On March 26th this year Pte. Fred Jolley, Royal Sussex Regiment, son of Q.M.S. G. Jolley, of 50, Roberts-street, Rushden, was wounded for the second time and taken prisoner by the Germans, as reported in the “Rushden Echo” at the time. Whilst he has been in the enemy’s hands he has, as a result of his wounds, lost his right arm, and it is due to that fact that he has now been repatriated and reached Rushden on Tuesday. Interviewed by a representative of the “Rushden Echo,” he said:-
“Five days after the Germans commenced their big drive on March 21st, I was with my regiment at ------ Wood, the other side of Albert, where we were fighting a rear-guard action, when I received a bullet wound in the right arm, which made me feel so bad that I fell into a dead faint. When I came round I found that I was lying on the ground by myself, my comrades having had to retire quickly owing to the overwhelming superiority of the enemy. About three minutes after having recovered consciousness I saw a German officer approaching, and as soon as he caught sight of me he drew his revolver and I gave myself up for lost. Hearing me moan, however, he evidently realised I was badly wounded and thought better of his original intention, and left me unmolested.
“As soon as he had gone I managed to struggle to my feet and tried to make my way to my own lines, but finding Germans all round me I walked to their lines and gave myself up to a squad of about 20 of the enemy, who directed me to their dressing station. As I was passing through a village on my way to the dressing station one of the German Red Cross men beckoned me to him, and bound up my arm, which was bleeding so badly that he found it necessary to apply an india-rubber bandage. They gave me a nice drink of wine, and I shouted “Encore,” thinking I should get another, but there was ‘nothing doing,’ as they gave me coffee instead. After waiting there for two or three minutes I was carried to the main dressing station, where my injuries were further dressed, and I remained the night on a fairly comfortable bed.
“On the following morning I, with four or five other British wounded, were put on to a motor lorry and conveyed over many miles, the journey occupying about four hours, to a big camp in Germany, where we were housed in huts and commenced to rough it. Our beds consisted of one blanket on the floor and one other to cover us. We were not, however, subjected to any rough treatment, and if we asked for water we were given it, but they pinched my boots and everything was taken out of my pockets under the supervision of two German officers. This was on Good Friday, and shortly afterwards a German parson came in and prayed with us in English. He spoke slowly but in good English, and told us all about the Crucifixion and why Good Friday was used as a commemoration of the death of Christ. The clergyman came to each of us individually and inquired as to how we felt, and altogether he seemed a pretty good sort of chap, and one of the best specimens of his race I have met. If they were all like him they wouldn’t hurt, as he seemed to be good to everybody.
“I was at this camp just over a week, and the only thing I can really complain of was lack of attention in regard to my wound, as for four days it wasn’t dressed, and I believe it was through this that it became necessary to amputate my arm. On the fifth day my arm was so very painful that when the doctor came round I reported it to him, and he with two others made an examination. After the examination they injected something into my arm which froze it, and at once stopped the pain, but I couldn’t sleep however, and next morning I was taken to the operating theatre, where I was put under chloroform and my arm was taken off. Two days later I was taken away to a place called Vallenshi, which was a good hospital with German nurses, and this was one of the best and most comfortable places I struck during my stay in Germany.
“The food was pretty good, consisting of rice, potatoes, and occasionally an egg with white bread. I stayed there about a month, and was then shifted to a big prisoners of war camp at Cassell, and there conditions became worse. We had wooden beds with mattresses and two blankets, which, however, accommodated ‘visitors’ who didn’t pay any rent, and the food was chronic. Our rations consisted of three soups a day made of turnips (unwashed), grass, mushrooms, horse beans, etc. Owing to the turnips, etc., being unwashed, earth and stones added to the nourishment. We were given one slice of bread (black) at 10 a.m., and then we had to wait until 10 a.m. the next day. There was an English doctor there, however, who treated us well, and we passed our time in trying to learn French from some of the French wounded who were there. We were allowed to amuse ourselves by sing-songs, etc., so long as we didn’t sing ‘Rule Britannia’ or ‘God save the King.’ A Frenchman had got his fiddle with him and he used to play to us. I stayed at this camp about eleven weeks, and was then removed to Crosen camp, and there I met some chums from this district, one, whose name I have forgotten, being a Quartermaster-Sergt., whose home is at Irthlingborough. There was another soldier there from Kettering but his name also I have forgotten.
“It was whilst I was there that I started to receive some parcels from home, and by sharing with three or four more chaps we started to have a pretty good going on so far as food was concerned, and we had no interference from the guards. They would frequently offer to buy soap or food from us, but I didn’t sell any as I wanted it too badly myself. Russians used to be allowed in the camps to sell us onions, potatoes, kidney beans, etc., and they didn’t forget to charge, either, asking about two marks (1s. 8d. in English money) for a moderate-sized onion. There was a canteen at this camp where we could buy beer, stout, and mineral waters, but all of them were poor stuff, but they only charged us 2½d. a glass.
“Whilst at this camp I met Pte. Henry Green (Royal Fusiliers), son of Mrs. Furness, of 21, Roberts-street, Rushden, and I was jolly glad to find a pal from my own town. He had a bad wound in the ankle, and underwent three or four operations, subsequently being allowed to return to England at the same time as myself. After I had been at Crosen about a month two German doctors came to examine men whom they thought would be suitable for exchange, and shortly afterwards I heard that I was to be one of the lucky ones. It was about September 2nd that I left Crosen to commence my journey home. We marched from the camp to the station, but were not subjected to any hostile demonstration from the adult civilians, although the children put their tongues out at us and drew their hands across their throats. They are evidently taught in school to hate us, and look as if they have learned their lesson well. The adults, most of them, were wearing boots with wooden soles, but the youngsters for the greater part had no shoes or stockings. I don’t think they are getting much food, as one and all looked starved to death. We got aboard a German Red Cross train with comfortable beds, and had a day’s journey into Holland, arriving in that country in the evening.
“The Dutch people treated us handsomely, giving us chocolate, cigarettes, coffee, flowers, etc. We got straight off the train on to the ship, and set sail for England the next morning on the Hospital ship Sindoro, and landed at Boston. We had an interesting and good time coming across, and on the second day of the voyage had an escort of sea-planes. One of the aviators came right down low and waved his cap to us and then looped the loop.
“On board we had a top-hole time, concerts, games of all sorts, and every amusement you could think of. On arrival at Boston we had a good reception, and after having been given refreshments we got on the train for London, where we arrived in the early hours of Saturday morning. I was taken straight to the King George Hospital, and after staying there just over three weeks I was allowed to proceed to my home at Rushden.”