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Sergeant Fred Bass

7388 7th Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment

Fred Pozieres Memorial
Sgt Fred Bass
His name on the Pozieres Memorial
Son of Mr William & Mrs Martha Bass
Husband of Fanny (nee Underwood)

Aged 32 years

Died 25th March 1918

Commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial
Panel 54 to 56

Born at Rushden, enlisted at Northampton.
From the Burnt Records, Peter Inns & Kay Collins

Frederick Bass lived in Crabb Street with his widowed father William and five brothers and a sister, and he was aged 18 years and 3 months when he enlisted into the 3rd Northamptonshire Regiment on 24th February 1904. He was 5'7¾" tall with a 33" chest (3" expansion), brown eyes, brown hair and a tattoo on his forearm of clasped hands. He had worked in the shoe trade and at sometime had lost the top joint of his left forefinger. He signed up for 3 years, and on completion he transferred to the Reserve, where he remained for the next 7½ years.

When war was declared in 1914, Fred was sent to France on August 12th 1914 with the 1st Northants Regiment. On the 17th November he was wounded by a gun shot to his upper thigh and was sent home and was at Cosham Hospital until January 1915, then moved to Gatcombe House for two months convalescence. In April he returned to the Reserve and was ill with scabies and hospitalised at Fort Pitt in Chatham for a month just after Christmas 1915. He was promoted to Lance Corporal in May 1915 and to Corporal in October the following year. By then he was fit again and returned to France, sailing on 2nd November 1916 from Folkestone and on the 19th. joined the 7th Northants in the field. He was again promoted, to Sergeant on 6th July 1917, and was killed in action on 25th March 1918.

He had married Fanny (nee Underwood) at St Peter's Church on 1st June 1914 and they lived at 10 Pemberton Street. Fanny was awarded a pension of 22s.11d. per week for herself and their child, Fred having served his country for 14 years and 30 days.

The Rushden Echo Supplement Friday 18 September 1914, transcribed by Nicky Bates

Rushden Soldiers in Action

Fred Bass, of Rushden, from the front, sends gratifying news of his safety. He has a brother-in-law in the ambulance brigade doing active service, in the Isle of Wight.

The Rushden Echo Friday 9 October 1914, transcribed by Nicky Bates

Rushden Men's Desire "Send Some Woodbines" - Packets Sent, But Not Received

The difficulty of soldiers at the war seems to be not so much in being deprived of food as in failing to get their favourite Woodbines. Private F Bass (Rushden), a reservist in the 1st Northants, who left home for the front about two months ago, does not give much news of the progress of the war but complains that he cannot get cigarettes. His friends have sent him packets of them but he does not seem to get them.

The same trouble comes from Private Gilbert (Rushden), of the King's Own Light Infantry. His request is for cigarettes, which he says he cannot get and does not receive from home, although they are sent. Whilst not giving much news of the war, he says he shall be glad when the war is over.

The Rushden Echo Friday 16 October 1914, transcribed by Nicky Bates

Rushden Shopmates Gifts Cigarettes which "Smoke Lovely"

Private F Bass (of Rushden), of the 1st Northants Regiment, with the British Expeditionary Forces, has written acknowledging the receipt of cigarettes collected for and sent to him by his former shopmates in the lasting room at Messrs. Sanders and Sanders' factory, Rushden.

In a letter addressed to the foreman, Mr Frank White, at whose instigation the collection was made, Private Bass writes: - "Dear old shopmates, - Just a few lines, hoping to find you all in the very best of health, as it leaves me the same at present. I wish to thank you very much for the cigarettes which I received on October 9th. I'm sure it is very good of you to think of me in this manner. I am sure they came in handy, as I had run out two days ago with my tobacco, so you can guess how pleased I was when I opened the box. Thanking you once again, I remain, your old shopmate, F Bass.
"P.S. Excuse the short letter, we are not allowed to send any news. The cigarettes smoke lovely."

The Rushden Echo, 13th November 1914, transcribed by Gill Hollis.

Some Narrow Escapes - Rushden Soldier and German Bullets - Private Bass Manages To Pull Through

  It is with pleasure that we are able, officially, to contradict the rumour that Private Fred Bass (Rushden) has received any injury worse than a superficial wound. With the fighting force at the front, he has had a very rough time of it, but is fortunately well. It is also untrue that he fought in the battle of Mons. He was several miles distant, but has nevertheless been within range of the enemy’s fire. On one occasion a German bullet struck his bayonet, and, later on, his rifle was struck by another bullet. It is understood that a glancing shot made blood flow from his neck, but it was not serious.  He has been knee-deep in water whilst fighting in trenches, so he knows a bit about modern warfare.  He says he fears he cannot place much reliance on the statements of many soldiers who say they “hope to be home by Christmas.” He says his friends need not worry, as he is getting on all right in his “tin-pot way.” Private Bass is of the opinion that many of the soldiers “know how to tell fairy tales.”

The Rushden Echo Friday 13 November 1914, transcribed by Nicky Bates

Private Fred Bass Wounded - Rushden 'Steelback' Struck by Shrapnel

'Thought I had Lost my Leg - Then I Started to Laugh' - 'Coal-Box Corner'

Since our last report of Pte Fred Bass (Rushden), of the 1st Northants, he has been wounded. In a letter received by his wife from a hospital at Cosham, Hants, this week he says:- "I have been wounded in the left thigh but it is not much. A piece of shrapnel cut me about two inches. When it hit me I thought I had lost my leg, but when I looked round and saw what was done I started to laugh. I could not feel anything of it, but I knew about it two days afterwards, as I was in the train. It is going on lovely now. I have it washed and dressed three times a day and is doesn't pain me at all. "It does seem lovely to have a nice warm bed once again. It has been 14 weeks since I saw one, and now I have got one it is not much trouble to keep me in it! I have not been allowed to put my foot to the ground since I was wounded (November 14) at Ypres. But I would rather have what I have got than to be in the place I got it at. Our troops call is 'Coal Box Comer' or 'The Gates of Hell,' so that will tell you what it is like. I am having a good living and the Sisters are so good that they cannot do enough for us. They even come round and light our cigarettes, and they sit on our beds and we tell them all we know about the war. I have fired 100 rounds in 20 minutes - that was when S. (Sedge?) Sargent's rifle was jammed one night. I cannot grumble that they have wounded me, as I think I have accounted for eight or nine of them. I never thought I had the pluck to stick my bayonet through anybody, but when I saw some of the Belgian women I believe I could have cut the Germans to pieces. I did put my bayonet through one or two of them -one I only wounded so I turned and shot him. Well roll on Christmas."

Evening Telegraph, Wednesday, 25th November 1914, transcribed by John Collins.

Rushden Privates Wounded

Mr. and Mrs. Jones, of Pytchley-road, Rushden, had a letter from the hospital which Pte. Robbins is in, stating: “Private C. Robbins (Rushden), of the 1st Lincolnshire Regiment, was admitted in No. 2 General Hospital, Outreau, Pas-de-Calais, France, on November 15th, suffering from wounds in the ribs and shoulders. He is going on well.”

We are sorry to report that Private Fred Bass, of Rushden, has been wounded in the thigh and is now in a hospital in Cosham, Hants.

The Wellingborough News Friday 4 December 1914, transcribed by Nicky Bates

Bayoneting the Germans - How a Rushden Man Found his Pluck

Private Fred Bass, of the 1st Northamptons, who is now in hospital in Cosham, Hampshire, writes to his wife at 10, Pemberton-street, Rushden that he has been wounded in the left thigh by a shrapnel shell which cut his leg about two inches. "When it hit me," he says, "I thought I had lost my leg, but when I looked round and saw what was done I started to laugh. But I knew what I got three days afterwards in the train. But it is going on lovely now, and doesn't give me any pain at all. It does seem lovely to have a nice warm bed again. It has been 14 weeks since I saw one, and now I've got one it ain't much trouble to keep me in it. But I am not allowed to put my foot on the ground since I got it at Ypres. But, I would rather have what I have than to be in the place I got it at. Our troops call it 'Coal Box Corner', or 'The Gates of Hell'; that will tell you what it's like. Some of those who are now here never fired a shot. I am not going to say I fired a lot; but I have fired 100 rounds in twenty minutes. They have only wounded me, and I think I can account for eight or nine of them. I never thought I had got the pluck to stick my bayonet into anyone, but when I saw some of the Belgian women, I believe I could have cut the Germans to pieces."

The Rushden Echo Friday 25 December 1914, transcribed by Nicky Bates

Local Soldier's Diary - Rushden Steelback's Interesting Account
Further Evidence of German Trickery - White Flag Shown to Northamptons
Private Fred Bass in 'Coal Box Corner'

Pte Fred Bass, a Rushden Steelback, sends an excellent account of the war from its beginning. By the kind permission of Mrs Bass we are permitted to make the following extracts:

"Through the town of Havre, which we entered on Aug. 11 we were cheered to the echo every inch of the way. By route marches and train rides, we eventually arrived at the village of—, where at 7 p.m. we heard the report of five guns. However, we proceeded to the French and Belgian frontier and next morning marched to — about five miles from Mons. We were called out and marched in the direction of that place and, when trying to advance nearer, were shelled out by the Germans and had to retire the same way back.

"It was here that I witnessed one of the finest sights I have ever seen, viz., the 113th and 114th Batteries of the Royal Field Artillery fetching their guns out of the action under heavy fire. I asked one of the drivers what damage was done. He said he did not think a man or a horse had been hit. That evidently doesn't speak very well of the German marksmanship.

"Retiring from Mons, we had some heavy marching to do. We left our overcoats on a transporter which was burnt so the Germans could not have them, as our transport could not get away quietly enough. Although the village was packed with British and French troops they all got away all right with the exception of a few. This retirement lasted until Sept., and when we began to advance we came into contact with the enemy on the 11th. We drove them back as far as the Aisne and there we entrenched ourselves during the night of the 13th, preparing at the same time for a big battle. Things went off fairly well but the rain poured into the trenches so that the water was over our boot tops.

"On Sept. 15th Capt. R. E. Gordon was shot and the next day Capt. Ward Hunt was wounded. On the morning of the 17th I was hit in the neck with a very small piece of a common shell, better known as a 'coal-box', but it only knocked the skin off. Later in the day the Germans advanced, showing the white flag. We ceased firing and when they got close to us they opened fire on us, and I had a bullet through my haverssck into my left pocket and another one took the top of my bayonet off, while a third split the butt of my rifle. The Queen's turned their machine gun on and fetched the Germans down like skittles. Lieut. Boulter was wounded in the shoulder on the same day. It was a very hard blow to the Company to lose two good officers who feared nothing.

"We were in the trenches about a week and were them relieved by some of our troops. One soldier asked me if he would be allowed out; I told him he would not want to go far! As soon as it was daylight we retired about seven miles to a little place where we had an issue of new overcoats, etc.

"After a rest of about six days we went back to the trenches for 48 hours and had a rest of 48 hours, following this course until Oct. 15, when we were relieved by French troops. I should think my regiment suffered in losses about 450 or 500.

"After train riding and a great amount of marching towards the Belgian frontier we at last reached the town of Ypres. Here we rested for several hours and then marched to another village to fill up a space between English and French troops. Our regiment had to make two bayonet charges to take the position. Of course, we lost a fair number of men but got through very well. We then started to entrench ourselves. Things went very well with the exception of a sniper or two firing from a window. Some of us could see them but could not fire at them. That evening as we were changing trenches the enemy charged us and a good many of my Company got cut off from the regiment. Some went one way and some another. I attached myself to the Royal North Lancs Regiment and there gained information of my own regiment. I joined them the next night when we were relieved by the French troops. It was reported that we had killed, wounded, and captured 1,500 Germans. We marched to Ypres and stayed there two days.

"On the morning of Nov. 14 I was going out with the stretcher bearers when we got under the Germans' artillery fire. Six of us went down. When the firing was going well over I got up and looked round. I laughed to think I had got off so lightly and made my way to the dressing station. I had a spent bullet through my right sleeve and it dropped on the ground just in front of me. But when I had my clothes taken off it was no laughing matter. My thigh was smashed open the size of my left hand. I was placed on a stretcher and carried at night by the R.A.M.C. ambulance waggon to Ypres. In the middle of the night a motor ambulance waggon took four of us to the hospital at Poperinghe and the next evening we entrained for Le Harve base hospital. For two days we were kept there and them embarked for good old England. I was taken to Cosham hospital and am very pleased to say that I am enjoying the best of health and my leg is progressing favourably. Hope to be back in good old Rushden early in the New Year."

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".

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.

The Rushden Echo Friday 10 August 1917, transcribed by Nicky Bates

Postal Orders for the Boys Rushden Soldiers at Home and Abroad - Moor Road and Montague Street District

Mrs Smith of Montague street, Rushden, secretary of the Roll of Honour for Pemberton-street, Montague-street, Moor-road and Dayton-street, has received from the boys whose names appear on the list, many letters of thanks for the postal orders sent by the committee. The following are a few extracts: Sergt F Bass, 7th Northants Regt. writing from the front, says he hopes to be in Rushden again shortly.

The Rushden Echo Friday 28 December 1917, transcribed by Nicky Bates

Rushden Soldier's Thanks - Moor Road Roll of Honour - Boys in All Parts of the World

From the various fighting fronts abroad and the various training depots at home, the soldiers of the Moor-road, Montague-street and Pemberton-street district of Rushden have been sending letters of thanks Roll of Honour gifts to Mrs Smith of Montague street, the secretary. We have appended a few samples:-

Sergt F Bass (at the front): Things seem to be going very well here the last few weeks.

The WellingboroughNews Friday 12 April 1918, transcribed by Nicky Bates

Rushden Man Reported Killed

Mrs Bass, of 10, Pemberton-street, Rushden, has received unofficial news that her husband, Sergt. Frederick Bass, Northants Regt., has been killed in action. A comrade, Sergt. Jaques, reported that he was killed. Sergt. Bass has been 14 years in the service, and was a time-expired man, but on the outbreak of the war he was called up on the 5th of August, 1914. Before joining up he was employed at Messrs. Sanders and Sanders' boot factory, Rushden. He was 31 years of age.

The Rushden Echo Friday 12 April 1918, transcribed by Nicky Bates

Rushden's Casualty List - Men Killed, Wounded and Gassed In the Great German Offensive

Mrs Fred Bass, of 10, Pemberton-street, Rushden, Northants, is in great anxiety of mind as she has received news from unofficial sources that her husband, Sergt Frederick Bass, of the Northants Regiment, failed to answer to roll call after a battle during the great German offensive, and that he is believed killed. Mrs Bass had up to Monday last received no direct information, and she will be grateful to any of her husband's comrades who can further enlighten her as to his fate. Sergt Bass was in Rushden on leave three weeks ago, and he then returned to France for the fourth time. He has 14 years of service with the Colours to his credit, and has been in France since the outbreak of war, with the exception of twelve months he spent in England at a training camp following a wound received on November 14th, 1914.

The Rushden Echo Friday 26 April 1918, transcribed by Nicky Bates

Rushden's Casualty List - Men Killed, Wounded and Gassed In the Great German Offensive

A fortnight ago we published the news that Mrs Fred Bass, of 10 Pemberton-street, Rushden, had received an unofficial report of the dearth in action of her husband, Sergt Fred Bass, of the Northants Regiment. The sad news if now confirmed by the War Office, Mrs Bass having received an official notification on Monday morning. The late Sergt Bass, who was 31 years of age, leaves a widow and one little girl. He joined the colours at the outbreak of the war, and went right though the retreat from Mons, and was subsequently wounded at the battle of Ypres on November 14th, 1914. Altogether he had been in France over three years.

From Army pension records, by Nicky Bates

Fred first joined the Army aged 18 years and 3 months on the 24 February 1904. He was born in Rushden and was in the shoe trade at the time. He was 5' 6" tall, weight 126 pounds with a minimum and maximum chest measurement of 32" and 34", respectively. His complexion was described as fresh with brown hair and brown eyes. He was Church of England. He also had a tattoo of clasped hands on his right forearm and was missing the top joint of his left forefinger. He was pronounced fit for the Army on 23 February 1904 and served in the 3rd Northamptonshire Regiment until 24 February 1908. Fred married Fanny Underwood at St Peter's Parish church, Rushden on the 1 June 1914. The witnesses were his father William Bass and Elizabeth Caroline Underwood. His next of kin were listed as his wife, father and brothers Thomas and John Bass.

Fred was mobilised as a reservist on 5 August 1914. He served in France from 12 August to 19 November 1914. From then until the 31 October 1916 he served at home and then returned to France. His only wound was a gunshot wound to the thigh. He was granted leave on 28 January 1918 when his conduct was described as 'in every respect satisfactory.' He was killed in action on 25 March 1918 and Fanny was notified on 20 April 1918. She acknowledged receipt of her husband's British War and Victory Medals on 2 April 1921.

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