bluecher and a light cruiser, and we also brought down and destroyed a Zeppelin that had been busy dropping bombs on our destroyers. It was one of our destroyers that accounted for the Zeppelin. They struck her with a shell in her envelope, and down she flopped on to the water. The destroyer completed the work by ramming her; as a matter of fact, they went clean through the Zeppelin, which went down, all her crew perishing with her, I expect.
“Our chaps were splendidly cool, and seemed quite to enjoy the scrap, being brimful of excitement throughout. Our total casualties on the Lion only amounted to eleven, none of my shipmates being killed, I am pleased to say.”
Seaman Longland understands that a medal is to be presented to them for the part they played in the engagement. As a souvenir he has brought back with him a fragment of a German 12-inch shell which he picked up from the deck of the Lion. We feel sure that Rushdenites will feel proud of their gallant young townsman, and will join with us in congratulating him upon having come through unscathed.
|Rushden Echo, 26th February, 1915, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Seven Times Wounded - Rushden Soldier’s Experience - Private Harry Parker at Home
More About the White Flag Business
Howitzers Like Tree Trunks Flying Through The Air - An Amusing Incident
In the service of his King and country, Private Harry Parker (Rushden), of the 3rd Bedfords, who has been wounded seven times, has had some very unpleasant experiences of the war. Although he has met with some rough usage at the hands of the enemy, we are gratified to learn that he has done more than his share in maintaining the honour of Britain.
Asked by a “Rushden Echo” representative if he had settled any Germans, Pte. Parker, now at home, wounded, said he had killed quite a number.
“I broke a bayonet in one, just as I had stuck him,” he continued. “At Ypres I was in two bayonet charges and at La Bassee in another one. At the latter place we were shelled out of the trenches and although we made three charges to re-take them, we were not successful. Of course, such charges can be made only at night, and you might be within a few feet of a German. It is bayonet for bayonet then and if you don’t get your man he will have you.
“As early as the retirement from Mons, I got two slight wounds in the legs and more recently I was wounded in the hand at La Bassee in one battle about mid-night. In addition to that I had got frost-bitten feet and had to be taken from the trench on a stretcher.
“Have you helped to capture any prisoners?” we asked.
“No” replied Pte. Parker. “We can never safely venture into the open to take German prisoners. If they show a white flag it means treachery more often than not. They once had three or four regiments concealed in a wood and a few of them appeared with a white flag. Knowing their strength, our own soldiers made no attempt to capture them but answered the white flag with shells. Our artillery eventually shelled them out of the wood! I saw from a distance the ‘white flag business’ played on the Northamptons. We were on their right and saw them cut up, but were too fully occupied ourselves to go to their assistance. I have seen a good many of my pals injured, but only one was a Rushden man - Pte. Wrighton, of Cromwell Road. He was in a trench when a shrapnel shell burst over-head. He tried to dodge it but was struck in the back of the shoulder. Of what happened to him afterwards I have no idea.
“We cannot tell how the general thing is going on as we are limited to our own range of vision. Newspapers sometimes reach us. Lloyds News came - six weeks old - and reported in long columns the ‘grand charge of the London Scottish!’ Never have I known such cursing as there was over that bogus affair. The London Scottish got the credit for a charge that was made by an entirely different regiment.
“Conditions now are somewhat better for the British, are they not?” our representative inquired.
“A great deal better,” Pte. Parker replied. “At the first we have had to stay in the trenches as long as 21 days at a time. But now only 3 days and 3 nights are necessary. That is quite bad enough when you are up to your knees in mud and water. And that was the rule rather than the exception. There was no escaping it - dig your trench and ‘stick’ there. If a “Jack Johnson” came over, that would dig it for you! It is like an iron foundry coming along! The French Howitzers seem quite as powerful. They are like tree trunks flying through the air.
“We had a little bit of liberty sometimes. I remember a rather laughable incident of chasing and picking a chicken. I saw the rooster and made for it with an eye to business. It looked quite a decent specimen of the feathered tribe but when I captured it it proved to be nearly all fluff and feathers. However, I was not going to set it free after my trouble in catching it so killed and picked it. Together with some potatoes and turnips I put the “joint” in an old rusty pot over a fire and smacked my lips in anticipation of a tasty dinner. Things were going very nicely when an order came from the officer. “Charge men,” he roared. I kicked the whole box of tricks as far as I could, in my rage, and off we went with fixed bayonets.
“it is nothing unusual to see soldiers, in their spare moments, charging with bayonets the pigs in a farmyard. Once he is got to bay, the porker is stuck and a piece is sliced from it and cooked, the remainder being left. The peasants who are plucky enough to keep to their homes within the war zone sometimes walk round after such scraps.
“The ‘rests’ that we get from trench fighting are not always what you might think. There is so such thing as a feather bed and a spring mattress. And barns are our cover, and once I was allotted a pig-stye with straw to lie on!”
“Have you seen any exciting work by aviators?”
“Yes, I saw an English airman chase a German and fetch him down, and I have seen one of our own brought to the ground. The pilot and his passengers were dropping smoke bombs and revealing the enemy’s position. The Germans fired on it and the aeroplane made a dive towards the earth. Just before it touched one of the men fell out and the machine was soon one mass of flames.
Pte. Parker, who is only 19 years of age, joined the army in April 1913. He had only been to training camp once before the war. Since he has been to the front he has been in the ‘battle of the three rivers’ (? At Seine), and has seen much service at Ypres, La Bassee, and other places. He has had his rifle smashed with bullets, his equipment shattered, and his uniform torn to rags on barbed wire. He is not optimistic of an early conclusion of the war. He left the firing line in November last and was in England in three days, as, he says, the French Hospitals are full of British wounded and every man who can possibly be brought straight home is dispatched without waste of time. He was taken to a hospital in Liverpool and after a long stay got home on Friday.
|Rushden Echo, 26th February 1915, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Rushden Soldier Wounded - The Hardest Fights Known in the World’s History
The Germans are Losing, and Will Lose More Shortly
As reported in this issue, Bombardier Harry Newell, R.F.A., son of Mr. and Mrs. F. Newell, of Rushden, has recently been through Dr. Greenfield’s hands in the base hospital at Rouon, having received a wound. He is now in England, at St. John’s Hospital, Chester, and in a letter to his mother and father explains how he came to get his wound. He writes :-
“Don’t worry about me, I am getting on famously. I have fought in the hardest fights that have ever been known in the world’s record. It is about one in a hundred that gets off so well as I. I have had wonderful experiences and some wonderful escapes. There were six of us talking together when a shell burst amongst us, killing three and wounding three. One was wounded in the left lung, the other through the right shoulder and arm, and my wound was the slightest, viz., in the left foot. I don’t feel mine is worth mentioning as the bullet went straight through and the would is healing up nicely. The doctor says that it won’t even leave a scar.
“I am sorry I have been sent home for Arthur’s sake (his brother, Pte. A. Newell, also at the front), but I will write him a long letter. I know where Arthur is now, I used to be in the same trenches. We have had to stand in the trenches for days with water up to our waists, but when I came away the water was gone, so it won’t be so bad for Arthur. The better weather is setting in. The spring comes earlier and the summer is much longer there.
“As you say, the Germans are losing. Well, they are. I have been amongst it and I know more than I can explain, and the Germans will lose more in a short time you will see a great victory appear very shortly.
“I don’t know if I told you of a German I killed at the battle of the Marne. I got a travelling rug from him, and from another German in Belgium I got a walking stick, and they tell me it is very costly. I also obtained several other small things.”
Bombardier Newell further mentions that he has not received a parcel, which was sent to him from Rushden.
In another letter from Chester, Bombardier Newell writes:-
“As I lay in bed here on Sunday I was wondering where Dad was. When I was at the front Sunday always used to strike me more especially about dinner time. We usually were fighting hard on Sundays. It’s a proper day with the Germans. It was very nice to meet Dr. Greenfield. He is the chief operating officer. I should not have come home had it not been for my wound, although it is not worth speaking about. They took into consideration that I had been out since the beginning, and that I had fought in all the battles. There is only just a small scar on my foot now where the bullet came out, and that’s all. No pain with it, but it was the cause of my spraining my ankle, as I was running to get out of the way, and my foot gave under me, weakened by the effect of the bullet. Until then I did not know I was hit. I promised Dr. Greenfield that I would call on Mrs. Greenfield when I get home.”
Pte. Arthur Newell, of the 1st Northants Regt., writes from the front to his parents to say that he is “On the Maxim machine gun.” “They are wonderful things,” he says. “You will see them in the papers, and read of them. We see no papers up here. I should be very pleased if I could have a ‘Rushden Echo’ every week.”
(A copy of the “Rushden Echo” will be sent to Pte. Newell as requested. Ed. “R.E.”)
|Rushden Echo, 26th February, 1915, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Rushden Soldier - Up To the Knees in Water
Pte. Arthur Ward (Rushden), of the 2nd Northants Regt., who has been out at the front since October last, writes home to say he is quite well. He says he does not require anything only chocolate and fags, which he cannot get there. In a further letter he says:-
“I got your parcel quite safely and was very pleased with it. I admire the gloves very much, and the cakes were very nice, I had them for dinner, and they went down grand. I liked the chocolate very much and could do with some more.
“We are having very bad weather now. It rains and snows and then freezes; the trenches are up to our knees in water, and we have to stand in it. It is simply awful to see it. Some of the fellows have frost-bitten feet, and can hardly walk. Some of us are covered all over with mud. I often sit and think of you when shot and shell in enormous quantities go by me, but it is no use grumbling, it has got to be done. I suppose you see the papers and read about us poor boys, who are nearly all like old men. I went and saw Vic Woods the other day. He is quite well and happy. I suppose we shall have a rest soon, when the other army gets out here, and then we might get round a bit.”
In another letter he says: “I got the parcel quite safely and was very pleased with it. I had just come out of the trenches, so you can tell how I enjoyed the baked pudding. I had the rabbit’s leg for my breakfast, and the chocolate was very nice. I had got such a very bad throat that the doctor said I must stop smoking, and my chest is so sore. I am just going to have a nice drink of cocoa now. It is lovely. It was so good of you to send all that.
|The Rushden Echo, 5th March 1915, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Rushden Marine as Night-Hawk - The “Eyes” of The Navy
“Always Merry and Bright”
In a letter sent to his brother (Mr. E. King, of Brookfield-road, Rushden), Gunner W. H. King, on board H.M.S. Nottingham a light cruiser, says:-
“We are still on the war path, but have not much to report yet. The Germans don’t care about coming out they have had some! If you want anything to eat, just send to the ‘Nottingham’ and I will save you a few Germans! But I am not expecting many orders, as I suppose you do not want any in Rushden. Although we are getting regular night-hawks, there is not much doing in the German line, worse luck. Really, we don’t mind the Germans so much as the weather. Pleased to tell you I am A1 myself, but a day or two at home would be encouraging. However, we always keep merry and bright. I expect you know our fleet was in the action in the North Sea recently. Glad to say we still kept the flag flying.”
Gunner King says they have been well supplied with good warm clothing during the winter.
The Nottingham and the Birmingham are sister cruisers, and are known as the “eyes of the Navy” as they are noted for being on the watch.
|The Rushden Echo, 5th March 1915, transcribed by Jim Hollis
German Charges Repulsed By British Machine Guns
Enemy cut down as with a Scythe
Ground Covered with Bodies of Dead or Dying
Rushden Soldier Frostbitten - An Aerial Chase
“The only curio I brought home was myself,” said Private George Darnell (Rushden) of the 2nd Manchesters, who is at home from the front. A representative of the “Rushden Echo” interviewed him yesterday and was told some of the very exiting experiences through which he had gone.
“I have been in the Army for a year and seven months and have spent five months of that time in France. Our battalion went out two days before the finish of the retirement on Paris, and we helped with the advance. At Soissons the French relieved us so that we could go to another place where we drove back the Germans 2 miles. We got to La Bassee but had to make two charges to get the position. Having got the places, we were relieved by the Yorkshire Light Infantry. About this time, the Cheshires were having a warm time of it at the hands of the Germans, who were too strong for them. We helped them to take the position once more.
“Retiring from there we went and held a position in front of Bethune for 19 days. It was here that the Ghurkhas came along and gave us a welcome rest. One morning the Germans, about 200 strong, made an attack on us and took our advance trench. We lost rather a large number in killed and wounded, and prisoners. But after the relief given us by the Ghurkhas, we went to Givenchy, which position we kept for two days. The Germans did not attack us, and we did not charge them at this place, but there was a fair bit of firing going on.
“We soon got a move on and were sent to Messines. This was our ‘home’ for two months. It was in these trenches that my feet got frost-bitten.
“How many bayonet charges were you in?” asked our representative.
“Three or four,” replied Pte. Darnell, “but I could not tell you exactly. I know I have been quite near enough to the Germans for my health! I remember once our trenches were within 25 yards of the German trenches. We could hold these trenches for only two days. The Germans dropped too many shells for our comfort.
“When the enemy make a charge they always come along at the least ten abreast. Our machine guns do about the same with them as a scythe does with grass at every sweep down goes one row, until the ground is covered with the bodies of dead or dying men and blood runs in streams from the place.
Of course, the Germans like to find the positions of these machine guns, but they are not always successful. If they did find one they would send over a big shell to smash the gun and all the gunners. At night they will start a bit of ‘bluff firing’ in order to draw the fire of our guns. But we know their little game. Our gunners could sometimes do good work against enemy aeroplanes. I once saw a German aeroplane brought down by a shell from one of our big guns. I also saw an aerial chase. A German aviator was coming over our lines to pay his morning call, when up went an English aeroplane. The enemy turned tail and made off only just in time to avoid a fight in mid-air. That is a thing they will never face if they can avoid it.”
“What difference did Christmas make to you?” we enquired.
“Why, we were friends instead of enemies during Christmas Day and Boxing Day. On Christmas morning only two or three shots were fired and then everything went well. We got out of our trenches and met the Germans and shook hands with them. We gave them tins of ‘bully’ beef for cigarettes and chocolate. One of our officers gave a German officer a cigarette case for one of his. But after these two days we started shelling them like------- In fact, the fighting was as bad after as before Christmas.
“When we get our five or six days’ rest, we have quite a nice time. We are allowed five francs to spend, and if you get in good billets you are all right.”
In reply to other queries, Private Darnell said he had collected several curios but did not bother with them. The only curio he brought home was himself. He had spent 19 days in the trenches without a rest. All the soldiers at the front seemed to think that war would end almost at any time now.
Private Darnell left the firing line on Jan. 13th, and after five days in a French hospital was sent to England. His feet are now much better.
“You might tell the people through your paper,” he said, as our representative was coming away, “that all the soldiers at the front very much appreciate the gifts of delicacies in the way of chocolate and cakes, etc., but, of course, there is an abundance of good food. The only difficulty is to get enough water.”
|The Rushden Echo, 12th March 1915, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Germans Desire Peace - More Than Anyone Else
Rushden Soldier’s Opinion - Allies Have The Enemy Well In Hand
How Pte. Line Was Wounded - British Airmen Beat Germans
“The Germans are more anxious for peace than anybody; all the soldiers at the front are quite fed up, but it is a case of having to fight.” This is the opinion of Private Geo. Line (Rushden), of the 2nd Northamptons, who was wounded in the left leg on Jan. 10th at La Bassee. Interviewed this week by a representative of the “Rushden Echo,” he said he had not seen a great deal of the actual fighting as little had been done during the time he was at the front.
“Arriving in France in November,” he said, “we were taken by train to within about eight miles of the trenches, and had to go straight in when we got there. Although the billets for those taking rest were often changed, the position of the line of trenches was not materially altered. I was with my pal ‘Zip’ Ward, of Park-place, Rushden, all the time I was at the front. There were quite a number of Rushden chaps out there, but we did not often meet except when billeting. Where soldiers are billeted there are always, in the day time, a few seen strolling about, and consequently aviators would soon find them out. That is why one place was soon abandoned for another.
“The Germans are equal to our men in rifle firing. One poor chap next to me had been suffering for four days with frost bite. He said to me ‘Nobody knows the agony I am going through.’ He raised his head, and a bullet from a German rifle split his skull open, killing him instantly! Another young fellow near me got badly wounded, but on the whole there did not seem so much of the wholesale slaughter that is sometimes read about.
“When men get killed or wounded in the day-time they have to lie where they are until after dark, when the stretcher bearers come along. I was unlucky enough to get wounded early in the morning and had to lie all day before it was safe to move. I had been out on a hunting expedition to catch a fowl. Leaving the trenches just before daybreak, I went back towards a farmhouse, and, as I looked about for a rooster, I suppose I must have been seen by a German, as a bullet caught me in the left leg and knocked me down. I kept still for a long time and then drew my leg up and bandaged the wound as well as I could. It had been bleeding for an hour or more. There was then nothing for it but to wait for night, so that I could be taken away. One consolation is the smart manner in which a wounded soldier is attended to when help does arrive. I was in England about 36 hours from the time I was picked up. At first the doctors could not detect anything serious about the wound, but one day one of them operated on my leg and took out a bullet that had evidently been fired from a German machine gun, as it was to short for a rifle bullet.
“The ground has begun to dry a little, but in the trenches it is still more than knee-deep. Now and again you would see a German bob his head up and then down again so that you could not hit him. It is rough luck if you happen to try the same game and a German sniper has got his rifle trained on you and his finger on the trigger.
“At night, every hour or so, the Germans will send over a rocket to see if we are about. These light the place up for a quarter of a mile round, and if they happen to drop between the two lots of trenches, we can see as much of them as they can of us. We do not bother to send up so many as they do. Even when they send them up it is not safe to shell the advanced trenches on account of hitting their own men. But occasionally one will explode near the first line.”
“How do you manage to while away the time?” we asked.
“Well, there is not much to amuse us. You would go out and chop some wood with your bayonet and try to light a fire with or without paper, promising somebody a drink of tea for a match! Perhaps you were lucky enough to have a fowl to cook. With this and the food doled out to us, we didn’t hurt much. My pal and I went out to dinner once while we were billeting. We did not know much about the French language and apparently they did not know much English as they would sometimes say ‘Good-night’ first thing in the morning. However, we managed to make ourselves understood. The woman cooked a fowl with some vegetables for us, and made some soup and so on. With this and some ‘caffee’ as they call it, we made a good meal. We stayed from 2 till 9 p.m. These places were always within reach of ‘Jack Johnsons,’ and I once saw one drop quite close to a farm house.
“All the time I was at La Bassee we neither lost nor gained ground. Newspapers would sometimes reach us saying that the Allies were steadily gaining ground. Certainly that did not apply to us, and we would never find out what part of our line had advanced.
“Our aviators are all the time busy. You could see nine of ours to one of the Germans. No matter how the enemy shelled our airmen, they never seemed able to fetch them down, not even with a ‘coal box’ which I have seen fired up into the air.
“On Christmas Day only two shots were fired. The Germans killed our Captain and we hit one of their men. After that a few of the enemy got out of their trenches and beckoned to us to join them. Our men got out a few at a time until the whole lot were on top. We met the Germans and shook hands with them, passing the time of day and exchanging gifts, etc. this lasted for only a few minutes and we were soon back in the trenches again.
Pte. Line said they used to try and make the best of things. If it started to rain, some of the more jovial soldiers would begin to sing. He thinks the Allies have the enemy well in hand. Pte. Line did not know much about the journey across from France as he was in bed and feeling to ill to take much notice of things. When he got to Chatham hospital, one doctor said “Oh, you will soon be back in the trenches again.” But when another doctor found a bullet which had been in the leg for several days, he thought differently. It is about five years since Pte. Line joined the Army.
|The Rushden Echo Friday 12 March 1915, transcribed by Nicky Bates
Rushden Soldier Home Again - Always Within Reach of the Shells
The Work of a Stretcher-Bearer - Relieving Men in the Trenches - A Difficult Task
How Private F Bass and Sedge Sargent Got Lost
"Terrible as are the experiences of the battle field, the sight of the thousands of refugees, fleeing from their homes in front of the Germans hordes at the beginning of the war, as worse," said Pte Fred Bass (Rushden), of the Northants Regt, to a "Rushden Echo" representative. "We could not help feeling a great pity got the poor women who had been sadly ill-treated by the enemy, and this affected some of us more than actual fighting. On that retirement I saw a civilian transport at the least two miles in length! At the battle of the Aisne we were told that the Germans were getting short of ammunition, but when we got to Ypres they seemed to have found plenty! If the quantity was no greater the great size of the shells made up for that. We had to make a series of charges when we got to Ypres. Just before these charges the Colonel, addressing us, said 'Do your best, men. Fix bayonets and get it well home. C and D Companies will make a charge. If they fail, A and B Companies will have to do it without failing!' We fixed our bayonets and very quietly we dropped down in the gutter to await results. C advanced a little and opened fire. 'Here dey dome, here dey dome!' shouted the Germans in their excitement as they tried to use English.
"After these two companies had cleared the way and so done good work, our platoon did a bit of business. Of course, a good many men got cut up in this affair. Sedge Sargent and I got lost from our regiment and joined the North Lancs, a party of whom offered to go short of rations in order to give us a feed until we could find our own regiment, so that with the rations and a few turnips we managed until the officer told us where our regiment was. Sedge and I started off, and he thought the way was along one road and I thought it was another. It was all by chance whether we got back all right, and you know how Sedge fared. He is now a prisoner of war, as the "Rushden Echo" has published.
"Relieving each other from trenches is not very pleasant work. If the place is very exposed, as it was on one occasion, we have to climb over each other to change without being seen. At Ypres we were billeted in a reformatory school while the French troops took a turn in the trenches. There was some stiff fighting here: sometimes the firing would last all night. They were all reservists at Ypres when we got there to take our turn. We 'kicked off' about seven o'clock one morning, but the woods near Ypres were being shelled too much for the place to be comfortable, so we went round to some other woods that were better situated. But a lot of our men got bowled over. The Germans enfiladed the trenches so that we had to retire and try and hold a position a little further back. We entered some more woods and dug trenches which we were able to hold right up to being relieved, about four or five days later.
"After that we went into some dug-outs for shelter, such as it was. We were always being shelled, whether in the firing line or not. We were always within reach of the shells. Our gunners could sometimes get relief for 24 hours and do 24 hours work, but we poor devils in the trenches never knew when we were going to be relieved. Of course, that was when there was not a very big number out there. Things may be better now. I got a slight wound in the leg, and after that got well I acted as stretcher-bearer. That is a job that requires a lot of tact and courage. It can be done only at night. It needs at the least two men. As you go along through a dark wood it is necessary to be absolutely noiseless. Sometimes one of us would step on a few sticks which would crack, seeming to make a tremendous noise. 'Bang, crack', would go the German rifles. 'Go on, old man', I would say, 'Blaze away!' But we were always careful to drop straight down on the ground and wait until the firing ceased. Then off we would go again.
"I have helped to bring soldiers who were dangerously wounded. Of course, if a man is not much hurt you can run along with him and take your chance, but if he is as I have known them to be - with a limb practically blown off - the poor chap cannot bear to be carried quickly. We have had to take rations up through the woods on stretchers. It is not exactly like walking along the slab pavement. One moment you are tearing your way through thorny bracken or stumbling over logs, and the next moment down you would go into two feet of mud! By the time you get to you destination, your hands are one mess of scratches, and mud clings round your legs up to your knees."
Pte Bass gave our representative an idea of what it feels like to be in the trenches when, apparently there is no one near besides a few men within sight. "I have sometimes wondered what we should do when things are like this if the Germans made a charge," he said, "but it is astonishing how our soldiers show themselves when required. One moment all is quiet and nobody seems about. The next, on hearing an order to meet a charge the ground seems alive with men who spring up like a thousand demons."
Pte Bass was badly wounded in the left thigh and had to be removed to England. He remained at Cosham Hospital a considerable time and arrived home a few days ago. Several letters of his have, from time to time, been published in the "Rushden Echo".
Note: Sadly Private Fred Bass did not survive the war
|The Wellingborough News Friday 12 March 1915, transcribed by Nicky Bates
From Mons to Ypres - Rushden Soldier's Battle Experiences
Pte F Bass, of the "A" Co 1st Northants Regiment, and also of Wellingborough-road, Rushden, is now at home nursing an injured thigh. He is a very cheerful and pleasant soldier, and when interviewed by our representative, was making the best of things in front of a glowing fire.
The story he had to tell was full of interest, although he informed us that he did not like to talk about all he had seen and been through.
"I received my wound," he said, "on the 14th of November. The Germans were about to make an attack, and the method they employ is to first shell the position and then make an infantry rush. I was going to the firing line with some stretchers bearers, when their guns found the range. Shells were coming in all directions, and one burst against us, wounding all six of us. Four, including myself, were taken to hospital but the other two were able to keep on. It was shrapnel, and a piece of the shell itself caught me, smashing my left thigh. The next thing I remember after being hit was to find myself in bed in hospital.
"The refugees at Ypres were among he saddest sights I have seen. There were thousands of them, coming in all directions. It was piteous to see the children, and some of us gave them part of our food, consisting of bread and tinned meat. We cut it up for them, and they were very pleased. You see, after a three days' spell in the trenches, enough food was dished out for the complete company. Well some of the poor chaps got wounded and killed, and so we had plenty of food to spare.
"Oh yes, I saw plenty of aeroplanes about, both German and ours. Seven or eight hovered above us for some time. I never saw a duel, but I often saw one of our aeroplanes chase away a German machine. I was very pleased with Princess Mary's Christmas Box, which came in very acceptably. At the commencement of the war lots of French children came round us for souvenirs and seemed very pleased when they got one.
"The battles I went through were those of Mons, 23rd August and onwards; Marne, Sept. 10-11th; 35 days in the Aisne, and then at the Ypres fights. I was stationed at Pylkhan, a village about seven miles from Ypres. The weather I went through was fairly fine, except that it rained from the 10th to the 17th of September.
"No, I have never actually seen an atrocity committed by the Germans, but I have clear proof that there were some. One day one of the chaps came up to me and said he had just found the dead bodies of a woman and some children, and asked me to see them; but I did not care to go, as I had gone through enough horrors without that.
"I was present at the white flag business which you heard about. I was left-hand man and firing up a road. Our company lost a lot of men that day. I have been through one bayonet charge, and I don't like 'em. When you start charging you lose all sense of personal danger, and your one aim is to get at them. The Germans simply can't stand a bayonet scrap. What they do is fire at you until the line of steel gets too close and then they scoot as fast as they can. The Germans love to get behind you, if possible, and fire from the rear. Of course, it's not often they get the chance.
"The chief time of danger is when you are digging, and when you are coming in or going out of the trenches. Inside the trench a soldier is comparatively safe. As each fresh party occupies a trench they improve it in some way. Not much time is wasted, and all spare time is spent making the trench more habitable. The officials are very particular about the water, and often five or six wells are condemned.
"In the retirement from Mons we got to within 16 kilometres from Paris. I do not believe our troops realised what great danger they were in, or that the Germans knew how small our force was. In those hard times we were fighting from before daylight to midnight. We were properly relieved for the first time on the Aisne, and enjoyed a five days' rest, under shell fire of course. We did not see our guns when we went into action, for they were firing over our heads. The small guns were just behind us, very cleverly hidden, but the great guns were miles behind. On the Aisne we had no big guns, but the French fortunately had some."
Private Bass has spent three months in hospital, but is a very long way from well yet.
Note: Sadly Private Fred Bass did not survive the war
|The Rushden Echo, 19th March 1915, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Fighting Value of Zeppelins
British Naval Captain - Has No Faith in Them
Interesting Letters to Rushden - “I Expect Another Year Of War”
Prepared For 15 Years’ Struggle
The following interesting letter has been received from Captain Alwyn G. Olliver, of H.M.S. Achevon, by Mr. W. Baines, of Wellingborough-road, Rushden, who kindly handed it to us for publication. After thanking Mr. Baines for a welcome present, the Captain writes:-
“With the other destroyers, we were off the German coast some time ago, first off the Ems and later off Heligoland, but missed a certain amount of sight seeing. The Germans created a diversion over our heads at lunch time by sending a Taube over us in harbour. I believe she dropped a bomb in a ploughed field, much to the delight of the newspapers! As a matter of fact she had a hot time of it from shore anti-aircraft guns, but continued undismayed and probably ascertained a rough estimate of ships in the vicinity. The ships that did go off Heligoland with our air-raiders saw two Zeppelins and five Taubes. The Zeppelins remained about three miles off and drew away further still when two of our ships went over to attack them. The Taubes hovered at a good height and dropped a lot of bombs but made no hits at all. We won a moral victory on…………., for we were within sight of German aircraft (which are in wireless communication with their ships) for eight hours and within 23 miles of their coasts, and no ships appeared.
“I do not put much faith in the fighting value of Zeppelins. At night they could drop things on a town, but couldn’t pick out and make accurate shooting at any important objects. By day I do not think they would venture near an aeroplane or anti-aircraft gun. In a sea fight where a ship is hotly engaged they might come up unnoticed and drop a few tons of T.N.T., in which case exit ship. But in a general action between two hotly engaged ships, the Zeppelins would forget which was their ship and could not well recognise them from above.
“I think the war is going very satisfactorily. I do not think that on land there will ever be a critical time in the West again. At sea we must expect a few losses, but coming one at a time with a long period in between does not shake us at all. Of course, these disasters are attended with regrettable loss of life. I’ve met a certain number of German naval officers in my time, and real good fellows they all were, too. All actions up-to-date have shown them to fight bravely to the last. Their gunnery may be good but on the two occasions I have seen it (August 16th 28th) it was providentially unsuccessful. Their submarines are amazingly and daringly ubiquitous, but I don’t think that the percentage of hits to torpedoes fired is at all good. We on this ship have seen only one submarine; it was sunk by the ‘Badger.’ Shortly after, a torpedo narrowly missed us but we did not see its ‘author.’
“The ships of the enemy I have seen during the war were four light cruisers, one destroyer, and one submarine. Of these, two light cruisers, the destroyer and the submarine were sunk. (We do not claim to have had a large part in sinking them, but were there and perhaps helped.) Beside these, I have seen about ten hostile ‘smokers.’ We were also present at the last bombardment of Zeebrugge dockyard.
“My own opinion is that, though the German troops have done things we should never do, they are not the ‘Huns’ that the papers make out. I find no fault with their navel war except the hideous bombardment of Scarborough and Whitby, which I think was as distasteful to the German navel officers as it would be to us. It was no doubt ordered by the German General Staff. The knocking down of Rheims Cathedral was no atrocity but a regrettable necessity. We have had to gaze Nieuport, Westende, etc., to the ground by shell fire but, of course, the papers do not mention that! As I have no news I have stuck down a few of my views. They are probably all wrong!”
In a letter sent to Miss Nellie Baines, the Captain says:-
“I am writing, rather tardily I am afraid on behalf of the men to whom your most welcome parcel was distributed, to thank you very much for your fine present and kind wishes for our welfare. They have asked me also to wish you every happiness, and I heartily join them. Besides the excellent contents of the parcel, it was very pleasant for us to think that it was a proof that people think of us. We had hoped to go smiling round Heligoland looking for Zeppelins or anything German that might appear, but could not. I am writing on the paper that Princess Mary presented to us (non-smoker I am myself) in a sort of pocket writing case, which also contained a packet of acid drops. Every man and officer on active service afloat got a present from princess Mary. The smokers got some cigarettes, etc., in a nice box. The weather is most unpleasant it is always blowing and raining. After the winter is over, things will be quite enjoyable. And nights (when men have to be kept constantly at or near the guns) are beginning to get shorter. I will try to get a picture post-card of this ship so that you will be able to see what we are like. As a matter of fact, we are not much like our photos taken in peace time. I hope that next Christmas will see peace, though I myself expect another year of war. We all look forward to peace but are quite prepared to ‘stick’ a 15 years’ war. There is no question of wearing out the Naval personnel. I must apologise for not writing before, but I’ve been on the sick list.”
|The Rushden Echo, 19th March 1915, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Rushden Soldier Says It Is Not All Honey - “Tons of Earth Fell into Our Dinner!”
Writing to thank the editor for sending a copy of “The Rushden Echo,” Private A. Smith (Rushden), of the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, says:- “At present things are very dull nothing doing. You simply go in the trenches for a couple of days, fire a few shots, and come out again for a few days rest. Of course, there is danger in going in and coming out, owing to the stray shots which come over the trenches; and, of course, while you are in the trenches you have a very unpleasant time, as the enemy send plenty of shells. For instance, the other day my chum and I were sitting by the side of the gun, just going to have some dinner, when a bomb from one of the German trench-mortars dropped just in front of the trench, throwing up tons of earth which filled up our dinner with mud. So you see it is not all honey, and there is still plenty of mud in the trenches.
|Rushden Echo, 19th March 1915, transcribed by Kay Collins
Rushden Soldier Quite Alive Through the Rushden Echo
German Soldiers Suffering From Starvation
Corpl. L Garrod (Rushden), of the Royal Fusiliers, sends us the following letter:-
“I now take the pleasure of writing just a few more lines to let you know how I am getting on in this terrible crisis. The weather is much about the samewet and cold. I might say my regiment has left the place we were at the last time I wrote: we have been to a much warmer corner.
“I saw one poor fellow in my section sitting down in the trench asleep. A bullet entered his head, and he never opened his eyes againhe died as he was sleeping. I am pleased to say I came out of it all right with the exception of being cold and covered in mud, but I am getting used to that: it will be much better for us when the weather gets warmer, then I think there will be a big battle, and that is the only way to finish this war, unless we can starve them out, which I think the enemy are beginning to feel. We hear of prisoners giving themselves up who are suffering from starvation. They tell us they do not like the trenchesthey with the war would come to an end, which I think won’t be long as the weather gets better.
“We have had a lot of artillery duels lately, and I think they have done considerable damage to the enemy. My regiment was occupying the trenches near and there was a terrible cannonade from the French guns. We heard that night the British had taken three trenches.
“Dear Mr Editor, through your valuable paper I have been able to find two fellows from Rushden which I should not have been able to do had it not been for the ‘Rushden Echo’. I am very much alive, having a good rest. We are having a few more day’s’ rest before we go to the trenches again. I now conclude, thanking you for your much-appreciated paper the ‘Rushden Echo’.”
|Rushden Echo, 19th March 1915, transcribed by Kay Collins
Shrapnel Shell Damage
A Rushden Will-o-The Wisp Motor Cycles “Going Fine”
Germans Bowled Over The Wonderful French People
Strange Escape of Crucifix
The following letter, received from Gunner Ray Robinson (Rushden), of the Battery Motor-cycle Machine Gun Service, has been handed to us for publication:-
“Pleased to say I am all right. We have been out here now for two months, and I have seen a good bit of the fighting, and have come through, so far, quite safely. The trenches are in a lovely state, I can tell you. There has been a good amount of rain, and we are up to our knees in mud and water, which is not very pleasant to stand in for long. We do 24 hours in the trenches and then we are relieved for 48 hours. Our billet is about four miles from the firing line and is very comfortable. Of course, we have not got spring beds, but it is comfortable as things go out here.
“Last week we were in a trench not above 40 yards from the Germans, and they made an attack, but we bowled them over a treat. The officer who led them fell shot when he got to the wire entanglements four yards from our trench. It is not very pleasant standing in a trench when an artillery duel is taking place. As they pass over us the shells scream like steam whistles.
“Fires are not allowed us in the trenches, because as soon as the Germans see the smoke they send us a few souvenirs in the shape of shells. They have lost some men up here just lately and they lie about all over the place. You cannot bury them, because as soon as one puts his head over the top of the trench the bullets whiz close to it. Our motor cycles are all going fineit is a knock-out, for the roads are simply awful.
In another letter sent home from the front, Gunner Robinson says:-
“Things are very much the same out herewe are still in and out of the trenches. We were going up the road to the trenches last Sunday night when a shrapnel shell burst right above us, wounding two of our chaps, one of them had a thumb blown off and the other was injured in the leg and face. Both are going on fairly well. We went in again on Monday and they were at it again. Shells dropped all round, but luckily for us they did not drop in our trenches. The French people are wonderful. They do not seem to mind a bit. They live in their houses only a mile from the firing line and don’t seem to mind the shells, though they fall all around them. Anyone would think to look at them that the war was the other side of the world.
“There is a place right up against the trenchwe call the shrine. It is a French chapel and there is a crucifix against it. Well, everything round it is riddled with bullets or knocked about by shells, but, strange to say, the crucifix has not been touched.
|Rushden Echo, 19th March 1915, transcribed by Kay Collins
Rushden Military Telegraphist - Keeping Open the Communications
Sapper F A Wills, of Rushden, who, on the outbreak of war, joined the 43rd Signal Company, Welsh Division, Royal Engineers, expects shortly to be called to the front, and has been spending a few days leave at home. His work will be that of a telegraphist. Before joining the Army he had been working at Northampton, prior to which he was employed at Rushden. He has undergone a good course of training, and has been stationed at .......
When he gets to the front he will be called upon to lay cables and keep open the communication between the headquarters of the General Staff and the divisional headquarters, and from there to the brigade headquarters. From the latter the messages are conveyed into the firing line by field telephones.
Sapper Wills and the rest of his company have been through a course of instruction in wireless telegraphy, and they have to be able to ride a horse, a cycle, or motor bicycle, and also to act as despatch rider in case they cannot get their communications through by ordinary means. A knowledge of map reading is also another necessary branch of their knowledge.
|Rushden Echo, 19th March 1915, transcribed by Kay Collins
Rushden Soldier says It is Not All Honey
‘Tons of Earth Fell into Our Dinner’
Writing to thank our editor for sending a copy of “The Rushden Echo,” Private A Smith (Rushden), of the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, says:- “At present things are very dullnothing doing. You simply go in the trenches for a couple of days, fire a few shots, and come out again for a few days’ rest. Of course, there is danger in going in and coming out, owing to the stray shots which come over the trenches, and of course, while you are in the trenches you have a very unpleasant time, as the enemy send plenty of shells. For instance, the other day my chum and I were sitting by the side of the gun, just going to have some dinner, when a bomb from one of the German trench-mortars dropped just in front of the trench, throwing up tons of earth which filled up our dinner with mud. So you see it is not all honey and there is still plenty of mud in the trenches.”
|The Rushden Echo, 26th March, 1915, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Worst Fighting On Record - Knocking Over Germans “A Treat.”
Rushden Gunner’s Interesting Letter - Sleeping With One Eye Open - Soon Be Over Now
We have received the following letter from Gunner Ray Robinson, who is with the Motor-Cycle Machine-Gun Corps. He says:-
“We have just done three days’ hard fighting in the trenches. We came out on Thursday night and rode back to the billets on our machines. It was about the worst ride I have had. We could not light our lamps, and the roads were all shell holes. My kit is simply coated with mud and it is almost impossible to get it off.
“We have given it to the Germans, I can tell you. It was the worst fighting I have been in. A regiment at the side of us charged and took some of the enemy’s trenches. Our job was to give them covering fire, so we were will in it. When our lads charged, the Germans stood up on their trench. That was our chance. We knocked them over with our guns a treat. With my gun alone I fired about 2,000 rounds and accounted for a few of them.
“We had a rather narrow shave when the artillery duel was taking place. A shell struck the parapet of our trench and knocked the sand bags down, but did not hurt anyone. Another one fell at the back of the trench but did not explode. Well, I am glad to say I came through all right. We are down in billets, but have to sleep in our full kit, as we might be wanted any minute. I think it will soon be over now. Things are beginning to move a bit. Do not worry if you do not hear from me for a bit, as I think we are moving away from here.”
|The Rushden Echo, 26th March 1915, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Kaiser William’s Bluff - Rushden Non-Com Officer
Prophesies a Rough Time for the Enemy
German Soldiers - Giving Themselves Up As Prisoners
A letter of much interest comes from Corpl. L. Garrod (Rushden). Writing to Mr. W. Baines, of Wellingborough-road, Rushden, he says:-
“Sorry I could not answer your letter before. The day after I received it we had orders to move to a different part in the firing line and I might tell you it’s a bit warm where we are now. I was out all last night and the German bullets were flying all round us. We would go a few paces, then we had to halt on account of the lights that the Germans fire into the air. I think they get a little nervous, thinking we are advancing on to them, which is almost impossible, as we are up to our knees in mud. One could not realise the state of the ground here only by being in it. It will be a blessing when it is all over, and I think that will not be long, as the weather gets better.
“It is very trying out here. As you know by the papers, we are losing a lot of men, but nothing near as many as the enemy. When we got to this place I saw some German prisoners who had given themselves up. There had been ten of them six got killed by their own men. The others got into our hands all right, and say they are pleased to be prisoners.
“The Kaiser has sent circulars round to different units, saying the British are at their last resources. Of course, we know that this is bluff for the purpose of giving his own army more courage. We have got plenty of men yet who are in training at home. Some of them may be young fellows, but I think they are equal to the enemy, who are made up of all classes, young and old.
“When the weather gets better you will hear that the Kaiser is in for a rough time, and I think it will soon be finished, especially if Lord Kitchener comes out here with his new army.
|The Rushden Echo, 26th March 1915, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Greatest Battle in History - “We Gained a Complete Victory”
Rushden Soldier at Neuve Chapelle - “Germans Lost over 10,000 Men”
“We Simply Mowed Them Down” - “The White Flag Trick Did Not Wash”
“I Have Lost All My Comrades” - “We Have Not Lost Our Spirit”
“I am writing this letter in the trenches,” says Pte. T. Steel (Rushden) in a message to his brother at Rushden. He says:-
“Just at present I am experiencing a change of being under shell fire by sitting beside a nice wood fire. We are just burning the top of a piano which I took from one of the ruined houses. I had a near go through sitting against a fire the other week. I had made a good roaring fire and was quite enjoying a warm, when all of a sudden an explosion took place and half the fire and fire bucket went up into the air. I had set the bucket on top of some ammunition; about ten rounds exploded at once, and the bullets and cases passed between my legs and past my head as I sat down but did not touch me. I was almost certain that it was a German shell that had burst in our trench. I was half asleep at the time. I had to have a feel round to see if I was all sound.
“We have since made a nice little fire grate in the bank of our trench; it is a proper King Alfred fire grate. The only drawback is that the Germans have got into the habit of shelling the smoke from the fire not that we mind that so much, but they always seem to know when we have got the tea brewing and down comes the dirt into the tea.
“The Germans did us a good turn the other day. It happened that we had run short of wood and just behind our trench is a row of willow trees. I was about to go and saw down one of these trees when a shell came over and fetched the tree, not down, but up by the roots, and we were well supplied with firewood for about three days without the labour of sawing it and packing it about. The trees are only a matter of two yards away from the trench, and some places not so much as that, so it is just a little too close to be comfortable.”
In another letter he says:-
“I have just come out of hospital after being slightly wounded. I stopped one under the chin while taking part in the greatest battle in history. I am sorry to say we have lost all our officers but one, and we have only……left in the Battalion. It was a sight that I shall never forget as long as I live. I have lost all my comrades whom I have known for years. The way they fought was glorious and it will live for ever in history. Our regiment fought to a man until we had gained a complete victory. The battle commenced at 7.30 a.m. on March 10, and the fighting was very fierce for four days and nights. The Germans lost their positions and over 10,000 men. They made several counter-attacks but we simply mowed them down. They tried the white flag trick but it did not wash with us.
“I am sorry to say that “Dadda” Field and his brother (both of Rushden) were killed. The youngest one of the two was killed in the charge. The elder one Horace Field we are not quite sure about. Some say he was killed and others say he was only wounded, but I am afraid there is little hope. He lay next to me at the time I was wounded. He was quite all right then but there was some very severe fighting afterwards, and it is impossible to say if he managed to get away.
“The Germans lost over 10,000 men it was like playing nine-pins the way they were knocked over. Lance. Corp; Gibbs, of Rushden, and Pte. Underwood are missing. Pte. Underwood was wounded, but I think he got away safely. When we are advancing we are not able to attend to the wounded the same as we can in the trenches. But the R.A.M.C. followed us up and took all the wounded they found on the battlefield, so you must take it for granted that the above mentioned are all killed. The younger Field of the two was killed outright, so I am told.
“Our battalion suffered very heavily only one officer and very few men left, but the General said to the few that remained : I am proud of you; you fought like lions. I knew you would!’ He also said: Yes and the Germans will have cause to remember you.’
“Our Commanding Officer was a hero. He led us in the charge with map in hand. He was badly wounded afterwards. The Scottish Rifles lost all their officers and a large number of men. With all our losses we gained a complete victory. The German losses were enormous. I have lost all my pals and that makes me feel a bit cut up. We have not lost our spirit, and our duty will be nobly done by the few of us that are left. I cannot say if Percy or Fred (his brothers) took part in this battle or not. I don’t think it affected their divisions. Do you remember me telling you we were the boys who could do it? We have proved it. It is the greatest advance made by the British since the trench warfare started. If you see Mrs. Field kindly give her my deepest sympathies. Her sons fought like true Britishers to the last.”
|The Rushden Echo, 26th March 1915, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Rushden Victim of Treachery - Germans Use The White Flag - “They Bowled us Over”
“Cowards When You Get Near Them” - German Trenches Piled with Dead
Mr. and Mrs. Charles Hodson, of Rushden, who have four soldier sons, two of whom are in France, have received news that one, viz., Pte. E. Hodson, has been the victim of German treachery, and he is now in No. 5 General Hospital at Rouen, where he was taken after being wounded. Prior to the war, Pte. E. Hodson was for four years in Canada and was called up as a reservist at the beginning of the war. He arrived in England in September, and after 48 hours' leave with his parents, proceeded to the depot of his regiment (2nd Beds). He was in training until about the end of October, when he was sent to the front. Writing to his mother from Rouen, under date March 16th, he says:-
“I am sorry to say that I have been slightly wounded in the head, but it is getting along nicely. This is another bit of German treachery. They raised the white flag and a party of us went to fetch them in, when they bowled us all over. Then our company charged them and when our men got near them they threw down their rifles and surrendered. They are cowards when you get near them. They cannot face the British bayonets. Our company captured 70 in that charge, that is pretty good for one company, isn’t it. This is ‘some’ battle, the German trenches piled with dead. There are thousands killed and wounded on both sides. It is not war, it is proper murder. I’ve never seen such sights in my life and I hope I never shall again. This is the greatest battle the british have had yet. It was great to see our boys charge. They went into it with pipes and fags in their mouths and laughing but there were not many came out of it. I don’t suppose there are many of our battalion left by this time. The 2nd Northants were near our regiment. I saw two of their companies cut up in a charge. Are we down-hearted? NO!!!!”
Mr. and Mrs. Hodson’s three other soldier sons are Privates B. Hodson (1st Northants) who is at the front, Fredk. W. Hodson, of the Canadian Contingent (now in Canada), and Leonard Hodson (Northants Territorials), stationed at Peterborough.
|The Rushden Echo, 2nd April 1915, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Rushden Soldier in a Trap - Few of His Comrades Escape
“Vaccinating” the Germans - Boring Holes in the “Blighters”
How Pte. F. Munday Was Wounded - War Will Last a Long Time
Pte. F. Munday (Rushden), of the Bedfordshire Regt., who is in the V.A.D. hospital at Higham Ferrers, having received a wound at Ypres, was interviewed by a representative of the “Rushden Echo” this week. Pte. Munday said:-
“I went to the front with my regiment at the latter end of August and proceeded straight to the firing line at the Aisne. The Liverpools, Cheshires, and Seaforths were hotly engaged when we arrived, and we went straight to the trenches to join them. A friend of mine named Pte. Dickenson, of Peterborough, was shot dead at my side as soon as we got into the firing line, and this incident was not calculated to inspire confidence in me, on this my first experience under fire.
“In addition to a hot rifle fire, the enemy were dropping shrapnel into us pretty thick, but nevertheless I got to work with my rifle and did my best to account for a few of them. My friend who was killed was only 23 years of age, and had been in the Army about five years. He joined the regiment about the same time as I did, and I felt his loss very keenly.
“At the point where I was stationed on the Aisne the Germans were only about 200 yards distant, and we could distinctly hear them shouting and singing. However, we didn’t see much of them as they kept well under cover, so that there was no need for us to fire many rounds at this spot. I was in the trenches here for about seven days, and then my regiment were removed to Ypres, and here we got into the thick of the fight for about ten days. Things were pretty hot here, and the enemy’s shell fire was terrific, my regiment suffering to the extent of some 300 men, including officers.
"On the third day there we got the order to fix bayonets and charge, and our chaps got at it with a will. If shouting could have frightened the Germans they would have recognised that we meant business, as our chaps, as they rushed forward, yelled like blazes. The enemy stood their ground until we got up to 'em, as apparently they didn't expect us, but they couldn't stand the steel for long, and soon turned and bolted, with us after them.
“I accounted for two of 'em. The first one was a big chap. I fired at him first and as he threw up his hands I ran my bayonet through his chest, and down he went. It was a near thing for me with this fellow, as when I fired at him he was rushing at me, and it is lucky for me that I had a cartridge in my rifle as it was the last one left in the magazine. About two minutes after, I landed another chap, and this one I stuck through the throat. This was the last chance I had to use my bayonet at this point, as by this time the enemy were skedaddling for all they were worth, and we fell back into our trenches, well satisfied with this bit of work.
“After about a week more in the trenches at Ypres we shifted to La Bassee. Here my regiment had a narrow shave. It was on Oct. 25th. The Gurkhas were occupying trenches immediately on our right and were charged by the enemy. This was their first experience of battle, and evidently their nerves were not equal to the strain as they abandoned their trenches, and it fell to us to retake them, and in the carrying out of this task we lost a tremendous lot of men. After the engagement we had only one officer left out of six, and we lost about 190 men out of our original strength of 800.
"Shortly after this we were relieved by the Manchesters and had just settled down comfortably in our billets when we were again called out. This was at night-time, and we were marched in quite a different direction, and none of us knew where we were going. However, after we had proceeded about five miles we were ordered to dig ourselves in, and this we did, but when the morning broke the enemy got our range, and made things so hot that we found it impossible to stay where we were, or not one of us would have been alive to tell the tale.
“We then got the order to advance, and proceeded across ploughed fields, again being ignorant of where we were going. Bullets were flying across these fields pretty thickly, but we were told that these were only stray shots and were ordered to keep advancing. My pals were falling all round me, but it would have been certain death to stay behind to attend to them, so we were obliged to leave them where they fell. We continued our advance according to our orders, crawling along a ditch in which there were dozens of wounded and dead French and Indian soldiers. As these poor chaps could not speak English they could not tell us of the danger into which we were running, and all of a sudden we found that we were right on top of the German trenches and badly trapped. I am very sorry to say that very few of us got out of this situation alive. A few were taken prisoner, but the greater number got killed. We found ourselves penned in, and there was no way of getting out except by fighting our way through. We fixed bayonets and charged the Germans who had got behind and managed to break their line, but out of my platoon only about 35 came through alive, and I shudder to think of what became of the rest of my comrades.
"After this terrible experience, during which I had given myself up as lost, we managed to reach Bethune, where we were allowed a well-earned night's rest. We then again proceeded to Ypres, and during an interval of eight days, before I received my wound, I again participated in a couple of bayonet charges, but on both of these occasions I never got near enough to do any "pig-sticking," as the German swine would not wait for the steel but bolted. They bleat like a flock of sheep. Although I couldn't get close enough to "vaccinate" any of 'em, I managed to bore a few holes in several of the blighters.
“On November 7th the Germans, having received reinforcement, came at us in their thousands, and it would have been sheer suicide for us to attempt to hold the line. They managed to drive the whole of the 5th Division out. We were running through a wood, and as the enemy had got our range and were dropping shells thickly amongst us I darted off to the right, but I must have got too far away from my comrades, as a German who was hiding behind a bush not a yard away suddenly startled me by letting out a terrific yell. I was just getting my rifle off my shoulder to pop him off, when he lunged at me with his rifle and let fly, catching me in the fore-arm. The muzzle of his rifle was actually touching my arm when he fired, so that the wound was all blackened by the explosion. However, I have the satisfaction of knowing that was the last shot he fired, as no sooner had he plugged me, than I clubbed my rifle and bashed him on the head with the butt, and as he fell I put a couple of bullets through him to make sure.
“I proceeded to a field hospital and had my wound dressed, and then walked on to Ypres town, about three miles distant.
“After an awful night’s agony I was put on the hospital train and taken to Boulogne. After half-a-day at Boulogne I embarked on a hospital ship and was brought to Chatham, and three days later I was removed to Tunbridge Wells, where I remained 19 weeks before being transferred to Higham Ferrers. It was entirely due to luck that I was sent so near my home and parents, and I was very excited when I knew I was being sent to Higham Ferrers.”
Pte. Munday has no doubt about the final victory of the Allies, but considers that the war will last a long time, as the Germans have had an opportunity of entrenching in preparation for retreat.
|The Rushden Echo, April 2nd 1915, transcribed by Kay Collins
Rushden Lancer Disabled Within 15 Yards of the German Trenches
Compact regarding the Use of Hand Grenades
The British Do Very Little Sniping
Five days and night in the trenches at a stretch, with water almost up to the thighs at times, has been the experience of Lance-Corpl. Sidney Knight (Rushden), of the 5th Lancers. He is now at home on leave of absence, after being in hospital with frost-bitten feet. Although very reticent regarding himself, he very readily consented to recount to a "Rushden Echo" representative some of the things he had witnessed. His division has for the past four months been principally engaged in holding the line between Ypres and La Basse.
This is the second time that Lance-Corpl. Knight has been put out of action, having been wounded in the knee by shrapnel in October. He went out to France in August, and has, with the exception of two spells in hospital, been through all the fighting. "As I told you some of the things I have seen you would not believe me," he said, in response to a question, "and I would prefer not to talk about them."
Of the German soldier, Lance-Corpl. Knight has had cause to alter his opinion.
"When we were going out there," he said, "our chaps thought that we were more than a match for them, but I know, that without the French to help us, we should have been in a rather poor way. Those that I have met have been good fighters. Of course, they are drilled to fight shoulder to shoulder, but even then it takes some courage to keep advancing when your comrades in front are being mown down. When they are separated, however, and have little chance of getting together again, they will surrender readily enough. We have been up against some of the crack German regiments, including the Prussian Guards, and we found that they could fight. It has been said that they are poor marksmen, but I don't think so.
"As regards the Belgian and French soldiers, they, too, are good fighters. From my own experience, I think that the Belgians are the better of the two. The worst part about trench fighting, and the time when most of the casualties happen, is when you are retiring from the trench or relieving others.
"You ask how near we have been to the enemyyou will perhaps hardly credit me. Thirty yards? Yes, and less than half of thirty! We took their advance trench and they occupied the one immediately to the rear not 15 yards away. It is really safer in the advanced trenches than in the reserve, for they cannot shell you there for fear of hitting their own men. While in this trench the Germans threw over a note to say that they would not throw any hand grenades if we did not. We replied that for every one they threw we should throw three. The result was that none were thrown on either side.
"German snipers are very clever in taking cover. I have never seen one myself, although I have had cause to know of their presence. One of our officers was killed by themhe was the last officer in our squadron. We do very little sniping on our side. As regards the artillery, the French gunners, with whom we have been associated for the last three months, are fine. Their '75s' are a masterpiece! The enemy's ammunition is said to have become inferior and more sparingly used, but the last time I was in the trenches it was as hot as ever. We have lost very few men by shrapnel in our division, however.
"Their aeroplanes did not trouble us much, although I have seen plenty, but they are not so numerous now by far. I saw a German brought down by a British and a French airman. I took part in one or two bayonet charges, one of which, however, proved unsuccessful, there being too many of the enemy, and we had to retire again. We lost very few mentwo wounded, I think. Two chaps got the Victoria Cross on the occasion that the Germans blew up our trench. They had the machine gun mounted on the top of the trench and they stayed there and continued to pour forth death at about twelve yards' range."
Lance-Corpl. Knight made reference to the absence of cavalry in the present operations. Since this trench warfare has been in progress there has been no opportunity for the mounted men. Consequently they have had to take up the role of infantrymen, a change not altogether appreciated.
"Some of our chaps," he continued, "quite expect that by and by there will be a general advance. For my own part, I rather doubt it. At the place where we werenear Ypresour trench was at the top of a slope, and we could see no fewer than six rows of trenches, one behind the other, and when driven from one trench they just retire to the next. It is possible, of course, that events at other parts of the line may make their position untenable.
"The Germans are not in such a bad way as you might suppose. Of the ultimate issue I have no doubt - we shall win, but to my mind the war will last over another Christmas. You must remember that Germany was not unprepared. She has for years been a warlike nation, and you may depend upon it they have large stores of material which will last them for some time. The end may ultimately come, however, through starvation or lack of ammunition."
|The Rushden Echo, 16th April, 1915, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Rushden Soldier and Germans
Conflabs Across The Trenches - Better than Rushden Palace
The Saxons say they are “Fed up”
No Strikes in England in Such a Time as This
Lance-corpl. J. Souter (Rushden), of the Royal Fusiliers, writing to his brother, Mr. E. Souter, at Rushden, from the front, says:-
“I am in the trenches again. This is the seventh day, and we don’t know when we are going out, so I thought I would just drop a line straight away. I am glad you saw some of the 3rd Battalion Royal Fusiliers (in the V.A.D. Hospital) at Higham Ferrers. I hope they are getting on all right. They never stopped here long, did they? What did they think of this lot out here? Not much, I bet. They all know me in the Royals; some of the boys used to give me half-a-dollar a goal. (Lance-corporal Souter played football for the Royal Fusiliers when at the depot). I am sitting in the old dug-out writing this. I am all right up to now.
“We don’t get much sleep at night and I have just got out of my blanket, and it’s Good Friday afternoon. You ought to be here at night and hear the boys talking to the **********[Censored Editor, “R.E.”] things over the other side. We are only a short distance apart, and some of them speak good English. They shout “Are you the Royal Fusiliers?” and our chaps say “Yes, who are you?” They reply “We are Saxons,” and that’s how they go on all night. Talk about being at the Picture Palace. But we keep our old doing’s down a bit. They say they are fed up. I feel in the pink, and I should like to come home like I feel now. We are having some grand weather, nice frosty nights and very warm in the day. I think the war will finish where we are now. They will never get through again.
“I had the ‘Rushden Echo’ come, and I know a few of the lads who have gone under. You remember what I said, that the Germans couldn’t shoot when I came out here. Nearly all the men we have lost have been shot through the head, and we have lost a lot. The 3rd Battalion soon lost Colonel Du Maurier. He was a fine chap. I was his Cape cart driver in South Africa. I don’t think the people ought to strike at work in England at such times as these.”
In a letter to his sister, Mrs. Horace Bland, he says:-
“Just a few lines in answer to your letter which I received quite safe last night with the copies of the ‘Rushden Echo.’ I was wondering where last week’s ‘Rushden Echo’ had gone to and I was glad the two came together. I am still in the trenches. We lost two of our chaps last night. Don’t worry about me, I shall be all right till I stop one, but I am fine up to now; in fact, I never felt better. We are having frosty nights and it’s nice and warm in the daytime. Please remember me to all the neighbours and tell them I am all right.
“I am sitting outside my dug-out in the sun, and I couldn’t half go a bottle of Phipps’s. This is the 1st April. I came home seven years ago this morning from South Africa. I think there is something coming off to-night. I was up all last night and I had a talk with the Germans. I think they are about fed up. Some of them talk good English. We are both in the same farm. That last fight was on our right. I see that the old Northamptons caught it again. That Millard who was killed enlisted with me. I know a few of the photos in the ‘Rushden Echo.”
|The Rushden Echo Friday 16 April 1915, transcribed by Nicky Bates
Always Merry and Bright - Rushden Soldier's Coming of Age in the Trenches - Germans 'Keep Us Alive' - 'Just what We Want' - 'It is Quite a Holiday'
Pte F A Dickens (Rushden), of the 3rd Battalion Coldstream Guards, son of Mr and Mrs Harry Dickens of Rushden, enlisted in September last, and proceeding to the front in March, is now doing his bit for his King and country. He fought in the battle of Neuve Chapelle, and in letters to his parents gives some interesting particulars of his experiences.
He writes:- "Just to remind you that I shall be spending my 21st birthday in the trenches. I didn't think I should be here twelve months ago, but there you are, I am here and I must make the best of it. We had it a bit rough last night. We were only 60 yards from the Germans, and the bullets came buzzing just over the top of us. 'Plunk' they go. Talk about sport, we kept plunking the Germans back, and they kept singing and playing instruments, rattling tin cans, etc, so you can be sure they 'keep us alive', and that's just what we want them to do! Ah well! Such is life. I am happy enough here."
Pte Dickens' mother sent him a good parcel for his 21st birthday, which was on April 9th.
In another letter home he says:- "There is plenty of sport here, you can't be downhearted. I had a good laugh when I got to France. Our chaps were trying to talk French. You ought to have heard them. Talk about laugh! I thoroughly enjoy it here. I have never enjoyed myself so much in my life. It's quite a holiday."
Later he writes:- "I am glad to say that I have come out of the trenches all right this shift, although I had it a bit rough, I was plastered with mud from head to foot. I can tell you I looked a picture, but we were all 'merry and bright'. We have had a lot of wet here last week, but I think it is clearing up a bit better now. We are looking forward for the summer to come, as it will be more convenient for us. I expect we shall start to 'buzz' a bit then. I have sent a letter to the "Rushden Echo" office."
In still another letter Private Dickens says:- "I have had another experience of the trenches, but I must say that nearly all the time it was raining, but that didn't make much difference. I was in the front firing line for 24 hours, about 300 or 400 yards from the German trenches, and then in the reserve trench for another 24 hours. We have 48 hours in and 48 hours out, so it isn't so bad. I saw a few dead Germans hanging on some barbed wire entanglements. It was a bit quiet during the daytime but they make up for it at night and just at the break of day. The bullets don't half buzz just over the top of the trench. I felt a bit nervous for a start but I soon got out of that. To hear the shells whistling through the air is great. Talk about war time! I saw our fellows fetch a German aeroplane down two days ago. It's a bit exciting here, I can tell you, for a start, but I shall get broken in before it ends. I have had a little experience at filling trenches in that the Germans had made and which our chaps had captured. We have to do that at night, though while we were doing it the bullets were whistling all around us, and the Germans kept shooting flash lights up that lit all over the field, but when we heard their shells coming we had to drop down flat. Talk about sport! You can't be downhearted to hear what bits they say. Talk about laugh!"
Private Dickens says in another letter that he hopes to have a good 'flare up' when he returns.
Note: For more of his letters see Pte F A Dickens' page
The Rushden Echo Friday 16 April 1915, transcribed by Nicky Bates
Thrilling Story of Hill 60 - Sixteen Tonnes of Dynamite - Arms and Bodies Shot into the Air
A Rushden "Will-o-the-Wisp" - Gunner Tom Clark's Narrow Escape
Yesterday (Thursday) Mr and Mrs Charles Clark, of Irchester-road, Rushden, received from their son, Gunner Tom Clark, of the 4th Battery Motor Machine Gun Service, with the British Expeditionary Force, the following thrilling letter.
"At last we have been in action and now, after three days in the trenches, I am back in my hayloft, sound and fit for a few days' rest before going up again.
"The British were to capture some important trenches, and we took up our position ten minutes before the attack began. Suddenly, a hill called No. 60, occupied by Germans about 50 yards from us, was blown up by 16 tonnes of dynamite. It was a terrible sight, arms, bodies and rifles shot up into the air, and our gun pit swayed to and fro.
"Our lads then made a great bayonet charge and took the trenches, and an hour afterwards the Germans made a counter attack, and that is where we came in. Directly the Germans left the trenches we opened fire, and as an officer told our captain, literally mowed them down like corn.
"At the time the shell fire was hellish. Shrieking shrapnels were bursting all around us, and three times in succession my gun was knocked off the parapet, but I escaped unhurt. At last a big shell hit the top of the trench, and with a roar in came the side of the trench, burying me and a pal, but once more we scrambled out unhurt, although four of our fellows were wounded, and out of action.
"Well, I can't tell you much more about it, but it is sufficient to say that our battery, the first time in action, is to be mentioned in dispatches.
"Received the eggs and cakes quite safely."
Gunner Clark, who is 19 years of age, enlisted last September in the Royal Field Artillery with Corporal Don Patenall, and he was sent to Kildare in Ireland. There he was selected for the Motor Machine Gun Service, and has been "somewhere in France" for about a couple of months.
Private Charles Harold Clark, his elder brother, who had done three years in the Yeomanry, enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery about a month ago and is now in training.
Gunner Tom Clark, in a previous letter from the front, says:- "I am writing this letter whilst sitting under a hedge about 2000 yards from the German trenches, which through the glasses one can see quite plainly. For the last week we have been just behind the firing line, on the look-out for German aeroplanes, and, although, we have not fetched one down, we have turned several back, and prevented them from taking observations.
The last day or two, shells have been whistling over us all day long, and yesterday one dropped about 100 yards away, and 'didn't the muck fly?'
"The other day we had been digging gun-pits, and an hour after we left for home a shell struck the trench which we had been digging, killing seven and wounding 20 of the Warwicks.
"Thanks for the paper. I see that several Rushden lads have gone under recently."
"At 3.15 a.m. Wednesday morning two shells were dropped onto the town where we are billeted, but only wounded two men. The Germans have just now commenced to shell the road a little to our right, and it is the road we have to go back along and the shells are whirring like a flock of ducks flying.
"But I shall have to conclude now, for bread and bully beef has just been shouted, so good-bye.
"P.S. Just as I was finishing this letter a big shell dropped about 150 yards away and dissolved a cottage - only one wall left".
|The Rushden Echo, April 16th 1915, transcribed by Kay Collins
Soldier’s Merry Mood ‘A Trip to Berlin!’ which has Not Yet Come Off
Amusing letter from The Front sent to Rushden People
‘Enemies with Six Legs!’ ‘Every Soldier Has ’Em’
The following amusing and interesting letter has been received from the friend of a Rushden soldier at the front. The two are great friends in the trenches. He writes:-
“You ought to see us; we are as happy as larks together. We have made all arrangements about where we are going to spend our holidays when this dear little war is over. If it is winter, I am coming to Rushden; if it is summer --- is coming with me for a week or two on the Norfolk Broads, where we can have a fine old time. We have not thought of coming to any harm in this war, although it is hot for us sometimes. The only time we take any notice is when the shells burst within a few yards of us and blind us with muck for a few minutes. Then we just smile and say ‘It’s getting warm ---’. He replies ‘Yes, that it is, Bertie. I wonder where the next one is coming.’ But that doesn’t last very long. They know they cannot hurt us. As soon as it is over he will say to me, or I say to him ‘Give me a fag and let’s have another light up-it’s all over now’. And then we go on arranging about our holidays again.
“We live A1 out here. We get 1lb. tins of jam. The other day we had one tin each, so we changed. He gave me his tin of plum and apple jam for my tin of apple and plum jam, so you see it was a nice change for us.
“I am sending you a few postcards. Don’t you think the girls are lovely? But --- says there is not a girl in France as nice as the one he knows at home.
“We have some fine sport after we come out of the trenches. We go hunting with the candle for little things with six legs. I hold the candle sometimes, and if you could see us you would laugh till your feet ached. If we had killed as many Germans as we have these enemies, the war would have been over long ago. There is not a soldier in the British Army without them. Do not worry about us; we are two nice boys. We hope to be home soon and start on our holidays, and then you will see the dust fly.”
In another letter the same writer says:-
“We have had a rough time lately but have got through that little lot all right and hope we shall get through it all. We are getting much better weather now and that is what we want. If it is fine next Sunday afternoon we thought of having a walk over to see you but --- say he thinks we should not get across that water dyke. If we could we would soon be there. It is his birthday next Thursday he tells me. Mine was last Wednesday and I shall never forget it. We could not hear ourselves speak all day for the sound of the guns. His gun broke down and that caused him to say what he would never think of saying to his girl. You know we are all experts, so he soon got it going again. We have not done much hunting lately as there has not been much game about. I think we are doing all right. We have to send two cars now instead of one as --- has so many parcels that one car cannot carry them Still we say, Let ’em all come, as I get a taste of them as well as he. What’s mine is his, and what’s his is mine, so you see we carry on all right. We are shut up here like being in a prison. I thought we were going to have a nice trip to Berlin as we got an order to pack up and go at once. But we have not gone yet. Best respects to your father and mother. Tel them they will see a happy pair come rolling home if we can get through this little lot. Tell ---‘s girl that I am looking after him and keeping him A1.
|The Rushden Echo, 16th April, 1915, transcribed by Jim Hollis
The Treacherous Germans
Northants Regiment Suffers Heavily from The White Flag Business
Rushden Man Wounded at Neuve Chapelle - Hit by British Shrapnel
The Ground Strewn With Dead and Dying
Pte. Cornelius Walker (Rushden), of the 2nd Northants Regt., who is home on 24 days’ leave, having received a shrapnel wound in the face at Neuve Chapelle, favoured a “Rushden Echo” representative with some interesting details of his experiences. He said:-
“Before proceeding to the front with my regiment I had served eight months in Egypt and twelve months in Malta. We were in Egypt when we received mobilisation orders on August 6th, and this caused no end of excitement amongst the men, as this was the first news we had received that England had declared war against Germany. We landed in England about the first week in October, and all of us who applied for it were granted 48 hours’ leave to visit our respective homes, and we were all glad of this opportunity to visit our friends and relatives, as of course, we didn’t know what was in store for us.
“We sailed from England for the front on Guy Fawkes Day, but we didn’t get our first taste of a fireworks display until about ten days later. We landed at Le Havre, and after about three days there, we were packed into cattle trucks and did a journey occupying two nights and a day to Merville, where we were put into billets for three days. This was about ten or twelve miles from the firing line, and although we could hear the big guns quite plainly, there was no actual fighting taking place at that spot, though signs were not lacking that there had been a scrap at that point, as the village of Merville was literally smashed to pieces. The house in which I was billeted, with four of my comrades, was perforated everywhere with holes made by shrapnel. The windows were smashed and a great deal of furniture had been reduced to matchwood.
“It was on a Sunday afternoon that we received orders to advance to the firing line, and the 12 miles march took us from three to four hours. We expected to be put into the reserve trenches, but found that we were in the firing line with the Germans not more than 80 yards from us.
“Our first night in the trenches was comparatively quiet, as nothing was going on except sniping, but on the next day the Germans sent us our first taste of shrapnel, and we had a few casualties. Our second night in the trenches was more exciting, as we received word that the Germans were advancing, and we at once commenced a rapid fire, although we couldn’t see or hear the enemy, and we shouldn’t have known he was there except for the whistle of the bullets he was sending over our heads. It was on this night that I saw the first of my comrades killed. The Germans must have enfiladed our position, as the bullet which killed him seemed to come along the trench. It whistled past my head and struck my comrade (Pte. Manley), who was four or five yards from me on my right, between the eyes, and he fell without a murmur. I and another pal were ordered to bury him, and this we did about 15 minutes after he was killed.
“It was not until the great battle of Neuve Chapelle that I really realised what it meant to be in action, as during the winter months we had had nothing but work in the trenches, and although this was bad enough, considering that we were up to the knees in mud and water and constantly wet through, it was nothing to be compared with the awful experience through which we passed when we commenced our attack on the German positions at Neuve Chapelle at 7 a.m. on March 10th.
“For a start our artillery poured a perfect hail of shells into the German lines, about 350 guns keeping up a continuous fire for quite an hour. The noise simply deafened us, and it looked as if the whole world was ablaze. The Germans did not return the fire, at any rate so far as shells were concerned, but a few bullets passed over our reserve trenches, where I was stationed with my regiment. It was about 8 o’clock in the morning of March 10th that we got the order to advance to the firing line, the front line of trenches having been vacated by the Middlesex Regiment, which had captured the first line of German trenches and taken perhaps 100 prisoners. We immediately set to work to dig a communication trench from our firing line to the position we had taken from the Germans. After we had completed this work, we were again sent back to the reserve trenches and were given three or four hours’ rest. At dusk we got the order to advance, and my company was in the second line. It was now that my regiment began to sustain severe losses as we were advancing across open ground. The Germans met us with a terrific rifle fire, and I am sorry to say my comrades were falling all around me, but we continued our advance until we got within 100 years of the German first line of defences. Here we dug ourselves in for the night. Rifle firing continued all the night, and at 8 o’clock the following morning our artillery started letting fly into the Germans again. On this occasion the enemy returned the fire, the scream of the shells continuing all day long. The artillery and rifle fire was too hot for it to be safe to leave the trenches, and we were firing our rifles all day without a minute’s cessation.
It was on this day that Pte. Gibbs, of Rushden, was killed. He was only about ten yards from me when he met his death, but I didn’t see this take place, although I was afterwards told that he was shot straight through the head.
“It was about 10 o’clock in the morning, as near as I can say, that I received my wound. I was lying back in the trench, having a rest after my breakfast, when one of our own shells fell short and burst in the air in front of me. I saw it burst and next felt a stinging pain in my left cheek just below the temple. It made me holler, I can tell you. Four of us who lay together were all struck at the same time. A lieutenant received three shrapnel bullets in his leg, a corporal received a graze on the forehead, and a private was struck in the knee. The corporal managed to crawl away, but the rust of us lay where we fell until dusk, temporary bandages having been applied by comrades in the meantime. As soon as it was dusk I managed to walk to the field hospital, but they were so full up with bad cases that I was ordered to proceed to the hospital at a place called Estaires, about eight miles away.
“After my wound had been dressed and I had been given some food, I was put on a special train and taken to Boulogne, where I remained a day only, and embarked for Dover the same evening. I arrived at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, London, two days after I had received my wound, and here the bullet was extracted. It wasn’t until I was in the hospital that I heard we had taken Neuve Chapelle, and I must say that I felt a little disappointed that I wasn’t in at the death, although I wasn’t sorry to get out of the scrapping, I can give you my word.
“Our losses up to the time I left must have been enormous, as I saw with my own eyes the ground literally strewn with dead and dying, and it is a sight I shall never forget as long as I live.”
Pte. Walker has no doubt about the ultimate victory of the Allies, but says that we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that we are fighting a modern enemy, as well equipped and as clever as we are. It is silliness to say the Germans are cowards, he says, as they have given endless examples of bravery, and it is idle to say that they cannot shoot. He further says it is stupid to under-estimate the strength of the enemy, and plenty more young men will be required yet before the knock-out blow is given to the Germans. Whilst admitting the bravery of the enemy, however, Pte. Walker says they are a treacherous foe, and they have done things that a black man would not do.
Pte. Walker still has a piece of shrapnel embedded in his skull, but suffers no inconvenience from it. The doctors expect that it will work out.
He confirms the report of a voluntary truce on Christmas Day. There was no firing for 24 hours, and some of his comrades met the Germans half-way between the trenches and exchanged gifts with the enemy. The British gave the Germans cigarettes for cigars. He personally didn’t take the risk of going across to the German trenches, as one of the 2nd Northants officers, Capt. Watts, was shot on that day, although this might perhaps have been due to an accident, but Pte. Walker thinks that the Germans are not to be trusted at any time. No notice is now taken of the white flag, he says, as the 1st Battalion, Northants Regt., have suffered too heavily by that dodge. Pte. Walker regularly received the “Rushden Echo” whilst he was at the front, and used to pass it on to all the Rushden chaps in his platoon. They were pleased to read the Rushden news, he says.
|The Rushden Echo, 23rd April, 1915, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Not Afraid of Hell Now - Cannot Be Worse Than This War Rushden Soldier Wounded In The Arm
The Road of Death - Kaiser Means Damage in Belgium and France
But Will Back Out When The Allies Reach Germany
“I have said many times lately that I shall not be afraid to go to hell when I die, for it cannot be worse than this war, and many of my chums have said the same.” Half-humorously, half-seriously, and altogether vividly, Pte. Fred Richardson (Rushden), of the 2nd Leicesters, showed in this way what he thought of the present war. Interviewed by a “Rushden Echo” representative, Pte. Richardson, who is the son of Mr. and Mrs. George Richardson, of Rushden, and who was wounded at Neuve Chapelle on March 10th, said that the South African campaign was a picnic compared with this war. Next June he will have completed 20 years in the Army. He spent six years in South Africa and went through the long campaign there - 2½ years in duration without a casualty. He went through the Siege of Ladysmith, and from South Africa was sent to India.
“I saw more at Neuve Chapelle on March 10,” he said, “than I saw in the whole of the South African War with the exception of Ladysmith. I went to the front on January 4th last. The worst drawback in January and February was the wet state of the trenches. Now the trenches are better. We used to have five or six days in the trenches and then the same period out for a rest, but on ‘rest’ days we should be sent out at night trench-digging, barricading, and other work. It was simply a rest from the trenches. The food and clothing in the trenches were good; the sanitation was fair; and we had no epidemics of fever, etc., as we had in South Africa. The present war has certainly been managed much better than the South African campaign.
Pte Fred Richardson
“On January 26th we were attacked by the Germans, but after about seven hours’ fighting the enemy were beaten back. On March 10th I was in the first attack at 7.30 a.m. at Neuve Chapelle. Our artillery shelled the German trenches for 35 minutes. I was in the first firing trench. Our orders were that after the artillery had been shelling for 35 minutes, the infantry should attack the first German trench. That trench was taken and also two more. After we had taken the third trench I was wounded. A bullet caught me just at the back of the right elbow and came out underneath the muscle. Two or three hours previously I had a shrapnel wound in the leg, but it was only a flesh wound, and I kept on with the attack. But the bullet wound put me out of action, and I walked to the first-aid post, got the arm dressed, and was afterwards forwarded to Boulogne, where I stayed for the night. The next day I came to Dover, and I arrived at Northampton Hospital at 6.10 on Friday night, March 12th. Now I am getting on well and I expect soon to rejoin my regiment.
“The Battle of Neuve Chapelle was terrible. Every five yards in the open ground it was sudden death or a lost limb for some of our men. I have seen some sights, but nothing like Neuve Chapelle. The sight of the first German trench would make anyone sick of war. The trench was filled with the German wounded and dead, and in the mad rush we had to jump on them. We could not pick our way. When your foot went down it might be on a German’s face, but you could not help it. Our orders were not to stop in the trenches because they were mined, but, if possible, to jump right over the trench. We charged the first trench with bayonets; in the second trench the Germans did not wait for the bayonet, they ran off. The German bayonet is a fearful weapon a very long thin instrument. I do not think the Germans in this campaign have made a bayonet charge; they never have against our regiment, but still the bayonet is always fixed for an emergency.
“One of the worst things we have to do is to go trench digging, etc., at nights, because the Germans have got their maxim guns ready sighted for the road, and they know almost as well as we do the time which we usually go out. There was one road we called “The road of death,” because we lost so many men there. The Germans had two maxim guns ready sighted, so that they could be fired off in the dark. In that way then used to catch the working parties and the ration carriers, the Germans sending up sky-lights. When we found it out we protected the road as far as possible by barricades, and we afterwards discovered another road and used it. The sappers and miners, in barricading, use a kind of hurdle, and they utilise sandbags, loose earthwork, etc.
“You cannot teach the Germans much about warfare. They have been trained for many years. I do not think anyone in England expected to see a war of this description. The Nueve Chapelle battle was the worst in the history of the world. Our stretcher-bearers could not get to our wounded men because of the heavy fire of the enemy. When a man was hit we had to bind him up and let him stay there until the stretcher-bearers could get to him.
“After a pitched battle in South Africa you would get 24 hours armistice in which to bury the dead, but in this war there is no such relief. There has not been an armistice since the start of the war.
“The Germans are very good fighters. They have been drilled to keep on the same as they do. At the commencement of the war they were in superior numbers to us, and they had a better chance then, but now the Allies are equal in numbers to the Germans, if not superior; they were in our advanced trench, at any rate. If we attacked their trench one day and managed to take it, they would try next day to retake it, starting as soon as it was light enough. If it is a short trench, the enemy come mostly in a group, in close formation, and then it is pretty easy for us to wipe them out. Never in our part did the Germans succeed in re-taking a trench which they had lost. We can fight in close formation if necessary, as it is sometimes, but we can also deploy or widen our ranks on the attack, and then we have an infinitely better chance. German methods in regard to close formation are all right if they are very much in superior numbers, but now their numbers are not superior.
“I think the Kaiser will do as much damage to Belgium and France as he can, but when we get on German soil he will want to back out. I think this war will be the smash-up of the German empire, because the Allies will never let the Kaiser have another chance. The German ambition seems to be to wreck every village they come to. Any evidence of German barbarities? Yes. For instance, two women in a place called La Cocture told how the German soldiers had molested them.
“In the German trenches at Neuve Chapelle was a terrible sight. Our lyddite shells had turned the German corpses yellow.”
|The Rushden Echo, 30th April, 1915, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Eaten Alive By Flies - Rushden Soldier With The Persian Gulf Force
Opposing The Turks - Startlingly Narrow Escapes
Fighting Near the Garden of Eden - “English People Seem to Have Forgotten Us”
Writing under date March 19, to the Editor of the “Rushden Echo,” Pte. P. W. Long (son of Mr. and Mrs. S. C. Long, of Beaconsfield-terrace, Rushden), says:-
“It was with mingled feelings that I read the “local Soldiers’ Stories” contained in your issue of Feb. 5th, which has only just reached me. Nearly every soldier mentioned therein, I had the pleasure of knowing, and several I had soldiered with, when I was in the 3rd Northants Regiment.
“Since I left England for India in September, 1913, I have never had the pleasure of meeting a Rushdenite, and I think I am safe in saying that I am the only Rushdenite in the Persian Gulf Force now opposing the Turks. No doubt by this time you will have read all about the operations here, and if I were to start from the beginning and tell you all about it, from my point of view, it would differ very slightly from those you have read. For myself I have had two lucky escapes and I am longing for the time when we are finished here so that I can get to Europe.
“On one of the occasions I mentioned we were in action for the first time. We were in an open position on the desert, which had been made into a quagmire by a heavy storm, when the order came to us in the waggon line where all the horses and ammunition waggons are to get on to the flank as quickly as possible. We were at the time coming under a heavy shell fire, from guns hidden in the palm groves; we attempted to do so, the rest of the teams managed to get away at a jig jog, but we were stuck fast and to make things worse the wheel horses refused to work, small blame to them, they were dead beat through crossing the desert previous to the engagement. We were helpless in the matter, and the only thing we could do was to dismount and wait till the other waggons were safe, when we should probably get another team to pull us out. This we did and during our wait we were thoroughly baptised by fire, unfused shell dropped within a dozen paces of our team, throwing showers of mud and grit over us. We expected every minute to be hit, and felt happy, you can bet, when to our great relief a team came galloping up and hauled us out of the mire. We had gone perhaps about twenty yards, when ‘Zipp’ we looked behind and saw a gaping hole just where we had been stuck. It sounds like a book, doesn’t it, but I can assure you, sir, it is the truth, and it was a prayer of thankfulness I muttered when we rode clear.
“The second one occurred several weeks after, when we were fighting in the vicinity of the Garden of Eden. We were opposing a larger and better drilled force this time, Stamboul Turkish gunners, using the 18 pounder Krupp gun. The infantry, too, were a better class than we had encountered hitherto more Turks and fewer Arabs. We had been in action an hour or more when the order came down, ‘Drivers and spare gunners to carry up more ammunition.’ The reason we did not take up the waggons was that we should offer a too conspicuous target for the enemy’s fire. Well, the centre drivers went up first, one of them being hit long before he reached the guns. They came back and were relieved by the wheel drivers who went through without a casualty; there were four hit in the first lot that went. Then came the lead drivers’ turn, and as my position is in the lead I went as well. The ground over which we had to go was by this time like a ploughed field, and littered with fuses and pieces of shell. I managed to reach my gun in safety and after handing over my burden I was going back to the horses, when I was pulled backwards rather roughly by my section officer who smiled at my surprise and said ‘Wait until she’s gone.’ I hadn’t long to wait before ‘Zipp!’ a shell burst in a direct line to the path I was going.
“By this time I had noticed a wounded driver lying behind the observation limber, being dressed. I was making him some cigarettes when an Arab pony came cantering through the line of guns. I gave my comrade the cigarettes, wished him well, and away I went in hot pursuit of the pony, my object being some curio of the saddle or headgear. I was rapidly gaining on him when something appeared to strike my haversack. I looked on the ground and saw the missile, a piece of copper band, the driving band of a Turkish shell. I put it in my pocket as a memento. It was not long before I came up with the pony, which had been shot in the fore leg and mouth. I took off the saddle bags, of Arab workmanship, which were threaded by loops of cord at the mouth and finally secured with a padlock. I cut them open and in one, amongst some hard, unleavened bread and dates, were two books containing papers or certificates all written in Turkish Arabic. These I put in my haversack for further perusal. The other bag contained a large quantity of flat nosed bullets, taking a blue grey overcoat, a bed blanket and a string of cowries. I handed the pony to a Non-Com. I also handed in the books, which were at once sent to the Intelligence Department to be interpreted. I received them back some weeks later, and a letter to say that they were of great assistance in enabling them to locate another Turkish Unit. I have all the things mentioned in my possession, and I hope to live to be able to exhibit them when once I get to Rushden again.
“We have not been frostbitten like our comrades in France, but we are being eaten alive by ants, flies, and mosquitoes, which infest this country in millions and millions. The sun is getting a little warmer (?) everyday, making the stagnant pools simply reek, but we are used to it, coming from India, and are quite happy doing our bit in a far-away corner of the globe, the only fly in the honey being that we are not in France, and the people of England seem to have forgotten us. We have not had so much as a box of matches from England, but we don’t need them, thanks to the women of Bombay Presidency, headed by Lady Wellington.
“Well, Mr. Editor, I have been a bit long winded but it is a pleasure to write to any-one in Rushden at a time like the present. Should I ever return to England I should be pleased to show you a good many curios from the land where Adam was born. Wishing your paper and its subscribers every good wish, I will remain, not an ‘Eye Witness,’ but ‘One of ‘em.’
“I am at present back again in Busria, having just recently returned with my battery from ******where the ‘pony’ affair happened. We are daily expecting a big engagement. Roll on that day!”
Pte. P. W. Long enclosed a paper which had been published by a Captain of the Indian Army since they had taken that town.
|The Rushden Echo, 7th May, 1915, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Lyddite Colours Water Yellow
Shoulder High In Icy Cold Water - Thrilling letters to Rushden
By Private Ted Steele - Last Winter’s Agony
Mr. Steele, of 39, Victoria-road, Rushden, has received further interesting letters from his brother Ted, who is with the British Expeditionary Force at the front. He writes:-
“My chum, whom you asked about, is one of the very few who got through without a scratch. He had some very near escapes. On one occasion he was carrying a wounded officer (with the aid of three other men of our regiment) out of the first firing line, when a shell burst overhead, smashing the gate and again wounding the officer. The officer, I am sorry to say, died some hours later after reaching hospital. The battle will always be a memorable one to me, and all who took part in it. Our commanding officer, whom we all loved as a leader, was wounded at the last stage of the battle.
“I well remember when we were wading through a dyke, absolutely up to our necks in water. The water was yellow with lyddite fumes and large numbers of dead bodies were floating on top of the cold water. We pushed our way along this dyke, where the water covered our shoulders in places, and to show yourself meant death.
“Our C.O. was always with his men. The C.O. was greatly cut up when the adjutant got killed. It was a big loss to the battalion. The adjutant, Captain Power, was a brave officer, with a heart like a lion. The adjutant and my company officer, Capt. Capell, were buried together on the battlefield. By this time we had lost all our officers but one or two. Our commanding officer said, “You have lost nearly all your brave officers, my men, but I know you will fight on,” and we did until victory was complete. What a sad feeling came over us when the roll was called. We did not number…..in the battalion, but the battle was won. What there is left are ready again whenever the opportunity thinks fit to show itself.
“I have since the big battle of ……. walked through the village and over the ground which was once occupied by the Germans. It is a big consolation to us to be able to do this. Mrs. Field’s younger son was killed in action on March 11th and the other son we have not heard of since the action. I am rather afraid there is little hope if she has not heard from Horace since the action, which took place on March 10th. Her elder son was in my section both in Malta and in Egypt, and we have stood side by side in the trenches many long and cold nights on sentry, knee deep in water. He was in hospital a short time with frozen feet. On his return he was again in my section, and he was always cheerful and a brave soldier. There was a great lot wounded, and it is impossible for me to say if he was amongst them or not.”
Under date April 26th he writes:-
“Since the last battle I fought in I have been through a course of bomb-throwing, and am now a trained bomb and grenade thrower. There is every possibility that I might blow a few Germans to pieces very shortly. The weather is quite good now, and the time has come. We are going to do or die. It is quite certain that there will be some severe fighting, and we shall win. I don’t want this war to last another winter. Very few people know the agony we went through last winter, and we are ready to polish them off for good before this summer is very old. I know that there are thousands of lives to be lost before it can be done, but we are here to take our chance, and we are willing. If I get killed there are plenty of others to take my place. The Germans don’t like meeting us boys from the Mediterranean Forces. We took the feathers out of their caps last time. They said they thought hell had been let loose last time we got at them. Next time we get them on the move they might think hell is let loose and the devil with it.
“Harry Field was killed at NeuveChapelle with another fellow of my Company, the one bullet killing both. He was shot straight through the heart whilst we were advancing. Horace, who was in the same company and platoon as myself, is still missing and there is no hope for him, I am sorry to say. I think he was blown to pieces by a big shell and would not be recognised. We were under very heavy shell fire for two days and one shell would kill as many as a hundred if it drops among us.”
|Rushden Echo, 7th May 1915, transcribed by Kay Collins
Higham Ferrers Hospital - Experiences of Wounded Soldiers
“The Allies Will Win” - A Hero of Hill 60
Pte A Allen, of the 8th Durham Light Infantry, a patient of the Higham Ferrers V A D Hospital, has been wounded by a bullet in the thigh. He was stationed at St Julien, near Ypres, and received his wound whilst retiring.
“There were about 22 of us left in the trench,” he said, in recounting his experiences to a “Rushden Echo” representative, “and we were properly surrounded. Our battalion and the Canadians only had a narrow space to get through, and our ammunition and provisions were all gone. Our guns were knocked out of action and we were getting about 1000 to our one. I was the last one to get out of the trench. There were maxims at each side of us. I had run about 60 yards and then I dropped. Twenty of us had held the dug-out for a long time, and our Captain had said we would rather be shot than retire. We lost him, however, for he got caught in the shell fire. Part of our trench and the dug-outs got blown away by shrapnel, and we dare not face this open space. Some of the shells were dropping short, too. One of our men who was unhurt helped me along the road to the rear, but I could get no sleep there for the bursting of the shells. It was an awful sight.”
Sergt Davis of the 1st Canadians, who is now lying wounded in the head and foot at Higham Ferrers, has seen two years’ service in South Africa. This son of the Dominion was in the charge made to re-take the trenches lost by the French Algerian troops, who had been “gassed out.” The Germans did not use poisonous gas against him, apart from the gas shells.
Lance-Corpl. Foreman, of the Royal West Kent Regiment, is one of the heroes of Hill 60. He received a rifle bullet in the left heel whilst making a charge at St Julien. He has had three months at the front, and he never wishes to experience a similar period. His Regiment, with the K.O.S.B.s went up on the Sunday to take Hill 60, and captured the hill after the mines had been exploded. In the early part of the morning the enemy made a few counter attacks, but with very little success. They tried very hard to regain the hill.
In the opinion of Pte G MacMartin, of the Royal Montreal Regiment, the Allies must ultimately prove victorious. He has been temporarily put out of action by a shrapnel wound in the leg, received near Ypres whilst engaged in digging a trench. It was here that the French were driven back by poison shells. “You don’t care much for them,” was Pte MacMartin’s comment.
|The Rushden Echo, 14th May, 1915, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Thrilling Story of The Sea
Germans Murdered By Germans While The British Were Trying To Save Them
Rushden Naval Musician - On Board H.M.S. Princess Royal
British Sailors Certain of Ultimate Victory - An Invasion of England Impossible
A thrilling story of naval warfare was elicited by a “Rushden Echo” representative from Musician Alec Smith (Rushden), of H.M.S. Princess Royal. The son of Mr. and Mrs. George Smith, of East-grove, Rushden, Musician Smith had a brief respite at home from marine life, about two days out of his four days’ leave being taken up with the railway journey. About two-and-a-half years ago Musician Smith was appointed to H.M.S. Princess Royal, and he has been with the vessel ever since.
“When war broke out,” he said, “we formed part of the First Battle Cruiser Squadron, striking force of the Grand Home Fleet, the first four or five months we were patrolling the North Sea. We were longing for an action, and when on August 28th we heard that we were going into action we were greatly excited. We were right off Heligoland, and the whole of the Battle Cruiser Squadron and the destroyers were engaged in this action.
“Our idea was to draw the enemy out, as they would not come out of their own accord, so two of our submarines went right into Heligoland and pretended to be disabled. They were observed by the German ships lying there at the time, and three of their light cruisers got under way immediately. Our destroyer Meteor went apparently to their rescue. On seeing the German cruisers the Meteor immediately turned and went back again, drawing the enemy’s cruisers after it. On getting right outside the Germans had a great shock by seeing the British battle cruisers lying in wait for them. The light cruisers gave them a great hammering, and it did not take many minutes for us to finish them off.
“The battle did not last above a couple of hours, and it resulted in a great victory for the British. We sank three German cruisers The Mainz, the Koln, and the Ariadne. During action my station is below, with the control party, so I did not actually see a great deal. When I went up on deck afterwards I could not see a trace of the Germans.
“We saved a lot of the German sailors who were in danger of drowning. Seeing the Germans struggling in the water, our submarines and torpedo destroyers went to their rescue, and saved a good many of the enemy. The smaller boats picked them up, and they are now prisoners of war. The reason the larger vessels do not stop to pick up the drowning Germans is that the Germans would not stop at any means, fair or foul, to get at us. If we stopped we might get a torpedo into us.
“After the battle we steamed back to our base, arriving there on the following evening. The crews of the vessels which were lying in harbour at the time gave us a rousing reception when we got back.
“Then for time we carried out the usual routine of patrolling, very monotonous work, but very necessary, and very effective, too.
“The Princess Royal was the ship which escorted the first contingent of Canadians across the Atlantic. There were about 30 transports, and they were glad to see a British ship. When we left them we steamed through the lines of transports, our band playing and our crew cheering as they passed.
“Towards the end of November we went out to Halifax, Nova Scotia, encountering some very rough weather on the way, and it was very cold out there. We stayed there for a short time, and then proceeded to Kingston, Jamaica, after carrying out patrol duties a few miles off New York. We were acting in concert with the other British cruisers which were at that time in the South Atlantic watching for the German cruisers, the Nurnberg, the Scharnhorst, the Gnetsnau, and the other vessels which were destroyed off the Falkland Islands. Though we did not take part in the actual action we played a very important part. The Germans got to know that the Princess Royal was off Jamaica and consequently would not venture so far north and this had the effect of driving them further south, resulting in their destruction. The Germans thought they were going to make an attack on the Falklands, but, instead, found the British fleet awaiting them. What surprised them most was to find there the two battleships, the Invincible and the Inflexible.
“We first heard of the Falklands victory in Jamaica. By the way, it was very hot there, necessitating our being dressed in white clothing. We had a couple of hours ashore in our turn, and were driving round the town one evening, when, on purchasing a newspaper, we saw the victory announced. When the natives got to know they were overjoyed, and there was great rejoicing on board the Princess Royal.
“Then we went back to Halifax and found it extremely cold; in fact, we were coated with ice from the frozen spray, and the temperature was only four degrees above zero. There we stayed until Christmas Day, steaming out on our voyage home on Christmas morning. Going along the Atlantic we had a very rough passage. Once we were steaming for six hours at the rate of 13 knots an hour and at the end of that time we had made no headway; we were in a typhoon, and we had to run through it to get out of it, and then we followed it. At last we got back safely to our base.
“On January 23rd we were lying in harbour on our usual routine, when we got the news that the German battle cruisers were out and so we steamed out of harbour in the evening, and during the early hours of the next morning we prepared for action. The hands went to breakfast early and were at their post long before they sighted the enemy. About 8 or 9 o’clock in the morning we caught sight of the Germans. When they sighted us they immediately turned tail and steamed away as fast as possible. We commenced firing at 21,000 yards. The Lion (the flagship), the Princess Royal, the Tiger, the New Zealand, and the Invincible, with our flotilla of destroyers, were engaged. We at once put on speed and gradually increased it until it reached 28 knots an hour roughly 35 miles an hour. The firing range was diminishing every minute, owing to our far superior speed. The stokers played their part well, very well. Our nerves were highly strung. The whole time we were firing at their vessels, the Seidlitz, the Moltke, the Derrflinger, and the Bluecher. We fired at two of their ships, and afterwards directed our fire on to the last ship of their line the nearest one to us the Bluecher. Our shots soon began to take effect, and speedily she was blazing away. She soon fell out of line and it did not take us very long to get within 6,000 yards of her. The Princess Royal gave her the last salvo.
“It is terribly hard to sink a modern battleship with gunfire. You might blow away nearly the whole of the upper structure and yet she would float. It was actually a torpedo which finally sank the Bluecher.
“The sinking of the Bluecher was the end of the battle, as we caught the Germans too near their own mine fields to follow them, otherwise we should have been endangering ourselves. The other German vessels got back, two of them being terribly damaged and on fire.
“While our destroyers were rescuing German sailors who were struggling in the water, German seaplanes hovered over us and dropped bombs on the rescuers. This caused the death of many German sailors who would otherwise have been saved. None of the German bombs struck our vessels, and they practically only succeeded in murdering their own men.
“Half way through the action the Lion was badly hit and was put out of action for a time. The Admiral, Sir David Beatty, transferred his flag and carried on his command of the squadron on the Princess Royal, and of this we were naturally proud. Grimy stokers were on deck to receive the Admiral. They hauled him aboard, patted him on the back, and called out ‘Good old David!!’
“Did ‘David’ resent this?” asked our representative.
“Not at all,” replied Musician Smith. The Lion had a very bad list to port and had to be towed into harbour by the Indomitable. The Princess Royal arrived in harbour the night of the battle, and during coaling operations the next day the Lion put in an appearance. She was loudly cheered by the crews of the other ships as she came in.
“There were very few casualties on our ships. The Princess Royal was only hit about twice and no shot pierced her side. Since the battle we have been doing patrol work, and have seen nothing exciting.
“In my opinion the German Navy is highly efficient, but, of course, they are not so large as ours, and they realise it. They have no naval guns to equal ours, but they have a shell which has great penetrating power, as we found out in the naval battle when the Bluecher was sunk. Under any circumstances, if ever they come out we should be more than a match for them, though we should not expect to get away unscathed. The Lion is still the flagship of the squadron, under Sir David Beatty, and the skipper of the Princess Royal has been made a Rear Admiral. We are the second flagship of the squadron.
“No sailor has his doubts as to the issue of the war on the seas. In spite of the German submarines we do our patrolling duty. Our ships can develop such high speed that if a submarine were to come up and be observed it would be in danger of being sunk itself instead of sinking us. You may rest satisfied that the invasion of England is an absolute impossibility.
“During the raid on Scarborough our vessels heard of it and steamed out of the harbour to try and get near the Germans to cut them off from their retreat, but unfortunately we failed to do so because of the fog.
“I do not think there is much danger from floating mines. We see them occasionally, but it is either picked up or sunk. The Germans have not a chance of laying mines now so much as they did at first, we are much too vigilant for them. That is part of our work to prevent them laying. We have done a lot of work escorting transports to the continent.”
Before joining the Navy, Mr. Smith worked at the shoe factory of Mr. E. Wrighton, at Rushden. He says he gets each issue of the “Rushden Echo,” though sometimes rather late, and he has followed with keen interest the local soldiers’ and sailors’ stories.
|The Rushden Echo, 21st May, 1915, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Thrilling Story of The War - Rushden Soldier in Peril
Sixteen Hours near the German Trenches - Terrible Experiences
Mrs. A. Reynolds, of Rushden, has received a letter from her son, Pte. R. Reynolds, of the 1st Northants, who writes under date May 12th:-
“I now write these few lines to you, hoping that you are all well, as I am well myself, but I was crying on May 9th, when we made a charge at the Germans and my officer was killed, and I knelt down and said a prayer. I saw Jim Campion (son of Mrs. Campion, Glassbrook-road, Rushden) get his leg shot right off, and Sam Cowley (also of Rushden) got hit, but I cannot say if he was killed. Just break the news to Mrs. Robinson (mother of Pte. S. Robinson, whose death we reported last week. Ed. R.E.) that her son got killed on May 9th, and that chap at Golding’s (Pte. F. Golding. Ed., R.E.), down Washbrook, got hit, but I think he was killed as well. We lost about 700 killed and wounded. God only knows how I got through, as I was lying right upon the German’s trench and I lay there 16¾ hours. I had had nothing for 48 hours, but that was nothing. Some of the boys went up in the air. You cannot realise it out there in England. I got a wound in the arm but it is nothing and I don’t care, as it doesn’t hurt me. You should have seen the boys get over the trenches as if it was only a playing field; it was grand. Think of your son lying 16 hours under shell fire. All the time I was lying under fire I was making fags and smoking. At last I had not got a match and I went and found some on a dead pal, and had my smoke. I had my rifle knocked right out my hand, but, thank God, I soon found another. I had a bullet go right through the photos of sister Lucy, Maggie, Elsie, and Howard. I am sending them so you can put them in the paper.”
Pte. R. Reynolds
|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:-
Pte. Charles H. Jeeves
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.
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 his 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 riddles 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,
|Rushden Echo, 21st May 1915, transcribed by Kay Collins
Worst Fight of the War Rushden Soldier Under Fire
Continuous Shelling Lying in Water for Hours
Pte F Tear, A Company, 1st Northants Regiment, writing to Miss Elsie Watts, 69, Cromwell-road, Rushden, says:-
“Just a line to let you know that I am all right, bar feeling a bit run down, as I have never felt so placed as I was on Sunday (May 9). I never want to experience anything like it in my life again. I can’t explain it, but I will try my best to.
“We had an order to stand to as we had got to take the German trench at all costs, so at 5a.m. our artillery started to bombard them, and kept on for about 40 minutes. Then we had the order to charge. Over our trenches we went, with fixed bayonets, only to be met by shells and bullets. To see our boys fall like flies was a sight I shall never forget. When we got within a few yards of their trench we found they were too strong for us, so we got over as best we could. I dug myself in and I had to lie in one position for 14½ hours, and dare not move a limb, not even to have a bit of food, and then when it got dark we had to catch hold of the grass and draw ourselves along on our stomachs for about 200 yards.
“Our regiment suffered very heavily. Billy Willis is wounded, and I thank God I have got through safely, as it was nothing less than a miracle, and though we did not succeed at the part we attempted to take, we enabled them to on our flanks and it proved successful on the whole. We had to lie there under continuous shell fire, never knowing whether the next minute was going to be the last. I dare say you read the accounts of the Neuve Chapelle battle, which is considered one of the worst of this war, but this one on Sunday is worse still, as you will see by the papers. We were congratulated by our officer on our performance; he came out safely, though we lost all our officers bar two. Well, I can’t say too much now as I don’t feel too grand, through lying in water and being exposed, but you will see full details in the papers.”
|The Rushden Echo, 21st May, 1915, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Rushden Soldier Twice Hit - Vivid Story of The Great Fight
“Madness to Go Back: Worse to Stay” - Between Two Fires!
Pte. G. N. Lucas, of the 1stNorthamptons (brother of Mr. W. Horace Lucas, teacher at the North End School, Rushden), was wounded in the great battle at Richebourg on Sunday morning, May 9th. This makes the second time that he has been wounded, for, in January last, he fell a victim to a German sniper, who neatly placed a bullet through his left knee. In a thrilling letter to his brother, Pte. Lucas says:-
“On Saturday night (May 8) we went into the trenches, ready for an attack at 5.30 on Sunday morning. It was exceedingly cold, and we had no coats. On Friday our packs were given to us, and we carried nothing but a water bottle, ammunition, and food for three days. At 5 a.m. on Sunday our artillery went literally mad, for there were about 480 guns going over our heads. This lasted about 30 minutes. As soon as it ceased we scrambled quickly over the trenches, bayonets fixed and magazines full. The shelling began again, but was directed at the German reserve line (or should have been). Lots of our shells were dropping short and knocking out our fellows as we advanced.
“The German fire was very accurate and voluminous, more so than we expected, so that, with our shells dropping short, we were between two fires, shrapnel dropping like rain. The sight of the wounded and dead lying about was horrible.
“Our orders were to go straight on till we got to the road, which we were to take at all costs. The road was about one mile away, and four German trenches occupied the intervening space. Should we see any Germans without rifles, asking for mercy, we were to leave them, as there were other regiments to gather in the prisoners. If we met Germans who had rifles, they were to know that we had also got ours. The Germans are a treacherous lot. For instance, they lie down and act dead and when you get by they put a bullet through your back.
“I was very unlucky in one way, for as soon as I got over the parapet a bullet caught me under the chin. The blood ran a little, but it was no good going back, so on I went, wrapping a bandage round as best I could. It was madness to go back and worse to stay, so I went on with the others. The violence of the rifle and maxim fire was tremendous. The Germans were ready for us, there is no doubt about it.
“After lying down for a few minutes we got up and made another rush. I got in the way again! I dropped down with my pocket gone and a burning sensation in my left thigh. I managed to crawl back to a furrow where several other wounded men were sheltering. We tried several times to crawl to our trench and one of our sergeants, attempting to rush for it, was put out of action by the shower of shrapnel. After that, although only five yards from our goal, we waited until things became quieter; then slowly but surely we crawled back. I should think it took us about 2½ hours and we were very lucky at that. I managed to get to a dressing station, then to Boulogne, and on to England.”
|The Rushden Echo, 28th May, 1915, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Never Nearer Death - Rushden Soldier’s Thrilling Story
Acting as a Brigade Bomb-Thrower - Only Three Escape out of Thirty-seven
Expecting Death Every Minute For Fourteen Hours
Mr. W. Steele, of 39, Victoria-road, Rushden, has received another thrilling letter from his brother Ted, who is serving with the Steelbacks at the front. He writes:-
“I received your letter containing whiffs just before going into a severe action. They come in splendid as you sit in the trench waiting for the order to get over and make a charge.
“I can honestly say that I was never nearer death in my life than I was in this last attack. We made a charge on the German trenches on Sunday, May 9th, and a braver body of men you could never see. We were mown down like a flash of wind under the machine gun fire of the Germans. How I managed to scrape through I cannot tell you. The casualty list of the 9th with tell you what men we lost, and the 1st Battalion has suffered great loss of life in the same battle.
“I have not seen anything of Percy and am wondering if he got through safe. (We regret to state that news from unofficial sources states that Sergt. Percy Steele was killed in this same action, as reported in our last issue. Ed., “R.E.”)
“I went into action as a brigade bomb thrower last week, and out of 37 only three came back, and I am one, so I ought to think myself lucky. We have made a good name for ourselves. One fellow out of the three has been recommended for the V.C. He and one officer held a part of a German trench single-handed for several hours and they killed between 36 and 40 Germans. It was not until they had expended all their bombs that they retired. They retired to where we were taking cover in a large shell hole just in front of the German wire entanglement. It was only 10 yards from their trench and they might have killed us with stones if they had had the pluck to look over the top of their trench. They had been scared out of their wits with our bombs and grenades.
“We were expecting death every minute for 14 hours. They knew we were there but did know how many of us there were. To get out of this shell hole in daylight meant certain death, so we had to wait until dusk, and then bolt for our lives. Perhaps you can imagine what it is like to lie only ten yards away from the enemy for 14 hours with dead comrades all around. We were between two deadly fires, that of the Germans and that of our own, I quite believe I said my prayers more times that day than ever before in my life. I arrived back in our own trenches without a scratch. Our trench at the time was under very heavy artillery fire from the Germans. Men were being carried away by dozens, some minus a leg, others an arm, and many with had head wounds. The German high explosive shrapnel is very deadly if aimed in the right place, but, thank the Lord, most of them went over the top of us.
“After going through what I call hell on earth for 14 hours I had another experience. I was sitting in a small dug-out in the trench with three other fellows, Corporal Brown and Private Lewin in one corner and Private Watts and myself against the entrance of the dug-out. A German shell came through the top and exploded inside the dug-out, killing Corpl. Brown and Private Lewin. It blew Pte.Watts and myself straight into the trench. After some minutes we came to, to find we had not a scratch on us. I was very sorry for the other two, who were killed, and buried by the falling debris. It was by far the worst time I have experienced.
“The Germans have suffered terribly. It is reported that they have lost 50,000 killed alone in seven days’ fighting. The French Army is doing good work and still advancing. I am still alive, and not a bit downhearted.”
|The Rushden Echo Friday 28 May 1915, transcribed by Nicky Bates
Shifting 'Little Willies' - By Asphyxiation - Rushden Soldier Tells of Progress
Counteracting the Gas - German Surrendering in Mobs
Pte F Dickens, of the Coldstream Guards, has sent further interesting letters from the front to his parents, Mr and Mrs H Dickens, of Rushden.
He writes: "We have had it a bit cushy this last day or so, but I expect we shall have to make up for it when we do make another start. I am glad to say I am still all right and I got your letter with the camphor in, and that one with the disinfectant powder. I have tried the camphor round my neck and I think it has made those little Willies shift, as I haven't felt them much since. We were in the reserve billet last night and we got called out during the early morning so you can bet we are having a lively time, I don't mean our mob only, but the others as well. We have been bombarding steady this last day or so and we have had attacks every night in which we have made a big success. I think I am a lucky chap; although I haven't seen so much as some, I have seen quite enough. I shall be glad when it is over but I don't think it will be over for another good 12 months, but let's hope it is. I went to an open-air service yesterday (Sunday) and they had a prayer for the loved ones at home, I enjoyed it very much. We had a night out in the orchard last night. I curled up under a bush and slept quite easy. I was having breakfast by 3 a.m. I must tell you some of the latest telegrams that have come in. We have captured several rows of trenches and the Germans are surrendering in mobs of 50 and 60 and we have taken a road which has cut their line and things are still going strong. I hope they will remain so.
"I was very pleased when I got the parcel and the contents were very good. I enjoyed some of them while I was in the firing line, and it seemed to pass the time away much brighter, as it reminded me of the dear home land, and the dear old friends I have left at home. That old saying is a true one 'There are no friends like old friends', and I am living in hope of getting back to them, as I don't think it will be long now. I thought my letter very nicely reproduced in the "Rushden Echo". Please thank the editor for the paper and tell him I knew some of the photos, and I thought their letter very interesting. I had a look down the casualty list and I see that regiment still holds the head of it. They lost most in the big battle at Mons. I feel very sorry for the widows, children and parents that they have left behind. We had 5 days billets at - and on Sunday afternoon there was a sermon by the Bishop of Cantoon and I thoroughly enjoyed it as it was interesting. It seemed a bit funny having sermons on active service but I think it will be the making of a good many who have led a rough life, let's hope it is. There have been a few of our chaps knocked over this week and I was very pleased to see that they respect them a little. They have made a small cemetery in which they have buried them. Tell Lou (his sister-in-law) that I am waiting for the time to come when I can stick one for her on the end of my bayonet."
In a later letter Pte Dickens says: "We are having some lovely weather here now, the summer is near. It seems lovely to hear the birds whistling, and see the trees in bloom. It reminds me of the country lanes at home. The war can't stop the beautiful silence of nature, can it? but I shall be glad when it is over as you can have too much of a thing, can't you? We have just been relieved from the trenches again and we have had a lively time, as usual." Later he writes: "I have had the pleasure of having one swim in France already, but bathing is prohibited now, so I can't see that I shall have another one just yet, anyhow. The trench we are in is only about 100 yards from the Germans, and we can hear men singing and talking, but they don't give us much chance to have a pop at mem. I wish they would just to make it a little more exciting."
Under date May 3rd, he writes: "I should be pleased if you would send me three or four squares of camphor as there are some disagreeable smells out here at different times and I thinks the camphor might prevent any disease. I am still all right at present, but I must say that I have been very lucky since I have been out here. I expect you read about the Germans using gas. I haven't seen any signs of it as yet, but we have been served out with nose bags, and we have got to dip them in a kind of solution which will make the gas harmless, but I don't think the gas will be any good to the Germans when we get on the move. I have just heard that our chaps have advanced five kilometres and taken 1,500 prisoners, and are still on the move, so things are beginning to look a little brighter and I hope they will remain so".
On May 10th Pte Dickens wrote: "We have had it a bit exciting this last day or so, but I expect they will be a bit quiet after this lot. We have had some of their gas, but owing to the wind being wrong way it didn't take any effect. We don't take any notice of trifles like that now, we are getting quiet used to it. I was glad to hear that they had made some loafers enlist, as it is just that sort that reap the benefit in peace times. Fancy the beer being 6d a pint. My word! I hope it's a bit cheaper after the war or else I shan't be able to have any more quiet nights with you. I expect by now that you have heard of our great victories. We had a few Jack Johnsons over just before our bombardment started and I am enclosing one of the shrapnel bullets, which their shells are filled with. I should think when they burst they cover the ground for about 100 yards outwards and fifty yards forward, so you can bet they give the earth a good shaking. Don't let trifles trouble you. Rum tiddle um tum pum pum, always merry and bright, doing well on biscuits and bully. They will have a job to get through where we are. We are now in the trenches till further orders. As for myself I would rather choose them, than some of the billets we have been in, but all's well that ends well."
In another letter he writes: "I have received the "Rushden Echo" again, from which I have read some interesting news. I am sending one of the German explosives bullets for you which ... [few lines too feint to read]. I have just eaten a good breakfast, two eggs and bacon, but I should have enjoyed it better it if I had had some bread, but they went down all right with biscuits. I can tell you that it was quite a change, but we don't starve our here. We have not come out to starve but fight."
In a letter dated May 21st he writes: "Our chaps made a charge the other day and I had to go and help bury the dead, so you can bet I saw some awful sights, but I am getting used to that now. I am sending 15 rounds of German ammunition and clips, and I found a German helmet, but it would cost too much to send, so I'm sending the top of it. I am still all right and having a rest after 16 days of hard work."
|The Rushden Echo Friday 4 June 1915, transcribed by Nicky Bates
Four Soldier Brothers - Skulls Ploughed Up - Churchyard Shelled by Germans Human Bones Disinterred
Rushden Soldier's Vivid Story of the Great Fight
Three Rushden Soldiers Brothers Travel 25,000 Miles to Join the Colours
Pte Bert Hodson, of the 1st Northants, son of Mr and Mrs Hodson, of Rushden, has been paying a brief visit to his parents after having been for about ten days in the workhouse infirmary at Rochdale. Pte Hodson was wounded un the big battle which was fought just outside Richebourge on May 9th, and to a representative of the "Rushden Echo" he kindly recounted some of the thrilling experiences through which he has passed. "I was in Australia,"........
For the full article see Pte Bert Hodson
|The Rushden Echo, 4th June, 1915, transcribed by Gill Hollis
Rushden Hussar “Gassed”
“Kaiser Bill’s Cowards Won’t Come Out and Fight”
A Word to Strikers in England
“The Fight of Our Life-Time”
Irchester Corporal’s Death
Private F. Sugars (Rushden), of the 19th Hussars, in a letter to his brother, gives emphatic expression to some wholesome truths. He writes: “I am more than pleased to have the opportunity of replying to your letter after the terrible struggles we have been in during the last fortnight, but I thank God for bringing me through safe and sound with the exception of feeling the effects of gas we have had thrown at us when trying to put up a fair fight against the cowards of Kaiser Bill’s, as they won’t come out and fight, and it’s simply torture for us with them using gas. I am not going to tell you anything of our last fight in the early hours of the 24th, as I have already written to mother; I want to forget it, but we have lost heavily in our regiment, numbering now only 110 out of 700 or 800 that we had when we came out here.
“We are not only fighting with unpleasant things as they come, out here, but with unpleasant times. Even when we take up a paper to read to pass an hour away, the first thing we see is 7,000 tram strikers somewhere in England. Why the devil don’t they give them a suit of khaki and a rifle and send them out here? Half a living in dear old England is far more comfortable than the odds we have to face at present. You can guess the heart it is putting in us out here!
“Then again there is the Cabinet affair. Ah, well, I’m not a learned man, so I won’t say any more about that, but, at the same time we have our opinions, which might, of course, be very little in some people’s eyes.
“I hope and trust I shall have the pleasure of writing you once more before long, providing I don’t get another dose of gas. Bullets and shells are nothing now, but I do bar gas. After what we have been through, it does not make you fear nothing but gas. When they turn the next lot on I hope God will turn the wind round and wipe the whole lot of them up.”
Writing to his father and mother under date May 25th he says:-
“I am more than pleased to have the opportunity of writing you these few lines after the most exciting time we have been getting again the last seven or eight days we have been in the trenches. We have been rather lucky to escape the gas, of which you have no doubt heard so much talk of, that the Germans are using, but on Monday morning between the hours of one and two, just as we were getting relieved, on it came. Talk about torture. I can’t describe to you what it is like. The devils won’t come out and fight. They sit in the trenches and laugh at the hundreds of poor fellows that cop out by it.
“Anyhow, we soon had our respirators on, which are a fine invention by our medical men, and our General, who is in charge of the brigade, and was colonel of our regiment at the time the war broke out, soon let us back after them in spite of the gas. You hear people talk of hell, but hell isn’t in it. It looked impossible for any man to live at all. How I came through it, God only knows, but here I am taking a few hours’ rest after a jolly tough time.
“I am sorry to say we have lost some fine officers and men. At present we number 110 out of a regiment. I have had several people when writing me ask how it is that our regiment hasn’t had many casualties. I wonder how this will do, but here we are just as happy again to think God has spared us. We lost all our squadron officers.”
In another letter, which evidently refers to the same engagement, he writes:
“Last night was welcomed very much after six days in the trenches without any rest, as you can’t get rest in a trench very well. On Thursday we had the fight of our lifetime. The Germans made an attack on some of our line and managed to advance 200 or 300 yards, and that caused it. All the cavalry made a counter attack and after them we went. Talk about ‘hell,’ as a remark, it isn’t in it. It seemed impossible for any man to live. Of course, we had a lot of casualties, and how I got through I don’t know. As far as I know there was only one killed from our county in my regiment, that I know well, and it was Corporal West, of Irchester. It may be several weeks before they hear from the War Office. I always found Corpl. West to be a jolly good chum. We haven’t got a list of casualties out yet, but as near as I can gather ours were something near 100. We lost all our officers in my squadron with the exception of two. We are taking a couple of days rest, and then we expect to be in again. Our horses are taking it easy about 20 miles back. Our Colonel was amongst the killed.”
|11th June - Pte H Rowthorne
|The Rushden Echo, June 25th 1915, transcribed by Kay Collins
Rushden Soldier’s Experiences with the 5th Northamptons
Bullets Act as a Tonic Big German Gunds Like the Sound of a Railway Train
Pte. Bert Roe, son of Mr. H. Roe, of Park-road, Rushden, is now at the front, serving with the 5th Northamptons. He enlisted on Dec. 12th, before which he was working for Mr. Robert Marriott. It is about a month since he left England for the front. Writing to his parents he says:-
“I am writing these few lines under our little bivouac, which is situated in a most lovely spot in the country, and not a thousand miles from the line.
“Well, concerning the concert, i.e., the war, I will endeavour to give you a description of it as near as possible. We are under shell fire at present from the German guns, but they cannot get the range of us at present, so we are all quite happy. Now for a slight description from my standpoint; as you are aware, we are, I believe, the only Pioneer Battalion out here at present, and our work is chiefly carried out by night and is mostly trench digging under the supervision of the R.E.’s and we sometimes cop out for a rough time. The miles of trenches is simply marvellous, and the booming of the guns, the whistle of the bullets, what, ho!
“On Tuesday night we got very nearly lost, and came under the German fire from three sides. We had a few wounded, we had to lie flat down on the grass, and didn’t they rattle for about half an hour? I began to think we were in for a rough time, as they came over our heads and by our ears. Some of them whiz by you and come back to shake hands with you, if you are not careful. It is quite exciting and the big guns the Germans have got are for all the world like a train rushing through the air. When they burst you can hear them say ‘Krupp! Krupp!’ like a gigantic cough, and the holes they make are big enough to bury a couple of horses. At night they throw all kinds of limelights up 200 yards or more, then you hear the rattle. We chiefly work behind the first reserve line, and it is the most dangerous in this case.
“When you come under heavy fire your mind begins to quiver for a little while and you begin to think of all sorts of things, then a bullet rushes by and you forget everything; it is like a tonic. We are under firs all the while we are at work. We carry picks and shovels on the field. We are at present trench improving, etc.
“I don’t know that you can send anything, as we get on pretty fair round here with the ‘Belges’. The most we have to drink is coffee. They say, “English tea is no good”. We say, “Coffee good for the water”, and they don’t half laugh. You should hear them talk when they are all together. Gabble, gabble! They are all Roman Catholics and very high. The cemeteries out here are full of big wooden crosses and crucifixes and these fancy wreaths.
“The place where we are now is practically under ruins from the German shell. The other morning at about 1.30, when we came from trenching, the church was all ablaze and the houses all knocked to hell”.
|The Rushden Echo, 25th June, 1915, transcribed by Gill Hollis
Rushden Man’s Difficulties
Tortured by Millions of Flies
Temperature, 122 Degrees in the Shade
Bitter Feeling among Troops - Against Strikers At Home
Driver R. W. Long (Rushden), 63rd Batt. R.F. with the B.I.E.F. writes as follows:-
“It is under very painful conditions that I am attempting to write to you. Sitting under a stretch of canvas, in the Persian desert, with the sun beating down causing a temperature of 122 degrees in the shade is bad enough. But to make it ten times worse, we are tortured by millions of flies, which nearly drive one mad. Since I last wrote to you I have trekked from Arabia to Persia across Lower Mesopotamia. Since we left the valley of the Shat-el-Arab, with its luxuriant palm groves, we have found no shade whatever, the land here being absolutely treeless. We have found a good use for some more bullets and shells, which we continue to use effectively. It is like playing ‘catch before you kill’ with these people. We have chased them all over this point of Asia and beaten them at all points. Before long you will probably hear of another big victory here; there is something in the wind.
“The feeling amongst the European troops here is very bitter against the strikers at home, and we think that if England were to be invaded in earnest it would show those sort of people that war, after all, is not a ‘picnic,’ and it behoves all to unite in the conflict.
“By the way, I have been in the territory which, repute has it, Daniel ruled over. A bridge stands over a deep ravine called Daniel’s Bridge, near to which is a cave said to be the lion’s den, of Daniel’s home.
“I could tell many tales of the ancient things I have seen here, but I must reserve them until I can relate them at home.”
|The Rushden Echo, 25th June, 1915, transcribed by Gill Hollis
Poisonous Gas Effects - Victims Turn Yellow and Black
Rushden Soldier’s Experiences - Some Narrow Escapes
“We are going to Win” - High Explosives Wanted
Pioneer W. F. Nichols, of the Royal Engineers, son of Mr. and Mrs. A. T. Nichols, of Church-street, Rushden, has been at home from the front on 72 hours’ leave, after having been in the fighting line on and off for the past eight months. We are pleased to state that he has come through without a scratch, although he has had some narrow escapes. Interviewed by a representative of the “Rushden Echo” he said:-
“I am jolly glad to get home to see my parents and relatives as on more than one occasion I have wondered whether I should get back alive, and I consider myself very fortunate to have got through so far uninjured. I enlisted prior to the war on June 1st, 1914, and when war was declared I was sent to Aldershot to be put through a course of signalling and riding. After about three months of this training I was sent to the front, arriving at Havre on November 28th. After a night in the rest camp, we went to Le Mans, the journey occupying about two days, and it wasn’t comfortable travelling by any means, as we were in cattle trucks, 40 men to a truck. There was not even room to lie down, but this had its advantages as well as its disadvantages, as it kept us warm. We stayed at Le Mans, which was then the signal base, for about two weeks, and then drafted higher up the country to Abbeville, where we remained two days. We were then sent on to the fifth signal troop attached to the 5th Cavalry Brigade, and were given six weeks’ rest.
“After that, we were sent back down country for about 50 miles, as our billets were required for infantry regiments that were advancing up country. We were sent up country again to Merville after about eight weeks, and then the cavalry brigade went into the trenches for about ten days, but I was left behind to assist looking after the horses and this, at the time, occasioned me some little disappointment, as I was anxious to see what it was like in the firing line, but I am not now so keen to make the acquaintance of the trenches, as I have had a taste.
“It was about ten weeks later that I got my first experience of being under shell fire. We had advanced to within about five miles of Ypres. On the second night after we arrived there the Germans sent some light field shells over us and these for a start dropped about 2000yards behind us. They sent about ten shells like this, and then all of a sudden they found the range and dropped one just on my left, about 50 yards away. This blew up four men and an officer. These had been standing in a house without a roof, watching the German shells burst, when one came right through the demolished roof and blew them to smithereens. The next shell fell just on my right and dropped in the middle of some horses, killing about 20 and wounding several others. It also killed one man and wounded three more. By this time we began to think it was about time we shifted our quarters and we got out of the field in about half a minute and on to the road nearby, where I think we were out of range, as no more shells came near us. For a start, when the shells began to drop near us, I felt rather rotten and couldn’t do anything, but after the first two or three we got used to it. We have become so accustomed to shell fire now that about the only thing that disturbs us is the German high explosive shells.
“We were given about three days’ rest after this, but one day we were called up at 2 a.m. and taken in motor ‘buses to just outside Ypres. We walked right through the ruined town to the dug-outs we were to occupy, which are about half-a-mile in front of the town. Here we were for about ten days engaged in repairing the damage done to our telephone lines by the enemy’s shell fire. This was a risky job, and we had to be constantly on the alert to avoid the enemy’s missiles.
“On one occasion the enemy were shelling one of our communication trenches and we had orders to get to our cable, which ran along just where the shells were bursting. We waited for a shell to drop and as soon as it had burst we made a dash before the smoke had cleared away and managed to repair the break. We then bolted back to our dug-outs for all we were worth, several bullets whizzing by us as we ran back, but we all got back quite safely.
“After about ten days at this sort of work we were sent back about ten miles, in reserve, but, after two days, the Germans used poisonous gas at about 3 a.m., and as several of the brigade that were holding the line at that time got it badly we were sent forward to relieve them. As we moved forward I got a taste of the vile stuff and although it made me feel sick I didn’t have enough of it to put me out of action. You first feel it in your eyes, which begin to smart, then it makes you feel as if you must vomit, and you have difficulty in breathing. I am glad I haven’t had a full dose, as I have seen plenty of poor chaps that have, and it is pitiful to see them. They go all colours in their efforts to breathe, their faces turn yellow and black and they tear at their throats in agony, but you cannot do anything for them. These sights make our fellows mad to get at the Germans, and they get no mercy when we do get near them.
“We were put into dug outs just outside Ypres, and we remained in this position ten days. One day we were sent out to repair a break in the line, and successfully carried out our task, but in returning I had a very narrow escape. I was just going through the entrance of the dug out when a German high explosive shell burst behind me. I don’t know quite what happened except that I went through the door with a rush but I fell on my feet and was surprised to find that I was absolutely uninjured.
“I am to go back on Wednesday and I don’t think it will be long before we get the enemy on the move. All we are waiting for is a good supply of high explosives. There is no doubt we have matters well in hand and are going to win.”
Pte. Charles Nichols, 2/4th Northants, who is on Imperial Service and is at present in camp at Newmarket, was granted two days’ leave to come home and see his brother. Pioneer W. F. Nichols and Pte. C. Nichols were both of them members of the Rushden St. Mary’s C.L.B. before joining the colours.
|Rushden Echo, 9th July 1915, transcribed by Kay Collins
Rushden Man’s Experiences The Horrors of Poison Gas
'Playing With the Wind' as in Football
Pte. F. E. Sugars (Rushden) of the 19th Hussars, has been spending three days welcome leave from the front with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. A. Sugars, of Queen-street, Rushden. Interviewed by a representative of the "Rushden Echo", he said: "I have been looking forward to this three days’ leave for the past month, as I knew there was something of this kind in the wind some little time back. Nevertheless, when I was told that I could proceed home, it came as a great surprise to me, and it is impossible for me to tell you how I felt when I got the welcome news. I was with my regiment, trench-digging, just behind the first line, when at 1.30p.m. a suqdron clerk came and told me to prepare myself for leave as from 2p.m. I nearly jumped out of my boots for joy. I had to travel about 15 miles on the regimental limber before I could get aboard the train at the rail head, and we moved I can assure you going at the gallop practically all the way. I arrived at Irchester on Sunday at 10.30 a.m., and my father met me at the station with a trap, as I had wired him from St. Pancras. Since my arrival home I have been giving everybody shocks, as a great many of my friends did not expect to see me.
"As regards my experiences at the front, they have been exciting enough I can tell you, but there would be no object in relating to you what occurred during our winter campaign, as you have already published it in your columns, as I have seen, as, whilst at the front, I received the "Rushden Echo" every week. The most exciting times I have esperienced since I have been out there have been since the Germans started using their gas, and I have seen some horrible sights as a result of this. My first taste of it was on June 23rd, when we were just getting relieved in the early hours of the morning after a seven days’ spell in the trenches. Owing to it being hardly light at the time we didn’t see the gas approaching us, but we could taste something and could smell a rotten stink. As, however, we hadn’t experienced the gas before we didn’t know what it was, and as a consequence officers and men alike got a real dose of it before we realised what it was, although we had our respirators with us. As soon as it was found to be gas, we had orders to put our respirators on, but in a good many instances men of a weak constitution were already in great pain and struggling in agony on the ground. Whilst our stretcher-bearers were doing all they could for these poor chaps, the Germans were subjecting us to a heavy bombardment, this being their invariable plan after the use of gas. Our brigadier-general led us back in support of the men who had been left in the first line of trenches, and in getting back we suffered severely, as the enemy’s shells were falling thick and fast amongst us, and it looked impossible for any man to live through such a tornado. This sort of thing, however, is an every-day occurrence at all points of the line. We have been told y Field-Marshall Sir John French, who is an honorary colonel of our regiment, that by the brigade going back in support we saved one of the most critical situations the British Army has been in since the commencement of the war. Since that date there has been nothing but endless trench fighting and there have been no more such attacks as that which I have just described, at any rate so far as my particular regiment is concerned In regard to the use of gas, it isn’t fair fighting as men are killed without a shot being fired. In this class of warfare it seems to me that the side which is playing with the wind, as in football, has the best chance, the worst of it is that you can’t toss up to decide which end you will play.
"We haven’t been at close quarters with the enemy in regard to cavalry wrk since about last October, as, they have been strongly entrenched since that date and remain practically in the same position now. The general opinion is that the war will finish where the opposing armies are now situated, as both sides find the opposing forces too strong to admit of an advance. At certain important parts of the battle front we have trenches every twenty five yards for a distance of ten miles. The German Crown Prince has stated that he is going to take Calais by August 4th, but we are waiting to see him do it. If I was allowed to tell you all I know in regard to our preparations you would realise that he will never get to Calais, but everybody knows that he is a prince of swankers.
"The popular impression amongst the rank and file at the front in regard to the duration of the war is that the general assault by the enemy on our line which we are expecting about the end of the month, will be a decisive engagement, and will probably give us some idea whether either side will stick it through another winter. I have been more that pleased to receive the "Rushden Echo" week by week since I have been at the front, and even soldiers who do not belong to my district have been glad to look at it. It goes all round my troop, and sometimes by the time the last man has got it the next week’s issue arrives. I wish the "Rushden Echo" and its’ readers good luck and every success".
|The Rushden Echo 2nd July 1915, transcribed by Kay Collins
Rushden Soldier’s Experiences
German Driven Insane by the Terrible Bombardment at Neuve Chapelle
Coffin Burst Open by a Shell
Grave and Gay
Pte F. O. Long (Rushden), a cycle orderly, 24th Brigade, Headquarters 8th Division, writes:-
The welcome “Rushden Echo” received as usual this week. Things have been rather quite on our front this last week or two, but we had a bit of excitement one morning about three days ago.
The German observers fancied they saw some troops marching up towards the trenches, so they opened fire with their artillery, and sent no fewer than 98 eight-inch shells over towards the spot where the dust was being raised. I don’t think they’d feel very pleased with themselves if they knew that all the damage they did was to plough the road up and smash up a house which had been used as a dressing station.
It would amuse you to hear the attempts of the French peasants to talk English, but some of them are getting quite good. It makes us grin when we pass someone early in the morning and they greet us with “Good-night, Monsieur.” Nearly everywhere we go we hear the children singing “It’s a long way to Tipperary.” It would amuse you still more to hear some of the soldiers’ attempts to speak French. I myself went in for French lessons whilst in Egypt, so I get on pretty well. On one occasion I was in a house, and a “snaddy” came in and wanted some eggs, but didn’t know what to say. After tying his face and hands into all the knots in the drill-book without any sign of comprehension on the good woman’s part, he suddenly dropped on his knees and made a row like a fowl. “Compris, monsieur,” laughed the old lady, and rushed away to fetch his eggs. Also in windows of different homes you will see cards with words such as these on them; “Plenty beer”, “Egs, chips, potates”, “Wash ici” (this meaning that washing is done here).
To get on the more serious side, I was going through Neuve Chapelle the other day, and I saw a Germhun hanging by his neck in the cellar. No doubt the terrific bombardment during the battle had driven him insane, as it had so many more.
In the cemetery there is rather a gruesome spectacle. A shell has burst open a vault, throwing up a coffin, which someone has cut open, perhaps for the sake of loot, disclosing the waxen features of an old lady. What one marvels at more than anything else in Neuve Chapelle is that among all the rain and desolation a large crucifix still stands, seeming to look down in sorrow on the dreadful scene of carnage.
|The Rushden Echo, July 2nd 1915, transcribed by Kay Collins
Rushden Soldier Hurt Four Wounds in One Battle
Fourteen Hours Under Slight Cover
An Old Campaigner’s ‘Tall Story’
Pte. W. Willis (Rushden), of the 1st Northants Regiment, has been at home with his father, Mr. H. Willis, of Victoria-road, Rushden, after having been in hospital in Sheffield for five weeks with wounds received at Festubert on May 9th. He returned to the depot to-day.
Interviewed by a representative of the ‘Rushden Echo’, he shewed little inclination to talk about the war, as, he said, “I want to forget it and shall be glad when it is all over, but, in my opinion, it will last another 12 months at least. I enlisted on September 4th, and after nearly five months training at Weymouth I was sent to the front about the end of January. On May 9th (the battle of Aubers Ridge) the bombardment finished about 5.45a.m., and we were then ordered to charge, and it was during this charge that I received my wounds.
“A shrapnel shell burst behind me and I got it twice in the back and once in the right arm. Although I thought my ribs were broken, I managed to keep on, but it was only excitement that kept me going. I was left behind for about two minutes, but managed to get to my feet and rushed on after the others, as at that time I didn’t want to miss the charge.
“We reached the Germans barbed wire entanglements, but as these had not been cut in most places we were not strong enough to get through and were compelled to fall back about 30 yards. As I threw myself down I got a shrapnel ball in the left arm, this making my fourth wound. I and five others scraped a little hole in the ground and got what cover we could, and later with our trenching tools we made better protection.
“Later in the day three of the five who were with me were shot stone dead through not keeping their heads down, and as for myself I was compelled to stop at that spot for quite 14 hours before it was safe to leave cover and get back to the dressing station. Strange to say, non of my four wounds pained me very much at the time, and I stopped the blood from my arm to a large extent by tying a string tightly round the top of my arm. The wound that hurt me the most was the one at the top of my hip. All my wounds were practically clean ones, fortunately, I had a piece of shrapnel stuck in my hip, but I managed to pick that out myself.
“At the dressing station I was bandaged and was then sent to St. Omer and after two days there we had 24 hours in the train, subsequently arriving at Boulogne where we found the hospital too full to take us in. We were therefore sent to Rouen, where we remained for two days in huts fitted up as hospitals. We embarked at Le Harvre for England on May 15th and on landing at Southampton were asked what hospital we would like to go to and I said Bedford, but as they were full up at Bedford I was sent to Sheffield. The Sheffield people were very kind to us, and I quite enjoyed myself there. I should not have minded stopping there for the duration of the war, as it is a jolly sight better for your health this side of the Channel than it is the other!
“When we youngsters first got to the front we were kept in good spirits by the old campaigners. One soldier told us that he had just finished a bayonet charge one day at the beginning of the war, and he was afterwards standing in the ranks at the ‘slope’, when an officer came along and said, “Now, Jones, shake those two men off your bayonet!” ‘I seemed surprised’, he said, ‘and on looking up, saw I had two Germans stuck on my bayonet’. I shook them off and the officer then said, ‘You’d better stop killing ‘em today or there will be no left for tomorrow’”.
|The Rushden Echo 23rd July 1915, transcribed by Kay Collins
Rushden Trooper in South Africa
Captured by The Germans - Subsequent Rescue
Trooper W. H. Hobbs (Rushden of the Natal Light Horse, son of Mr. H. H. Hobbs, of Colwyn House, Griffith-street, Rushden, in a letter to his parents addressed from Luderitzbucht, writes:-
“We had a stiff fight with the Germans, which luckily, I got through safely, but it was a terrible night. I shall never forget it. We were following the Germans for about 200 miles, and in the last ride we had of 35 miles we caught them and they put up a good fight. There were between 800 and 1000 of them. The C and D squads got cut off from the regiment, and we kept the Germans from one to 4a.m. When day light broke, they found us out. They fired into us, 67 of us, with five maxims and two big guns. They killed 22 and wounded a good many more men. Our captain put up the white flag and we were captured. They broke all our rifles and put us in front of their horses and made us run about 5 miles over the hills. As luck would have it, the Natal Carabineers rode up with the Natal Field Artillery and fired into the Germans and recaptured us. It was a lovely bit of work. We captured about 250 of them with their guns and killed and wounded about 300. All the officers in my company except one fell. I shall never forget that night as long as I live, as I thought of you and my boys, but thank God it is all over and we are on our way back. It was the only fight, but we broke the hearts of the Germans. When I get back to Cape Town I shall join for home as they are sending a regiment from here. I am writing this in the tent by the sea. They have just given us all new clothes and we expect to sail for Cape Town to-morrow. Goodbye till we meet.
|The Rushden Echo 30th July 1915, transcribed by Kay Collins
Rushden Boy Scout Now with the Canadians
Gunner James Walker, formerly of Rushden, who is with the Canadian Contingent in England, has been visiting his Rushden friends this week. He is looking hale and hearty, and, when he goes to the front, as he shortly expects to do, he will, we are sure, give a good account of himself. As a youth he was apprenticed to Mr. Robert Marriott, builder, of Rushden, and was engaged in paperhanging, etc. About four years ago he left England for Canada, proceeding to Manitoba. Then he went into the United States, and settled in Chicago. Last December-five days before Christmas-he went to Winnipeg to spend his holidays with his brother, who is in Canada, and there he felt it his duty to join the Canadian Contingent, which he did. He is attached to the Ammunition Park, Artillery Details. He says that 95 per cent. Of the men in the Canadian Contingent are British-born. Those who are Canadian-born have, as a rule, left good homes to serve the empire, and they are well-educated and fairly well-off.
Gunner Walker was formerly Assistant Scout Master of the Rushden Troop, and he was for some time a bugler in the Rushden C.L.B.
|The Rushden Echo, 30th July, 1915, transcribed by Gill Hollis
What The War is Like - It is Absolutely Hell
Rushden Soldier’s Alarming Experiences
German Officers Expect Defeat
The Crown Prince and Calais
Three Thousand Prussian Guards Killed
Corporal L. Garrod (Rushden), of the 4th Battalion Royal Fusiliers, now attached to the mounted military police with the British Expeditionary Force in France, has been spending a few days leave in Rushden after having been at the front since the latter end of October. Interviewed by a representative of the “Rushden Echo” he said:
“I have been looking forward to this leave for many months past. I was promised this leave three weeks ago and it has seemed like as many months waiting for it. I have been very fortunate in coming through so far without a scratch. I can account for few Germans but am pleased to say they haven’t yet succeeded in making a target of me. Although I have come through unscathed I have been in some terribly hot quarters.
“On one occasion I was lying in a trench for 16 hours and dare not move hand or foot, as several of my intimate friends were killed on either side of me as they sat in the trench. It occurred in this manner. This particular trench was one of the hottest quarters of the line, being exposed to enfilade fire. I received an order to erect a barricade on my left as a sort of protection, and this work which we carried out in the night took about four hours. As soon as daylight came I erected a yellow flag on a pole about as thick as a man’s finger at the back of the trench for the purpose of signalling to a company on the left. The enemy opened such a terrific rifle fire with explosive bullets that the flag pole was absolutely riddled with bullets and shattered to splinters. The barricade was also knocked to pieces in about 20 minutes, and there was nothing to be done except to lie flat on our faces and trust in Providence until night came. It would have been sheer suicide to have attempted to return the enemy’s fire. My equipment was cut to pieces. At dusk we were relieved and shortly afterwards our people blew this trench up as it wasn’t safe to occupy it. It was absolutely full of dead bodies when we decided to blow it up. We had had to walk over dead bodies to get into it.
“After this alarming experience I was given a few days’ rest, for which I was very thankful.
“After four days I was sent back to the trenches in the same area, and got into rather more comfortable quarters than on the previous occasion, although this was hot enough in all conscience. When we left this area we went to……….which is called the ‘Mound of Death.’ This place is chock full of snipers, both German and British. What is used at this point is what is termed the ‘Whiz-bang’ or the trench mortar. These blessed things would burst on our trench parapet and blow it in just as we were preparing our dinner, and spoil the lot. Many a man has been buried in the debris.
“After this we returned to our old position and as we were getting back the bullets were flying round us like hail, but I think I must bear a charmed life as again I came through unscathed although my regiment suffered 162 casualties in this move.
“We were then moved into another place which was much quieter, and this was supposed to be a rest for us, although it was in the firing line. From that time I have been serving with the military police, so that for the past two months I have not been on the immediate scene of action, and I can tell you it is a welcome relief.
“The war is absolutely hell. There have been occasions when the fire has been so terrific that it has seemed impossible for any man to live through it. Ypres is nothing but a mass of ruins, and the streets are covered with blood. In this district I have seen men standing up like statues, stone dead after having been gassed.
“The Crown Prince will never break through our line and get to Calais. If I was at liberty to tell you all I know and have seen you would realise this.
“Recently we captured a German officer and he told us that the officers of the German Army realise that victory for them is impossible, but the German soldiers are bluffed into the belief that they are winning. My regiment, I am pleased to say, has never lost a trench since the beginning of the war, although it has cost them dearly. Our casualties amount to between 4,000 and 5,000, but on Nov. 10th we slaughtered 3,000 Prussian Guards.
“I am feeling as fit as a fiddle, although I have passed through some nerve-wracking experiences. I have been pleased to receive the ‘Rushden Echo’ each week, and my comrades, who are nearly all Londoners, have been as pleased to read it as I am. They think it a fine paper, and appreciate the letters from their comrades which appear in its columns.
“We are going to win this war, tell your readers, but we need the help of every able bodied man. Personally I think we shall have another year of it, although it might end suddenly.”
Corpl. Garrod returned to the front to-day, and left Rushden by the 1.19 p.m. train.
|Kettering Leader, Friday 30th July 1915, transcribed by John Collins.
How Pte. Burton, of Rushden, Met his Death
Mrs. Burton, of Cromwell-road, Rushden, has received details of her son’s death in response to an enquiry, which we inserted for her some weeks ago in the “Telegraph” and “Argus.”
Mr. W. Patenall, a friend of Mrs. Burton, writes to us:-
Dear Sir, - A few weeks ago I asked you to insert an enquiry in the “Wellingborough News” and “Argus” in reference to H. F. Burton. I am very pleased to say it had the desired effect, as you will see by the enclosed copy. Yours truly, W. Patenall.
Dear Madam, - Just a few lines to you to put your mind at rest about your son, Pte. H. F. Burton, who was killed on May 9th. It was a fearful battle; in fact, the worst we have ever had. I came out here myself on the 13th of August, and I am very pleased to say I have been through the whole campaign without a scratch. I came out of the firing line with a message to the Adjutant to let him know they were firing on our wounded. I was sent back to tell everyone to get out that could, wounded or not. We dare not come out before we got the order, so when they were firing on the wounded Lance-Corpl. Cachrell asked me to go with the message. I went down a ditch of water about two feet deep. When I was coming out from delivering my message, Pte. Burton I understood him to say, was wounded in the leg, and he had crawled within six yards of the trench. I had to drop down before I got to him, as they were shelling us. I did not have a very lively time myself, I can tell you. I got a shrapnel bullet through my water bottle, a bullet through my cap, and my coat, but as I made another attempt to get out I said to your son, “Where have you got it, mate?” He replied, “In the leg.” I said, “Hold still, I will carry you out,” but I am sorry to say my task was settled. I got within three yards of him, and a bullet hit him in the head, and he was gone in no time. It did not freshen me up much. I can say that any man that got out alive of the battle of Aubers Ridge on May the 9th were lucky men. I have been through the whole campaign, until I was obliged to leave them on the 13th of May with rheumatism, but I am pulling round nicely, and expect to be back soon at the front with the lads, but I am not shaking on going up again. I do not worry much when I am up there; it is the best to keep going until they stop you. If you think you will dodge a bullet by stopping you might get in a worse street. If they have got one for you it will meet you without stopping for it. The hardest thing that has hit me is I have lost all my pals, but pleased to say they all went peaceably, doing their duty to King and Country. Your son was buried comfortably with the other lads. Now I must come to a close, with deepest sympathy from me and all the lads of the 1st Northamptonshire Regiment, - I remain, yours sincerely, Pte. G. W. Munns, “D” Co. 1st Northamptonshire Regt.
|The Rushden Echo, 17th September 1915, transcribed by Gill Hollis
Rushden Soldier at Home - Thirteen Months of Warfare
Private Charles Norman’s Exciting Adventures - Surprised by a German Rear-guard
Making Mincemeat of a German Cycle Corps
Pte. Charles Norman (Rushden), of the Prince of Wales’s Volunteers, South Lancashire Regiment, has been spending five days’ leave at home with his mother, after having been at the front since August 13th last year. Interviewed by a representative of the “Rushden Echo” he said:
“I participated in the retreat from Mons and also in the advance to the Aisne, but, as I have seen in your paper, which I receive weekly, you have published so many accounts of these battles that I could tell you nothing fresh. After we left the Aisne in September we proceeded by forced marches at night to the La Bassee district where we again dropped into it pretty hot. It was here that I lost one of my mates, Private J. Lawman, of Wellingborough. I couldn’t tell you what has become of him, as I haven’t seen him since the night before the battle. He has been officially reported missing. Whilst fighting in this district a large number of my pals were taken prisoner by the enemy. They had dug themselves in, but by some means or other the enemy managed to outflank them and they couldn’t get back in time and were forced to surrender.”
“After this we were relieved by the Indian troops, and were moved to Ypres. This was in November last, and here we got into the stiffest fighting I have experienced since I have been at the front. We were in the trenches continuously for 19 days until we were relieved, and when the roll was called afterwards we found that all we had left out of an original strength of 800 was about 200 men and one officer.
“We were given a rest after this, being sent to Bailleau for this purpose. We were there two weeks, and during that time we received reinforcements to the tune of 500 men, and officers from other regiments were transferred to us. After our rest we were sent to Kammell, about five miles from Ypres and it was there that I commenced my present duties as company officer’s groom, and that is work after my own heart, as I am fond of horses and think I know a bit about them. I should do so by this time, as I started work on Mr. G. H. Skinner’s farm when I was ten years old. Although, of course, I am continually under shell fire, I do not now take any active part in the fighting and for the past four months have not been in the trenches.
“I have had several narrow escapes. One night we were marching in fours along a road during the advance to the Aisne when we were badly ambushed. We were getting along nicely when suddenly we were subjected to volleys of fire from both sides of the road and realised that we were in it. We nipped back as hard as we could go for about 200 yards and then discovered that the German rear-guard had entrenched themselves each side of the road and it was these that had fired upon us. This was quite a surprise for us, as we had no idea that we were so close to the enemy, although about an hour before we were ambushed a Uhlan had been shot in a village we passed through, he having evidently been left behind on look-out, and when I saw him he was as dead as mutton and on a stretcher.
“After this incident half of my company, with half of A Company, had orders to move to the left to join the brigade. After marching two hours we came into contact with the brigade already entrenched and we took up a position on the right of them, in front of a village which was occupied by the German rear-guard with their motor lorries which they were using for shifting their troops quickly. We arrived at this spot about 4 a.m. and after we had made a bit of head cover I was put on outpost duty, to watch the front. All of a sudden I happened to look to the right and discovered that a German cycle corps was coming up the road. I reported the fact to the company officer, and had only just got the words out of my mouth when they dismounted and opened fire. I fell flat down behind a little bank and when a little lull in the firing occurred I managed to crawl back to the firing line. The enemy were nicely had, as evidently they thought there was nobody there but the outposts, whereas there was the entire brigade.
“After we had made mincemeat of the biggest portion of them, the remainder retired. We held that position for about seven hours and then we were relieved. Our losses that morning amounted to about 30 men.
“I am glad to be on my present job, as it is a welcome relief from trench work. Several men who have been at the front since the beginning of the war are now being given these jobs, but I expect they will put us in the firing line again if we are wanted.
“As regards the duration of the war all I can say is that it will end when it finishes. Anyhow, I am expecting to spend the winter there, worse luck. Neither side are advancing, as whichever side attempted to do it would be bound to suffer heavily, and both seem to be playing the waiting game.”
Pte. Norman, who returned to the front yesterday, has served in the colours for 11 years. He was in India for eight years of this period, and finished his colour service there. Whilst out on the reserve, during which time he was working at the Coxton Shoe Company, he received a postcard from his headquarters asking if he would rejoin the colours. This he received in July, 1914, a month before war was declared. He at once rejoined his old regiment, and on the declaration of war was sent to Portland on blockhouse duty until relieved by the Territorials, when they were sent back to Tidworth to mobilise for the front. Pte. Norman has been in the army ever since he was 14½ years old, at which age he ran away from home and joined the Bedfords. He says he loves the life, and he would advise all single young fellows to take their shilling and do their bit. “It is better to go willingly than be fetched,” he says.
|The Rushden Echo Friday 12 November 1915, transcribed by Nicky Bates
Germans Crafty as Monkeys - But Whacked Any Time Now - Rushden Sergeant's Impressions - Germans Voluntarily Surrendering - Absolutely Sick of the War and Half-Starved - What Mine Warfare is Like - 'A Rotten Way of Fighting' - Like the Explosion of a Thousand Guns
Sergt Sheffield's Thrilling Description - Tribute to Colonel Ripley - Steelbacks the Finest Regiment in the British Army
Sergt H Sheffield (Rushden), of the 6th Northants Regt, son of Mr F Sheffield, of Crabb-street, Rushden, has been spending eight days' leave from the front with his friends, Mr and Mrs Gilbert, of 26 Oakley-road Rushden. ..............
See also the War Memorial Men page for Sgt H Sheffield for the full transcript
|The Rushden Echo, 19th November 1915, transcribed by Gill Hollis
Rushden Soldier in France - First Experience Under Fire
A Terrific Bombardment - Work As A Stretcher-Bearer
Pte. Raymond Hodgkins, 16670, B Company, 2nd Northamptons, formerly clerk at the C.W.S. factory, Rushden, writing to his mother Mrs. Hodgkins of the White Horse Inn, Tilbrook, says:
“No doubt you will think me a long time writing you a letter, but I am sticking to my word, writing one at the first opportunity. Well I expect you are longing to know a few of my experiences. Before I start I must tell you I got your letter dated Sept. 29th and ‘The Rushden Echo’ this morning. It was a week last Monday when our company had to go and build ‘some barricades,’ just before the firing line and on our way up the road, I think the Germans must have spotted us, for they started lobbing any amount of shells over us, so we had to do a quick scoot, and flop ourselves in the bottom of a ditch at the side of the road. I should think they were shelling us for about half-an-hour, but we only had one chap hit. That was my first experience under fire.
“When we got back, about 4.30, we had orders to get ready to move off to the trenches by 5 o’clock. So I went in the trenches for the first time on Monday Sept 20th, and when we got in there we were told that we were to hold them through four days’ bombardment of the German trenches, and then we should get relieved, and another regiment would make the attack. Well, we got through the bombardment all right. Of course, it was a bit nerve-trying, and we never had a wink of sleep, for at nights we had to keep a sharp look-out in case they attacked us, and every little while we would open fire on the old bounders.
“We got relieved on Friday night, and went back to some trenches in reserve, so, early on Saturday morning, our lot finished up with a terrific bombardment, and over the top the boys went. We heard them shouting from where we were. They took the German first line easily.
“It was a few hours after the attack when they picked ten out of our company to go up to the firing line and act as stretcher bearers, and I was one of them. When we left to go our Captain asked us if we were shaky, and told us to work like niggers, for we might be the means of saving hundreds of lives. Well, we went away as bold as brass and were soon under heavy shell fire. We put our rifles and equipment in a dug-out, and soon commenced to bring in the wounded. We carried them from our first fire trench to the dressing station. We worked hard all day, under shell fire all the time, but we were lucky, for we only had one chap wounded in the arm. We had nothing to eat all day and we had had breakfast at 4 a.m. so you can tell how done up we felt at night, and, besides that, we were wet through. We managed to get a few hours’ sleep that night, and the R.A.M.C. found us some food.
“It was on the morning of the attack that I received your last letter and the ‘Rushden Echo,’ but I never had a chance to read the ‘Echo,’ as I put it in my coat pocket and we had to leave our pack behind, and they said they would look after them for us, but never saw them again, so I lost all my kit. I was sorry to lose my pack, for I had just got that writing paper you sent me and the pair of mittens. I shall miss them very much, for it is very cold at nights now.
“We had a very busy time on the Sunday, for we were attached to the R.A.M.C. We joined our regiment again in the tranches on Monday, and were in until last night, and now we are back in billets for a few days’ rest, which I am sure is well earned, after nearly a fortnight in the trenches. I only had one wash and never had a shave at all during the time we were in the trenches, so you can guess how pretty I looked, and we had a nice drop of rain, so we were plastered with mud. Sometimes we were over our shoe tops with mud and water. I am pleased to think I came out of it all right.
“As regards actual fighting we weren’t in any, only we caught plenty of shells. When you send again, will you put a bit of writing paper and a few envelopes in, as I have had to borrow this. I was near W. Johnson when I was in the trenches, and he often used to give me a drop of hot tea, for they had a good coke fire and could make some fairly often. We get an issue of rum at nights, and I can tell you we are glad of it.”
|The Rushden Echo, 31st December 1915, transcribed by Gill Hollis
Rushden Soldier Wounded - Drummer G. H. Cook
Carries Shrapnel in his Shoulder - Coolness Under Fire
Drummer G. H. Cook (Rushden), of the 7th Northants, son of Mr. and Mrs. George Cook, of 37 Queen-street, Rushden, is able to spend his Christmas at home, having been granted ten days’ leave after having been in hospital a little more than two months with a shrapnel wound in the right shoulder, received during the big advance at Loos.
Interviewed by a representative of the “Rushden Echo” he said:-
“I enlisted on Jan 26th, and after about eight months’ training I found myself in France and in the trenches. This was in September, and we had orders to move up to the firing line as soon as we arrived. We thought we were going up in motor-buses, but got terribly sucked in as we had to march a distance of between 60 and 70 miles. This was all done in the night time, and it took us three nights. During the day we were resting. As soon as we arrived on the fighting front we were put into the reserve line, but we were not kept there long as the first line troops were advancing and we had to follow them up. We saw many pitiful sights of wounded being carried back on stretchers to the dressing stations. As I was engaged in stretcher-bearing work between the firing line and the dressing station I didn’t see much of the actual fighting although I was under fire the whole time from the enemy’s artillery and rifles. When I first went into action what surprised me most was the coolness of the fellows, although shells were bursting all round them.
“On Sept 26th the day following that in which we went into action, I got hit. At the time I was still on stretcher work, and as we were under a heavy shell fire, from the enemy’s guns we had orders to shelter in a communication trench. I was crouching down well under the parapet when a German high explosive shrapnel shell burst overhead and a piece of the shell struck me in the right shoulder. I didn’t actually lose consciousness although I felt dizzy, and at the time I didn’t feel much pain as my shoulder and arm became numbed and I lost the use of my arm temporarily. Before I could be got away the Germans sent two more shells over, which burst in almost the same spot. These gave me a further shaking up, but luckily I got no more wounds.
“I got back down the trench to the dressing station myself, but had to get some other chaps to carry my kit, as I had no use in my arm. When I arrived at the dressing station the first thing that met my eyes was a number of Germans terribly wounded some of them beyond hope. Although they were enemies you couldn’t help feeling sorry for them. One of them touched me on the shoulder and said ‘Kamarad,’ and pointing to his leg, signified that he wished me to put it into a more comfortable position for him. If he hadn’t been wounded I should have felt more like giving him a thick ear, but, as it was, I did as he wished.
“After this I saw no more fighting and have, therefore, no more to relate, except that I was shifted from one hospital to another and was soon out of shell range.
“When I got out of the field hospitals I was put into the 22nd General Canadian Hospital, near Boulogne, where I lay nearly a week. I was then told, to my surprise, that I was to be sent to England. I didn’t expect this and could have jumped out of bed for joy at the prospect of getting home. We moved from Boulogne about 5 a.m. to Calais, where we commenced our joy ride to England. We arrived at Dover about 3 p.m. and then entrained for Ipswich, where I remained for three weeks. I was examined by the surgeons, who thought it best to leave the shrapnel where it was, as it wasn’t in a dangerous part of the body.
To this day I don’t know where the piece of shrapnel is, although the surgeons located it by means of the X Rays. I can feel nothing of it now, although my arm is not quite as pliable as it used to be.
“From hospital I was sent to a fine convalescent home, about five miles from Ipswich. It is a fine place, being the residence of Lord de Summeries. I had a ‘cushy’ time there and lived like a fighting cock on pheasants, chicken, etc. I don’t believe I could have been sent to a more comfortable place and Lord de Summeries’ daughters, who were doing the nursing, treated us, all very kindly. I am glad to be back in good old Rushden once more, especially as I shall be able to spend Christmas with my family.”
|See also Percy Steel's letters and notes from Tom Clark and from Percy Button and E Clark